Climate change is on everyone’s minds these days. As consequences and impacts, both local and far away, begin to mount, it’s more and more important that communities foster a discussion about dealing with these issues. The Evanston Public Library is making an effort to move to the front lines of that discussion.
With its Climate Action initiative, the Library fosters community engagement with and responsiveness to the climate crisis. Bea Echeverria, branch assistant at the Robert Crown Library, created the Climate Action banner to formalize the activities, informational sessions, and events that the branch’s team has organized since the summer of 2021.
Echeverria said that people can often feel discouraged from discussing or acting on climate change issues because of a sense of dread or unfamiliarity. She developed EPL’s Climate Action Programs so Evanstonians could have access to resources and activities that make addressing the climate crisis feel easier.
“That was my first inspiration—how can I make people become environmentalists or take care of the planet in a fun and engaging way?” she said.
The Climate Action banner encompasses a wide range of program offerings. Events like the Repair Cafe or Spring Bike tune-up bring sustainability-conscious services to Evanstonians for free. Other programs like in-house sewing machines, or Make Your Own Bug Spray, provide the tools and resources to enjoy nature and build a closer relationship with the environment.
Being a climate activist doesn’t have to be your whole life, Echeverria said, and it isn’t all doom and gloom either. These programs are designed to show people how they can adopt environmentally responsible practices in their day-to-day lives and contribute to the fight against climate change on a personal level without being overwhelmed.
All of the programs relate to the sorts of tasks and ordinary considerations that everyone is faced with these days, Echeverria said. The difference is that they’re united under the banner of “Climate Action,” inviting people to make the connection between these everyday activities and mitigating climate change. Making that connection is her ultimate goal.
“If you can get a person to realize that they’ve been a climate activist all along once they’ve been doing it for a while, they identify with that,” Echeverria said. “And suddenly, they embody that. They’re like, ‘Wow, I’m a climate activist. I didn’t even think about it.’”
Branch Assistant Kellye Fleming, who organized the branch’s Seed Library, hopes to use Climate Action programming to start a conversation in Evanston about food justice. Librarians at the EPL’s Robert Crown Branch are looking for opportunities to introduce a community garden and a hydroponic garden on its grounds in the future, she said. Fleming is also working to organize informational sessions and classes about gardening and food insecurity.
Fleming said that supporting mutual aid in the community and cutting down overconsumption and waste can go hand-in-hand. Making sure nutritional resources are equally accessible and sourced responsibly is one way to combat both demographic disparities and the climate crisis. Plus, it’s so easy to show people how to help.
“When people think of ways to stop climate change, you think of big ways, instead of little things — like, you know, sharing this extra lettuce you have with your friend, instead of your friend driving however many miles to the store and getting lettuce that comes pre-packaged from God knows where,” she said.
The program also has a strong focus on drawing attention to environmental justice and climate equity. Local environmental activism and green initiatives can often feel closed off to communities of color, Fleming said. But the Library is trying to change that with Climate Action programming by opening up to groups historically underserved and unacknowledged.
“It’s about bringing in people who never really thought that this was for them, and showing them that this can be for everybody by removing as many of the barriers as possible,” Fleming said.
The Climate Action initiative is one way the Library aligns with Evanston’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan. In the future, Echeverria hopes that the Library can expand its role in that plan, becoming a sustainability hub with resources and initiatives preparing people to address these environmental issues.
Using Climate Action programming to help ordinary people adopt climate activism in their daily lives is one of the best ways Evanston can become a more responsible, adaptable, and resilient community, Echeverria said.
“It’s going to be more and more important as time goes on that people engage with climate related activities, climate mitigation, or climate resilient activities in a fun way,” Echeverria said. “It’s also important that people realize that anything that we do can be done in a way that is respectful for people and the planet.”
Check out our upcoming Climate Action Programming happening this spring:
You can also drop by the EPL’s Robert Crown Branch to pick up seed packets from the Seed Library during regular library hours. Read more about the Seed Library.