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Spotlight: the Eccles Library Sustainability Committee

What do battery recycling, a seed library, and indoor air purifiers have in common? Well, they were all initiated by the Sustainability Committee at the Eccles Health Sciences Library (EHSL)! To celebrate initiatives taken to be better stewards of our planet during Earth Week, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of the great work this group has accomplished over the years.

The EHSL Sustainability Committee was established by Librarian Jeanne Le Ber in 2000, where efforts were made to bring more recycling and greening to the health sciences side of campus. In those early days, committee members were able to bring recycling to the library, help establish a composting system and garden, and provide guidance on how to purchase and run events “greener.” As sustainable practices have progressed and become increasingly necessary due to climate change, so also have the goals of the committee. The committee’s current goals include facilitating awareness of sustainability issues, encouraging broad participation in efforts that support the planet, and promoting and implementing sustainability initiatives (especially those that intersect with the health sciences, wellness, and social/environmental justice).

In the past five years, the committee has undertaken many projects to work toward accomplishing the goals outlined above, as well as collaborated with other groups to help them accomplish their goals. Areas of interest for the committee are highlighted below along with specific accomplishments in those areas.

Advocating for Student Well-being

  • Expanding use of the Feed U Pantry – the location of the Feed U Food Pantry in the Eccles Health Sciences Education Building was decided in a meeting that was held at EHSL where many potential partners gathered to discuss how to make a health sciences pantry happen, including its current location in the Stensaas Lounge.
  • Giving students resources from day one – the committee advocated to add sustainability resources and information to health sciences student orientation packets.
  • Supporting a Health Sciences Student Garden – the EHSL Sustainability Committee supported the establishment of the Health Sciences Student Garden.
  • Advocated for climate curriculum – members of the committee attended meetings to urge the inclusion of climate curriculum in the School of Medicine’s recent update to its learning experience through the MedEdMorphosis program.
  • Hosting and promoting Earth Week events in the health sciences – hosted and promoted Earth Week events including a student art exhibit, College of Nursing block party, and seed planting event in 2022.
  • Providing a sustainable option for menstruating students, faculty, and staff – led a menstrual cup distribution project which provided 701 cups to the campus community and an additional 437 cups externally through donations made by one of our vendors.
  • Giving funds for student projects – a member of our committee, Olivia Kavapalu, serves on Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund Allocations Committee as of fall 2022.

Greening and Gardening for Health

  • Mary Youngkin Memorial Medicinal Garden – located alongside the library highlighting flora used for medicinal purposes.
  • Health sciences beehives – located near the bridge between EHSL and EHSEB and serviced by the University of Utah Beekeepers Association.
  • Seed Library – a gathering space to share seeds and knowledge of gardening in partnership with the Edible Campus Gardens and the College of Nursing.
  • Green office certification – the library was one of the first university offices to earn the allocation of being a green office as awarded by the Sustainability Office, and we have maintained certification to the present (our first certification was in 2018; in 2019 achieved gold level, and in 2023 re-certified).

Highlighting Efforts for Better Air Quality and Reduce, Reuse, Recycling

  • Battery recycling – started in 2017 to reduce hazardous waste material in the city’s landfill.
  • Filtered masks for bad air days – provided filtered masks, VogMasks, at reduced cost to aid those at risk during bad air quality.
  • Mask recycling – since many masks were ending up in landfills since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the committee set up a recycling program since spring 2022.
  • Reusing trash for art – The library was a host site for Project Art Heals Utah which reused physical mementos and COVID-19 vaccine vials for an art project located in the University of Utah Hospital.
  • Monitoring indoor air quality – the library is hosting a number of air purifiers for a student-led research project looking at indoor air quality effects during Salt Lake City’s bad air quality days.

Educating the Community about the Effects of Climate Change

  • Climate Changes Health & Health Equity Series – the library has hosted twelve lectures (with more to come) addressing how climate change is a significant threat to health and health equity.
  • Divestment and strategic reinvestment – the committee actively engaged with the Academic Senate ad-hoc Committee for Divestment and Strategic Reinvestment during townhalls and commentary periods throughout 2021.
  • Disseminating knowledge – committee members have presented at local and national conferences, and published articles promoting sustainability.

So where are we going in the future? While continuing to support some ongoing programs listed above, we are also keeping sustainability at the forefront of what the physical environment looks like with the building of a new Spencer F. Eccles School of Medicine and the Eccles Health Sciences Library retrofit & remodel.

The EHSL Sustainability Committee is committed to doing their part to make the U a more sustainable campus and are grateful for their partners – UHealth Green Team, Sustainability in Medicine Interest Group, Sustainability Office, and others – that help support them!

The Library’s Sustainability Committee (or the “green team”) is led by co-chairs Brandon Patterson and Alison Mortensen-Hayes. They are joined by current members Alexis Lee, Bob Millsap, Donna Baluchi, Elizabeth Frakes, Heidi Greenberg, Ian Godfrey, and Olivia Kavapalu.

A massive thank you to our previous members for their contributions: Joan M. Gregory (previous chair), Maha Alshammary, Nancy Lombardo, Nathan Memmott, Peter Strohmeyer, and Sarah Dickey.

Interested in learning more? Do you want to collaborate with the EHSL Sustainability Committee? If so, get in touch! We welcome your feedback. Email

Happy Earth Day to all!

See also: Sustainability Office, Sustainability at the U’s Hospitals & Clinics