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Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle with Little Free Libraries

2013 November 12

By Ellie Kanipe

With America Recycles Day around the corner on November 15th, we’re sharing how communities are reducing waste and conserving resources. Little Free Libraries are one way my community is making a difference – not only by helping the environment by keeping books out of landfills, but by connecting neighbors and building an even greater sense of community.

Earlier this fall, my husband and I attended a 6-month anniversary celebration of a Little Free Library in our Del Ray, VA neighborhood outside of Washington, DC. The Little Free Library of Windsor and Dewitt had festive decorations and yummy treats; crafts for kids; a garden tour where we saw lots of monarch caterpillars; and, of course, books, books, and more books! It was delightful – we gave a book, left with a few books, met new neighbors, and learned about other cool green happenings in our community, like an Upcycle Creative Reuse Center.

Del Ray has three Little Free Libraries and my husband and I love them! Not only do they foster community by bringing people together to share their love of reading, they provide the service of reusing/recycling books. Here’s how it works:

  • The library itself is simply a small, weather-proof container that can hold books.
  • Stewards, often with community support, build or purchase a library and put it in their yard (check out some examples here).
  • The library stewards make it official by becoming a member of the Little Free Library global network.
  • The stewards start the process by putting their own used books in the library.
  • People in the community stop by and leave a book and/or take a book.


What are you and your community doing to reduce, reuse, and recycle? Does your community have a Little Free Library, or other sharing libraries for things like tools and seeds? On Wednesday, November 13 at 12:30 p.m. EST, join a conversation on Twitter about what you and your community are doing. You can participate by following @ EPAlive and the #AskEPA hashtag on Twitter. If you don’t use Twitter, you can still watch the discussion at @EPAlive and #AskEPA. We look forward to chatting with you!

About the author: Ellie Kanipe lives in Del Ray, Virginia, and works for the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery on communications. She loves her community in Del Ray – the people, its walkability, and the neighborhood’s frozen custard shop.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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4 Responses leave one →
  1. Proto Whey permalink
    November 13, 2013

    Super Intresting, i love that theres still people like you guys and girls keep up the great work!

  2. Lina-EPA permalink*
    November 14, 2013

    I love it! Great idea! Thanks for your blogpost.

  3. Rick Brooks permalink
    November 15, 2013

    Fascinating how something like Little Free Libraries can connect us in unanticipated ways. Yesterday I was able to give a copy of a book written and signed by Russell Train to a Ph.d librarian who is becoming a Little Free Library steward in Hinsdale, Illinois, outside of Chicago. Train and his wife had self published a memoir about their travels, family and careers.

    The book had appeared in a Little Library in Madison about a year ago. I knew that Train had been EPA administrator in the Nixon and Ford administrations but did not know of his equally impressive leadership at the World Wildlife Fund. It turns out that the recycle, repurpose and reuse approach to building these neighborhood book exchanges definitely inspires many more kinds of re-thinking and remembering as well.

    We’re hoping to see a whole line of Little Free Libraries in the form of Aldo Leopold’s shack soon. Know anyone who would like to build one.

    Thanks for writing about all this, by the way. Helps us all realize that little things can make a difference.

  4. Mark Seltzer permalink
    November 17, 2013

    It is interesting that the first library pictured is a set of re-purposed beehive supers. Wonder why they stopped keeping bees! A way to reuse in more way than one..

    Happy ARD

    –Mark Seltzer

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