Encouraging Sustainable Lifestyles at West Windsor Branch

There is an increased level of awareness and attention dedicated to green and sustainable living and benefits reaped from living conscientiously. At the West Windsor Branch of the Mercer County Library System, a big effort is being made to teach children ages 4 to 11 simple concepts pertaining to sustainable, organic and conscientious lifestyles that help reduce the size of an individual’s carbon footprint.

Working with funds provided by the Friends of the West Windsor Library, the West Windsor Branch has been able to purchase supplies for the Library Garden which is now entering its fourth season. The Friends have been able to make these funds available through selling books which you, our library’s patrons, have kindly donated.[i]

Through the Library Garden, the children are engaged in reading about sustainable gardens, local seasonal produce, and farming. Additionally, we provide materials and crafts for children to create an even more positive experience. They are given hands-on experience at growing organic food by furthering scientific learning (learning about how composting works and how phosphorous and nitrogen encourage plant growth, the importance of earthworms and how the water cycle works); encouraging healthy food choices, nutrition and lifestyles; fostering appreciation for direct care, patience, and hard work; and lastly, gaining invaluable knowledge of the food-making process every step of the way.

Due to the proximity of both the West Windsor’s Community Garden and the West Windsor Farmers’ Market[ii], children are granted a unique opportunity to learn about organic and local food production while nurturing a sense of sustainability and balance within the environment. Large amounts of energy are saved by eliminating the need for refrigeration of food that travels hundreds of miles to reach us. The sum of those miles is reflected in gas station prices as gasoline is consumed to deliver the food. The use of pesticides harmful to both human health and the environment can also be avoided in homegrown gardens.

In addition to furthering children’s scientific learning and learning about the importance of local food production on the environment, gardening encourages making healthy food choices and helps raise awareness of proper nutrition. Proud to have nurtured vegetables to their maturity, children will be more likely to choose and eat vegetables as a snack. This choice makes a big difference for a nation where 16 to 33 percent of children and adolescents are obese. The library further encourages healthy lifestyle choices through instructional programs, story-time, and art and craft activities.

In February 2014, the Friends have helped fund another gardening-related program, the Heirloom Seed Library, that helps give vegetable seeds and gardening information to families frequenting our library. Seed packets that were purchased provided enough seeds to support approximately 60 family gardens.
Libraries are in a unique position to place free resources directly into hands of the community that they support. Andrew Carnegie once said that “A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.” I believe that saying can be taken a step further in an environmental direction and go as far as to say that not only is it a never failing spring in the desert, but indeed a flourishing green oasis from which the community can gather resources to empower, educate and grow.

The Library Garden meets a couple of times each month at the West Windsor Branch Library; please check the online calendar at www.mcl.org for dates. You may also visit Ms. Dragana in the Youth Services section of West Windsor Branch for a guided tour.

The Heirloom Seed Library will continue in February 2015.

If you have not already, please visit the West Windsor Farmer’s Market near the train station. It is open every Saturday from 9am-1pm until November 22, 2014.

- Dragana D.

[i] It is important to note that this act in itself is a green and sustainable act as it helps repurpose unwanted materials. “Reuse” is one of the three environmentally friendly ways of reducing our waste, the other two being “Reduce” and “Recycle.”
[ii] The West Windsor Library has also brought an annual storytelling experience to the Farmers Market hoping to further children’s engagement in reading and participation in sustainable gardens, local and seasonal produce and farming, making the collaboration between the two a true community value.


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