Meet our Members – Taran Dhillon, Asian Library

What’s your role at UBC?
I am the Public Services & Collections Management Assistant at the UBC Asian Library.

How did you get involved in Sustainability in the Library and at UBC?
My involvement in sustainability initiatives within the Library and at UBC began in 2019 when I joined the Asian Library. During my orientation, my supervisor, Shaun Wang, and Phoebe Chow trained me in my duties including several sustainable practices within the branch for efficient library operations. These practices included saving and reusing mail envelopes, storing book jackets in boxes for new books display, saving cardboard boxes for re-use, recycling used pens, using discarded printing paper sheets as scrap paper at the circulation desk, and switching off lights before closing to conserve energy. I was particularly inspired when I observed my colleague Phoebe Chow creating a retirement card for a library colleague using one of the saved book jackets.

Crafting has always been a natural inclination for me, stemming from my upbringing. My mother, a craft teacher, taught me how to transform discarded items into beautiful and useful crafts. We used to make paper boats from ad flyers, turning shredded paper and cardboard into birds nest, paper flowers, paper lamps, making kites from discarded newspapers during spring season and making collage from discarded magazines for art and craft competitions.

In the summer term’2019, a less busy period at the library, I was encouraged by the branch head, Shirin Eshghi Furuzawa, to utilize my crafting skills to create crafts from paper waste and book jackets. I started using my time in creating free to take-Asian library bookmarks for patrons, greeting cards, seasonal greetings, survey boxes, pen and phone holders, and more. Shirin also encouraged me to join the sustainability committee, where I collaborated with colleagues Felicia de la Parra and Stacy Campbell every month, who were running sustainability initiatives in library. When the pandemic began in 2020, our meetings transitioned to virtual platforms, but we continued our initiatives. In 2020 and 2023 I co-led a workshops with my colleagues Phoebe Chow and Felicia de la Parra for library staff members, demonstrating how to create bookmarks and cards using scrap paper and discarded book jackets. I have a particular fondness for book jackets due to their interesting designs and high-quality paper, which makes discarding them difficult for me. This has allowed me to contribute my ideas and initiatives to the library’s sustainability efforts. You can find more about my documented ideas here.

In 2023, I was honored to receive the 2023 UBC Library Innovation Award, recognizing staff who introduce new ways of performing existing processes or introduce new library services or programs beneficial to Library staff.

What tips can you give to your fellow members on ways to be more Sustainable?
There are many easy ways to become more sustainable and reduce your environmental impact to contribute positively to the planet’s well-being.

Here are some tips and ideas to help you and your community become more sustainable:

  • Reduce Single-Use Plastics: Minimize the use of plastic bags, bottles, and straws. Use paper straws if possible or make your own at home.
  • Conserve Energy: Turn off lights, appliances, and electronics at home and in office when not in use.
  • Choose Sustainable Transportation: Walk, bike, carpool, or use public transport whenever possible. For example, living in Wesbrook Village allows me to bike or walk to work every day.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Reduce waste by buying only what you need, reuse items like containers, shopping bags, and recycle paper, plastics, glass, and metals. Take advantage of UBC’s reuse initiative called Rheaply AxM, which allows employees to exchange low-value items ($1,000 or less) between departments. As a branch coordinator, I facilitate the posting of surplus items and seek needed items for our branch. We’ve given away over 100 items using this initiative.
  • Re-purpose and gifts: There are unlimited ideas on internet to re-purpose materials. For example: I turned empty tomato cans into kitchen spoon holders, pasta sauce glass jars into pen holder and flowering pot, newspaper and magazine paper into envelopes and many more.
  • Educate and Advocate: Share your knowledge and passion for sustainability with others. Encourage your friends, and co-workers to prioritize sustainability.
  • Use Less Paper: Opt for digital communications, electronic billing, and reduce unnecessary printing. When paper is necessary, choose recycled options.