Skip to Main Content

CMU Libraries Sustainable Practices: 3Es 5Rs

The 3E and 5R Guidelines

When planning your day-to-day work, or writing your impact statement for library projects within the library Project Definition Statement consider your ecological footprint in terms of the 3Es and the 5Rs. 

The 3Es


The 3E dynamic considers our ecological footprint in regard to systems thinking within a broad spectrum.

environmental consciouness and community in a more-than-human world

responsible stewardship of resources

  • energy use (computing, lighting, heating, cooling, travel/transportation)
  • carbon footprint
  • air/atmospheric quality and emissions
  • water use and contamination
  • soil/land use and contamination

fairness to all; ethical practice

3Es Social Responsibilities Round Table
Resolution on the Importance of Sustainable Libraries


Henk, Mandy, and Thornton, Kimberly. Ecology, Economy, Equity: The Path to a Carbon-Neutral Library.   First edition. Chicago, [Illinois]: ALA Editions, 2014.
An accessible overview  introducing key concepts of sustainability, climate change and how libraries and individuals in libraries can actively play a role in helping build a sustainable library. CMU Libraries has Bronze Certification in  the Scotty Goes Green Office Certification Program and have accomplished many of the first steps suggested in the first chapter “Making the Transition."

The 5Rs

The 5R zero waste dynamic considers conserving and reusing resources. There are other iterations of the 5Rs including rethink, reform, rot, revise, remix, restore....Google 5Rs.

to purchase or use materials that can harm you, your organization or the environment either in production, use or disposal
Choose to work with companies and vendors committed to ethical and sustainable practices.
Use sustainably sourced materials, local if possible.

Keep asking: do I really need to use a new material? ...what is the minimum material required?

Reuse something you already have instead of buying something. Replace single use items with something you can use over and over again. (Both of these options will save you money as well).

Repurpose something and use it for something else.

Recycle responsibly if the above four options won’t work...recycling is a great way to open your eyes to all that you toss and a chance to rethink your future purchases. As of January 1, 2013 the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania requires that all computers, and computer peripherals including but not limited to monitors, keyboards, mice, external drives and printers must be recycled.

Pollution and 5Rs
A fun flashcard game!

The 4 Things You Should Do Before You Ever Recycle Something...and 2 more you didn’t know about.


How Well Do You Know the 5Rs?

The 5 Rs


Pittsburgh Reuse

Construction Junction
Charges a nominal fee for recycling computers/peripherals; receives construction materials and other household items. Pittsburgh
“changing the world, one gift at at time”

Goodwill Computer Donations
Donate or recycle computers or computer peripherals

Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse
“Promotes resource conservation, creativity and community engagement through material reuse.”

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)