Impactfully No. 83: Beyond Books

Your local library is creating impact in unexpected ways, and cities are depaving their streets and sidewalks to make way for green space.

Impactfully No. 83: Beyond Books
Photo by Sylvia Yang / Unsplash

When was the last time you went to a library? For me, it was probably my campus library – quiet study spaces for knocking out homework in a flash. Community libraries have evolved a lot over the past few years, and librarians are being tasked with more than just pointing you to your new favorite read.

More on the evolution of your local library below, plus we check in on urban greening efforts in the U.S. and abroad. Groups of volunteers are "depaving" concrete to create green space and make cities more resilient to the effects of climate change. Grab your sledgehammer, and let's dive in!

~ Greg

What we're reading

The library you grew up with has morphed into a sort of community center. People aren't there just to check out books. Libraries are passing out COVID tests, teaching computer skills, and even distributing Narcan for drug overdoses. (Axios)

  • What surprises me most about this is that libraries wouldn't offer these services without two prerequisites: the community has a demand for these services, and they believe the library can offer them.
    • The latter is particularly striking. When I think of a library, I think of checking out a book. But it turns out people are using libraries for all sorts of things, even just as a place to shelter.
  • The Vancouver Community Library just north of Portland caught my eye because it has a seed library. I never knew such a thing existed until a few weeks ago.
    • People can pick up seeds for free, and once your plant at home produces its own seeds, they recommend you donate some back to the library.
    • This sounds like a decidedly Portland sort of thing to do, but hop over to Ecosia and search "seed library" yourself – I found at least four within driving distance of where I am now.
  • Bottom line, if you haven't been to your local library in a while, it may be time to visit. They're having more of an impact on your community than you may have realized.

Cities are uprooting concrete through a process called depaving to make way for more natural areas. The benefits won't surprise you: creating new gathering spaces, reducing flooding risk, and improving shade for starters. (BBC)

  • Although you'll find instances of depaving in cities in North America, I was struck by the efforts in Leuven, Belgium.
    • They're requiring that new and recently renovated homes are ready for extreme rains, either by capturing rain or ensuring the ground can soak it up. They'll even send a vehicle to your home to pick up unwanted concrete or pavers from your garden.
    • France, too, has invested over $500 million in urban greening.
  • Some depaving efforts are led by volunteers, not the cities themselves. One group called Depave has removed 360,000 square feet of concrete since they started – my arms are tired just thinking about it.
  • More green space is always a good thing. I'm inspired to look for depaving opportunities near me. Maybe a few slabs of concrete, once removed, could become our new favorite place to relax to take in the sights and sounds of our neighborhoods.

Job of the week

This is the most glamorous job of the week we've had so far. You'd be working at Beautycounter, one of the biggest clean beauty brands around – and a Certified B Corp besides. They're looking for a new Vice President of Operations and Supply Chain with broad oversight over production, supply chain, and customer support.

Although I've never been a customer, I've been impressed with their advocacy work. Few companies tackle the political arena as part of their social impact efforts, but Beautycounter has built a grassroots movement that led to consumer safety legislation in the U.S. and Canada. You can read more about their work here.

Community roundup

  • Spain is on track to ban domestic flights that could be replaced by a trip by train. France enacted a similar ban last year in an effort cut greenhouse gas emissions. (Euronews)
  • Walmart is running a pilot program where women can get a mammogram on a walk-in basis. Retailers in general are pushing heavily into the healthcare space, which makes up nearly one-fifth(!) of GDP. (CNN Business)
  • NPR did a deep dive last week into drug policy in Portugal compared to the United States and why we experience so many more overdoses. Cities around the country are fighting addiction with a variety of methods – like increasing access to counseling and decriminalizing small amounts of drugs – but those efforts have met with mixed success. (NPR)
  • More than 325 million people visited a National Park Service site last year. Great Smoky Mountains National Park topped the list once again. I've been to six of the top ten – can you beat that? Check out the job opportunities section below for ways to get involved. (CNN)
  • The United States is back on the moon for the first time since 1972! Intuitive Machines became the first private company to land a spacecraft on the moon's surface. It comes after a string of attempts from private companies in the past year, all part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services program. (The Verge)
  • Sometimes agriculture and renewable energy can be at odds because both require significant amounts of land to support. Enter "agrivoltaics," which is a marriage of the two. In Wyoming, a proposed project would install more than 1 million solar panels with sheep grazing beneath them. (Grist)
    • A while back, I was listening to an episode of How to Save a Planet about this concept. If you enjoy a good social impact podcast, tune in.
  • Climate change and biodiversity are intertwined, though the former tends to get most of the attention. Although we're pretty good at monitoring climate, we struggle when it comes to biodiversity. A number of countries are trying to fix that by building BONs: biodiversity observation networks. (The Guardian)

Hot job opportunities

Hiring for mission-driven talent? Post a job for free on our job board.

Looking for a job? Submit your resume to our talent pool, and let social impact companies come to you.

Resource of the week

If you're looking for a social impact job that has been certified by a third party, you should seek out B Corp jobs like the one at Beautycounter above.

I would recommend using "B Corp" as a keyword in your job search in general – companies with that certification tend to feature it in their job descriptions. But you can also go one step further and check out B Work. It's a website sponsored by B Lab, the nonprofit that confers the B Corp certification, and only B Corps are allowed to post jobs on B Work. B-rilliant!

As of this writing, they had over 1000 job opportunities listed. Not a bad start to your job search this week, huh?

Test your knowledge

Did you know that China is far and away the leader in solar installations around the world? It makes sense in hindsight, but it still surprised me. Typically you hear about how China is hesitant to commit to climate change agreements because it could stunt their economic growth. On the contrary, their installed solar power capacity grew by more than 50% last year.

For this week, I wanted to tackle a trivia question with similar scale. You may be familiar with the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations Member States. Sometimes you'll see companies identify one or more SDGs that they support as part of their work.

2030 is the target year to meet the SDGs, which is right around the corner. That begs the question: when did the Member States agree to the SDGs?

Email me your guess, and I'll send one lucky winner a couple of One Work stickers!

I am researching community solar as a way of moving more of my energy use to renewables. You can find me on LinkedIn and Threads.

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Jamie Larson