Working with worms and building houses for bees are just a couple ways the Monona Public Library hopes to start a ripple.

The library hosts Eco-Action Tuesday workshops the third Tuesday of each month from March through October. The workshops focus on hands-on sustainability projects to help inspire participants and others to take small steps toward sustainability.

“We touch the lives of people and then we hope that that will ripple out in to the community through interaction with neighbors and others,” said library assistant Penny DePaola.

DePaola started the workshops in September 2015 after a group that hosted similar workshops at the library disbanded.

“Penny’s vision for Eco-Action Tuesdays is hands-on, experiential stuff you can do in your own backyard, things that make you so excited that you want to tell other people about it,” said Monona Public Library business coordinator Sally Buffat.

The workshops are free and focus on a variety of projects, from making homemade cleaning supplies to clothing swaps to preserving herbs. They are open to anyone in the community, not just Monona residents.

DePaola, Buffat and a group of volunteers run the workshops. They vote on the upcoming year’s themes and have already begun to think of projects for future workshops, including invasive species, magic energy program focused on children and an electric car expo.

“Lately we’ve tried to get a little out of the building,” Buffat said.

The group has been on field trips to the sewage treatment plant and Second Harvest Food Bank.

Each workshop hosts about 20-30 people. Many in attendance are adults and teenagers, but parents may bring younger children depending on the subject.

The workshops are sponsored by Madison Gas and Electric with help of library liaison Dave Benforado, and Willy Street Co-op. Members also work with the Monona Sustainability Committee.

The sponsors help bring in speakers, put on field trips and provide refreshments and door prizes. Librarians pull books about the monthly topic, and patrons are entered into the drawing when they check out a book.

The library also features a display about sustainability on the second floor. Volunteers put together brochures on topics about composting, energy, shopping, recycling, water and terracycling, along with books about sustainability.

The brochures contain different challenges to be completed as an individual or a family by Aug. 31 for “Celebrate Sustainability,” which will be held Sept. 24. Each person who participates will win an eco-friendly prize based on participation.

The next meeting will be Aug. 27, and the project will be a “lasagna garden” in which residents layer organic materials, such as compost, leaves and woodchips, to create a mound. Over time, the mound flattens and attracts worms and other insects who break down the soil. The garden is ready for planting in the spring. The workshop will be held at a volunteer’s residence.

Future Eco-Action Tuesday workshops will be Sept. 24 and Oct. 22. Workshops will then resume in March 2020.

“It is overwhelming completely when you look at the world as a whole and things that are going on, but you don’t want to lose hope,” DePaola said. “This is a good way to keep your hope alive.”

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