Ever since Rogers and Hammerstein wrote about corn “as high as an elephant’s eye”, in their musical Oklahoma, it’s probably the rare person who has experienced corn country in late summer and not had that phrase spring to mind. At our house, as in many, the sweetness of corn signals summer.
In recent years, corn — more specifically its derivative, high fructose corn syrup — has appropriately come under fire for being a ubiquitous, harmful, and subsidized dietary alternative to natural sweeteners and foods.
Given that last, then, it’s nice to report a positive new alternative use for corn, and an unexpected one — library cards. The San Francisco Public Library has recently included among its offerings an “ecocard” that is made from corn and is renewable and biodegradable, as an alternative to its plastic library cards.
The library eventually hopes to replace all of its plastic library cards with ecocards, and its pilot program, in which new patrons are offered ecocards for free, will help test the cards’ durability and usability.
As with San Francisco’s other pioneering green efforts, I wonder if other cities will follow suit.
You can read more about the San Francisco Public Library’s corn-based library card, as well as about their Green Stacks program, which features books and events about a wealth of environmental and sustainability issues.
This terrific article in Smithsonian Magazine, by Elizabeth Royte, goes even further to illuminate some uses and properties of corn-based plastic as an alternative to petroleum-based plastic and how, while a vast improvement over the latter, corn-based products have some issues of their own.
Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman