Recently, a number of public libraries have come up with creative ways to encourage education through engagement. While most of these public programs—including city-wide book scavenger hunts and an immersive “Subway Library“—typically exist to foster a love of reading, one growing campaign also aims to promote sustainability by offering library members free fruit and vegetable seeds.
Known as seed libraries, these collections of complimentary seed packets are popping up in hundreds of libraries across the country. While some institutions simply give the parcels away to library card holders, others allow them to be “checked out” with the understanding that the seeds of any future plants will be returned to the library.
In addition to ensuring a cycle of seed-sharing, this pay-it-forward policy nurtures a sense of community in each local library. As Rebecca Newburn, the co-founder of California’s Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library, tells Atlas Obscura, seeds are “cultural documents of what we have saved and found valuable in terms of taste and community. When we take the seeds home and plant them and return them we’re actually adding another chapter.”
Though rooted in public libraries, the “free seed” phenomenon has been adopted and adapted by all sorts of organizations. If you’d like to learn more about seed sharing, stop by the The Seed Library Social Network.