Written by Keara Murphy, ESLLC 2017-2018
What most people don’t think of when buying a new book is how much paper we are consuming and what is going to happen to that paper in a year or two. In the past 20 years, the amount of paper used annually has had a 126% global increase.1 While of course textbooks, or books in general, did not account for that entire increase, they are still a major contributor to paper consumption and to make matters worse, about 320 million books are thrown away each year rather than recycled or reused.2 That’s pretty scary so here are ten ways you can help minimize the number of books thrown into landfills each year:
Buying used books and textbooks is a great way to make sure they are staying out of our landfills! Buying used books usually saves you a few dollars too. Many stores, local and chains, will sell used books at a discounted price. There are also websites like Thriftbooks and even Amazon where you can purchase your books secondhand.
Libraries still exist! Plus, library cards are almost always free. It might require a little bit of searching and waiting if you are looking for something specific but that shouldn’t discourage you from trying. Frequently, other businesses and schools will rent out textbooks as well.
After reading your book, you might as well sell it and receive a couple dollars. Many bookstores will buy your used books or you could host a yard sale.
Feel the moral satisfaction of donating your used books to schools, libraries, thrift stores, or charities. Whoever receives your book next will definitely appreciate it!
Grab your bookworm friends and host a book swap! Everyone grabs a book they’ve read and loved, wraps it up, and passes it to the person next to them. This way you can celebrate a holiday or event with your friends, find a new book, and give a book a new home.
- Create Some Art
If a book is completely destroyed, maybe with water damage, a weird stain, or too much love, pull it apart and make something new. Use book pages for origami, collages, or as a canvas and create a new project for your art class, your bedroom, or your family fridge. I used old books that my high school was going to throw away to create canvases for the art program and they added a nice twist to different projects while encouraging sustainability.
I’m pretty sure we have all seen in movies when the detective/ criminal/ random character pulls a book out of a shelf and shocks everyone by pulling something out of its hollowed-out center. You can do this too with your old hardcover books! While I don’t suggest putting your most valued positions in this spot, it can be a fun novelty item to stash in your room. Grab a marker to draw out where you’re going to cut, grab some scissors or an x-acto knife and cut out the insides.
Kindles, Nooks, and other equivalents allow you to read what you need and want without printing out all the pages that are put into creating a traditional book each time you pick up something new. Similarly, books and reading material can usually be found online or in apps for your smartphones, tablets, and other devices as well. (But keep in mind, if you don’t read a lot, the environmental impact created by producing your e-reader may be worse than that of just grabbing the printed version)
Hit two birds with one stone by using old book pages as gift wrap! Not only are you saving money and paper by not purchasing gift wrap but you’ll be reusing your old books. The end product is usually pretty cute too.
If you find some pretty flowers or leaves on the ground outside, slip them between the pages of an old book to press and preserve them so they can be used as decorations, for crafts, or whatever you desire. Using an old book means you won’t worry about any damage or stains left by the plants.