Friday, May 2, 2008

If I Go Green, Do I Have to Stop Buying Books???

In the past few years, the concept of "Going Green" has become a really big deal. When Al Gore released An Inconvenient Truth in 2006, I for one was moved. Each and every one of us can do a little something to help save our planet before it is too late. If you check out the Inconvenient Truth website, there are plenty of little things we can do each day that will help out. I try to do my part with recycling, changing our regular light bulbs to the energy-saving bulbs, and cutting the temperature in the house. I still drive an SUV, though. Trust me, if I could afford a new car right now, I'd be buying a hybrid. Especially now that the price of gas is through the roof. But I didn't know my favorite habit could be destroying the environment!!

Yesterday, I read this article in The Guardian about Book-Swapping sites. Did you know that only 24 books are produced from one tree! Sheesh, I have 24 books on my dining room table right now! " In 2003, Greenpeace launched its book campaign, producing evidence that the UK publishing industry was inadvertently fuelling the destruction of ancient forests in Finland and Canada. It found that one Canadian spruce produces just 24 books, which means that if you get through one book every two weeks your reading habits destroy almost one large tree every year. (In the same year, Greenpeace persuaded Raincoat Books to produce the Canadian edition of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on recycled paper, saving an estimated 39,000 trees.) "

How is it that it never even entered my head that actually buying books could be a BAD thing?? Stay with me folks....I'm in the midst of a panic attack! However, there is a little bright side to this post. It does look like most of the major publishers are trying to do a little something to help....with Random House leading the way. From a HappyNews Article, it states that "in 2006 when Random House, Inc., said that it would dramatically increase its use of recycled paper, saving more than 500,000 trees a year."

'Virtually all of the major publishers have taken some steps, from Hyperion switching to soy-based ink, to Penguin Group (USA) using wind power, to Scholastic, Inc. printing the deluxe edition of ''Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows'' on 100 percent post-consumer waste fiber. Simon & Schuster and the Hachette Book Group USA are among those using e-book readers instead of paper manuscripts. The Random House Publishing Group is experimenting with sending books online to media outlets."

I personally don't like e-books. You just can't curl up on the couch with them. Looks like I may have to rethink that whole Kindle idea. But we can also do our part other ways. Check out the publishers and find the ones are doing their part. The Guardian article suggest using sites such as BookMooch and Paperback Swap to get used books instead of buying new. And there is always my favorite: using the library.

Finally, you can go to Eco-Libris and donate to plant a few trees. Seems like a really good thing to do.

I can honestly say, reading these articles has made me think. And that's all I'm really asking you to do, whether it's at the bookstore when you are browsing for your next read or when you shut off a few lights in the house to save a little energy. It's going to take all of us to save this planet!!


Ana S. said...

Libraries are awesome. And so are sites like Bookmoch and Ecolibris.

I'm thrilled to hear that more publishers are using recycled paper. These things do worry me. I know what you mean about e-books not being the same, I really do. But I'm willing to give a Kindle or a kindle-like thingie a try once they become more affordable. Maybe I could get used to one, the same way I got used to digital downloads in addition to CDs (I still buy CDs, and lots of them, but now the two formats complement each other for me).

Stephanie said...

Nymeth - I'm the same way. The Kindle is just way too expensive right now...and you still have to buy the book for them. I still buy CD's too, even though I download tons of songs. It's actually a way for me to try out new artists without having to buy an entire cd.

I love the library!

Sarah said...

I love to add books to my home library, but have been leaning more and more towards my public library for just this reason. Now I find that I only buy books that I've read already and know that I'll read over and over and over again (and loan to other people). I figure that all counts as recycling....

Stephanie said...

Sarah - Every little bit counts, don't you think? Besides, books are just so expensive any more.

Debi said...

Did you really have to post this, Stephanie?!! No, I'm just kidding. Honest! This was a great post! It's really one area where I just can't help but feel guilty...because our family really does buy too many books (though a great many are used). I try to make myself feel better by reminding myself of all we do right, from hanging our laundry out instead of using the dryer to buying 95% of our clothes from thrift stores to using a push reel mower instead of a gas one...but those "selfish" areas like book buying still come back to haunt me. I'm not sure I could ever get used to the idea of a reading my books off of a machine...but I guess I could make a more concerted effort to not buy new books. Thanks for the reminder.

Stephanie said...

Debi - I'm not trying to make you feel bad! I'm not even trying to discourage you from buying books. But I read the article and it made me think. We definitely need to support publishing companies that are willing to print on recycled pater, for one. Just a little food for thought!

Raz Godelnik said...


Thank you for the interesting post and for the mention of Eco-Libris.

The book industry is taking steps to go green but there's still so much to do - the average usage of recycled paper is about 5% and still more than 20 million trees are cut down every year for the book sold in the U.S. alone.

For those who are looking for further information on the industry's environmental impacts - a report called '
Environmental Trends and Climate Impacts: Findings from the U.S. Book Industry' was published on March. This is probably the most important report that was published recently on the environmental impacts of the book publishing industry and we covered it in - 3-part series on our blog. You can find all the three parts here -

Besides what we do and offer, there are more steps that can be taken if you want to go green about your reading, such as:

- Support book publishers who print on recycled paper.

- Frequent more used book stores. It's cheaper and much more sustainable.

- Join your local library (and it comes from a son of a librarian, so you can guess I'm a big fan of libraries!)

- Online book swapping, such as (a great way to maximize the value of a book that is already printed)

- And also, support of book publishers and writers who partner with Eco-libris. We are a green business that works not only with book readers, but also with publishers, authors, bookstores and anyone in the book industry that wants to go green.

btw - we collaborate with Bookmooch that was mentioned on the Guardian's article and had lately a campaign of green-themed books with this great community of book lovers (

Thanks again for bringing up this important issue. We strive for a world where reading books doesn’t have adverse effects on the environment, and I'm sure that with the support of all the eco-conscious readers out there we can make it happen.

Raz Godelnik

Pardon My French said...

I've been meaning to post more about how I've been rethinking Kindle as well, but ultimately the cost is just too prohibitive right now. At first I thought there was no way I'd ever get into an electronic book, but since libraries, book-swapping and most used book stores near me don't really deal in English-language books, I'm looking for other ways to be able to read as much as I want while reducing spending and saving space in my home. I also love the idea of book-swapping and have a small system going with some other expats that I know, but would love to see that type of thing really expand!

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

Yikes! What an eye-opener. I don't like e-books either, and my co-worker was trying to sell me on The Kindle (is that how you spell it??) just yesterday. To me it isn't the same as curling up with a book and turning the pages. Luckily I have enough unread books on my shelf to keep my buying (um wait...that doesn't really stop me). I'll have to be more aware!

Anonymous said...

I don't like ebooks either. They don't read like regular books and, frankly, I do a lot of my reading in the bath - something I wouldn't do with ebooks.

I rarely buy books myself, however. I use the library and Paperspine more often. When I do buy books, it's generally from the used bookstore. So, hopefully, I'm not killing too many trees.

(PS - I'm tagging you for the "Six Things About Me" meme.)

CJ said...

Buying books isn't a bad thing.

Trees are an easily renewable resource and most paper companies have large plantations where they have a continuing cycle of planting, growing, and harvesting going on.

Are they really trying to make people feel guilty about buying books now? Good grief.


Teddy Rose said...

I use my public library a lot. I also try to get used books whenever possible. I never throw books away. I give them away or trade.

Another alternative for making paper is hemp. (No, not the stuff you can smoke). I have seen some smaller publishers us that. I'm not sure how much hemp it takes to produce a book, so I'm not sure how good of an alternative it is. How many feilds would have to be planted? I'm thinking of the bio-fuel alternative which is now making people in third world countries starve even more than before.

I wish there were an easy answer, but hopefully we will find real altenatives to save our planet!

Raz Godelnik said...

cj - you are absolutely right when you're saying that buying books isn't a bad thing. It's also true that trees are a renewable resource, but nevertheless there are too many environmental impacts that are due to the use of trees to produce paper of books and these issues press the industry to make changes in the way things are done. One of the problems is that too much paper used for books sold in the U.S. is sourced from trees are cut down in Endangered Forests, which results in significant environmental impacts. The conversion of endangered and old forests into tree plantations that takes place in some of these areas (like Mid-Atlantic Coastal Forest of the Southeastern United States, the "interior temperate rainforest" in British Colombia, Canada and the native siempre verde forests of Chile) is actually damaging the environment because the conversion of reach ecosystems in these areas into tree plantations, which means severe damage to biodiversity, fundamental changes and losses in natural systems, severe impact on species, etc. You can find more information about it on the Green Press Initiative's excellent website:

All in all, people shouldn't feel guilty about buying books, but just be aware of the green choices out there that support our planet.

And one last note - Mother's day is coming soon and we preapred a green books guide for this occasion (all of these great books are focusing on green issues and many of them are also printed on recycled paper). We went over all the green books reviewed and covered so far on our blog and chose ten books that will suit ten different types of moms, from the suburban mother to the fashionable mom.
You are welcome to have a look at it on our blog:

Raz Godelnik

Melody said...

Thanks for posting this, Stephanie! I'm not much of a e-book reader, but I definitely support the idea of swapping books (e.g. BookMooch) as it does help a little to save those trees.

Anonymous said...

What an important post! I struggle with this issue myself (and have just posted a bit about it). Thank you so much for the in depth information and for the links. I am excited to know that some book publishers are trying to do the right thing, because I'm with you. I just can't do the e-book thing. Besides, there's all that coal removed from under the mountaintops to light up computer screens.
Thanks again! TJ

Lisa said...

I also saw this article and had a similar reaction. It's encouraging that more publishers are trying to do more, though.

Ladytink_534 said...

I gotta have my books but this is the reason why I try not to buy them anymore. 90% of what I read comes from the library now.

Rashmi said...

Great information. Good to know book publishers are doing their part in going green. For giving up books is something I'm never going to be ready for. And agree with you on ebooks. Nothing like a book in one hand, lying stretched out on the couch - my fave position to read!

Btw, a HUGE Mother’s Day Book Giveaway is currently happening on my blog. Hope you’ll stop by.

Book Calendar said...

You can check for recycled content in the paper. Some publishers are starting to use post consumer material as they call it. Also, you can check to see what kind of ink they are using. Again some publishers are starting to use soy based inks. I think there is also a symbol for managed forestry with some books. If trees are grown for cutting it is different than if they are cut randomly. Also, use your library. The books get used over and over.

An ebook is made of plastic (petroleum) and metal and uses electricity. It really is not a whole lot better than a tree which can be grown again and again.

Carl V. Anderson said...

This is the subject that I spoke out on at Andi's site that prompted my whole "Choices" post. The biggest issue I had with the whole notion is that I don't see anyone researching or producing any research looking into whether or not the companies harvesting these trees are planting replacement trees. I contend that many of them are as it is completely ignorant to think that a big business like logging isn't investing in their future by planting trees. I don't see them cannibalizing themselves in the same way that non-renewable fuel/energy industries do.

I am in total support of being a more environmentally conscious person. However I think there are a loooong list of more effective and important ways to address environmental issues than to do so by undermining art and literature for the sake of saving trees. And keep in mind that I am very fond of trees.

I too think the e-format as an environmental saving issue is one I cannot support. First I don't like reading fiction online. I am too old school...I like the feel of a book in my hand. Secondly, all these e-formats are made out of materials that are not good for the environment and the production and maintenance of them is a far worse way to damage the environment than to use replaceable resources to make books.

I also am in support of libraries and buying used books. But I'm only going to do both of those to a certain extent. I am a collector. I love owning books and owning very nice copies of books. That means more often than not I am going to be buying new books. Plus I want authors to write, and get paid, and it is only through our purchases that this will continue to happen.

What made me feel frustrated with this discussion on Andi's site is the same reason I feel frustrated now. I don't think feeling guilty is a productive emotion nor do I honestly believe we have any reason to feel guilt. We are not buying books, reading them, and then tossing them into landfills. We are keeping them, trading them, giving them away. And again they are made out of a renewable resource and more and more are made out of recycled paper.

The other issue I brought up was that I wondered if anyone has ever researched whether or not it is more harmful to the environment to recycle paper vs. harvesting and replanting trees. It is an interesting thought. As often happens people in general grab on to one aspect of things without researching all aspects. And I am not pointing fingers. I do this ALL THE TIME. Who has time to really do the research on all this stuff? Ultimately if we are doing any changes it is probably better for the environment, but the way the public just assumes things is sometimes alarming.

If a person wants to make changes I think the first place to start is with the easy things that can become habits--not running the water while brushing teeth, using energy efficient appliances, turning off lights and unplugging appliances, etc....the list can go on and on. I truly believe our last resort in fighting the environmental war should be to do so on the art and literature front.

But again that may just be me. I think individually we should do whatever our hearts tell us, but if guilt is the motivation then I don't think that brings about lasting or intelligent change.

I am becoming more and more inclined to make significant changes in my own life to be more environmentally conscious as I feel that is our responsibility. But my book purchasing needs to be changed solely to be more financially responsible, not because of environmental reasons. It may be selfish but I would rather my favorite artists and authors continue to get a paycheck and continue to produce works that I can consume that add the same level of richness and quality to my life and the lives of others that clean air and a healthy, tree-filled world do.

I think, with intelligence, we can have both our cake and eat it too!

Iliana said...

I'm all about doing what little I can to save the environment but of course being a bookworm it's hard to not want to hoard books! :)
I try to use BookMooch a lot for requesting and giving out books and also try to donate books to my public library. I am glad to hear though about publishers that are trying to make a difference. Great post!

Stephanie said...

Carl - I'm not trying to make anyone feel guilty. Especially about buying books. There are so many other harmful things out there. I just read the article and it made me think.

I totally agree there are lots of things we can do in our own lives and households to help with environmental issues. And I do think it's everyone's responsibility to do it.

I do remember your choices post. And I'm really glad you did decide to comment. Please don't ever think you can't speak your mind here. I value your opinions!! Thanks for stopping in!

There's no way I'm going to an e-Reader. I just can't do it. The cost is high and it just doesn't hold the same reading experience for me.

Carl V. Anderson said...

Oh I know you aren't trying to make anyone feel guilty, it is just unfortunate when people do feel it. It is such a wasted and wasteful emotion.

I'm afraid the day will eventually come that e-reading is the norm and "books" will be less and less prominent. Hopefully that day will be long after we move on (which I don't want to be for a looooong time ;) )

Where did you get that picture of the Earth, it is amazing?!?!

Andi said...

I've been reading up on deforestation in general, and apparently the biggest culprit is actually the MEAT INDUSTRY! I'm still looking into it, but I haven't come up with any solid numbers on publishing.