A second life for books

booksOne of my holiday gifts to myself was a pile of new books. Normally I try to go to the library or buy used books, but these are titles that weren't available used.  Now that most of the pristine editions have been devoured, I've started thinking about the carbon footprint of these new books. The Minnesota Post cites these numbers from the Green Press Initiatve: One book has a carbon footprint of 8.85 pounds, and with the book publishing industry as a whole causing a net 12.4 million pounds of carbon dioxide every year.

One of my resolutions was to take time out from the endless stream of online information and read more books. But as an article from the NRDC "This Green Life" journal points out, you "wouldn't buy a t-shirt for one day of use; why a book? For a person with an environmental conscience, it doesn't make sense."

So what to do with books bought when there was no other alternative? Donating them to a thrift store is not always a good option: thrift stores tend to get more books than they know what to do with, and they move slowly because they are typically not categorized at all. I've often wondered if they just throw them out after a critical mass of unsold books gets stuck on limited shelf space.

A book can have a second life on the shelves of a used bookstore, where you can sell your used books for cash or store credit. A used book is only useful if it can be found, and my experience with used bookstores is that finding a title within stacks and stacks of dusty books feels like a real triumph precisely because they are so disorganized. Since used books are more easily found online, selling books either on your own or through a used book reseller is a way to get books into the hands of new readers. It occurs to me that maybe the reason why so many online used book clubs haven't appealed to me in the past is that there are so many people like me who have good books on their shelves that they haven't bothered to list. Here are a few online used book trade-in systems.

If you're still feeling those 8.85 pounds of carbon per book weighing heavily on your conscience, Eco-Libris will plant trees to offset your books.  For those books that ended up having a more enticing cover than content, you can make a book purse. (video below) I've seen really cool book purses at craft shows and the idea of using books for their parts simultaneously attracts and repels me, as a book lover.

The more used books in circulation the more robust will be the offerings available to someone else, so passing on the books that you don't plan on reading again is a win-win situation.


Tags: Books, Carbon offset, Second-hand, Trade, Volunteer

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