TRY THIS ONE THING: Shared, Borrowed, and Used Books

Did you know that making more ecofriendly choices when reading can have lasting, positive effects on the environment?

In 2018, the number of people reading for pleasure on any given day in the United States was an all time low of 19% (Washington Post). This changed, however, during the COVID-19 pandemic as more Americans turned to reading to pass time during lockdown resulting in an increase in new book sales and the production of e-reading devices. While we may not think too much about it, this is having a lasting impact on our environment.

In an effort to save trees, many people have switched to electronic readers as an eco-friendly alternative, but are they really the best choice? The production of one e-reader consumes approximately 100 kilowatt hours of fossil fuels and produces more than 65 pounds of carbon dioxide. Additionally, it takes 33 pounds of minerals, some of which are toxic, and 79 gallons of water to produce a single reader. Most are produced abroad requiring large-scale shipping and the consumption of additional fossil fuels. Over a five year span, it is estimated that the regular use of electronic reading devices produces 400 kg of carbon emissions.

In contrast, the production of one book consumes 2 kilowatt hours of fossil fuels and approximately 7.5 kilograms of carbon dioxide. Most books today use at least some amount of recycled paper, use less than one pound of minerals, and only 2 gallons of water. Even so, combined U.S. book and newspaper production results in the harvesting of over 100 million trees annually and, at its current scale, creates a significant carbon footprint. Estimates suggest that reading paper materials over a five year period results in 150 kg of carbon emissions.

MAKE IT YOUR ONE THING:

Choose printed books that are shared, borrowed, and used when making reading selections. Public libraries remain at the top of the list when choosing eco-friendly reading materials. Libraries also...

  • offer educational programs for youth

  • support sustainability

  • provide opportunities for diverse populations

  • build community

  • archive local history

  • offer resources and information that address community needs

  • act as centers for the arts.

If you enjoy visiting your local bookstore, consider second-hand sellers, and shops run by small business owners. When purchasing books, create a network of friends and family members to circulate and share books with minimizing their carbon footprint. Reading is an invaluable resource connecting us with the world around us, sparking imaginations, and spreading knowledge. We can't exist as a society without books, but we can make wiser, more eco-friendly decisions when selecting them to make our world a better place.


More and more community members are placing free library exchange boxes in their yards encouraging neighbors to give a book and take a book for free. To learn more about the Little Free Library Program and to locate an exchange box near you, visit Little Free Library and MAKE IT YOUR ONE THING.

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