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How Eco Friendly Are Your Reading Habits?

I’m something of a voracious reader. One of the first features most people notice in my home is the wall of books in the living room. I do mean wall, as the entire length is covered with tall, full bookshelves. I’ve not made the switch to electronic readers such as the Kindle, partially due to my doubts as to the environmental advantages, but also because I don’t want to buy my whole collection over again.

One thing I like about my reading habits is that they’re pretty eco friendly so far as I can tell. I don’t buy a lot of new books, and when I do, they’re mostly used. That said, here are my tips for keeping your reading habits as eco friendly as possible.

Buy Used

I just said this, but it bears repeating. I may not get to read the newest titles as they come out, but if the book interests me, I get to it eventually.

It’s not always easy to find the right titles when you buy used. There’s a $1 bookstore in my area, but for the science fiction I mostly prefer, the pickings are quite slim. For children’s books, it’s quite a bit better, although there are still some authors whose books I never see there. It’s sure fun to go into a bookstore and be able to tell the kids to go pick 5 books, and still pay less than I would for one book new in many cases.

A better selection can usually be found at more traditional used book stores. Prices are a bit higher, but they’re pickier about what they buy and so you get better titles.

Library sales can be a fun source of books. Not only can you get some really interesting books, you’re helping to support your public library, always a good plan. Prices are usually very good.

Visit the Library

You don’t always have to buy books to enjoy them. You can head out to your local library and borrow them.

This is a great way to check out titles you aren’t sure you’ll like well enough to own or that you aren’t finding at used bookstores. Most public libraries can bring in titles from their other locations for you, so you don’t have to worry about driving long distances if another branch has the title you want.

My local library is about a mile away, so it’s pretty walkable even for the kids in most weather. This helps to avoid the use of my car and it’s pretty good exercise, especially with the hills in my area.

Rent Books

You’ve probably heard of Netflix and similar programs for renting movies. It’s hugely convenient and means you hardly have a need to buy movies to keep in your home. There are similar companies, such as Booksfree.com, where you can rent books for a time, no due dates. This is great if you like to take your time reading a new book, and you can choose to buy books when you like them that well.

This isn’t perfect, but few options are. There’s an environmental cost to having the books shipped around. It’s still an interesting option to get access to more titles than you keep in your home. And you don’t even have to make your way to the library.

Loan Books to Trusted Friends

Your books only do so much good sitting on the shelf. While it’s not always easy to loan out the books you love, sometimes you will find a friend you can trust to return the ones you loan to them.

Donate Books You No Longer Need

There comes a time where you no longer want to keep certain books in your collection. That’s the time to donate them to a good cause, whether it’s your local library or some other good cause.

If you prefer, you can also resell your old books. You can take them to a used bookstore or sell them online yourself through sites such as Amazon or eBay.

What Concerns Do I Have About Electronic Book Readers?

Devices such as the Kindle sound like a good way to get to read all the books you want without the use of paper, which isn’t always created in eco friendly ways. That’s what many people love about them. Is mining the materials for electronic readers really better? People talk about Kindles having lower carbon emissions over their lifetime than a book collection, but carbon isn’t all we should be looking at.

The problem I have is in part how people tend to use their electronic devices. Too many people dump their old electronics the instant the new model comes out, even when the old one is working just fine. That’s pretty wasteful. Possibly less wasteful than reading a book once and then getting rid of it, as some do, possibly more wasteful, I haven’t done the calculations.

If you’re considering a Kindle or other ebook reader, think about getting a used or refurbished model. This decreases the price and the environmental impact. Just be sure to dispose of it properly when it reaches the end of its usable lifespan, long before any of my books will.

There are some good arguments that Kindle and similar products are in fact more environmentally friendly than books, and it’s worth considering the information available. Just make sure you make the most of whatever source you have for your reading materials of whatever sort.

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