Last year I did a post during the A to Z challenge titled Green Writer. It was about the pressure our planet is under environmentally and how writers, and writing, can and do impact on our environment and how we can lower any harm we do. I think this past year has shown that the issues our planet faces have not gone away.
There is a very complex system around our planet that keeps it ticking over. Atmosphere, clouds, and ice all effecting the albedo, which is the percentage of the sun reflected back into space, which sets our earth temperature. One of the many gases in the atmosphere which keep our planet warm is CO2, but as you know, we are now emitting an awful lot of CO2 and this in turn is effecting the albedo and creating the added warming effect which is what you hear being so often talked about.
Since writing that post a year ago, I have wanted to write a post from the opposite viewpoint, that of the reader.
This is that post.
Reading books has changed beyond recognition in the last seven years, with the evolution of the ereader.
As a writer, I know I like to read as much as I can. In fact my goal on Goodreads this year is to read 70 books as last year I managed to read 61 and I want to push myself further. But, bearing in mind last years post on being a Green Writer, I wanted to consider how I can be a Green Reader. My reading habit consists of reading my books on my ereader as well as going into bookshops and buying paper books. I like to do both and generally alternate between the two formats as I’m reading. Though with the ease of night-time shopping online my TBR pile of books on my ereader is much higher than my bookshelf, which isn’t so inconsiderable itself.
So, with that being said, we need to look at which is more environmentally friendly I suppose. Paper books or electronic devices?
Many publishing houses have environmental policies on their websites and are signed up to the FSC – Forest Stewardship Council.
Why does this matter within books and publishing? Well, trees are cut down for the paper to create the books and this great video below explains it brilliantly, but is 8 minutes long. It is worth watching, but I know you may only be stopping by quickly on the A to Z, so maybe come back when you have chance?
So many books are being made from sustainable forests now and we know that forests use up our CO2 and emit O2. They’re important.
Kindle are the grandfather of the ebooks and have apparently been quite shy in providing data in relation to environmental impact on the making of the electronic readers. Though it has been said (Cleantech) that reading 22.5 books on a Kindle (I’m using Kindle as it’s the most bought reader) offsets any environmental impact it has with its recharging and toxic waste. So as an avid book reader, I feel pretty safe in that respect.
Using an ereader also has the convenience of downloads, saving on transportation costs and not just distribution to sellers, but buyers, thereby reducing carbon emissions.
End of Life – Landfills.
A huge amount of paper ends up at landfill. Paper though biodegradable, produces methane as it decays. Methane is a Greenhouse gas.
EReaders will be dismantled and parts taken out for recycling, but beware on what the phrase recycling means.
What can you do as a reader?
Making a distinction between which is the most environmentally friendly way of reading, is not as simple as a person might imagine, so it goes on personal preference for now. But whatever your preference, there are things you can bear in mind.
- Look for books/publishers that use FSC sustained forests for their books.
- Books can be recycled before final end of life at the landfill. Pass a book to a friend, a charity shop, or your local library – Yes, they do take good condition books!
- Check your settings on your ereader and have it set up to save the battery. Mine is set for flight mode. It can’t access the internet to download the new books I’ve bought on my laptop or phone, until I turn it on for 5 minutes especially to do it.
- If you have an ereader, make use of it! Read lots, it’s easy to transport about. Take it places and make use of it. Make it so that you pass that environmentally friendlier mark.
This is a massive topic and I’ve tried to shrink it down. These are some of the sites I’ve used to help me research. I apologise, any errors I’ve made are my own.
Psychology Today, The Guardian Books, The FSC,
Prashant C. Trikannad says
Rebecca, this post makes you sit up and think. It looks like a no-win situation to me. Both paper books and electronic books harm the environment in greater or lesser degree. I often see pictures of high pyramids of e-waste that no one knows how to dispose of without causing more damage to the environment. I buy fewer paper books than e-books which I read on a tablet that’s going to be around for a long time. So one e-device that holds hundreds of books as opposed to buying hundreds of paper books seems like a workable solution.
Elizabeth Hein says
I am a firm believer in recycling books. I am a member of a book swapping group where you put 10 books into the pile and take 10 out. I also donate a lot of my books to my local library for their annual book sale. It is their largest fundraiser and I always pick up some wonderful surprises on the $1 table.
Margot Kinberg says
Rebecca – What a great idea for a post! And such an important point too. There are things that we can all do to make a difference, and every small bit helps. I love your idea of sharing books with others and passing them along. That’s one reason for which I am a firm supporter of libraries. Among the myriad other reasons to support your library, it’s a great way to share books in a more environmentally-friendly way.
Great post, Rebecca! I remember years ago looking into the impact of recycling paper as compared to sustainable replanting – the latter won hands down and I’ve always been a relucatnt paper recycler ever since. One of the complaints of many Amazon Vine members is that books are sent in paper format and we aren’t allowed to sell, give or donate them – so the only option is to send them for recycling or to landfill – both wasteful.
I love my Kindle Fire and use it for probably 4 to 5 hours a day – not just for reading books, but for newspapers, and also for MP3s as opposed to CDs and gradually for video as opposed to DVDs. While the recycling of electronics is always going to be an issue, the more we move over to them, then the less damaging they are over their lifetime as you point out. And with lots of lovely cases that can also be co-ordinated with whatever you’re wearing… 😉
I mostly use my e-reader or my mp3 player for audio books. But I still buy a lot of paperbacks. Thanks for a great post to make me think about my choices.
Carol Balawyder says
Rebecca—you’d make a great spokesperson for Kindle. 🙂
I have a Kindle but it’s not working so well. It’s too old I guess and it freezes which is really annoying. I have to wait for it to reload.
I know what you mean about using e-readers rather than paper books for environmental purposes.. I get that.
Still, I like paper. It’s easier to go back and forth…To put post-its in it.
I use the library a lot, so that makes me feel less guilty.
Interesting post. 🙂
Patricia Lynne (@plynne_writes) says
Great post. I like paper and ebooks and definitely like the idea of both having ways to help keep the environment safe.
Jacqui Murray says
Some of my green steps are so small, yet amaze my friends. I’m still on the easy stuff. Baby steps.
anna@herding cats & burning soup says
I’ve seen lots of talk on this with toting ebooks as better but eh I don’t quite believe that myself. Since you also have to take into account lending books. With print I can loan one book to as many people as I want. When I’m done I can donate it to the library for more people to use. And yet ebook not so much. I can lend once and it has to be someone with either a laptop or an e-device. So the print gets much more use with less impact. And having to replace those kindles. I’m on my 2nd. in 2 years :/ I don’t know. Benefits to both but just not convinced yet on the eversion being supreme. *shrugs* It’s an interesting topic though!
Happy A to Z-ing!
herding cats & burning soup.
I use my e-reader and haven’t bought a ‘new’ book for years (I buy from the second hand shop). I’m a great believer in recycling and just love this post 😀
Interesting and important post. Thought-provoking, which is good. We should all try to be aware of the issues involved.
Great post! I love my Kindle. I love print books too, but since I travel and move very often, Kindle is a treasure. I do use it in airplane mode, though. I just treat it as a very handy book 🙂 Especially because there are so many old books for free on archive.com that I can download 🙂
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