I am the kind of person who walks into a book store and has to leave with at least three books. It is probably my one big splurging weakness, which is why lately I have kept my distance from book stores unless I am in dire need of a book. In fact, my husband and I have over the years seemed to amass books across continents: from Oxford, to Stockholm, to Tel Aviv, to Bangkok – the combined result of bookworming and having family in different area codes. But what I never stopped to ask myself was, where do my books come from? Are the materials used to put together a book ethically sourced? Is the practice sustainable?
In 2003, Greenpeace launched a book campaign, producing evidence that the UK publishing industry was fuelling the destruction of ancient forests in Finland and Canada. According to The Guardian, Greenpeace found that one Canadian spruce produces just 24 books, which means that if a person reads one book every two weeks their reading habits destroy almost one large tree every year! Since then, over 40 percent of the UK book industry introduced policies to use paper with a high level of recycled content, including Random House, HarperCollins, Penguin, Bloomsbury and Egmont. An increasing number of their books now carry statements about how much recycled or FSC paper makes up their pages.
The next time you buy a book, make sure to check the back for recycling statements or the FSC logo. FSC (The Forest Stewardship Council) is a global, non-profit organisation dedicated to the promotion of responsible forest management. They enable businesses and consumers to make informed choices about the forest products they buy, and create positive change by spreading knowledge and awareness.
The FSC logo on any wood or wood-based product allows consumers to identify, purchase and use wood, paper and other forest products from well-managed forests and from recycled materials. FSC product labels contain additional information and also one of the following lines of text: 100%, FSC Mix or FSC Recycled.
Other eco-friendly ways to acquire books include:
Buying second hand: This prevents using up new resources and is cheaper than buying a new book!
Book swapping: Whether it is with a friend, neighbour, a café, or shop, book swapping is social, environmentally friendly and great for your wallet.
Library loans: There is something fascinating about going to a library, browsing its shelves and thinking about the journey the book has been on over the years! I would think that people generally read most books once in their life, so there is no need to own a book unless you know you will read it again.
Audio books and E-books: although the whole process of acquiring and reading/listening to the book requires energy, much fewer trees are harmed in the process. Once an audio book or e-book is downloaded it is yours to keep. This electronic duo does not come without their criticism though; electronic and audio books can be problematic, as electronic gadgets have a lifespan, not only through the structure of the gadget but also through a company’s marketing tactics convincing consumers that they always need to stay up to date with the newest model. According to the Green Press Initiative, electronic gadgets require the mining of a whole range of non-renewable minerals, like columbite and tantalite, materials often mined in war-torn regions of Africa and sourcing these minerals can have negative social and environmental impacts. If an electronic gadget is not properly recycled at the end of its life, it will most likely end up releasing toxic substances into the atmosphere in one way or another. This brings to question whether it is better to acquire books electronically through means of a single piece of electronica that also provides other uses (computer, phone, etc.) or is it better to continue buying a book made from trees which can last hundreds of years – and, furthermore, be recycled into another book upon the end of it’s lifespan?
Always invest in books with that either state that the book has been made from recycled materials or books who have the FSC logo. If you can’t find the book that you want made under environmentally friendly conditions then purchase it second-hand or try to find it in the library! I recently went into Waterstones (a dangerous place to all us book lovers!) and came by 2 books that I wanted to buy, only to turn them over and realise to my utter disappointment that they did not have the FSC logo on them or state anywhere that they use recycled materials. I wrote the names down and plan to purchase them second hand in the future!
The United Nations Forum of Forests estimates that forests cover 30% of the Earth’s land and that 3 million hectares of forest land is lost per year. We must protect, restore, and plant more! At current rates of deforestation, the remaining biodiversity-rich natural forests in South American, Asian, and African countries could disappear within a decade.
An effortless way to contribute from the comfort of your home can be through using the search engine “Ecosia“. Using this search engine generates revenue for Ecosia paid through advertisers, the search engine then donates at least 80% of its monthly profits to plant trees in Burkina Faso, Madagascar and Peru. I have been using Ecosia in combination with Google for roughly 5 months and have contributed to the planting of 570 trees!
You can also give back by planting a tree, or donating to organisations who do – the Earth needs our help to breathe! Some organisations include: The Nature Conservancy, WWF, One Tree Planted, Carbonfund.org Foundation.