Environmentally Friendly Ways to be a Reader

Posted by Rose Moore

[Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash]

This weekend, the environmentally conscious all around the world will come together to celebrate Earth Day—a day for spreading awareness and taking action to save the planet. There’s no doubt that taking care of our home is a hugely important issue, and there is so much that everyone can do to make a difference. Even in small ways, like taking shorter showers, recycling, riding a bike, or walking rather than taking a car. But what can we do as readers? We take a look at some of the ways that bookworms can help the Earth…and not only on April 22.


Is Reading Eco-Friendly?

Sometimes it can feel like being a bookworm is the opposite of environmentally friendly living. Every book is printed by huge, energy-guzzling machines, glued together with potentially toxic chemicals, shipped around the world (racking up that carbon footprint), taking up space in homes that could otherwise be smaller and more energy efficient… and let’s not forget, each page is printed on a natural resource: paper. It’s definitely enough to give greener readers pause, and make them wonder if the joys of reading are really worth the potential damage. Then, of course, we remember just how joyful reading is, and the problem sounds far less appealing than curling up with a novel and forgetting all about it.


Planet-Healthy Alternatives

Don’t worry, we aren’t going to suggest that anyone give up reading! Instead, there are several ways that readers can keep devouring their favorite books, but with a little less impact on the planet.


E-readers and Audiobooks: The easiest way to make a difference with your reading habits is to switch from paper book to e-books and audiobooks. Downloading books cuts out the carbon footprint that comes from manufacturing and shipping physical books, and takes up virtually no space in the home. A single device can store hundreds, even thousands of titles, giving you the ability to read entirely guilt-free. Audiobooks can be even better, allowing you to read more than you would otherwise, as it frees up your hands to do other, less enjoyable tasks.


Borrowing, Not Buying: If ebooks seem not as enjoyable as the feel of those lovely pages in your hands while you read (we get that for sure), consider borrowing books rather than buying them. The library is a phenomenal way to check out all kinds of titles, commitment-free. Book swaps are another great way to read without buying new – and this way, it’s easy to cut down on book buying, and only pick up a brand new copy when you know that it’s going to be a lifelong favorite, not a one-read-stand.


The Second ‘Second-Hand’ Option: Borrowing books is fantastic, but if you want a copy to hang on to forever, and are happy with it being less-than-perfect, think about buying second-hand. Buying a used book is a great way to make sure that an old copy isn’t going to make its way into the landfill, and means that fewer books have to be manufactured. Plus, garage sales are a fantastic way to spend a weekend, and second hand bookstores can often be treasure troves with a truly unique atmosphere to enjoy. 


Upcycling At The End Of The Line: What about when you want to get rid of a book (if that day ever comes)? Consider donating to a library, little free library, or selling your pre-loved novels on for other readers first, but that’s not all that you can do. Books can also be upcycled, turned into craft supplies, decoration, even furniture! Upcycled books and covers turned into notebook and jewelry abound on Etsy and at craft fairs, and this is an especially good option for books that are damaged, missing parts, or out-of-date textbooks.


Green Topics: There are a huge number of books that help teach us about how to be more environmentally friendly. From tomes on ethics to farming, from eating to careful living, pick up a few books on environmentally conscious topics, and learn about even more ways to help do your part to save the planet.



The Benefits of Bookworms

Of course, it’s not all bad news! There are a few ways in which being a bookworm actually helps the environment, even if your home is basically a library with a kitchen in it. If you simply can’t part with all of those books, remember that lining walls with bookshelves helps to keep your home better insulated (and soundproofed), and that makes it more energy-efficient. Reading paper books also uses no electricity, unlike watching TV, playing video games, or spending time on the computer at the end of the day. Sitting and reading a book is, once the book is actually in your hand, carbon-neutral and waste-free. Fantastic!

Outside of the house, readers are far more likely to take public transport to work just to get a little extra reading time in. At least, we’ve been known to take advantage of a bus ride to squeeze in an extra chapter or two. And ours aren’t the only commutes becoming more eco-friendly thanks to reading. The more books you buy, the more authors you support, and authors don’t usually have to commute further than the distance from the bed to the couch. Supporting writers means supporting working from home, which means a much smaller impact on the environment.


That’s all the excuse we need to buy even more books this Earth Day… after all, it’s for the planet!