June 22nd is World Rainforest Day, a humble holiday for the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world. Although rainforests only take up 6% of our global land area, they are home to 80% of Mother Earth’s land animals and over 50 million indigenous people. Rainforests provide food, water, medicine, and wood for both locals and people worldwide. Plant-life in these rainforests also play a key role in the stability of our climate. According to the World Wildlife Fund, rainforests store up to 25% of the world’s carbon. This helps to regulate the level of harmful greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Without rainforests, we would see more air pollution, toxic acid rain, and a rapid melting of our polar ice caps.
Still, deforestation threatens the rainforests. As the human population grows, the need for natural resources grows, too. Today, rainforests are being cleared to make more room for agricultural land, cattle ranching, mining, and logging. The Union of Concerned Scientists reports that wood products, including paper, accounts for about 10% of total deforestation.
Are Books Contributing to the Problem?
In 2019, tropical rainforests lost nearly 30 soccer fields worth of trees every minute. This statistic seems outrageous until you discover that two billion books are printed in the United States alone every year. Two billion books requires 30 million trees! If every book that was printed was read, appreciated, and passed on, this wouldn’t be a huge problem.
Unfortunately, the book industry does not work in this way. Instead, when large book publishers decide to publish a book, they order an excess of books that are never sold. These books end up getting pulped– a fancy work for them getting ground up and recycled for different purposes. Pulping, although more environmentally-friendly than throwing books into landfills, requires power from coal and other fossil fuels. It also requires harmful chemicals meant to break down the book pages so they can be used in new products. Publishers dispose of more than 77 million books each year through pulping. In other words, ten million trees die in vain.
Now, as a fellow reader, you may be looking at the stacks of paperbacks on your nightstand, wondering if your love of books is contributing to this problem. But don’t worry! There are still ways to read while honoring the environment. Here are some tips to help make your reading habits more sustainable and rainforest-friendly.
How Can We Make Books More Rainforest-Friendly?
Try E-reading. Now, more than ever, we have a world of books at our fingertips. From Kindles, to iPads, to the smartphones carried in our pockets, we have many opportunities for paperless reading. Using these E-readers does have an environmental cost, like the materials used to make them and the electricity to charge them. But the more you read on an E-reader, the better. Studies have shown that if you read 22 books on an E-reader rather than purchasing their paper copies, you are actively reducing your carbon footprint.
Get a library card. If you still prefer to flip through the pages of print books, good news! Library books are even more sustainable than E-reading. Most library cards are completely free, and you’re able to check out a variety of books that have been enjoyed by other readers. By reading library books, you maximize the resources used to print these books in the first place.
Buy used books. On the same note, buying used books is a great way to read and save books that may otherwise be thrown out. Used books can be found at smaller, local bookstores, second-hand shops, or online. In addition to giving these books a new life, helping you to read more sustainably, used books are also cheaper… and they have that old book smell that avid readers love.
Start a book exchange. Do you have books that you’ve read and enjoyed, but know you won’t read again? Try a book exchange with your fellow book-loving friends! Collect one used book from each of your participants, and then organize them based on genre or central theme. When it’s time for the actual exchange, each participant will leave with a used book of their choosing. Book exchanges are a great way to repurpose books without shoving them to the back of your bookshelf. And who knows? Maybe your friends have great taste in books.
Choose books from print-on-demand publishers. If you love new paperbacks, consider buying books published by companies that use print-on-demand (POD). Instead of buying an excess of books like traditional publishers, POD publishers only print the books that their readers have already bought. This prevents the books that are not bought from being disposed of and wasted. If you are interested in publishers that use this technology, click here.
In honor of World Rainforest Day, use these tips to love the environment just as much as you love your books. Let’s help to save our rainforests and its inhabitants!
If you’re looking for or are interested in reading environment-themed books, go to Bookstr.