Reuse and recycle reading materials
Got expired reading materials on your hands? After you devour them yourself, reuse and recycle 'em to spread love of the written word and keep them far away from landfills. After all, who wants to read in a dump? Books, magazines, and newspapers can all enjoy reincarnation via donation, resale, DIY home projects, and that's not all...
How to reuse and recycle reading materials
- Read all about it. The options for thinning out that shelf (or pile) of dust-collecting books are endless: eBay, garage sales, charity drives, or donation to a local library, church, shelter, jail, nursing home, or other organizations and businesses that accept gently used reading materials. While selling or donating, look into buying that bestselling mystery novel you've been coveting secondhand from a used book store (with numerous locations across the US, Half Price Books is a good place to start, or check out UsedBooks101.com), charity shop, or online merchant like Amazon.com, Alibris, Powell's, or Half.com. Not only will you save a few bucks and a tree, but when shopping at stores like New York City's Housing Works Used Book Cafe, you'll also support a good cause. Other organizations like BookEnds, Bridge to Asia, Books for Africa, Eco Encore, and The Bookman will gladly take old books off your hands and put them to good use. The actual recycling of books should come only as a last resort since they generally cannot be accepted due to the glue in their bindings.
- Into swapping? Like clothing swaps and exchanges, book swaps are a popular way to keep books in circulation and out of the waste steam. Organizing your own book swap among friends or co-workers can be an eye-opening experience as lit-leanings may vary wildly (imagine walking away with both V.C. Andrews and Virgina Woolf). Also consider an eco-themed book swap where participants exchange favorite green reads to raise awareness. Don't have time to throw or attend a swappin' soirée? Websites like Title Trader, PaperBackSwap, 2Swap, Bookins, BookMooch, and Swaptree let you catch up with summer reading for next to nothing. And although it requires a reasonable membership fee, the Internet's first full-service book club, America's BookShelf, follows remarkable green business practices.
- The magazine afterlife. Are your magazines starting to pile up post-read? Recycling is the obvious, easy option. Like books, you can also donate expired periodicals to shelters, libraries, jails, schools, etc. If feeling sly, sneak 'em into the pile of gossip mags and golf journals at your doctor's or dentist's office (just be sure to remove your subscription info). Offering old reads on Freecycle is another option, as is using them for crafting projects like scrapbooking, collaging, Mod Podging, or even seating. Check out eHow.com, AboutMyPlanet, and DIYLife for even more ideas.
- Great green news. Although spent newspapers don't always lend themselves to the post-read lives that books and magazines do, the uses for yesterday's news are endless: mulch for your garden, protective wrap for breakables during a move or storage, cleaning glass surfaces (no lint!), floor protection during painting projects, gift wrapping, potty training pads for the puppy, and 74 other ideas. What's more, it's not too hard to find products crafted from recycled newsprint. Keep an eye out for pencils, jewelry, kitty litter, pots for plants, insulation, and on.
- GY phone home. Although they aren't the kind of books you'll want to curl up fireside with or throw into your tote when decamping to the beach, telephone directories are ubiquitous in most homes. If you're not planning on propping up that lopsided couch with it, make sure that expired phone book becomes a green book. Many areas such as northern Pennsylvania and Nashville have special phone book recycling programs. Understanding that massive amounts of paper and resources are associated with phone book publishing, Yellow Book has partnered with Earth 911 in effort to promote recycling. It's estimated that if all Americans recycled their phone books for one year, 650,000 tons of paper would be saved and 2 million cubic yards of landfill space would be freed. When recycled, old phone books are used to make new phone books.
Reusing and recycling reading materials helps you go green because...
- In the United States alone, paper is used to publish more than 2 billion books, 350 million magazines, and 24 billion newspapers annually. Reusing and recycling reading materials puts a small but significant dent in the weighty environmental tolls presented by paper production.
- Recycling used reading materials via donation often supports notable humanitarian and environmental efforts.
Readables and other paper products account for about a fifth of the total wood harvest worldwide, and about 93 percent of today's paper comes from virgin trees. A single sheet might contain fibers from hundreds of different trees that have collectively traveled thousands of miles, potentially from timber logged in regions with ecologically valuable, biologically diverse habitat. All told, the paper industry uses 11.5 percent of the energy in the industrial sector. Additionally, paper and paper products make up about 40 percent of the municipal waste stream. In 2005, 50 percent of paper products entering the waste stream was recovered for recycling, and the remaining 42 million tons went to a landfill. In 2007, the recycling rate increased to 56 percent. When landfilled paper degrades, methane—a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide—is released into the atmosphere.
- Eco-Libris Blog
- Green Metropolis
- Co-op America - WoodWise Program
- Green Daily - What to do with your old books
- Swiss Army Librarian - What To Do With Used Books
- TreeHugger - Book Swapping Is a Greener Choice for Book Lovers
- Bibliophile Bullpen A blog featuring an ongoing list of 1001 things to do with old books. Expect the unexpected.
- About.com - Why and How to Recycle Phonebooks
- US Energy Information Administration - Forest Products: Economic Profile and Trends
- Worldwatch Institute - Good Stuff? - Paper
- Natural Resources Defense Council - Reforming the Paper Industry
- Environmental Defense Fund - Paper and Packaging
- Environmental Paper Network - Maximizing Recycled Content
- US Environmental Protection Agency - Basic Facts
- Paper Industry Association Council - Paper & the Environment: Paper and Paperboard Recovery
- The Green Press Initiative - Impacts: Impacts on Climate