I love books. I love to read them, touch them, smell them. There is no me without books. As an author, I hope to someday be the cause of yet another real and actual book to enter the universe. But my love of all things book related comes with a twinge of guilt. These wonderful gifts of written communication that make the world what it is and what it will be chew up acres and acres of trees and gallons of petroleum in order to be printed. Then there's the delivering of the books, whether it be to a home or a store or a library. Of course this devouring of resources is for a good cause. And there are many, many consumer products that have a more negative impact on the environment. But I'll never be responsible for giving birth to one of those products. We could all switch to digital readers, but until someone invents one that has all the positives of a paper book, I don't see that happening. What's a writer and reader of print media with an environmental conscious to do?
Well, it turns out, an author can do quite a bit. Treehugger.com has quite an interesting list of things to ask for when it comes time to the nuts and bolts process of publishing a book. It doesn't have to be a choice between print or not to print, a book can make a smaller impact on the environment and still make its way into the hands of an appreciative reader.
Readers can do their bit too. Make your book purchases count. Once you're done, pass a book on. Locally, nationally or internationally, someone will want it. Adopt A Library.org is a great place to start looking, if you don't already know of an organization that can use your old books. Recent US postal fees have made shipping books internationally much more expensive, but there's a movement afoot to restore the M-bag shipping rate and let Congress know that getting books to those that need them might be a better use of funds than, oh I don't know....occupying a country that doesn't want us there.
If you've only got a few books that could use a new home, there's Bookcrossing.com, the "pay it forward" method of book recycling. You don't have to join the group to be a part of the process, but it does have some great hints on where to leave books, and it's kind of fun to track a book's travels.
Last but most certainly most, in my opinion, there's always the option of borrowing a book from your local library rather than buying it. You won't reduce the number of books printed and you're not supporting the author, but you can have the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing that the book you're reading is getting maximum use for its environmental footprint. I'm a huge supporter of public libraries, and even at the cost of someday selling a few less books, I'll always champion their cause. There are many things that come before me being wealthy and keeping the earth healthy is one of them. Besides, libraries buy lots and lots of copies of books. As long as my book is out there, somewhere, I'm published. I don't have to kill a rainforest to do it.