How to be More Sustainable with Your Reading (and Why you Should Care)

A tale of Bookstagram and consumerism.

While browsing Bookstagram today and admiring all the beautiful book covers, and reading all the raving reviews, I felt the urge to fill my shopping cart with new and wonderful stories for fear of missing out. Falling victim to consumerism once again. So here I am writing this article.

I can’t be the only one. You have to admit that when browsing Bookstagram, you’re constantly being persuaded to add something fresh and new to your shelf. Beautiful book covers and all the trendy hyped books that you see over and over in your feed keep sucking you in, and you ultimately cave, and you end up buying a book(or five). I’m not alone, right?

Unfortunately, once we buy this stack of books, they just sit on our shelves for days, months, and sometimes years. We may eventually read them, someday, or maybe we’ll just give them away or donate them since they’re collecting dust.

Maybe we read and love them, or maybe we read them, and they are not worth the hype. How many times have you found yourself feeling as though you’ve wasted your money on a book because you were sucked into the hype? It sucks to waste our hard-earned cash.

As much as wasting our hard-earned cash sucks, what about the waste of forests?

Why our forests matter.

Do we ever stop to think about all the trees that go into making these books?

The forests are a vital part of the ecosystem, providing us the oxygen we need to breathe, shelter, and a wildlife sanctuary. Yet despite its key role in supporting our quality of life, trees are being cut down at an alarming rate every day. The Forestry Commission estimates that there has been a 38% decline in woodland since 1990.

This means that the number of wildlife living in forests is being squeezed into ever-smaller areas, and their homes are becoming increasingly fragmented. This negatively impacts wildlife: fragmentation reduces a habitat’s size, which leads to increased competition for space and resources among animals; it may also alter the mix of species in an area, reduce a habitat’s ability to support wildlife, and make it more vulnerable to disturbances such as fire.

The impacts of biodiversity loss on humans can also be seen through the vital services provided by nature. Many animals pollinate our crops, others break down waste, and still more provide us with food or act as “bioindicators,” warning us of the presence of pollution. We need animals; we need forests. This biodiversity sustains our ecosystem, including the crops we as humans depend on. It’s a vital part of our ecosystem.

How can we, as book lovers, make better choices?

Why e-readers are more sustainable than books.

Many people would agree that e-readers, or “electronic reading devices,” are more sustainable than physical books. It’s not rocket science to understand that the benefits of e-readers are manifold.

First, it’s a no-brainer that using an e-reader saves the trees by replacing books that would’ve otherwise been printed. Planet Blue of The University of Michigan said that 30 million trees are cut down each year just to print books. A single tree produces an average of 8,333 sheets of paper, and it takes about 700 pages just to make one textbook. That said, by replacing paper books with an e-reader, you could save 100s of trees.

Secondly, not having to print all those books saves fossil energy. Think about how much fuel it takes to cut down the trees, load them onto a truck, transport them from the forest into factories, and the energy used for processing the trees down into fine material to make the paper.

Thirdly, there are toxins in chemicals used to make books. Usually, these toxins are for aesthetic purposes, those that we see on Bookstagram all the time. Some books are sprayed with vinyl chloride and other chemicals just to make the covers shinier.

Finally, e-readers have a smaller carbon footprint due to less transportation being needed. Yes, it does take energy and transportation to get an e-reader into the hands of a consumer, but an e-reader can house on average 6000 books, which is close to 100 trees. Imagine how lush and magical a forest would be if 1 million book lovers switched to an e-reader.

waterfalls in forest
Photo by Pixabay on

How can we as book lovers help our planet?

As someone who loves physical books, I strongly believe striking a balance between physical and ebooks is good to nurture. By getting an e-reader, you won’t be violating your love for physical books. I don’t care what anyone says; the words on the ebook page tell the same story as a paper page.

Personally, I read books on my Kobo Libra H2O, and if I love the book enough, I will add it to my shelf. This method helps me be more intentional with my book purchases. I don’t cave to consumeristic tendencies as much when I use this method, and it helps me analyze why I love a particular book more than others.

There are so many ways of being more environmentally friendly when it comes to reading books:

  1. Buy used books and sell them once you’re finished with them – Not only will this save paper and energy, but also save you and make you money! It’s a win-win situation.
  2. Borrow books from your local library instead of buying them – Did I mention you can borrow digital books from the library with one click on a Kobo? It’s magic.
  3. Download free eARCs (advanced reader copies) from websites like NetGalley – That’s right, read prereleases of saught after books that everyone is waitng for first! Heck I saw the Murderbot Diaries on there! That’s amazing!
  4. Buy the ebook version – It’s portable and the new e-ink technology is just like looking at a piece of paper. Most importantly, you aren’t contributing to the destruction of our forests and you are actually saving trees, energy, and money since ebooks are cheaper!
  5. If reading hard copies is really important to you make sure you buy a book with recycled paper – Usually, publishers will denote the book cover or on the book somewhere if it has recycled paper. However, just to be sure you can always email the publisher before purchasing a new copy. Or choose a company like Book Outlet that has great sustainability practices.
  6. Consider switching to audiobooks for long car rides and commutes – This way you get to enjoy your favorite books on the go.

In summary, if you truly love to read, e-readers are a great way for people who love books to save trees and money. They also allow you to borrow books from your local library, which is free or get ARCs for free. There are 1000s of books available on these devices that can be downloaded in seconds with just a few clicks.

One of the best parts about an e-reader is that the new eInk technology is easy on your eyes – no more squinting at tiny words on paper pages! It also has a built-in light so you can read anywhere, even in bed at night, without keeping your loved one awake. And if you’re worried about having enough space for all those new books, don’t worry because they take up less than 1% of the space of physical copies! So what are you waiting for? Get yourself an e-reader today and start reading now, and feel good about saving the trees in our forests!

From one book lover to another

I’m not writing this to shame anyone. I don’t want you to be ashamed. This is more of a reminder to myself; I’m far from perfect when practicing what I’m preaching. For example, Bookstagram influenced me to subscribe to three different book boxes last year, and perhaps I’ll write a post about why I unsubscribed. The TL;DR is they’re not worth it, and I felt like I was doing a terrible disservice to the planet by accumulating all that junk.

Still, perhaps someone who hasn’t taken time to mull this over will read this blog post and buy one less new book this week, or someone may talk about this article sending a small ripple of an idea out into the world that may help preserve our forests, wildlife, crops, and lives here on Earth.

Forests are one of the most important habitats for biodiversity on Earth. However, forests that have been cut down to make way for our homes or farms contain an estimated 50% fewer species than they did before deforestation began. We can do this one small thing not to be part of the problem. If you love animals and plants from all over the world as I do, please consider going paperless, even if only sometimes, with your reading materials to save trees and help preserve wildlife habitat. The environment will thank you!

If you’ve made it to the end and you’re still with me. Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments. Do you have any additional tips on how we can be more sustainable book lovers?




Walmart eBooks by Rakuten Kobo

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