Reading a good book is surely one of life's greatest pleasures, but books seem to have a way of piling up at home. If you're not the type to re-read your collection, you can keep your bookshelf pared down to a handful of your favorite volumes without letting the books end up in the landfill.
But wait! When it comes to books, the answer isn't necessarily curbside recycling; unfortunately, the adhesive used in the bookbinding process prevents many books from being recyclable. Since the traditional three Rs might not be quite so obvious, we've specified how to make them work for books — so now you can keep your book collection in check in an environmentally responsible manner.
ReduceThere are ways to be more environmentally responsible about the books you buy, so you can lessen your impact before a book even hits your shelf — and there's good reason to. According to Green Press Initiative, roughly 30 million trees are used each year to make the books sold in the United States.
Seek out earth-friendly products. Check a book's cover, inside flaps, or copyright page for information like whether it's been printed with soy ink, made from recycled paper, or made with FSC-certified paper. You could also consider buying books from publishers that have adopted strong environmental policies, or take a hint from reading lists like one provided by Rainforest Action Network, which lists specific titles that have been printed on recycled paper, or see if your favorite author routinely requests that her books be printed on recycled paper. Look into digital. Whether you invest in a Kindle or an iPad, or buy digital books to read on your SmartPhone, sticking to e-reading may save you money over time — digital books often cost less than their paper counterparts — and may conserve resources that printed books use in great quantity, like trees. Buy or borrow used. Extend the life of a book by buying used, or circulate favorite volumes amongst friends and families. By doing so, you'll help others keep their own bookshelf under control.
ReusePerhaps the best way to extend a book's life is to pass it along to others. Luckily, there are many ways to do so right now.
Sell. Websites like Cash4books.com, Half.com, and Amazon.com are all popular options for selling used books; or you could resell to used bookstores. To get the most for your money, try BookScouter.com, which helps you find who will pay the most. Swap or share. There are a number of fun websites and services specifically for swapping or sharing books. With BookCrossing, you can track the life of your book and see who is reading it. You can also swap books with others with through BookSwap or BookMooch. Donate. Consider giving books to a local library, charity, senior center, shelter, or school. One option is Better World Books, which collects used books and resells them to raise money for literacy programs worldwide. Repurpose by de- and re-constructing. Books can be great fodder for fun sprojects or home decor. You might frame the prettiest pages from illustrated books or children's picture books and use them as wall art, or cut out images to make greeting cards. You could use books to make everything from purses, to lamps, to a safe for hiding small treasures. We've even seen one intrepid designer use castoff books to create a bar.
RecycleYes, we know we already said that books can be difficult to recycle because of the adhesive used to bind them — but it's not impossible. Search Earth911 for local recycling centers that will accept your books. Although most only accept books from publishers and bookstores — not consumers — there are a few companies, like Book Destruction, that grind up books and use the pulp to make other products.
What ways can you think of to keep books off the shelf and out of the landfill? Share them in the comments below.