Sustainable reading

April 7th, 2009


A good friend of mine who’s a voracious reader recently mentioned how she wished her reading habit wasn’t so expensive. She couldn’t resist buying something every time she went into her local Barnes & Noble, and her habit was easily justifiable: “After all, it’s not like I’m buying lipstick,” she said. “At least I’m learning something.” 

“What about getting a library card?” I suggested. 

“Oh, yeah — I forgot about the library!” she exclaimed.

I, too, had been seduced by the glossy aisles of my nearest mega bookstore before I discovered the Los Angeles Public Library system — an incredible resource that allows you to browse its entire catalog online, borrow books from any one of its 72 locations, and have them delivered to your local branch. Unbelievably, I had forgotten the countless afternoons of my youth spent devouring the knowledge stacked on the shelves of my local library  — for free (well, save the occasional overdue fine)!

OK, I’m a bit of a nerd. But my point is that now that the economy has tanked, you may be turning to the library as a source of free education and entertainment. You’re not alone; The Boston Globe reported in January that libraries across the country are seeing double-digit percentage increases in circulation and new-card applications.

But you’ll also be helping to save trees and the environment (or helping the human race; see post, above) by becoming a card-carrying library member. Last year, it was estimated that 30 million trees are cut down annually for books sold in the US alone. The book industry, in particular, uses virgin paper; only about 10 percent of the paper used to make books is recycled stock. And in most instances, the source of that virgin paper isn’t tree farms, it’s natural sources — even old-growth forests. 

Many libraries also allow you to borrow (or rent for a nominal fee) CDs and DVDs, so you’ll be helping to reduce the number of those virtually nonrecyclable products that are manufactured, as well as keep them out of the landfill.

So head over to your local library and be proud that you’ll be practicing the first two of the three R’s of recycling — Reducing the amount of books you buy and Reusing the books that have already been printed. Extra credit: Recycle your own books by donating them to your local library.

–Jennifer Grayson

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