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How to make your reading forest friendly

Reading: An activity best undertaken curled up in a comfy chair, with a cup of tea and your fave author

I love books. For me there is absolutely nothing better than a Sunday morning spent in bed with a coffee, a record and a fresh paperback to lose myself in.

I know for other people reading habits materialise in different ways: from the rush hour commuter with their kindle (complete the special case that lets you hold it and turn the page single handed), to my Grandad and his daily newspaper.

But books aren’t great for the environment. Not least because of the short life span of them as an item (there aren’t many other things that you are done with after a week) and the resources required to produce physical copies. Even though publishers are beginning to get on board with using recycled paper most is still printed on virgin paper which is a cause of massive amounts of deforestation.

Paper is also a big source of landfill waste (35% of all civic landfill) and, contrary to popular understanding it actually doesn’t always biodegrade very easily. This is especially true for hardback books, or any with some sort of plastic covering. While recycling is possible, the recycling rates for paper are low and can sometimes produce harmful pulps due to the chemicals and inks used.

Before you smugly hold up your kindle, yes they are convenient and you’re saving the trees but what about the mining process, worker conditions, transportation and electricity consumption? While paper recycling rates are low, the recycling rate for electronics is basically non-existent. Complex chemicals and minerals are required to make the components like the screen and batteries. Some of those materials are scarce and have ethical issues around their extraction.

With all of this conflicting information it’s difficult to know what the answer is. In the end it probably comes down to the individual, and taking small steps to reduce the impact of your actions. So whichever way you prefer to read, here are 4 top tips for improving the eco footprint of your reading habit.

  1. Get an e-reader
    I’m a numbers gal, so for reference, the production of a single book produces around 30kg of C02. Manufacturing a kindle produces around 170kg. So from a purely carbon based perspective you’re probably better off getting a kindle if you think you’re going to read more than 5 books in the next few years. Rather than buying one new try picking up a second hand one – it’s better for your purse and the environment!
    There are also loads of eco friendly kindle accessories like this solar powered kindle cover.
  2. Buy second hand
    Rescue a book from landfill and buy second hand. Most are still in near perfect condition. Our fave place to buy is charity shops so you can donate to good causes at the same time.
  3. Start a book club
    Start a book club with friends, family or colleagues. Not only are you recycling books it’s also a great excuse to meet up for a glass of wine and a review session.
  4. Shop local
    Local bookshops are not only better for the local economy than online sites like amazon, they also have staff on hand to give you real reviews of books. Also is there really any better way to spend a lazy afternoon than wandering a local bookstore? Columbia road is my fave spot for this, pop down on a Sunday and check out the flower market at the same time.

Any of these little efforts can change the outcome of your reading habits on our little planet. Let us know if you have any top tips!

A physics graduate and self proclaimed maths nerd, Katie is interested in the facts and stats behind new research and products. She’s a big fan of the motto ‘where practical and possible’ and promotes small eco acts that work for you!

Katie’s top eco tip is to get a reusable teabag.

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