I will be the first to say I’m not a fan of ecosmugness, but I am a fan of being ecoconscious and ecofriendly. But is it even possible to be ecofriendly as a (mostly physical) book lover? Shouldn’t we all just buy an ereader?
According to The Guardian, Using an Amazon Kindle to full storage capacity means you will offset the emissions caused by its manufacture in a year. Keep it longer and you save 168kg of CO2 per year (the amount produced by 22.5 real books, and we know us book lovers read much more than that). It’s said that those who swapped to an ereader between 2009 and 2012 cumulatively prevented release of 9.9bn kg CO2 emissions in total.
According to the same article, it’s estimated that the US book industry consumed approximately 30 million trees in a single year. This had a carbon footprint of approximately 12.4m metric tons of carbon dioxide. Shocking numbers? I thought so too.
Sooo.. I should probably buy an ereader now?
Hold on, not so quick. A study done by the New York Times found that one ereader requires the extraction of 33lb of minerals. This includes Coltan, a metallic ore that is in part derived from Congo, where the production has helped fuel the war. Add about 300 litres of water (79 gallons) and 100 kilowatts of Fossil Fuels to that, and you got an ereader. Books only need a fraction of those resources, and no Coltan at all.
One ereader requires the same amount of Co2 as about 30 books, so you need to read that number to break it even. If you are constantly buying ebooks that you won’t read, is the ereader really the better option? And then there is the debate of using electricity at night.. Reading a book at night for two hours uses more energy than charging an ereader. But if you like reading in the daytime it’s a completely different story.
But, what can I do?
I wish I could give you a list of specific tips, but it entirely depends on the way you consume books and your reading habits in general. I haven’t even touched on audio books here! I could say one thing though: buy more of your books secondhand, especially if you often buy new books. This is something I’ve been doing for a long time. It’s also a lot easier on your wallet!
Also: do not underestimate the library! I became a patron at my local library again a few months ago, and I’ve been actually loving it. I know not everyone has the privilege to live in a city with a good library, but it’s definitely worth checking out. Also: library book sales are AMAZING.
If you do not like ereaders, do not buy one just because it could be more ecofriendly in the long run. There’s a big chance you will just let it gather dust in a corner, and then you, your wallet and the environment are worse off.