Reading with a conscience

I love to read. But I feel conflicted about the fact that so much paper goes into making one single book. Are there options for eco-friendly people like me to enjoy a good book, guilt-free?

I feel your torment. I’ve spent years carefully adorning my home with piles of books made to look as though they were strewn about with the intellectual fervor of a great academic. I want everyone who passes through my living room to see my overflowing shelves bulging with brilliant titles and subtitles and conclude that I am smarter than they are. Now I have to justify my piles with carbon offsets. It’s a lot of work, but the bottom line is this: If we, as a society, stop reading, we will devolve. So the solution shouldn’t be to abolish the written word. We just need to be mindful of its presentation.

The book-publishing industry is awakening to the green movement. The Green Press Initiative ( has united more than 100 publishing companies in a commitment to end reliance on endangered forests and bring the book industry’s total usage of recycled fiber from around 5 percent to 30 percent by 2012. As the consumer, you can also attune your practices to align with green. Why not buy used? Keeping books in circulation utilizes the resources that already went into making them, rather than creating more demand for trees to be cut. Beers Book Center (915 S Street, (916) 442-9475), The Book Collector (1008 24th Street, (916) 442-9295) and Time Tested Books (1114 21st Street, (916) 447-5696) are among the many local retailers that sell used reads.

When buying new books, remember that book packaging is similar to supermarket packaging: less is more eco-friendly. Hardcover books with paper-coated-in-plastic book jackets use more resources than paperback books. And like anything else, supply will be determined by consumer demand, so pick your favorite book publisher, research their practices, and if they’re not up to the greenest standards (paper made from 100 percent post-consumer waste, a reliance on alternative energy to manufacture the books), start a letter-writing campaign … by e-mail.