Waste Free

How To Be A Sustainable Book Nerd

There aren’t many people in the world who love a good book more than me but my lovely friend Vicki is one of them! It amazes me how fast she gets through books and I was delighted when she said she would like to share with you today how she makes sure that she can be as sustainable as possible when sourcing books. Thank you Vicki for writing today’s post.

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As an English student, I am a huge book nerd. I will read anything and everything available to me, and dream of one day having my own personal library. But as someone who is trying to become more sustainable and conscious of my harmful habits, sometimes my book buying unfortunately falls into the latter. I am about to start my third year at university, and over the last week have had a ridiculous number of packages arrive containing all my books for the upcoming semester. As I opened them all, I looked at the amount of plastic waste from the packaging (some of the books were even individually wrapped in thin plastic as well as being in plastic post bags!) and the large pile of books and wondered if I could have done it differently. So, I have done some research on it and thought I would share my findings with you all, so that you too can become a sustainable book nerd!

Borrow Books from Your Library

The first obvious way to be more sustainable with books is to visit your library. I’ve loved going to the library ever since I was little and will still use them often for many of my books. It’s a fantastic way to help a community resource stay open, read books for free, and not produce waste. Most libraries also let you borrow eBooks, DVDs, Audiobooks (both digitally and physical CDs), as well as offering many other useful services like having free internet and computer access. If your local library doesn’t have a book you want, you can always ask for it to be sent to you from another library or put in a request for the library to buy the book in! 

eBooks

Another obvious way is to buy eBooks rather than physical print books. Buying an eBook over a physical book will cut down the waste from printing and packaging, as well as reduce the emissions from shipping the book to the shops or to your house. The only issue with eBooks is that it can be difficult to support sustainable and ethical companies when purchasing them, as Amazon, Google and Apple tend to dominate the market with the Kindle, Google Books, and iBooks. I would suggest buying from Kobo or eBooks.com. 

Where to Purchase E-Readers

Kobo has helped to fund a technology recycling scheme in the UK to help reduce the waste produced from any broken or unwanted eReaders that they produce. This year, they partnered with Terrapass , a service that allows you to offset your carbon emissions by paying to help reduce your carbon footprint. Kobo bought enough to completely offset all emissions produced in 2019 and 2020, and have helped to invest in reforestation and sustainable farming programs. You can read more here.

eBooks.com was named the most ethical e-book company by Ethical Consumer. They have multiple blog posts on their website which outline how they are attempting to be an ethical company, including one which is simply titled “We Are Not Amazon”, which tells you that they look after their staff and pay their taxes. Another post outlines their environmental approach, which they updated in both 2019 and 2020 to show how their approach has improved each year, and also has a link to a contact form so that you can offer suggestions for how they can be even more environmentally friendly.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that you now go out and buy yourself an e-reader. Think about the technology that you already own. Most eBooks can be read on any phone, tablet or computer. For Kindle and Kobo, you’ll need to download the app. Google Books is specific to Android devices, and iBooks is specific to Apple. If you purchase eBooks from eBooks.com, you can just download it as a PDF and read it on any device that has that capability. 

Physical Books

However, if you’re like me and enjoy the feeling of a physical book, or find it easier to read a physical book than a digital one, then there are ways to be more sustainable. Firstly, try and buy your books in a physical bookstore rather than online. Even better, find your local independent bookshop and help to support them! Secondhand bookshops are some of my favourite places to visit, and always a good way to find a bargain and help to reduce waste as many unsold books often get destroyed and sent to landfill. Of course, going out shopping has been difficult over the last year. During the pandemic, I bought some books from Hive, an online store that donates a small amount of profit to an independent bookstore of your choice every time you order. It was a great way to support independent businesses while I couldn’t actually get out to visit them. 

Does anyone have any other suggestions for sustainable book shopping? I’d love to hear them!


You may have noticed this wasn’t the first post Vicki has written for you, if you want to check out her previous post here. Or if you want to know how you can keep other office items sustainable check out this post.

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