Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Green Options: Want to Green Your Addiction to Books? Buy Ebooks

As part of Eco-Libris' ongoing content partnership with Green Options Media, we feature a post that was originally published by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg on October 27 on Sustainablog. Today's post talks about one of our favorite topics: ebooks.

OK, I admit it: I'm a book whore (hardly a shocking confession for a former English professor). I'm most vulnerable to impulse buying in a book store. When a publishing PR rep contacts me about a book for review, I jump on it like an addict desperate for that next fix.

But, of course, I also know that book publishing takes a fairly heavy environmental toll: as our friends at EcoLibris have pointed out, "more than 30 million trees are cut down annually for virgin paper used for the production of books sold in the U.S. alone." The WorldWatch Institute notes that the average American uses over 300 kilograms (or over 660 pounds) of paper annually. And Erika Engelhaupt, in Environmental Science & Technology, observes:
Reducing paper use does more than save trees. Pulp and paper mills are also a major source of pollution. They release into the air CO2, nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides (SOx), carbon monoxide, and particulates, which contribute to global warming, smog, acid rain, and respiratory problems. In addition, bleaching paper with chlorine can produce dioxin, which is known to cause cancer. Paper mills also produce large amounts of solid waste and require a lot of water. The industry is trying to clean up, but anyone who's driven past a paper mill has smelled the challenge.

Yep, that book addiction has quite the footprint. There are numerous approaches to dealing with this impact: "cradle to cradle" book design, Ecolibris-style offsets, used of recycled and non-toxic materials, and, of course, ebooks.