Books: Good for the Mind/Bad for the Environment? How Reusing Books Creates Value in Your Community
With over a million new books published in the U.S. each year one might think that getting your hands on a good book wouldn’t be too hard, despite the growing popularity of e-readers. But the truth, as they say, can sometimes be stranger than fiction. Organizations focused on building literacy in underserved areas, such as schools, libraries and non-profits can benefit greatly from books – even gently- used ones – but may have trouble obtaining them.
Though many people carefully consider the lifespan of their books, others intent on spring-cleaning or those looking for a more convenient option of moving used books out of their homes simply throw them away. But discarding your old books can adversely affect the environment, cramming landfills with materials that will take years to decompose. And – by dumping your books you may be missing an important opportunity to support someone in need.
Now, organizations like the one I work for, Discover Books (formerly Thrift Recycling Management), encourages people to consider repurposing their books for the benefit of others. Based in the Seattle, Washington area, we are a book collector, online reseller and a socially-minded organization dedicated to the ideal that where books are concerned, reuse is the best possible form of recycling. By reselling, recycling or charitably redistributing books, our company ensures that millions of otherwise good books are treasured, not trashed.
Triple Bottom Line in Action: Win-Win for People, Planet and Profit
As one of the largest online sellers of used books on Amazon we also strive to have a fiscally sound organization able to grow and contribute to a growing number of jobs in communities across North America. Yet like many organizations today, our mission extends beyond profit-making. We are one the single largest sources of book donations to literary causes or literacy organizations in North America. With over six million books donated to non-profit causes like schools, charitable organizations and libraries, we’re proud of the opportunity we have to give back. Our good work doesn’t end there, our efforts have also diverted over 155-million pounds, or 78-tons of books, from landfills in just eight years.
Here’s how it works.
Our company collects books from multiple sources; buying used books from thrift stores that otherwise might go to landfill, or purchasing library discards to sell online, returning a portion of the revenue back to the library. We also place deposit boxes in neighborhoods as a convenient local option for people who want books out of their homes while ensuring they will be re-read, or, in some cases, recycled as another consumer good.
We estimate that to date we have generated more than $25 million in value for non-profit organizations, corporate partners, thrift stores and libraries through the collection, sale and charitable distribution of used books.
“At a time when school and library budgets are being cut, having organizations with the infrastructure and resources to recycle used books by putting them to good use is invaluable,” says Kathleen Andrews of PhoenixReads.org, a volunteer grassroots initiative that collects unwanted books from individuals and redistributes them directly into the hands of children in need. “Companies like Discover Books are able to do a lot of good because they have the resources to do it with,” Andrews continued. “I don’t know any non-profit organization that could to the same; the resources and infrastructure simply wouldn’t exist.”
So, if you have books that are in good condition or even those that are barely holding it together, don’t let them gather dust unread. Instead, consider these options:
- Companies like ours have deposit boxes in locations around the U.S. and Canada. You can also call your local recycling city department and ask where and how to recycle books that can no longer be used.
- Beyond organizations like Discover Books that resell, recycle and donate books, you can always bring your books to a local school or your local library (call first to ensure they will receive your donation) or to charitable organizations like Goodwill.
- If you would like trade or swap books, you can go to sites such as PaperBackSwap where you can list your used books and send via mail to interested parties. In return, you get select used books from a large selection (usually in the millions) of available novels, text books, and more.