As if I wasn’t anxious enough about my reading habits: Did you know about 20 million trees are being cut down a year to produce books—just for the U.S.? I didn’t. To be honest, it never even crossed my mind. Thankfully, I’ve got Eco-Libris to set me straight. Eco-Libris will plant a tree for every book you read—making you look like less of an oblivious planet-killer (that would be me) in the process.
This is how it works: Send Eco-Libris 5 dollars and they’ll plant five trees in a developing country (where they provide significant value for both the environment and the local communities, according to the site). For every tree you plant you get a sticker. Put it on your books, or better yet, the books you give as gifts, to let others know about the project. Sounds neat to me. But I’m pretty environmentally unconscious so I thought I’d ask co-founder Raz Godelnik a few questions.
How did you get started with Eco-Libris, Raz?
It all started when I was thinking about paper and the environmental impacts of its production. I realized that it might take a while to get to the point where eco-friendly alternatives (from the use of recycled paper to e-books) will replace virgin paper. Then, I talked with some friends about the idea of giving people the opportunity to balance out their paper consumption by planting trees and received good feedbacks about it.
The decision to focus on books was made after learning that only about 5% of the paper used for printing books is made of recycled paper and because most books don’t have yet an online eco-friendly alternative (e-book) like magazines and newspapers have. So if you want a book, you usually can’t avoid purchasing the paper-made version, unless you go to the library or get it from places like bookcrossing.com, which are both excellent choices. You also can’t tell people to stop reading books, so it seemed to me only natural to give book lovers a new alternative to make their reading habit greener – planting trees for the books they read.
I like stickers and all but how to do I know I’m getting more than just stickers? Do I get a picture of my sponsored tree with my name on it? Is there some place I can check in on the projects success?
You won’t receive a picture of your trees as this would involve significant administrative costs. Our planting partners (and actually so do we) prefer to spend this money on planting and taking care of trees. However, we will be posting updates on all planting operations and projects to keep you up to date.
I would like to add that we have partnered with three highly respected US and UK registered non-profit organizations (Sustainable Harvest International, RIPPLE Africa and the Alliance for International Reforestation) that work in collaboration with local communities in developing countries to plant the trees. These trees are planted in high ecological and sustainable standards in Latin America and Africa, where deforestation is a crucial problem, and planting trees not only helps to fight climate change and conserve soil and water, but also benefits many local people, for whom these trees offer many benefits and an opportunity for a better future.
I usually buy used books—but that’s only because I’m cheap. Is there anything else an environmentally concerned reader (or a somewhat amusing cheapskate) can do?
Here are just a few ideas you can easily implement:
- Join bookcrossing.com – it’s a great place to find (and give) books for free.
- Support book publishers who print on recycled paper (find more information and a list of them on the Green Press Initiative website)
- Join your local library. Hidden gems may exist right under your nose!
- Support publishers who partner with Eco-libris.
- Borrow a book from a friend. But don’t forget to return it 😉
- For students – you can rent textbooks via services such as textbookflix.com, which also partnered with Eco-Libris to plant a tree for every book they rent.
Recycled paper for books seems like a no-brainer but how does the paper stand up over time?
Recycled paper has achieved today a very high quality – it meets the same technical specifications and performs as well or even better in some cases than virgin paper. The cost is also more competitive than ever and even capacity is not an issue. Just look at the last Harry Potter that is a bestseller and was printed with partially or fully recycled paper worldwide. We certainly hope Harry Potter will set an example for the entire the book publishing industry.
Thanks for doing this, Raz. While you’re here, do you have any good books to recommend?
Worldchanging: A Users Guide for the 21st Century—a great book for anyone who is curious about the ways we should build the future.
More information, of course, at Eco-Libris: Plant a tree for every book you read.