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Read, Return, Repeat: A Lesson in Recycling

By Staff | Apr 27, 2011

[Full disclosure: I am not a librarian but my day job is, more or less, centered around libraries.]

The other week, after a long day at work, I climbed onto the bus thrilled to find a seat. Too tired to read, I dug through my handbag for my iPod. I made it through the first minute and forty-five seconds of The National’s “Terrible Love” before all went quiet. No battery charge remaining. Peeved, I removed the earbuds, and sat in a moody silence at the mercy of my fellow passengers.

It was a less lively commute than usual, but amid the white noise, one conversation arose, something to the effect of…

Person 1: So do you like your Kindle?

Person 2: Oh my god, I love it. It’s so light and easy to read with the special screen.

Person 1: Cool.

Person 2: Plus, I feel like I’m doing my part to be more green.

Person 1: What do you mean?

Person 2: Well, like, I’m not reading actual books made of paper. I just read them all on here.

Person 1: Oh…right.

Arguably, Person 2 makes a point: digital books require no paper, ergo less raping of Mother Earth’s abundant yet finite resources. That said, long before e-anything existed or “green” was a lifestyle not just a color, there existed an eco-friendly way to read. The library. And recycling is inherent in its core service: borrow a book, read the book, return the book, allow someone else to borrow the exact same book. Plus, they’re free.

In the polemic battle between e-readers and libraries, I will not side (in fact, I’d slip a Nook, iPad, or Kindle right in between my iPod and my library card if it was free for the taking). I’d only like to suggest to those like Person 2 out there, that the library is a great way to devour books without destroying our Earth.

To celebrate the green nature of books — whether borrowed or digital –here’s just a few of many eco-friendly books to inspire you this spring:

– A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson

“‘Everything sounds big in the woods.’ This was true. Once a skunk had come plodding through our camp and it had sounded like a stegosaurus.” Only in this hilarious account of Bryson and Co.’s hike along the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail can one get great literature that compares skunks and dinos.

– Into Thin Air, Jon Kraukauer

What happens when Mama Nature gets angry.

– The Lorax, Dr. Seuss

You scoff because I list a picture book, hmm? Well, Mr. Geisel’s parable serves a prudent reminder that we must “speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.”

– Bird Cloud, Annie Proulx

A rare nonfiction work from prolific author Proulx details the construction of her dream home in Wyoming, focusing on building debacles and historical crimes against the land’s original inhabitants.

– My Year of Meats, Ruth Ozeki

An eye-opening and revealing look into the beef industry will have you rethinking that next Big Mac.

– The Road, Cormac McCarthy

Okay, not exactly in keeping with the theme, but McCarthy’s unmatched prose will inspire you toward carbon-reducing measures to avoid this book’s apocalyptic landscape.