In “Momentum Building for Green Books” (Booktech Magazine, Oct. 2003), Tyson Miller, founder of the Green Press Initiative, reported “the book publishing industry consumed 1.1 million tons of paper, amounting to 25 million trees in 2002.”

Completing the circle with recycled paper

The Green Press Initiative also estimated that just 5 percent of paper used in books was made from recycled fiber in 2002. In an effort to raise that figure, several publishers have teamed up with the USEPA to promote effective re-use of paper in book manufacturing. Their goal is to increase book industry use of recycled fiber to 30 percent by 2008. It is projected that this initiative could result in a savings of 4.9 million trees, 524 million pounds of greenhouse gases, 2 billion gallons of water, 388,137 pounds of hazardous air pollutants, and reduced pressure on rare and threatened forests. (See link to Green Press Initiative under “web resources.”)

Virgin papermaking is one of the most environmentally harmful industries on earth. It depletes forests and their biodiversity, it uses more water than any other industrial process in the nation (more than double the amount of recycled papermaking), and it dumps billions of gallons of water contaminated with chlorinated dioxin and a host of other hazardous and conventional pollutants into rivers, lakes, and harbors.

-Elizabeth Royte, Garbage Land, 2005




Recycling  and reuse options

Paperback books are accepted by the City of Chicago recycling program, either in blue carts or at drop-off centers. Hardcover books, with their binding and glue, can sometimes be hard to recycle. It is best, if possible to reuse them.

Most libraries accept used book donations. For details, contact your local library. Also visit the web site of the American Library Association under “web resources,” below. Type “Fact Sheet 12” in the search section for information on groups that collect books for re-use both in the U.S. and abroad.

Locally, many Chicago area organizations redistribute used books to people in need from educational sites to nursing homes, hospitals, and day-care centers. Others collect books for resale to support their charitable work. Here are just a few.

SCARCE ( School and Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education) accepts donations of gently used books and distributes them to teachers, schools, and families from their Glen Ellyn office. They also send books to schools in many other countries. They foster the re-use of tens of thousands of books each year, using almost entirely volunteer staff

The Brandeis Book Sale has been collecting donated books and selling them at their annual fair for over forty years. The sale is usually held in June at the Westfield Shoppingtown at Old Orchard, where about 500,000 books are available to browse. The proceeds go to Brandeis University. To donate, call 847-724-9715 or 847-604-1919. If you have more than three bags of books to donate, they will pick up for free.

The Chicago Bulls started a program called “Read to Achieve” in 2002. As part of that program, they built a Reading and Learning Center in one Chicago area school. They have been conducting periodic book drives during their season to supply this center and other Chicago Public School reading programs.

ShoreBank, a community-based lending institution, conducts an annual holiday collection in December at The ShoreBank Nonprofit Service Center, 333 S. State Street (DePaul Music Mart Building, Lobby Level). The donated books are distributed to children and adults in hospitals, nursing homes, homeless shelters, and schools around the city.