Friday, May 15, 2009

The Writing Life: Recycling Books -- Thinking Outside the Box

by JJ Murphy

I’m holding a copy of a book first published in 1893. More about that in the next WITS issue. This field guide was well cared for, but I can still read it and admire the expensive color plates and high quality paper.

But this used book is an exception. What can we do with books that are worn or damaged beyond repair, now considered outdated or otherwise taking up space? Here are three ideas:

Recycled Reads
is more than the Austin, Texas library bookstore. Created as part of that city’s “go green” initiative, they accept used books. Books that are likely to sell – for two dollars or less – are attractively shelved in a cozy bookstore. The much-needed proceeds benefit the library.

Recycled Reads goes one step further. Rather than dump books unlikely to sell into the landfill, they pass unsold to Books Beyond Borders, which helps Project Schoolhouse, provide textbooks and build schools in third-world countries. Books Beyond Borders also sends these books to organizations that create building supplies.

Beyond selling books, Recycled Reads is sponsoring a series of workshops on how to create art from books. I’m from the generation that was taught it was sacrilege to deface a book. But creating a work of art sure beats dumping books in the trash. I just read about a Washington DC artist who turns book covers into hand bags - or maybe she’s redefining the term “book bag.” I’m looking forward to learning what else artists create from books that are no longer fit to read.

I’m slow to adopt new technology. Kindle seems expensive and I do like the feel of a book. But I can see the value of creating reading opportunities without impacting the earth. Meanwhile, I’m delighted to learn that I don’t have to add every worthy book to my library to rescue it from the landfill.

JJ Murphy is a freelance nature writer, photographer, blogging hiker, forager, locavore, and tree-hugger with more than 50 years of eco-centric living experience. Visit if you need relevant content that captures your personal style and tone.

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