Buy A Good Book With No Guilt: Carbon-Neutral, Recycled Reading

Three boxes of perfectly good books (some of them bestsellers), and no one wanted them. Not my local library, nor the library in the next town. Not even the library three towns over, which said it was accepting donations, then rescinded when I showed up with “too many.”

Without a used bookstore nearby, what on earth are we supposed to do with all the books we buy, read, and have no room to store? Even if you mostly borrow books from your local library and read the latest tomes on a wireless reading device like a kindle, surely you have some orphan novels lying around. Yesterday I discovered a feel-good solution: the website of Better World Books, which will pay for unwanted books, cover the shipping costs, and even purchase carbon offsets through to cancel out emissions created by transporting donations and shuttling used books to consumers who shop its online inventory.

What’s more, portions of the funds generated by Internet sales go toward supporting global literacy programs. Another plus: Better World Books claims to have kept more than 8,000 tons of forsaken literature from piling up in landfills.

This social venture is the brainchild of two Notre Dame students who were sitting around after graduation from college wondering what they were going to do with their lives. They started by collecting books on campus and selling them online. Within their first six months, 2,000 books were amassed and resold, adding up to $10,000. Today, as the digital ticker tape at the top of their website reports, more than $5 million have been raised for global literacy programs like Room to Read, Books for Africa, Worldfund, National Center for Family Literacy, and Invisible Children, and 16 million books have been diverted from landfills.

Getting started is easy. If you want to turn in some of your old reading, go to buyback section of the website, enter the books’ ISBNs in the box at right, get a quote for your donation, print a pre-paid shipping label, and put your package in the mail. If you’re in the market to buy some new reading material, go straight to the  Better World Books homepage, where you can search by title, author, topic, or peruse popular lists such as Amazon bestsellers, Oprah’s Book Club, and titles featured at national Green Festivals. But don’t forget: When you’re ready to give those books the boot, return them to  Better World Books, and keep the pages turning.

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