Want an easy way to educate your kids about the environment and ways to help replenish a precious resource …our trees? Check out Eco-Libris. They are a wonderful green business that works with book readers, publishers, authors, bookstores and others in the book industry to balance out the paper used for books by planting trees. More than 20 million trees are cut down annually for virgin paper used for the production of books sold in the US alone. Eco-Libris aims to raise awareness to the environmental impacts of using paper for the production of books and provide people and businesses with an affordable and easy way to do something about it: plant one tree for every book they read, sell or publish. Customers also receive a sticker made of recycled paper for every book they balance out saying “One tree planted for this book” and can later display these stickers on their books’ sleeves.
Wouldn’t that be the perfect finishing touch on a book given as a gift or goodie bag item from a kid’s green birthday party? That is going the extra step to support reading and balancing out your love for books by having a tree planted to reverse the destruction caused to have it produced. I love it! The stickers are easy to order from the Eco-Libris site as you simply input how many books you’d like to balance and then pay via paypal or credit card. This site has an impeccable reputation in the ‘green’ community and you can trust that the money is going to one of the three non-profits that plant the trees: The Alliance for International Reforestation, Ripple Africa or Sustainable Harvest International. These three organizations are highly respected and are registered as planting partners with the UK and US.
Eco-libris just celebrated their first birthday and the success of this program has been incredible. At the beginning of July, they balanced out 50,005 books, which resulted in 65,586 new trees that are being planted with their planting partners in developing countries in Latin America and Africa. These trees are planted in high ecological and sustainable standards in Latin America (Nicaragua, Guatemala, Panama, Belize, Hondorus) and Africa (Malawi), where deforestation is a crucial problem. Planting trees in these places 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, such as improvement of crops and additional food and income, and an opportunity for a better future. Also, these two regions are losing their forests at the highest rate according to the State of the World’s Forests 2007. The company’s goal is to restore half a million trees to these regions by the end of 2008. I have so much respect for the owner and the company goal because they are working towards a solution that would result in his company dissolving. In a news release at company start-up, Raz, Eco-Libris’ CEO, summed it up perfectly “It’s very simple, eventually and hopefully sooner rather then later, books will be made from recycled paper or other eco-friendly materials and logging for paper will stop. On that day we’ll happily move on to a new cause, but until then every book reader should take action, and Eco-Libris is the right place to start.”
I asked Raz what long-term sustainable substance he would recommend to replace using virgin paper for books. Here was his response:
1. Recycled paper – the most common alternative and still its only 5%-10% of the total paper used for printing books in the U.S. With the improvements in its quality and the reduction in the premium you pay for it, we hope to see a sharp increase in the usage of recycled paper. More demand to recycled paper will lead to more supply.
2. Alternative natural materials – I believe in the importance of conducting more research to develop economically viable paper content made from cellulose-rich agricultural residue (such as cereal straw, sugarcane bagasse, corn stover, etc.), or from crops that are ideally suited for paper production, like hemp or kenaf. I know that although some of these alternatives have a great quality when used for paper, they won’t become a true alternative unless they show ability to be processed and sold in reasonable prices.
3. Advanced technological materials – one example we already have is the book ‘Cradle to Cradle’ by William McDonough and Michael Braungart -” It is printed on a synthetic ‘paper,’ made from plastic resins and inorganic fillers, designed to look and feel like top quality paper while also being waterproof and rugged. And the book can be easily recycled in localities with systems to collect polypropylene, like that in yogurt containers. This ‘treeless’ book points the way toward the day when synthetic books, like many other products, can be used, recycled, and used again without losing any material quality—in cradle to cradle cycles.
4. E-books – right now we don’t know for sure if currently e-books are better to the environment than paper-made books. We’re still missing is a full life-cycle assessment of reading e-books using kindle or other similar electronic book readers. Until we have that, we can’t really tell. In any case, I’m quite sure that even if the findings will be that right now e-books are not yet an eco-friendly alternative, they will become such an alternative with the evolution of e-book readers in the next couple of years. I’m positive developments will be not only with regards to the technology of these readers, but also with regards to their ecological footprint. If you want to learn more about information that is already available on this issue, you’re welcome to check our ‘e-books vs. paper made books’ resource page.
Imagine starting a company in the hopes that it won’t need to exist in a few years so you can move onto another social or environmental issue. After writing this article about Raz and Eco-Libris, I realize what a selfless person he is and I’m truly impressed. What an amazing tale this new father will be able to spin to his children as they grow older. You are inspiring and I thank you for all of the information you provided to Mommy Footprint about your amazing company.
Photo is courtesy of RIPPLE Africa:
Picture taken in Malawi, where the Eco-libris’ planting partner RIPPLE Africa is working.