Monday, February 8, 2010
In case you hadn't noticed, I've been less than consistent in my writing lately. I'm distracted. Now, it would be easy to blame my lack of writing on my heirloom plant business start-up. Or the kids' crazy schedules, burning fossil fuels while we run all over town for violin, piano, and horseback riding lessons. Or the stinking cold that I just cannot shake. Or the deep cleaning that I do on a daily basis to ensure a spotless household.
Ha. You know I'm lying if I told you I'd been spending my time cleaning.
Instead, I'm distracted by a mesmerizing tale of history, intrigue, and scandal.
No, I'm not talking about our Governor.
It's Nefertiti. It's consuming. It's deliciously evil. It's historically engaging. It's a lovely escape from bleak winter days.
Yes, I'll admit. I'm a book-a-holic.
Once I'm engrossed in a great read, it's impossible for me to multi-task. I NEED to finish the book. I NEED to find resolution for the characters. Only then can I get back to real life. My reading obsession causes problems in terms of sticking to tasks. I've always been like this, though, since I was little. My mom would take me to the library and leave me there for hours. (This was when it was perfectly safe to do such things. Today, DSS would be knocking at your door, so I don't recommend dropping your five-year-old off at the library alone.) The nice librarian befriended me, letting me stamp the due date on the check-out cards. I read, and read...and read some more...until the librarian finally let me start checking out books from the adult section when I was about six or seven.
It was bliss.
Today, my reading obsession continues. I read when I go to sleep, I forgo sleep so I can read, I read when I should be cleaning the house, I read when I dry my hair, which explains why my hair always looks like crap. Books, magazines, newspapers, online articles...I'll read anything.
Lately, though, reading has become hazardous to my health. Take, for instance, the day my nightstand fell over, with the (very heavy) pile of books and magazines crashing on my toe. Or the time I tripped over the pile of books awaiting storage, when I was trying to avoid falling over the dogs.
Something needs to be done.
The problem is—our entire family is book obsessed. OK, it's not really a problem—unless you're trying to make an effort to become a greener family.
About two years ago, Peter and I bought four lovely, double-doored bookcases. As unorganized as I am about things like laundry—I'm completely OCD about my books. One set of shelves is for Peter's German-language books, one for non-fiction, sorted by genre, alpha by author, a few shelves are devoted to my grandmother's books, and the last two cases store my fiction collection from the past few years. (Again, alpha by author.) Standing in front of the bookshelves is always Zen-like for me—a place that is actually neat and orderly that contains some of my favorite literary memories.
In addition to those shelves, each child has a bookshelf in his or her room, lovingly painted or stained by Daddy. We have a bookshelf in the downstairs hallway for overflow kids books. I have a bookshelf in the office that houses all of my gardening books, and Peter has two bookshelves—also in our home office.
Now, add into the fact that we just recently cleaned out the storage rooms downstairs, where I found boxes and boxes of books from my childhood. Then, the following weekend, while cleaning out my parents' house...I came home with four more boxes of books.
Do you see a theme here? We have no more room for books.
Yet, I continue to buy them. And I can't get rid of them.
As for magazines--it's truly a sickness. Gardening, sailing, current affairs, parenting, organic living, Ranger Rick, American Girl...our mailbox overflows. Our poor maillady. Where once, long ago, I was obsessed with the latest fashion trends, my shopping obsession is now seeds, books, and magazines.
So, in my effort to add a greener hue to our family, what's a girl to do without sacrificing everyone's favorite activity?
I'm not sure.
But remember, this little blog is about baby steps...easy to implement ideas to make a less negative impact on the environment. I know, for instance, that I will not relinquish my Barnes and Noble membership.
Still, there are some steps we can take—and have taken—to get our reading fix without killing more trees.
Conservatree, a non-profit organization which once was part of the paper industry and now consults with businesses to provide recycled or non-paper sources for products, approximates that 17 trees are cut to produce one ton of paper. Now, granted, there are varying degrees of paper quality, pulp input, thicknesses, etc. But honestly, I just can't cite all of those statistics and formulas to you, because, well...I have a cold, and I think my head will implode if I attempt to explain the math. If you'd like to find information about calculating the number of trees used per various media, visit www.consevatree.org.
Suffice it to say—bestsellers use a lot of paper. Whether it's virgin hardwood, softwoods or recycled paper, the environmental impact of the printing industry is enormous. I know. I used to work in publishing. While recycled paper is a better alternative to deforestation, the energy consumed to produce the end product is high. But so is processing virgin wood into paper.
In my young days, the idea of reducing the amount of reading materials available to me would have been unthinkable. Fast-forward a few decades...to the land of Al Gore's Internet (you know I love him, but I just had to say it!), and the feasibility of reducing the stacks of papers and books—and saving some trees along the way--becomes more of a reality.
While I don't think reading a Kindle will ever have the same sensory appeal to me as cracking the spine of a brand new novel, technology's evolution allows for easy access to online news. Magazines. Books. Blogs, celebrity entertainment sites, shopping catalogs. You want to read it or browse it? Google it, and it's yours. Instant gratification.
One of my favorite things to do when I was growing up was to pull out the World Book Encyclopedias. Remember those? I'd pick a letter, start at the beginning, and just read. Today, the Internet serves the purpose of finding quick answers to questions—but does it provide the same ability to browse and stumble upon information that you didn't necessarily NEED to know...but that's good to know? How will today's kids win at Trivial Pursuit if they don't get lost in an encyclopedia?
Does anyone still play Trivial Pursuit?
I swear, the World Book still should be a mainstay in every household. Even though it's not remotely environmentally friendly. Nor very up-to-date.
OK, back on topic. So—what is the Adolf family willing to do to reduce our environmental impact without sacrificing our love of the written word?
Renew the Overdue.
I love the library, and it seems like such a simple solution. My children love the library. The library is a haven where anything is possible, where anyone regardless of socio-economic status or education level can learn, read, and grow. Thousands of books, just waiting to inspire...
But right now, we are in serious overdue debt. Why oh why can't I get the books back on time? Yes, I'll admit, to the shame of my sister, who never had an overdue library book in her life—I am terrible at returning books on time. It's not that we can't pay our overdue fees...I'm just mortified, because it happens far too often.
Still—we will get back on track with our library visits. I mean, really—when you can request the latest popular novels through the library's online catalog, reserve them in your PJs, and DRIVE TRHOUGH to pick up the books placed on hold...it's inexcusable not to take full advantage of the library.
Review. And opt out.
We cancelled our newspaper.
Honestly, that was not a big sacrifice for me. Our local paper is not The New York Times. It's more like the Hammond Times, my hometown local newspaper that our 11th-grade advanced English composition teacher, Mary Yorke, would hand out during class. We had to take red pens and circle all of the errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. So, no—that wasn't too tough to give up.
Or to try to give up.
Although we haven't renewed our subscription, we keep receiving the newspaper EVERY DAY. I've called. It arrives, every morning, mocking my futile attempt to rid our lives of one piece of un-environmental reading material. The irony is—a friend just posted on Facebook about the inability of her paperboy (paper-person?) to deliver her Sunday newspaper.
I can't get ours to stop.
So, I continue to pile it up. The good news about newspaper—I can use it as a weed block in the garden. I lay the thickness of about four sheets of newspaper, wet it, and then put mulch on top. It's an excellent, biodegradable source to smother grass and weeds when you're making a new garden bed—or prettifying an old one.
We've cancelled (all but the most important) magazines. I'm such a hypocrite, though. I love Mother Earth News and will continue to buy it, even though I can access it online. You'd think that would be an obvious choice to cut out of our reading consumption, but no...I just can't. I save them and use them as a resource. Really. Thus the problem with my lack of space on bookshelves.
I know you're rolling your eyes at the irony here.
I did, however, get rid of almost a dozen subscriptions, including my formerly beloved People Magazine. The reality is—I honestly don't know any of the new stars that are about Tyler's age. I think I'm officially above the magazine's age demographic now, although I will always miss the pics of George Clooney. Ah, the sacrifice I'm making for the environment.
But what about the plethora of books?
OK, I'm on a cheesy roll right now, with my environmental “Rs”...but with books, I can't throw them away. I also can't stand the thought of recycling just the paper within the book—it seems sacrilegious to tear apart a book.
Still, there are many options to explore for recycling books.
I'm a lender. I'm like my own little lending library. I always wanted to be a librarian, and this is my chance to play at it. I love to loan books to people, because there's nothing better than sharing a story that I found moving or interesting or crazy—and then getting to talk to the friend about the book. I also feel less wasteful in buying books, because I know I'll eventually share them with someone. Still...it doesn't solve my tree-killing issues.
A friend recently introduced me to online book exchanges, which I'm going to try out. I've just signed up for paperbackswap.com and bookmooch.com. These sites provide a forum for you to list books you're willing to exchange with other members—for free, only paying postage. In return, you list which books you're looking for. I've heard great things about these online sites, so I'll let you know about my experience. Please—let me know if you've used them!
Our local library benefits from donated books by holding an annual “Friends of the Library” sale. Not only do your used books support a terrific cause, but you can clean up on some great bargains—and restock your shelves with recycled books. Additionally, many literacy organizations sponsor book sales to support their organizations. Again, a fantastic opportunity to support a great cause and find some good deals as well.
I wonder if there's a way to calculate the carbon offset by donating books to charitable causes? Hmmm...I'm sure someone will think of a way to greenwash it....
If you don't have a local organization who sponsors a book sale, consider donating your used books to schools, used magazines (minus your address label) to doctors' offices waiting rooms, or both to senior centers or assisted living facilities. Additionally, when Kristen was in kindergarten, her teacher was delighted to take five boxes of magazines off my hands to use for class projects. Preschools are another good outlet for used magazines...cut, cut, cut!
Have a bunch of books or magazines that you're ready to part with? Post them on Freecycle.org. If it's free, they will come...and you'll clear some shelf space.
Want to make a few dollars to help offset your purchasing habits? Look for local used bookstores who will give you credits for the books you give them, allowing you to find new sources of reading pleasure at a discount. Used bookstores are wonderful—you get great books at a fraction of the new price, plus since you're buying used books—you don't need to feel guilty about the amount of trees that met the ax for your book!
E-bay your books, and find used books online. Amazon and Barnes and Noble, two of my favorite online haunts, often show “used” options from third-party vendors. Many of my gardening books, which can often be very expensive new, are through used vendors. The vendors list the price, as well as the condition of the book so that there are no unpleasant surprises upon receipt. Just keep an eye on shipping costs—I've had an instance where I found a book for $1.99—and the shipping was $6.99. Hmmm.
Are you still with me?
It's getting a little long, isn't it?
Ironically enough, Mikey just came and asked me to read a “Jack and Annie” book to him (aka Magic Tree House), and how can I say no? Did I mention that my little pumpkin is now reading as of last week? He read eight beginning reading books to me, and I'm so thrilled. Another reader in the family...
So, I must run and read a bit to my boy. But we're not done with this conversation. Next, I want to figure out how to control the plethora of paper in the house...school papers, bills, clutter, packaging, kids' art projects...it's overwhelming me! I swear, it breeds at night.
But before we begin that topic, I'm curious: do you have a Kindle or other electronic book device? Do you like it? I'd love to hear your opinion...please share!
Until next time ~