Since Gutenberg invented the printing press around 1440, the world has become filled with many, many books.
A study conducted by Google Books in 2010 found that just shy of 130,000,000 books have been published since the invention – and that figure is from 2010.
With all those books comes a lot of production, resources and waste, and some business owners are looking for opportunities to approach book selling in way deemed eco-conscious. For some, books themselves provided inspiration and passion to solve ecological issues.
In 2022, Gladys Vallee started Terrier Books, an online store that sells books that would normally be heading towards the landfill. She said her business model also has other benefits.
“My goal with my book store isn’t just to sell more environmentally-friendly acquired and made books, but it’s also to bring more affordable books to everyone, especially children,” Vallee said.
Prior to living in Sooke, Vallee worked in book stores of all sizes in Montreal. She noticed that often stores would buy new titles in bulk and many times the remainders would end up in a landfill. She also saw other gaps in the industry she wants to see change.
“I would really like to see more sustainably-made books: locally made, printed on 100 per cent recycled paper or FSC paper, and using plant-based ink,” she said. Vallee is working on acquiring new books for her store from publishers who follow these guidelines.
Cathy Sorensen, owner and operator of Sorensen Books, has tips for readers who want to be more eco-conscious: shop from local shops new and used rather than mail order, share books with friends and family (or give as gifts after you’ve read them), look for books with inks and dyes that have been processed chlorine-free, and consider books that mention they donate to conservation efforts.
And for books you already own?
“For books to last a long time, keep them at a regular room temperature, out of direct sunlight and away from moist areas like the bath, and use a bookmark, please, or reuse some scrap paper,” Sorensen said.
Sorensen Books is one of the oldest second-hand bookshops in Victoria.
Apart from purchasing used books, e-readers also have a low environmental footprint. According to a 2017 study conducted by The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, the global warming potential of e-readers is less than paper books if e-readers replace the purchase of at least 4.7 new paper books with e-books instead.
“Paper books and e-readers are complementary and each have their own benefits,” Vallee said.
For books and authors that have influened Sorensen in regards to the natural world and her footprint, she says, “the list is truly endless” and includes themes of Indigenous history, ethnobotany, trees and fauna.
“Caring about the environment is not only a contemporary conversation. I’m also really enjoying more modern natural history and memoir authors.”
To celebrate Earth Day on April 22, here are some ecological-themed favourites that have inspired Vallee at Terrier Books and Sorensen at Sorensen Books.
Recommended by Vallee
Listening to Whales: What the Orcas Have Taught Us
By Alexandra Morton
When Alexandra Morton started working in marine science in 1977, the profession was predominantly male. She pursued her dream anyways, going on to be at the forefront of whale and dolphin research at California’s Marineland, and eventually studying wild orcas in a remote bay in B.C.
Personal stories, tragedies and triumphs are shared, along with the ground-breaking observations she made unravelling the mysteries of whale echolocation and interspecies communication.
By looking at issues that affect whales, like captivity and human interaction, this book seeks to challenge our perceptions and relationships with our mighty sea neighbours.
The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution That Could Save the World
By David R. Boyd
A growing body of law around the world supports the idea that humans are not the only species with rights; and if nature has rights, then humans have responsibilities. In this winner of the Green Prize for Sustainable Literature, environmental lawyer David Boyd explores how a building movement of law transformation is providing a powerful new approach to protecting the planet and its species.
Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth
By Oliver Jeffers
New York Times bestseller and creator of picture books Oliver Jeffers offers a personal look inside his own hopes and wishes for his child in the form of a sweet and humorous user’s guide to life on Earth. He takes a complex view, exploring the planet’s terrain, a deep look at space and more, through a lens of kindness and tolerance for humanity. Recommended for ages 3-7 and parents alike.
Recommended by Sorensen
Tracking Giants: Big Trees, Tiny Triumphs, and Misadventures in the Forest
By Amanda Lewis
Set to officially publish in May 2023, Sorensen says she was fortunate to recently read this one. “I think it will become a must-have B.C. tree classic,” she said. She describes it as part B.C. forestry history, Indigenous ethnobotany, tree guide and memoir. “The bibliography alone is worth reading the book for.”
When she first moved back west after nearly a decade away, Dublin-born author Amanda Lewis was an overachieving, burned-out book editor most familiar with trees as dead blocks of paper. She goes on her own educational journey to find Champion Trees in B.C. Faced with her lack of wildnerness experience, the realities of old-growth logging and climate change, and pressures to complete the trip in a time frame, she realizes her “checklist” approach to life might be a problem and humbles herself to get to know the trees in an interconnected way. “Like a tree grows the book, too. It expands and enlightens the reader and not in a condescending way,” said Sorensen.
By Rachel Carson
Published in 1962, Silent Spring remains an ecology classic, instrumental in launching the environmental movement. Documenting the detrimental effects of the indiscriminate use of pesticides on the environment, Carson took on the chemical industry for spreading disinformation. At the time, officials accepted the industry’s marketing claims without question. The outcry following the book’s publication in September 1962 forced the banning of DDT and revolutionized laws affecting air, land, and water.
This Place is Who We are: Stories of Indigenous Leadership, Resilience and Connection to Homelands
By Katherine Palmer Gordon
Through profiling Indigenous communities and sharing ten of their stories, this book set to publish in May illustrates what can be accomplished when conservation and stewardship are intertwined with the prosperity and well-being of communities.
Recommendation by Monday Mag
The Marrow Thieves
By Rachel Carson
In a futuristic dystopia ravaged by global warming, people have lost the ability to dream. The only people who can still dream are North America’s Indigenous people, and the harvesting of their bone marrow is the only way to get the medicine to heal the rest of the world. A fifteen year old and a small group of companions are on the run, struggling to survive, reunite with their loved ones, and seek refuge from “recruiters” who are looking to bring them to harvesting factories, from which they will never return. The Marrow Thieves explores humans’ relationship to nature and the extremes of extractive capitalism in a painful and powerful way.
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