This week on Trashtastic Tuesday, we check in with Raz Godelnik of Eco-Libris, a green business encouraging readers to off-set the paper consumed by their book-buying by donating money to plant trees in developing countries.
everydaytrash: How did you come up with the idea of Eco-Libris?
Godelnik: It all started when I was thinking about paper and the environmental impacts of its production. I realized it might take a while to get to the point where eco-friendly alternatives (from the use of recycled paper to e-books) will replace virgin paper. Then, I talked with some friends about the idea of giving people the opportunity to balance out their paper consumption by planting trees and received good feedback about it.
The decision to focus on books was made after learning that only about 5% of the paper used for printing books is made of recycled paper and because most books don’t have yet any online eco-friendly alternative (e-book) like magazines and newspapers have. So if you want a book, you usually can’t avoid purchasing the paper-made version, unless you go to the library or get it from places like bookcrossing.com, which are both excellent choices. You also can’t tell people to stop reading books, so it seems only natural to give book lovers a new alternative to make their reading habits greener – planting trees for the books they read.
everydaytrash: How did you find and select planting partners?
Godelnik: We are very picky about our planting partners as we want to make sure the right species of trees are planted in the right places in collaboration with local communities. We conducted an extensive and in-depth selection process to find the right partners that included review of many criteria to ensure the quality of the plantings, such as the specific species that are planted, locations of planting, mixed forest, usage of native species, monitoring and management plans of the plantings, etc.
Eventually we chose 3 non-profit organizations – Sustainable Harvest International (SHI), RIPPLE Africa and The Alliance for International Reforestation (AIR). These are highly respected organizations, registered in the US and the UK, which plant trees in the highest ecological and sustainability standards in Latin America and Africa. In these areas, deforestation is a crucial problem, and planting trees not only helps conserve soil and water, but also raises the ecological awareness of the local communities for whom these trees offer many benefits and an opportunity for a better future. All the planting operations are being conducted in full collaboration with the local communities.
everydaytrash: How many books have you off-set/trees have you planted since starting up your operation?
Godelnik: We have balanced out so far more than 3,500 books. Each book is balanced out by planting one tree (actually we plant via our planting partners 1.3 trees for every book to maximize the chances that 1 tree will reach maturity). Our goal is to balance out half a million books by the end of 2008
everydaytrash: What about other forms of paper waste? Do you have plans to expand this concept into the corporate world to encourage companies to off-set office paper waste?
Godelnik: At the moment we’re focused only on books because of the reasons I talked about earlier and also because we feel that being focused on one major issue helps us to make our message and call for action more powerful. We also want to inspire people and organizations to balance out books as their first stop on the road to sustainability. On the personal level, it means to continue from balancing out books to starting to reduce the whole household’s paper consumption. The same goes with organizations in the book publishing industry, from publishers to bookstores. In any case, in the future, we will definitely consider to expand our call for action into other areas that use paper unsustainably.
Photos courtesy of RIPPLE Africa, Sustainable Harvest International (SHI) and The Alliance for International Reforestation (AIR).