Paper makes up 17.3% of California’s and 16.3% of Sonoma County’s discard stream. Much of it is single use reading materials – newspapers, magazines and books. We all take this mountain of short-term gratification for granted – but it doesn’t have to be so… mountainous. With a little effort we all can substantially reduce the impact of our reading pleasure – without reading less!

Obviously the more readers per copy benefits the environment – but not the publishing industry. If you share interests with neighbors and friends – let’s say dancing or yoga or mineralogy, you could share reading material. Consider asking likely suspects if they have a particular newspaper, book or magazine they would be willing to share or perhaps you both would be happy with library copies. On-line library web sites – like the Sonoma County Library, make this quite easy. You can quickly locate items – even in neighboring counties, check availability and make reservations. Often they arrive in less than a week; if it is in big demand sometimes it takes months. Generally the timing works out just fine – as long as you know it is coming. So, the next time you want to purchase reading material or movies, check the library first!

A big time reader, I spend very little time or money on my habit. My sweetheart reads me on-line headlines. Kind neighbors drop the newspaper at the door. I subscribe to two shared magazines, purchase a few special books per year and pick reading material up at the library, yard sales and giveaways. A dedicated junk mail preventer I subscribe to do-not-mail lists and try to stop all unwanted magazines and catalogs on first receipt.

What about e-readers? Wikipeida offers a comparison of at least 80 e-readers. The potential is great but I am not ready to say that is the way to go given the speed at which electronic technology is evolving. Paper over-consumption may be irritating but all paper is potentially recyclable or compostable, and large amounts are being recycled. I will become more interested when manufacturers design waste out of the manufacturing process and take responsibility for the e-readers at the end of their short lives.

After the fact, what do you do with unwanted reading material? Put it in the stack for future reference, pass it on or drop an armful at the doctor’s office, senior center or school? The recycling bin should be the last destination not the first!

Do you have other ideas on how people can reduce the impact of single use reading materials? Please send them along!!