How Much do Books Cost the Planet?

Vacation time, time for books. According to data from the Italian Publishers Association, in 2020 book sales have increased considerably, a sign that reading has been able to cheer the daily monotony we all faced during the pandemic.

Books, unlike television series or movies, still to make us dream, transporting our fantasy to distant worlds. But have we ever wondered how much they affect the environment? After all, books are objects, and as such their production, distribution, use and disposal has an economic and environmental cost. Let’s find what is that cost.

The environmental impact of books

The first and most obvious environmental cost is linked to paper.

Although more and more publishers are committed to using only FSC-certified paper, the extension of the publishing market requires huge amounts of raw material, the extraction of which is often a cause of deforestation.
Secondly, we must consider the impact of production processes, which emit various polluting gases, in turn causing the greenhouse effect and are harmful to health. The water footprint of the production of new books should also be taken into account.

On average, about 100 litres of water are needed for the production of one kilo of paper.

IFinally, a step that we tend to forget, but weighs heavily on the environmental impact of a product is the distribution stage. Furthermore, their publishing, distribution and transport is a sore point.

It is estimated that, considering all these factors, a book emits, during its life cycle, about 7.5 kg of Co2eq

Tips for Sustainable Reading

Books are long lasting objects and can be around for a long time, generation after generation.   However, their fate is not always rosy.  Every year, there are very many books that end up in the bin –because of manufacturing or printing imperfections, the topic they speak about becomes obsolete or simply because they were not sold. 

This represents a huge waste of energy, which can be avoided easily through better production and logistics planning. Among the many corporate strategies to improve the efficiency of the publishing industry, there are a few actions that we readers can also implement to reduce the environmental impact of our beloved books.

  • Make conscious purchases: Buy only the books that we will actually read, and choose publishing houses that pay more attention to environmental sustainability;
  • Choose used books: The ecological footprint of a book is reduced in proportion to the number of people who read it, because its life cycle is lengthened
  • Sell, donate or exchange books that we no longer need/want

AccioBooks: Free Books

AccioBooks is the first Italian book-sharing website; book exchanging and gifting is their core mission.

Nato alcuni anni fa dall’idea di Gloria Pozzoli, giovane grafica freelance, oggi il sito mette in Born a few years ago from the idea of Gloria Pozzoli, a young freelance graphic designer, today the site connects thousands of users to sell or exchange their books.

The idea behind AccioBooks is that “books make you free”, and therefore, “they must be free”. Selling, trading, or giving away books we don’t need anymore could brighten someone else’s life.

Books must be able to travel. From country to country, from hand to hand. A book you didn’t like can change another person’s life. Be a part of this change.


This is the AccioBooks philosophy: A small gesture, like exchanging a book, can be therapeutic for ourselves, for others and for the planet.

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