So you need a textbook?

13 Feb 2019

Blogger Nastia, from Ukraine, is always trying to find ways to make her life greener and more sustainable. For Vox, she will blog about going green in Nijmegen. In this blog: do you really need that text book?

We’ve all had to have a textbook for a course.

They’re bulky, expensive and generally useless after just about a few months. Which leads to conclude that within education, textbooks are quite a wasteful practice. But what can you do?

There are two things to consider before we dive in: paper production is incredibly harmful to the environment, yet the carbon footprint of a book is not that high a number and paper is much more recyclable than other materials. Yet digital books have to be read on a device that is usually hard to recycle and has a substantial carbon footprint. And those digital books may not always be available in digital format.

So what are students supposed to do?

The first, most effective way to reduce the carbon footprint of a textbook and avoid any spending is the library. Somehow often overlooked, but such an elegant solution to all of your “studying as a environmentally conscious student” problems.

The next option is to scan the pages you need from the book from someone or from that same library. Of course quite some energy is used there, but in the end you can also share the digital copy with a number of other people – all of which helps minimize impact.

You can buy a second-hand textbook. More expensive than the first options, but still a great way to reduce waste as it will serve quite a few generations of students in its lifespan.

An e-book is potentially a great option in terms of environmental impact, but you might want to reconsider buying an e-reader specifically for that. It only becomes better than a paper book in terms of carbon footprint after you’ve read over 22 books in 4 years. Of course you can always read your e-books on your laptop or phone, which you already have.

Finally, the most radical solution is to think: do you really need it? I am not advocating for not taking your courses seriously, but sometimes you buy a textbook and don’t even open it throughout the whole semester. So then why buy it in the first place? After all, if you do realise you actually need it – you can always get it.

Stay green!

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