Friday, April 20, 2007

Earth Day at the Bookshop

Earth Day will be celebrated on Sunday, April 22nd. It's a great reason to reexamine ways to reduce our adverse impacts on the Earth. Our town has a clean-up day where kids (mostly) and some adults run around picking off street-side trash and haul it into huge municipal dumpsters. On other Earth Days, we've planted trees on our property (although the birches are pretty fragile and several didn't survive this year's February ice storm as you can see from the photograph.

At Old Saratoga Books, we try to reuse and recycle as much as possible. We obviously reuse and sell our secondhand inventory. When we have books that we can't use, we donate these to local libraries for their fundraising book sales or to local thrift shops. Some books end up at the recycling center, but these are the hopeless cases: reader's digest condensed books, mildewed or damaged books, encyclopedia sets with missing volumes, books that are extensively underlined or highlighted, etc.

The recycling extends to our mail order book sales. We pack and ship a lot of books each year and we protect them with bubble wrap, packing peanuts and other materials before fitting them into a box for mailing. Some of the materials are new, but most are recycled, since the day some years back when we put up a sign in the store window asking our customers to save their packing materials for us.

The response has been amazing and has really grown over the years. We do buy several wheels of bubble wrap a year but we haven't bought packing peanuts in recent memory. We get bags of peanuts donated by the local stained glass studio, the local school
custodian, a customer who works at a big box store, a homeopathic doctor, the local beauty spa, and our local Catholic priest (who has two parish's worth of Catholic literature arriving weekly for his services, not to mention all those little white candles he goes through). People also bring us smaller boxes (they are a bit sheepish about the Amazon boxes), those inflatable clear pillow things and other packing items.

We always tell people that we'll come pick these supplies up, but we get them
hand-delivered! We always give my special packing buddies a little extra discount on their books, so they get some reward, but most are just interested in the recycling aspect. Others who have an open shop may want to think about the sign idea as it really worked for us.

We do buy a load of new boxes every other year to fit our book orders, but there are always the odd-sized books that require irregular boxes and those multi-book orders, so we keep clean, non-food, non-hygiene-product boxes in the basement to cut down for these shipments. We cross out the writing with a black marker and peel off labels and stickers, so they don't look like Frankenboxes. We recently found out about some fun recycled packaging labels on children's author-illustrator Jan Brett's website. These labels feature "Hedgie's Surprise" icon, Hedgie. (Brett's website is loaded with other great downloads and activities that are worth checking out if you have small kids or are a teacher. I used to go to her website quite a bit when my friends and I were running a preschool story time at the local library.) We do use new boxes exclusively for our my international orders, as we don't want the box to look
"suspicious" and in need of opening at customs to delay its arrival.

We'd love to hear any other recycling ideas that folks may have about their recycling efforts. Happy Earth Day!

No comments: