In my column ‘Packaging the Future’, I’ve looked at the myriad ways the materials around us contribute to environmental pollution and human health issues (from manufacturing, use and disposal). I’ve suggested existing solutions to what I think of as “bad packaging”, as well as some that are only supposition. But even though I love to dork out on new and old packaging fixes, there are a few spots where I don’t want to see the new overtake the old; where even though a more modern version of something might use fewer resources and be more planet and people-friendly, I still choose the vintage version. For a modern woman, I’m plenty nostalgic, but I also think that maybe, in some circumstances, certain things may be worth the resources they use.
Among readers, it’s been a constant debate for at least the past decade, and especially the last five years: When will you defect to an e-reader? As a regular globetrotter (most of my family lives in Australia, and I live on the opposite side of the Earth), I feel the strain of carrying books more than most I know. Being an incredibly avid consumer of books, I don’t pack a suitcase without at least one novel and two nonfiction tomes. I avoid hardcovers, and try to save slimmer volumes for my trips, but three books (and then there are those that I pick up on my wanderings) are a heavy weight on my shoulders, literally – I hate rollie bags and carry my luggage. Even when I’m not headed for a far-flung locale I’m lugging books, since I split my ‘home’ time between the Connecticut shoreline and Manhattan; when I first started sharing space with my boyfriend the first things I left at his place were my toothbrush, contact solution and a pile of books (which has now grown to two shelves – since he is a reader and writer too, he thankfully has absolutely no issues with this!). So more than anyone I know, I have cause to invest in an e-reader. And yet, I just can’t bring myself to do it. I’m an early adopter when it comes to other tech, but I feel a weird sadness whenever I’ve picked up a Nook or Kindle at the store to try them out.
So even though it makes no sense to cut down trees, process them into pulp, bind and ship them all over the country, (not to mention the fuel that I use in transporting them everywhere with me), I’m still carrying books (though I do try to buy plenty of second-hand copies to mitigate at least some of these effects). But if anything is worth the energy and destruction of trees, I would argue that books are.