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How to make reading sustainable

Everyone seems to be reading more since we've been in lockdown! I think it is the best hobby to expand the horizons of our minds and to get us all away from screens.


Like any activity, reading can be approached in different ways to make it more ethical and lighter on the planet. Pre-COVID, I would've said that libraries offer us one of the most environmentally and financially sustainable ways to read. Now, however, I use a few different approaches to weave sustainability into my reading.

Borrow from family or friends. Contribute to a circular economy! In addition to being less expensive, borrowing is more sustainable than buying as we avoid creating demand for new resources or discarding items after one use. I've also found that borrowing and lending books makes me feel connected to family or friends - something I've cherished over the last year.


Shop secondhand. When I buy secondhand books online, Thriftbooks is my go-to! They have lots of books available for purchase in various states of use, and this is reflected in the price, making them very affordable. Another online option is buying used on Amazon. Although I avoid buying from Amazon, they do allow you to choose to purchase used books, and they're typically pretty accessible from a financial standpoint, too.


Shop from your local, independent bookstore. Supporting local businesses means contributing to local economies! I also love local bookstores because they aren't as concerned with appealing to the masses and thus can sell books that offer unique perspectives and aren't limited to the most mainstream or popular opinion.s A few of my favourites in Ottawa are Octopus Books and Singing Pebble Books.


Use BookSloth or Riffle instead of Goodreads. Unfortunately, GoodReads is owned by Amazon. Fortunately, there are ethical alternatives to Goodreads! I've recently discovered Booksloth and Riffle, and tested them out. My favourite thus far is BookSloth.

A few other ways to be even more sustainable while reading.

  • Support Black or Indigenous-owned bookstores. Here are some in Canada.

  • Listen to Audiobooks. Skip the physical book and listen to an audiobook.

  • Donate your books to 'little libraries' in your neighborhood, or to your actual library.

Happy reading!


J.