How to recycle books the zero waste way

Filed in Blog by on August 26, 2008 24 Comments
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recycle books and create zero waste
Photo Credit (and a great way to keep books from the landfill!) Better World Books

Further to my post last week about recycling books, I’ve been having a think about the best ways to find them new loving homes, zero waste style. People mentioned a couple of my favourites in the comments section, so I thought it might be helpful to pool our ideas here.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

1-Keep it in the family
Keep it in your immediate community and offer to friends, family and neighbours. I used to keep books in my porch and people who visited could go through them before they left to see if they wanted to take anything with them.
If you want to be more celebratory, why not organise a book swap party? Get together some friends, nibbles, booze and books have a rummage and a swap and take what’s left to a charity shop. Not great if your intention was to create bookshelf space, but I bet you’ll have fun!

2- Library
Donate to a local library. How many times do books get stamped inside that front cover? Donate your books in the knowledge that others will be able to enjoy them too.

3-Charity begins on the bookshelves
Take to your local charity shop, so that profits raised from your books can be put to good work. If you can’t get to a charity shop, most civic ammenity sites will take old books and cds and pass them on.

4- Freecycle
Donate on Freecycle. I’ve got rid of books in this way before and if you sort them into genres, you’re less likely to get a carbooter after them. Plus you might get to make a new like-minded friend.

5-Green metropolis
Make yourself some cash with Green Metropolis. Every book is sold for £3.75, of which you get £3.00 credited to your account.
In addition, Green Metropolis donates 5p for every book sold to the ‘Tree For All’ campaign run by the Woodland Trust.

6-Sell, sell, sell
Make some cash on eBay, Amazon or in a second hand book shop. These are without the feel good factor of Green Metropolis but each has its benefits.
Amazon doesn’t charge any fees until your book sells and you can leave them up for as long as you like.
eBay charges less fees, but you take the gamble of spending out with nothing in return.
There are no fees with a second hand bookshop; only cash for you, but you won’t be guaranteed a sale and you’ll have to do the leg work.

6- Read then swap
Read It Swap It does as it says on the tin. You’ll mee t virtual community of people who want to read your books and swap their own.

7- Have a mooch
Book Mooch offers a similar system where you earn ‘points’ for every book you give away. You can exchange these points for other peoples books, so it means you are not limited to swapping with the books that someone else has like you are with Read It Swap It.

8- Set them free
I love the Bookcrossing site. Here, you can pay it forward by leaving your unwanted books on a park bench, in a cafe or at a hotel for a new owner to find. You can ‘tag’ your book with a unique code and allow fate to take your book on its travels.

9- Put a smile on someone’s face
Donate to a local hospital or hospice. Patients will probably love a good novel to while away the hours.

10-Educate the children
Take children’s books to a local school. They will love to plump up their library shelves by sharing your kids old books. If you have text books, then find a University or college library who might like them for new students.

What about you? What is your favourite way to get rid of books you no longer want?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (24)

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  1. Green Metropolis looks interesting – I’ve bookmarked it for later!

  2. Hi Mrs Green,

    There are some books which are part of a permanent collection. Mrs Average’s The Rubbish Diet and a future work by Mrs Green, no pressure, would certainly fit into this category. Signed copies would be especially prized.

    This is the last week of Chris’s blog and I have decided just to post relevant information and discuss with like-minds. Being the final week a more positive trend would be a pleasant change.

  3. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Sarah – I’ve used Green metropolis and I like the ‘no fuss’ approach. You don’t have to compete for the cheapest price and I like the ‘green’ aspect of it all. I’ve found things to hang around though, but I was using them when they first set up, so perhaps more people know about them now and books sell quicker.

    John, you’re absolutely right, some books are for keeps. Thanks for the no pressure LOL! I hardly fancy myself in the footsteps of Tracey Smith and Mrs A – that would be some act to follow, wouldn’t it!
    I’m hoping Chris finishes on a high note, although I find it hard to believe that we are three weeks through already…

  4. Hi Mrs Green,

    Your blog has so much content that you could write a mammoth compilation, not only about the blog but the impact it has on Zero Waste in the wider community, not to mention Mr Green.

    A councillor on the box said that voters lists should not be given to companies, saying that it raised very little money since a second voters list is required for those who ticked the box. That is definitely a result for the Return To Sender campaign. It just shows that we are all on the right track.

    I am going shopping tomorrow to find some purchases for the pledge with Zero Waste.

  5. Fr. Peter says:

    Great to see your website going from strength to strength!

    I have used Green Metropolis and do like the idea of a bookswap party but especially ‘Bookcrossing’.


  6. Mrs Green says:

    Ah John, book publishers and editors want fresh content; not words rehashed from a website 😉 I was reading about your purchases earlier; off to locate the post now………

    Hi Peter – lovely to see you here. How are you? Glad you found some new ideas within the article. Bookcrossing is a great idea isn’t it?

  7. Detta says:

    Mrs Green – thank you so much for the links – I am delighted to have some fab places to pass on my books – it will take me a while but am happy in the knowledge that someone else will get pleasure and delight from reading what I have once enjoyed!

  8. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Detta,
    Lovely to see you again and I’m glad you’ve found some helpful links. I know releasing books is not easy for you, so good luck!

  9. Condo Blues says:

    I used pages from old books to wallpaper my powder room. The books were old out of date reference books, so I knew they wouldn’t sell if I donated them to a charity shop. It came out great and it was much cheaper than paint!

  10. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Condo blues,
    Welcome to the site. Your idea for using book pages as wallpaper sounds awesome. I would love to see a photo – do you have any anywhere on your blog?

  11. Raech says:

    I found a great way to recycle and afford to keep reading. was a great way to clean off my shelves. It works like ‘Netflicks’ only for books. Shipping is free and right to my door and I can read as many as I want and even keep the books I love.

  12. Mrs Green says:

    Ha! Well look at that – there are solutions springing up all over the place. So this is a bit like a library, but instead of going to the building, the books are sent via post; is that right?
    I wonder if there is anything like that in the UK.
    Thank you for sharing your find, Raech

  13. green says:

    I would suggest using
    Save Money, Save The Planet specializes in the recycling of textbooks, DVDs, CDs. Buying used textbooks not only saves you money, but cuts down on greenhouse gases caused by the manufacturing of new textbooks.
    With you’re not only saving trees, you are saving some green.

  14. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Green, thank you for bringing out attention to GreenTextbooks; it sounds a great idea for our friends across the pond 🙂

  15. Rob says:

    You can also donate your books to! BWB takes donated books and resells them to raise money for schools and literacy programs around the world! You can check them out at

    They also buy used text books if you’re looking to make some cash off of your used books:

    By the way, the image at the top of this article actually comes from the Better World Books warehouse. All those boxes of books are either books donated from consignment shops or books that will be actually recycled to keep them out of landfills.

  16. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Rob, thanks for popping in and leaving your comment about better books. That is a great resource for our friends across the pond. It has a feel good factor attached with supporting schools and literacy programmes!

    Is it ok to keep this image on the page, or shall I change it? This is the trouble with the internet; I don’t always know who to give photo credits too. I can put a credit and link in, but is the photo copyright?

  17. i only use the library, walk in to get books and rent dvd’s that way i dont have to worry about reusing or recycling the book. One book…many readers 🙂

  18. Mrs Green says:

    @weee recycling: Hi there, we use our library a lot too. For books I can’t get I buy them second hand from Amazon.

  19. Richard says:

    As to selling of books, there are a lot of buyback sites online that make it easy to sell books online. As to zero waste you have to think of the carbon footprint of mailing items but a few sites that I have used

    Both were close to me(in the midwest) so I can live with the carbon generated from shipping.

  20. How about swapping them with a neighbour – it might actually get neightbours talking to each other again (remember those days?).

  21. Mrs Green says:

    @Richard: thanks for the links, Richard – sorry I missed your comment back in June!

    @TBC Recycling: We do that! My neighbour passes books over the fence; but I’m aware it’s not usual practise 😉 Community is the way forward for sure….

  22. Diane says:

    If you want to buy books. i would advise you to go online and search the prices for these books using services like It is better than going for standalone stores. As you can save on lot of money using them.

  23. Mrs Green says:

    @Diane: Thanks Diane; are you affiliated with them, or is it just a company you have used in the past?

  24. McKennon Farell says:

    This is a great article. The new generation like my kids really just do not appreciate the joy of reading paper and hardcopy books these days. To see all those books going into clearance bins and getting tossed out really breaks my heart. I might be able to coax my kids to read a book now and then, but it’s truly scary how their kids (my grandkids) will take things in their time. I shudder to think about it.

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