Editor’s Note: Thanks to my cousin, Kathy Walsh, who blogs via www.redcupboard.com, I came upon a social enterprise that also match my interest in books. Better World Books http://www.betterworldbooks.com is a very serious businesses that exists to buy used books, resell them online with the proceeds going to libraries and literacy programs. Sounds like a nice “little” business, right? Au contraire – in eleven years they’ve donated almost $12 million and over 6 million books to libraries and literacy programs by recycling almost 80 million used books. That’s scale in my view. I encourage you to take a closer look at these righteous folks and use them if you can. I know I will never buy another “non-Nook” book from Barnesandnoble.com again. Here’s a summary of their story from their website:
“Better World Books is among a unique and growing group of triple bottom line companies who understand that profit is not the only way to measure business success. People also matter. And so does the planet on which we all live.
For Better World Books, the triple bottom line comes in lots of forms. From helping to build a nursing library in Somaliland to offering customers carbon neutral shipping on every book they buy, doing good is not just a part of Better World Books’ business—it is the business.
Social: power to the people
We've been thinking about some people we're proud to know. People like John Wood, the founder of Room to Read. John quit Microsoft in 1998. Eight years later, he’s building libraries in rural villages in Nepal with the "scalability of Starbucks and the compassion of Mother Theresa." John has written a book about his journey called Leaving Microsoft to Change the World.
We love literacy programs like Room to Read, Books for Africa, Worldfund, National Center for Family Literacy, Invisible Children, and our 80 other literacy partners. They provide the building blocks for children and families to learn, grow, and share in the vast collection of human knowledge committed to paper. It just makes sense that a bookstore ought to generate funding for these programs, and we do it with every book we sell.
Environmental: love your mother
One book that really got us thinking was The Ecology of Commerce, by Paul Hawken. Paul argues that a true economy mimics ecology in its circular no-waste systems and healthy fecundity of niches. In a perfect world, we'd package your books in edible bamboo pouches and load them into Willie Nelson's biodiesel bus, where he'd hand deliver them with a song. We’re not quite there, but we've got some things we think you'll like.
We've gone from a carbon offset program that covered emissions generated when books were shipped to our customers, to one that covers emissions associated both with shipping and our company's other operations and activities. Thanks to a careful audit of our emissions, we now know our total carbon footprint and are taking steps towards balancing out the carbon emissions generated from all of our organization's activities. Giddy up!
We worked with Sustainable Business Consulting and followed the World Resources Institute Greenhouse Gas Protocol to develop the methodology used to calculate our carbon inventory. Then we partnered with 3Degrees, a leading green power and carbon balancing services provider, to purchase the appropriate number of Renewable Energy Certificates and verified carbon offsets (namely, wind) to get Better World Books carbon balanced. A few cents collected from every customer at checkout helps fight global warming by providing support to wind projects that help avoid carbon dioxide emissions.
Couple that with the National Postal Service. They use the lowest energy per package of any carrier, thereby generating the least amount of carbon in the first place. We use local post offices whenever we can – so be sure to choose eco-shipping on checkout.
Of course, our greatest contribution of all is finding homes for books. We've even heard horror stories about librarians dumping unwanted tomes down a well at midnight because they couldn't find a good home for them. We gladly accept these orphan books and work hard to find new readers for them. So far, we've kept over 8,000 tons of books out of landfills.”