Illiteracy (and the poverty it fuels) is a global pandemic. An estimated 781 million adults globally are illiterate, with approximately 64 percent of that number composed of women, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. The National Assessment of Adult Literacy estimates that 30 million adults in the U.S. possess below-basic literacy skills, while 11 million are non-literate in English. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 42 million children are not enrolled in school.
Buy used books, fund global literacy. That’s the premise behind Better World Books, a “radically different kind of bookstore” based in Northern Indiana that contributes a portion of your purchase towards non-profit literacy programs such as Room to Read, Books for Africa, and the National Center for Family Literacy. The company also helps libraries and schools sell used books through “online sidewalk sales” you can locate by zip code so your moola goes back to your community.
To date, Better World has raised more than $1.3 million for over 70 literacy and education non-profits, provided more than 450,000 books to Books for Africa and the National Center for Family Literacy. It also prides itself in diverting over 5 million pounds of books from landfills, along with more than 560,000 pounds of metal shelving from libraries across the U.S. Plus, Better Books works with Carbonfund.org, a non-profit provider of carbon offsets, to buy renewable energy credits (and support reforestation) with every purchase. Both the shipping of books to its customers (free in the U.S.; $2.95 per book internationally), as well as to its literacy partners, are offset in this manner.
The company, which stresses that it’s a for-profit social venture, has a philosophy that is decidedly crunchy, yet savvy:
One book that really got us thinking was The Ecology of Commerce by Paul Hawken. Paul argues that a true economy mimics ecology and rebuilds rather than destroys. It produces no waste, no toxic byproducts and it is simply more expensive to pollute. In a perfect world, we’d package your books in indestructible hemp pouches and load them into Willie Nelson’s BioDiesel bus, where he’d hand deliver them and sing you a song or two. We aren’t quite there yet, but we’ve got a few things we think you’ll like.
Inquire directly about gift certificates for the book-lover on your holiday-shopping list. Or make a donation in their name directly to one of the many non-profit literacy programs.
Why buy used?
1. You save money.
2. You’re not expending new resources; you’re not contributing anything new to the waste stream.
3. You’re diverting a serviceable asset from the landfill.