Eco Friendly Decluttering: What to do with old books

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Books are the one thing that I don’t mind spending money on but after a while, the bookshelves just get a bit too full. As  I look around my house deciding what areas to declutter, I find myself wondering what to do with old books. There are only so many shelves on my bookcase, right? But I would never throw away a book…that just seems like sacrilege! Do you remember when Borders Bookstores started having financial trouble and they began closing stores? There was a huge backlash against the company when it was discovered that they intended to tear the covers off of perfectly good, brand new books and throw them away. Add in libraries and book publishers to the mix and the number of books being tossed in the trash every year gets rather staggering. This article from National Public Radio takes a rather in-depth look at library system and it’s book disposal policies.
Eco Friendly Decluttering: What to do with old books

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Approximately 30 TO 40 PERCENT of books that are shipped to bookstores for sale are returned to the publisher every year.   Between 65 and 95 percent of these returned books are pulped (AKA destroyed by publishers). That is a HUGE number of books that get trashed, simply because it is cheaper and easier than finding alternative solutions.While you cannot control the fate of overstock and old textbooks, you CAN make sure  your own books don’t end up clogging up landfills. How? Here are a few suggestions:

Eco Friendly Decluttering: What to do with old books

Eco Friendly Decluttering: What to do with old books

1. Sell your old books on eBay.  It’s easy to do…all you need to do is set up an account. Once you have that, enter the ISBN number of the book you want to get rid of and all of the details about it will pop right up! This is a great way to make a little bit of money if you have some best sellers that need a new home.

2. Donate them to thrift stores or Goodwill.  You can use this as a tax write-off so make sure to get a receipt or proof of donation to include with your tax paperwork. You can also donate to places like local hospitals, homeless shelters, adult literacy programs, and nursing homes.

3. Sell them at consignment sales.  I do this with the kid’s books quite a bit. Our sales have a ‘bag of books’ section where you can put 5 or 10 similar books into one big zip lock bag and price it as one piece. Saves lots of time!

4.  Donate your old books to someone on Freecycle.  This is a great website for trading with others in your local community! You donate books and maybe someone will donate some garden stuff you need this spring!

Eco Friendly Decluttering: What to do with old books

5. Find a second-hand bookstore in your area.  Wondering what to do with old books that can earn you new books? Most second-hand book stores will give you credit for your donations that can be used towards purchasing other books in the store.

6. Encourage  your library to get involved in the Better World Books program.  They work with over 3000 libraries across the US, Canada, and the UK to keep used library books out of landfills and put them in the hands of people who need them. There is no charge for participation in this group.

7. Host a neighborhood book swap. This is a great way to get to know your neighbors while finding some great new reading material at the same time!

8. Ask around! If you have a lot of children’s books, talk to your local library or school media center and see if they are interested in accepting them as a donation. Maybe your elementary school could hold a fundraiser with all the donated books?
Eco Friendly Decluttering: What to do with old books

9. Join and make someone’s day a little brighter with a random act of kindness!  All you do is slap a label on the inside of your book, leave it in a public place to be picked up by random strangers, and track it’s progress online! How far will YOUR favorite mystery book go?

10. Check out Adopt A Library They have a long list of libraries in schools, on American Indian reservations and even in prisons that need all types of books.

While it is certainly understandable that libraries and retail stores want to keep their stock fresh and offer the most current titles, there are a lot of people in this world who would love to be given the chance to read our ‘castoffs’! Try as I might, I could not find a single organization, petition, or environmental group working towards getting publishers to stop pulping brand new books. You can read more about the industry’s dirty little secret and if you find any information on how the public can help put an end to this policy, PLEASE let me know!

Have any other tips on what to do with old books?



  1. We all love to read & I cannot imagine tossing a book. There is always someone who wants it when you are done with it. We donate a lot to our local library or offer on Freecycle.
  2. Wow I have never thought about what happens to unwanted new books!!

    I recently sold alot of our over flow of books on Craig's List.
  3. I realized they did this but not to this extent. I always trade my books in or donate them to the library.
  4. I know a lot of bookworms who would cry at the thought of those books being trashed!
  5. What a shame. I never knew this. We are avid readers as well and usually we donate our books to goodwill. I have done freecycle as well. But I totally want to try that Book Crossing! I bookmarked it! We have never thrown a book away that I know of.

    This is definitely something to think about.
  6. everydayproducts andmore says
    Wow i did not know that about the books being returned what a waste and that's great that you get to help out at your kids school i did that when my son was in the first grade it's so rewarding I know when i use to order my books from the book fair i couldn't wait for them to arrive.
  7. Those are all great ideas. Thanks for sharing. We usually sell ours at our garage sale, and then donate what's left to a local thrift store that helps battered women.
  8. The thrift stores usually dispose of the book sin the dumpster. I was told that the receive way more than they'll ever sell, so they throw them out. Please confirm with your local ones, and keep that in mind. Paperbackswap.Com helps you trade your books.
  9. I have never heard of bookcrossing before!! I know when we travel I try to find places to leave books after I read them on the trip instead of flying them back with me. I had no idea that many books get sent back.
  10. These are great ideas. I have so many books that I'll probably never read again. Love it!
  11. Those are all good ideas. I like to try to get rid of my old books on I've also recycled them in our recycling bin. Paperbacks can just be tossed in, as is. Hardbacks need to have the covers taken off. The covers can then be used for crafts or whatnot. Even the paper inside could be used for paper crafts.
  12. My mom worked for a different national bookstore chain years ago and the publishers had them tear off the covers and toss the rest of the book. Employees could take them home if they wanted to, so I had a LOT of books with missing covers. It is hard to toss books out for me as I love them so much. But, some books DO reach the end of their life. Although, I did see someone selling cupcake holders (need another liner inside) that were made from the pages of books. THAT could be something cool to do.

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