As a child to an immigrant family, it would be commonly known that studying hard and working hard day-in-day-out was apart of the regiment. Being well educated was never questioned, but as society grows and continuously innovates, education methods will continually change and be questioned.

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” – Malcolm X

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As we’ve seen, the world is growing as a direct result of educating ourselves. With that said, how we attain that knowledge has also grown exponentially over the past few decades. Knowledge and information are two things that have never been so easily accessible as they are today. We are no longer required to attend professional schooling to learn something and work in that field. That’s amazing!

The Problem

Although education has shown tremendous results from the health sector to the technology sector, there are some flaws in the delivery methods.

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In 2018, 675 million print books were sold in the US alone (Statista, 2019). With this in mind, I want you to check in with yourself, ask yourself: how many times do I really read a book after I’ve bought it?

I’d say the average for any one would be a couple handful of times during the book’s lifetime. If 600 million books were printed every year and only read a few times each, don’t you think that results in a ton of wasted paper?

Compounding Effect

On top of those, there are those who purchase print books for pleasure. Institutions also use textbooks, and from a student’s perspective, there are usually 500 pages in each book and anywhere between 100-1000 students in a course. In just a single course, we can see up to 500,000 sheets of paper printed for textbooks. That one print book may not seem like a huge effect, but combined with others, that effect compounds.

It’s not to say that we shouldn’t purchase books, but there are now alternatives we have access to change the direction we’re headed in for education materials.


E-Books and Tablets:

The first alternative that comes to mind would be purchasing e-texts from book publishers or through an e-reader’s platform. Many educational institutions have made the step towards accepting e-text versions of physical print textbooks for higher education. Not only does this help out with the environmental factor in printing textbooks, but it also allows students to access their books on any electronic device. In ways, your back will thank you later for lessening the load.

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Used Books:

Although this may not be veering away from using print books, it is a step towards becoming a more sustainable learner. Since the books have already served their purpose with the initial user, they can be utilized by a chain of others. This way, for those that like holding a physical book, can in a sustainable manner while also saving some money.

Those with old books lying around can bring them to a book drive, thrift store, or gift them to family and friends.


From looking around, I’d think audiobooks are just as accessible as print copies of books now thanks to services like Amazon’s Audible, Kobo, Apple Books and Google Play Books. Again, these could be more accessible, given they can be accessed through your electronic devices. Audiobooks would also be very popular amongst those that would love to read books, but do not actually like reading.

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Remember, there isn’t just one method to attaining knowledge and information. As conscious consumers and learners, these alternatives can prove to be the first step towards creating a sustainable approach to education.

BONUS – Books About Sustainability:

For those who would like to combine sustainable learning and learning about sustainability, please check out the following books:

The Uninhabitable Earth

The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability – Designing for Abundance

The Human Age

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