Surrounded as we are by environmental awareness, I find myself re-examining things I've long taken for granted. For example, when I buy a box of rice, does it really need to have a package inside an empty box - wouldn't the package have been enough? I'm not a huge fan of junk mail, either - most of it goes straight into the recycling bin, though my wife has been doing most of her Christmas, birthday, etc., shopping through catalogs and loves them. The catalog companies are on to us, because I think we get every one under the sun.
A lot of people talk about ebooks being better for the environment - no trees killed, no paper wasted. I can't disagree with that argument; I'm a supporter of ebooks for a lot of reasons, but mostly because I believe we need to deliver our content in whatever format our readers want it.
But what of newspapers, magazines, and books? A lot of paper each year goes into the printing of these each year--and on recycling days, I see mounds and mounds of paper being recycled, including phone directories (does anyone use these any more, now that we have the Internet?).
As a society we have to decide where to put our resources, where our priorities lie. Call me a traditionalist, but I think that books are an excellent use of trees and paper. After all, for centuries they were one of the primary vehicles by which knowledge and research were transmitted - and they still are. I won't get into a defense of the printed book per se, because that's all been done before. What I'm getting at is more my belief that printed books, magazines, and newspapers are NOT wasteful. All of these printed items transmit knowledge, culture, entertainment - staples of our society, and of humanity.
Books, when unwanted, are eminently recyclable - don't clog up landfills - and don't leave behind toxic poisons that contaminate the soil for decades or centuries. And, fortunately, trees are a renewable resource. If some (or many of them) need to chopped down so that we can keep printing books, then so be it - they have served an excellent purpose, and more trees will grow in their stead. (I say this as a proud and sustaining member of the Arbor Day Society.)
We need books - therefore we need the paper they are printed on. I'm not suggesting here that paper is not wasted (how many of us print out all the emails we get?), but rather that, in the final analysis, books are an excellent use of natural resources. Then again, how could I do my job and feel otherwise?