Posts Tagged ‘Impact Assessment’

Make the whole world a library

One of the most common types of clutter is books. They seem to have a mystique about them that encourages us to hold on to them. Is it because we feel the sight of lots of (tasteful?) books on our shelves projects a certain image about ourselves? Or because we subconsciously believe that the proximity of all that knowledge and erudition will cause at least some of it magically to transfer itself to our brains? Or do we fear not being able to put our hands on a piece of information or quote that we’ve once read?

I used to keep all books that came into my possession. Stacked up on overladen bookshelves. I liked the idea that I could get a fiction book down if I wanted to reread a passage, and I held onto lots of non-fiction as I was sure the contents would be useful ‘someday’.

Then I joined BookCrossing. BookCrossers register books on the BookCrossing website, and write a unique reference number (a BCID) in each book, along with a message explaining how BookCrossing works. Then we leave our books in public places in the hope that whoever finds them will log them on the website. When they do, the finder’s message is added to that book’s ‘journal’ and we get an email to let us know. (Of course, we also pass books between other BookCrossers and people we know personally).

Released book

I left a book at Brighton railway station yesterday. I let you know if it gets journalled.

I don’t hear from all my books again straight away. Though I never know when I might. Nearly two years after I left The Optimist’s Daughter in a phone box in Dorset, having just finished walking the South West Coast Path, I got a message saying it had been to Brazil and was now off to Toronto. Who knows where it is now?

Other times, a book jumps from owner to owner quickly, with journal entries that make me laugh out loud. This Dictionary of Quotations & Proverbs was journalled several times in quick succession.

Nearly a third of the books I’ve ‘released’ have been journalled again since.

Soon I was pulling down books to release and wondering why I’d kept them all these years. I found books I was never going to read again, books I couldn’t remember reading, books that had moved house with me several times even though I didn’t even think they were any good…

It freed me up. Before I became a BookCrosser, I kept a record of the books I’d lent out and felt aggrieved if someone failed to return a book, or returned it in a much worse state that it was in when they borrowed it. Now I don’t care. Once I’ve read a book, what’s the point of it cluttering up my house? Chances are I’ll never want to read it again and, if I do, I’ll easily be able to get hold of a copy from a library or online.

Close up of BookCrossing release

Close up of The Meaning of Night at Brighton railway station. My note says "Travelling book. Please take. See inside :-)".

I haven’t completely let go. I now keep:

  • books I haven’t read yet (and am intending to!)
  • about a dozen of my absolute favourites
  • books set in my beloved home town of Brighton (only good ones though)
  • some classics (this is probably the least justifiable as they are so easily available)
  • recipe books
  • books I’m in (there aren’t many!)
  • coffee table books
  • non-fiction/reference books that I’m genuinely likely to use.

That’s the theory anyway. In truth, my shelves still contain lots of books that I could move on. Ah well, maybe I’ll shift some more when my bookshelves come up in my decluttering schedule. And I already have two clear shelves. Wow, I love the feeling of space that gives me.

And I never buy books, even secondhand. Most of my books come (and go) through BookCrossing and, if I find myself running short of reading material, a trip to the library, or a loan from a friend, soon sorts that out.

The only exception is guide books, which are tricky because they go out of date so quickly. The ones available to borrow from my local library are usually at least one edition out of date. So I do sometimes buy guide books when I travel. These days I Freegle/Freecycle  them or pass them to charity shops as soon as I get back, before they’ve dated too much. My old ones probably wouldn’t sell though. I have them marked as ‘available’ on BookCrossing (which tells other BookCrossers that I’m ready to move them on and it’s worth contacting me to see if I’d like to do a swap) and local Freeglers/Freecyclers sometimes ask for a guidebook saying that they’re only interested in the information on sights, so the age of the book doesn’t matter.

BookCrossing‘s probably not the LOWEST impact way of reading. We post books to each other, using (and reusing) jiffy bags and the fossil fuels involved in transporting them. Plus a proportion of the ones we wild release (i.e. leave lying around to be found) probably get thrown away by overzealous cleaning staff. Using the library has got to be lower impact. BookCrossing‘s fun though and makes you part of a community. Plus using a library didn’t shift my attitude to keeping books the way BookCrossing has. I didn’t expect it to be such a great clutter clearer when I joined.

Beware though. BookCrosser’s tend to be generous and, if you’re not careful, you could end up with more books than you started with.

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Launching greenandtidy

I’m Rachel Papworth. I’m a bird-loving, green-minded, semi-vegan fitness freak living in wonderful Brighton (on the South coast of England), within walking distance of the sea and the South Downs National Park. I’m blogging as part of the process of developing a new business, based on two things that run through me like Brighton runs through seaside rock: decluttering and reducing my environmental impact.

I’m proud that I live a relatively low impact life (at least for someone living in the UK). Using The Resurgence carbon calculator, I worked out my carbon footprint for March 2010 to March 2011 as 6.3 tonnes. That’s 63 per cent of the UK average. Yet I wouldn’t describe my lifestyle as radical or alternative. I’m not living off the land or opting out of mainstream culture. I even went on holiday (to Morocco) during the period for which I’ve calculated my footprint.

It is a clutter-free life though. I hate clutter! Always have. I used to try to make my younger brothers declutter their bedrooms when we were kids. Emphasis on the ‘make’. And the ‘try’. These days I recognise that people can only be helped to declutter if they actually want to. And that only they can decide which of their belongings actually IS clutter. 🙂

And, for me, decluttering and living a low impact life are inextricably linked.

I’m not complacent by the way. If you check out Resurgence’s carbon calculator, you’ll see that the sustainable global CO2 quota is only 2 tonnes per capita, so I can’t be said to be living a sustainable lifestyle. And I’m constantly finding ways to tweak my lifestyle to reduce my impact.

I recently realised that focusing solely on my personal impact isn’t enough to satisfy me. I want to make a bigger difference than that. I want to help others to live lower impact lives, and create spaces that they love to live and work in, and that work well for them.

So I’m going to launch a new business. A green decluttering company. I’m going to help other people reduce their environmental impact while organising their stuff and creating spaces they love to be in.

If you long to (or love to) declutter, and/or you’re looking for ways to reduce your environmental impact (without going to live on a commune), click on the link to subscribe, and watch out for the products and services I’ll be offering soon.

And please comment on my posts. I love feedback. And I’m always open to new ideas for ways to declutter and go green.

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