History professor Timothy Hall detests seeing his old textbooks and teaching materials going to waste.
“We all become attached to our books and hate to see them destroyed – even if properly recycled – especially if they can be useful to someone else,” Hall said.
With the help of Better World Books, a philanthropic, for-profit online bookseller, Hall and other like-minded Central Michigan University officials might be able to keep many of those materials in the hands of students instead of a landfill.
Last spring, CMU signed a one-year contract with Better World Books to place five of the company’s bright green book-donation boxes in five high-traffic campus locations.
The boxes were placed on July 2, and can be found outside the Bovee University Center, Moore Hall, Ronan Hall, the Events Center and the Towers Residential Halls.
Primarily, the contract was initiated to help CMU eliminate heavy materials from the campus waste stream, according to Thomas Rohrer, director of the Great Lakes Institute for Sustainable Systems.
Out of many potential partners, Rohrer said the university settled on Better World because of the company’s commitment to sustainability practices and its aid to four worldwide literacy projects.
According to Vice President of Better World Books Dustin Holland, materials that go unsold end up being donated to those partners. The remaining materials are then recycled.
Better World keeps a large portion of the profits from the donations, but CMU will collect 15 percent of the drive’s total earnings. The contract also allows CMU to give away 5 percent of its earnings to a literacy partner of its choice.
Dog Tales Inc., a charitable organization that aims to improve the literacy skills of children through the use of registered therapy dogs, will receive the extra portion. Department of Philosophy and Religion Executive Secretary Betty Lewis played a role in founding Dog Tales Inc. in 2001.
Other than CMU, Better World partners with 10 college campuses nationwide. The company began the book program three years ago and has a total of 1,200 donation boxes deployed in 26 American cities.
During the second phase of the Anspach building renovations, Hall and others were engaged in a massive office-cleaning effort. Recycling bins were placed out into Anspach’s halls to collect the unused textbooks.
In the past, similar office collections were held at the end of each academic year, Rohrer said. Many of those books were given away for free for student use.
English professor Susan Stan suggested Hall find a charity that would accept the books instead. While on a routine stop at a Meijer store, Hall saw a Better World donation box and found the solution.
Holland explained that one donation box helps save 58,376 gallons of water, 126 trees and 17 cubic yards of landfill space on average annually. For Rohrer, that impact made the partnership worthwhile.
“The whole credo of environmental sustainability is to reduce, reuse and recycle,” he said. “We like Better World, because they understand that commitment.”
Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to donate books via the donation boxes located on campus. Full donation boxes are emptied on a monthly basis.