Which is More Environmentally Friendly? E-Readers VS. Print Books

I stare at my bookshelf. Four rows are packed end to end with books. They tower over me. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer all stick out as I decide how I can move them all out of this apartment and into the U-Haul. Getting them all in here was tough enough, but I’ve added to my collection since then.

I’m going to need a box for all of my poetry books and literary magazines…and maybe two or three more boxes for all of my fiction novels. My head turns toward my desk, eyeing the two stacks of anthologies and other books I bought for my classes this semester. And a box for those too, I guess.

I wish I still had my Kindle.

E-readers: the “future” of books. I bought one a few years back for school. We read novels instead of textbooks in most of my classes, so I figured it’d just be easier to download them on the Kindle than having to carry around 10 novels every day. I found out fast enough that it wasn’t for me. I felt like a ninety-year-old trying to figure out how to mark pages and highlight anything, plus half of the books I needed for class weren’t available to download.

My Kindle phase was short-lived, and helped me realized how much I loved my old fashioned books. Flipping a page and being able to run your fingers over the clean, smooth paper is something that can’t be replaced with a screen.

But, the Kindle is easier to carry. The smartphones and Kindles can store hundreds of books, which means that if I had one, I wouldn’t be sitting here on my floor, trying to figure out how many trips bringing my books down is going to take me.

Besides the ease of carry, I’ve heard that they are more environmentally friendly than regular books. This seems like the environmentalist book lover’s dream: being able to read as many books as you want without the long paper trail. But it’s not that simple. Just about a million different factors go into whether reading print books or reading from an e-reader is better for the environment, including manufacturing, materials, usage, and disposal. Even if an e-reader saves us about 150 sheets of paper, it’s possible that the fossil fuels used to create the device offset the reward.

Manufacturing just one e-reader takes up around 100 kilowatt hours of fossil fuels and creates over 65 pounds of carbon dioxide. Book manufacturing, on the other hand, only uses up two kilowatt hours of fossil fuels and produces under 17 pounds of carbon dioxide. But this doesn’t mean that print books take the lead for environmental friendliness: they threaten deforestation around the world, and the production of the ink used often puts harmful chemicals into our atmosphere. The same goes for the materials used to create them. E-readers use up almost 50 times more pounds of minerals and 40 times more water than a book made from recycled paper.

I stand up and look at my progress: the pieces of my disassembled bookshelf surrounds the six cardboard boxes. I try to lift one of the boxes and it won’t budge.

What’s the point of filling these boxes if they’re just going to be too heavy to move? It’s like I’d need double the boxes only filled up halfway for me to be able to carry any of them.

 The pieces of my bookshelf seem less daunting, so I pick those up and pile them neatly next to me bedroom door, putting all the small screws and hardware into an old plastic Target bag.

In a Huffington Post blog article, I read that “the energy, water, and raw materials needed to make a single e-reader is equal to that of 40 to 50 books. In terms of the effect on the climate, the emissions created by a single e-reader are equal to roughly 100 books.” This means that reading 100 books on your e-reader and 100 books in print will have the same impact on the environment, as long as you don’t upgrade devices. But if the average American adult only reads around twelve books each year, it would take over eight years reading on the same e-reader to get the environmental use out of it.

It seems to me that e-readers are clearly not the more environmentally friendly option for the average American, but if that’s the case, then why do so many people have them?

The appeal is simple: an easily portable device that you can store hundreds of books on. You can read whatever you want whenever you want, without having to take a trip down to the closest bookstore or waiting for it to come in the mail. It probably makes sense to have for those people who read upwards of 50 books a year. But for the rest of the country who only reads 12, the environmental benefits don’t seem to apply.

Reduce, reuse, and recycle is the motto. Sharing print books and e-readers is one of the best ways to cut down the carbon footprint. And for those towns that still have one, the library can be a magical place.

Recipe #1 / Quinoa Bean bowl

So, along with book reviews and creative writing, I have a “Personal” section of my blog where I post the kind of stuff that doesn’t fit into my other categories. If you read my Hello 2017 post, then you know that one of my goals for the new year is to eat cleaner. I’m really not a good cook, so finding new and yummy recipes that I can easily make at home proved more challenging than I had anticipated. However, I found a few good ones that I love, so I’m going to share them here in case anyone else is like me and has a really hard time finding easy recipes. This is my first one, and it’s a quinoa bean bowl.


What you’re going to need:

  • 1/2 cup quinoa (you can use any kind, I used a tri-color mix)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 can of black beans
  • 1/4 can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 1 ring of onion (you can use red or white, I used white because it’s what I had in my fridge)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste, and any other types of seasoning / spices you want

 

Directions:

  1. Put the water and the quinoa in a pot and bring it to a boil. Then once it’s boiling, turn it on low and simmer for about 10-15 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed / evaporated. (While my quinoa was simmering I put in some salt, pepper, and a little bit of Cajun seasoning because I like the little bit of spice).
  2. Cut up just a ring or two of your onion along with the clove of garlic. Put them in a pan with the olive oil and sauté them for about 5 minutes, or until the garlic turns a light brownish color.
  3. After you drain your black beans and chickpeas, take them and throw them into another sauce pan on low, just to warm them up a little bit. (This part is optional, I just like my beans warmed up, you can totally put them in cold if you want).
  4. Slice up your avocado any way you’d like, I cut mine into little bite sized pieces.
  5. Once the water has evaporated / absorbed into the quinoa, you can take the sautéed onions and garlic and the warmed up beans and put them both into the pan with the quinoa and stir it around and serve it, or you can keep them separate like I did and add them into your bowl one at a time.
  6. Once your hot ingredients are in your bowl, put the avocado in there, and top it off with some salt and pepper!

I love this dish because it’s super easy, it’s got a lot of good protein from the beans and the quinoa, and I still have another bowl left over I can make today for lunch. Eating healthy may seem really difficult with all the intricate recipes people put online, but starting out as a beginning I think this dish is a win!

Hello 2017

2016 was a roller coaster of a year. We lost not only a multitude of amazing and talented celebrities including David Bowie, Harper Lee, and Alan Rickman, but we also lost many others during the Pulse nightclub shooting and the destruction of Syria. Even though these things are completely heartbreaking and terrible, I don’t want to forget all of the good things that happened in 2016 as well. Because of the ALS ice bucket challenge a LOT more money has been donated and they’re closer to finding a cure, Hillary Clinton became the first woman ever to clinch a major-party endorsement for POTUS, and (even though the construction is allowed to continue) they cannot build the Dakota Access Pipeline in one area of North Dakota where a Native American tribe currently lives.

I know that the bad seems to outweigh the good, but progress is made slowly.

As for me, I am taking matters into my own hands to make sure I have the best 2017 I can have. After years of only half-heartedly committing to any type of resolution (except quitting smoking, so glad I cut that out) I felt that I really needed to focus my energies into becoming a better “me.” So, without further ado, here is my list of 2017 New Year’s Resolutions.

♦ Read (at least) 35 books.

During 2016, I think I read a total of 22 books? (I honestly didn’t keep track the way I should have). This year, I’m using the Goodreads challenge to make sure I log the books when I read them. I really want to read more books this year than I did last year because I felt like I didn’t really put aside any time for me to just be with myself and really submerge into my books, and also because I want to write some more reviews on them for this blog.

♦ Keep a morning + nighttime routine.

I am the worst with keeping routines up. I always forget to put in my retainer, or wash my makeup off, or floss at night (I know it’s super gross). I want to get myself into a good routine because it’ll not only be better for my skin and my teeth, but going through that routine every day will eventually let my body know that it’s either time to wake up, or time to get ready for bed.

♦ Work out more.

Okay, so this one’s pretty obvious for everyone. Summer time is only a mere six months away and everyone wants to look good in their swim suits, right? Well, yes and no. Of course I want to look strong and toned in my bikinis, but that’s not why this is on my resolutions list. As many of you don’t know, I have a small heart condition in which the valve between my heart’s upper chamber and the lower chamber doesn’t close properly, sometimes causing blood to be pumped backwards. It’s very common and very mild, so it doesn’t affect my day-to-day life. I also have a condition known as POTS: Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. With this condition, when I stand up the volume of blood flow that occurs is extremely low, causing many symptoms including lightheadedness, fainting, and rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fatigue, inability to exercise, anxiety, or blurred vision. This is the real killer for me. Every time I’ve gone to workout I’ve gotten anxious, my heart beats extremely fast and I get very dizzy. I’m hoping that this is something that I can beat this year because it’s held me back from so much.

♦ Eat cleaner.

This ties in a little bit with the exercising above, but not too much. I’ve decided to try vegetarianism. Part of the reason I want to do it comes from the compassionate / animal care side, while the other part stems from my health. I’m taking this in baby steps, and I bought a really great cookbook off Amazon called The $5 a Meal College Vegetarian Cookbook: Good, Cheap Vegetarian Recipes for When You Need to Eat (Everything Books)” and it’s amazing. I love this cookbook because it’s not overly fancy, but it does have some interesting recipes that require a little more than just your average lunch.

♦ Embrace minimalism.

Lastly, minimalism. I’ve been in love with the minimalistic art style every since I could remember. With having this on my resolutions list, I want to not only use that style for my own home decor and aesthetics but also embrace the ideas that come along with minimalism. Using less, donating things I don’t need, detaching myself from inanimate objects (like my phone). I’m not going to completely throw all my material possessions away and only wear like three shirts or anything like that, but I’d like to get into the idea of “freeing myself” from these possessions.

 

 

Who Can Live Off It?

Minimum Wage Jobs and the People Who Work Them

 

There I stood: a sixteen year old girl behind a cash register, brown apron and visor to match, starting my first job. The smell of freshly brewed coffee wafted through the store as I looked at the racks of sugary donuts behind me. I was optimistic, excited, and confident in my skills after watching the few required hours of video training. The videos helped me learn the ways of the register and the coffee machines, but I was left confused and speechless when a customer went out of his way to tell me our donuts were always “disgusting and stale.”

Fast food, restaurants, bars, gas stations, retailers–I’ve worked in them all. In my five years of being a worker, all of my jobs have been part-time, minimum wage. When I first started I was making $7.25 an hour, and I thought it was amazing. It gave me enough money to start a savings account while still having some left over to go to the mall with my friends. But I know that’s not the case for everyone.

Minimum wage started in the United States through President Franklin Roosevelt in 1938 at just 25 cents per hour to make sure that the people working were making enough money to live on. The highest it has ever been was when it was just under two dollars in 1968 ($8.54 in current dollars). The minimum wage doesn’t rise with the inflation of our money, so fortunately, many presidents have increased it slightly over the years to bring it to the $7.25 it is currently. However, that $7.25 still isn’t enough for most workers.

No one can live off minimum wage anymore. The most hours per week a part-time employee making minimum wage can work is 30, which means that if the federal minimum wage is $7.25, the most these workers can get paid is $217.50. If we take that $217.50 and assume the employee works exactly 30 hours every week for the entire year without missing any shifts, they will make exactly $11,341.08 per year, which is still under the United States’ poverty level of $11,880 for just one person–never mind if they are raising a family. And that’s even before taxes get taken out of each paycheck.

When FDR worked with Congress to pass the minimum wage bill almost eighty years ago, his goal was for every working citizen in the country to make enough money to live comfortably. In 1938 the night before he signed the Fair Labor Standards Act that created the federal minimum wage, in his Fireside Chat he said, “Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day, who has been turning his employees over to the Government relief rolls in order to preserve his company’s undistributed reserves, tell you – using his stockholders’ money to pay the postage for his personal opinions — tell you that a wage of $11.00 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry.”

Many states actually have their own minimum wage. Twenty-nine out of our fifty states have set their minimum wages higher than the federal, and a few of the states have actually set their wages lower. A lot of this has to do with each state’s living wages and taxes. I live in Connecticut for example, and the Public Act 14-1 states that our minimum wage will rise to “not less than ten dollars and ten cents per hour” by January 1, 2017. Even some of the bigger cities in the States have created their own wages like Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, who plan to raise their minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020. 

Now that I’m in my twenties, I have to spend my paychecks a little differently than when I was sixteen. Some of it still goes into my savings, but that’s after I pay my rent, my utilities bills, my credit card bills, buy groceries, etc. I’m still working a part-time minimum wage job, and I’m finding it harder and harder to have any substantial “leftover” money that I can tuck away in my savings–but I’m still lucky. There are people who are paying everything I am plus however much having a family costs. The groceries, the utilities–almost everything they have to pay for will be at least two or three times the amount of what I pay.

Minimum wage jobs were made for entry-level employees to work their way up to either promotions within their company or getting a better paying job. Because of this, the adults who end up working minimum wage jobs are stigmatized. “Some customers think you’re stupid because you’re behind the counter, but I have an education,” said Dre Finley in an interview with CNN. Finley is a twenty-four year old with an associates degree who works at an Arby’s in Florida, earning the minimum wage. A lot of people think that minimum wage jobs are only for those who haven’t gotten degrees, but with the average minimum wage worker being 35 years old, it’s not an issue of education but one of opportunity.

The large number of people getting trapped in entry-level jobs is at least partly the fault of the overall economy,” said Ben Casselman in his article for fivethirtyeight.com. Since there was a decrease in jobs, people took minimum wage jobs that they were overqualified for and ended up not being able to advance to a better paying job like they would have in better economic times. These workers end up stuck in a job that pays them well below the poverty limit with very little chance for career advancement.

And these jobs aren’t easy. More times than not your schedule is constantly changing. One week you might work twenty-six hours, and the next you might only work eight. Because of this, the paychecks are never consistent, which is extremely inconvenient considering you never really know how much money you’ll be making until the week of. The hours are not the greatest, either. You could either get a really good shift, like a normal nine to five, or you could work a closing shift where you don’t get out until eleven at night. At the job I have currently, every six weeks or so some of the employees (including me) work a few consecutive overnight shifts from nine at night to six in the morning called “floor sets” where we completely rebuilt and rearrange the entire store to put out new product.

If that wasn’t enough, most of the time the customers are extremely rude. That first incident was only the beginning of many more just like it. Whether the register was running too slowly, I couldn’t take their expired coupon, or they were just having a bad day, some people find it easy to just blame the person behind the counter.

Right now, there are people who cannot afford to feed their families even though they are working forty hours a week, and that is unacceptable. During the State of the Union address in 2015, President Obama said, “Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages…and to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”

From 1938 to 2015, it seems like we have only moved forward in our fight for decent paying wages in the United States. President Elect Donald Trump seems to have mixed opinions on how he believes the minimum wage should be handled. He’s been quoted saying that he believes the wage was too high back in 2015, but this past year he’s said that it should go up, whether that be through raising the federal wage or having the individual states decide themselves what their wages should be.

With about 20.6 million people getting paid near minimum wage, this issue is extremely prevalent. Trump and Congress cannot waver on a decision to raise the minimum wage–there are people who can’t afford it.

Where’s the Native American Superman?

 

A Look at Diversity in Books, and Why There Seems to be None

 

Often, the fiction sections of libraries and bookstores are absent of books written with a diverse main character. Memoirs and other nonfiction works that are written by people of color, people with disabilities, people of the LGBT+ community, etc., are great for teens to read because they show real life experiences of someone they can look up to. However, fiction books create new worlds with heroic characters, and if these characters aren’t relatable to the readers, they won’t read them.

Books are important, especially for adolescents and young adults because they contain characters that the readers identify with and look up to. However, they aren’t going to be able to identify with a character that doesn’t truly represent them. Being able to see that someone similar to you achieve or do something is empowering, but if a Chinese girl only sees and reads about white characters, she might not be able to associate herself with them as she could if the main character was also Chinese.

 

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Fault in our Stars, Divergent, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter: All these books are extremely popular, and their main characters are all white. “Where’s the African-American Harry Potter or the Mexican Katniss?” Matt de la Peña, author of six young adult novels including Mexican WhiteBoy and The Living, said during his CNN interview with Ashley Strickland. In fantasy and science fiction novels, the main character is almost always the hero, and the fact that strong and heroic protagonists are almost only being written in one race, however unintentionally, gives the impression that all heroes are that one race.

There are many different organizations and online groups who are pushing for diverse authors and novels to be published. Rich in Color, WNDB, and DiYA are just a few, all focused on different aspects of the readers and writers. Rich in Color dedicates themselves to writers and characters who are of color or from the First / Native Nations, We Need Diverse Books focuses on finding diverse characters in children’s books, and Diversity in YA obviously looks at young adult novels. Having a place where readers can find novels written by and / or starring diverse protagonists is extremely beneficial, especially since many bookstores and libraries don’t have an official section exclusively for diverse books in their stores, including Barnes and Noble.

Barnes and Noble is one of the most popular chain of bookstores in the United States with a total of six hundred and forty stores, selling everything from adult thriller novels to children’s alphabet books. Unfortunately, they don’t have a section in their store (or on their website) where you can browse just the diverse books. A quick Amazon search of young adult novels with minority protagonists brings you a good selection of books, but it’s still not the same as walking right into the store and getting what you wanted. This means that if you want to buy a book with an African American protagonist for an African American teen you’re going to either have to try to find one to order online, or you’ll have to search all of the fiction shelves in the store. Having to tell which books will have diverse characters in them just based on the cover is not an easy task—they can be misleading.

I’m not at all saying that there aren’t books out there with main characters who are people of color. However, even some of these books end up falling victim to the publisher’s commands. Creating cover images with models who do not at all portray the character is one of the ways that these publishers try to control the sales of the book. The three things that could happen to a book cover with a POC character are that the character is portrayed by a model who is white instead of the character’s race, the cover model’s race is purposefully ambiguous, or the character is just put completely in silhouette, says Annie Schutte, a blogger for YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association. “As a librarian, I actively seek out stories that feature protagonists of all races, ethnicities, sexualities, and backgrounds. But looking at the shelves, you can barely tell sometimes because the books featuring non-white characters fade into the background behind the eye catching, white faces that stare at you from so many covers.”

whitewash-liar
From Anne Schutte’s Blog Post

Some publishing companies are, and have been, getting away with white-washing covers of novels for years, and they don’t seem to be stopping. Some people could argue that since they are still publishing the novels, it doesn’t matter what the cover looks like—but I would not. If these companies continue to publish novels that have minority protagonists with white models on their covers, not only will minority readers not connect with the books the way they should, but also these companies will be showing that portraying a minority person as white is okay.

But is it all the fault of the publishers?

There are many lists online of the best novels of 2016 that include books with a diverse protagonist or books written by a minority author, however we don’t see them on the best-sellers lists. The question now is: are the publishers not publishing diverse books, or are the readers just not reading them? If the readers are consistently buying these books instead of books written by minority authors, that gives the publishers the incentive to keep publishing similar books.

Jessica Powers, an editor at Cinco Puntos Press, believes it’s not a matter of the books not selling, but how the sales are being represented. Since the best-sellers list is comprised of the sales of only a few bookstores, the list is skewed and can not be fully accurate. One of Cinco Puntos’ best selling authors, Joe Hayes, has sold over one million copies of his book to children in schools. Those sales aren’t represented in the best-sellers lists because they didn’t take place through a certain bookstore. She says, “I don’t think the problem is so much that people aren’t buying those books, the question is where are they buying those books and how can people be aware of that so that there can be an even greater transformation of publishing in the U.S.?”

And how can we make more people aware? Corporate publishing companies sticking to the status quo will continue to keep them wealthy, but that’s not their only option. Powers thinks “if mainstream publishers realized they could make money doing it, they would start publishing more. But for them to realize they can make money doing it, they have to start looking at the whole system differently and transform all of it.”

 

Playlist / Autumn, 2016

 

Autumn is a very special time of year. I’ve had many good things happen to me during the fall, but this season also holds some of the most painful memories as well. To me, autumn is the type of season that is all about slowing down, taking some time for yourself, and relaxing, which is exactly what my playlist emmulates. So go on a nice walk to look at the foliage and feel the cool wind on your face, or curl up in your bed with a pumpkin coffee and read your coziest book–just don’t forget your headphones.

 


For Autumn

Niall Horan; This Town
Lorde; 400 Lux
Arctic Monkeys; Do I Wanna Know
Lawrence Taylor; Waiting for Your Love
Blink 182; Home is Such a Lonely Place
Hozier; Someone New
Lorde; Glory and Gore
Lorde; Ribs
Arctic Monkeys; Knee Socks
Cage The Elephant; Cigarette Daydreams
Young the Giant; Something To Believe In
Young the Giant; Amerika
Neck Deep; December
Fleetwood Mac; Gypsy
City and Colour; The Northern Wind
Stephen; Crossfire
Hozier; Cherry Wine – Live
General Ghost; If Then
Billie Eilish; Ocean Eyes (Blackbear Remix)
Childish Gambino; what kind of love
alt-J; Warm Foothills
Shawn Mendes; Mercy
St. Lucia; All Eyes on You