Most of us have a collection of old, dog-eared books sitting around the house, collecting dust — expensive volumes crying out to be read, but which find themselves eventually tumbling into the garbage bin instead of a reader’s arms. 

Worse still, buying and shipping new books has its drawbacks, creating a carbon footprint from production to delivery that contributes significantly to CO2 production. The supply chain logistics of storing and shipping books has seen even lean online retailers struggle, with major Australian bookseller Booktopia this week calling in the liquidators.

A new Sydney start-up, however, says it might have the solution, offering a way to sell and recycle old books with less damage to the environment, while helping Australians offset the cost-of-living crisis.

Ourlit: an Australian website — which has recently launched on mobile – where users can sell and buy pre-loved books locally, is building communities of literature lovers and keeping sustainability at the forefront, according to co-founder Elisabeth Sanson. 

“The goal is to connect folks and help them save some money on books, reduce some waste, and reduce emissions from shipping because we’ve got local pick-up,” she said.

“In our society, I feel like consumerism is a huge thing, right? It’s like ‘give me all the stuff’. Why can’t we just use less? That’s why I love the idea of a book marketplace. Let’s just reuse the things that we have.”

I just feel like protecting and preserving the Earth, is not really top of mind for people a lot of the time.

Ourlit is much like a second-hand bookshop: sellers put their books online for a price of their choosing, and listings appear based on genre preferences and in suburbs closest to you. Once that book is selected and bought, the buyer can choose to collect the book directly from the seller. 

While the service does offer shipping for books that are outside your area, it does eliminate unnecessary shipping costs and emissions, and local delivery is far less wasteful. 

Sanson and co-founder Will Smith struggled to find good quality books to read, often buying items overseas with increased prices due to shipping, yet fuelling the production of emissions in the production and delivery process. 

For Sanson, it was personal. The emissions produced from shipping and production, and thus the pressures being placed on the environment, weighed heavily on her mind, stemming from her background as an environmental undergrad student in the US. 

“It [sustainability] means so much to me,” she said. “I just feel like protecting and preserving the Earth, [is] not really top of mind for people a lot of [the] time.”


According to Words Rated, 16,000 truckloads of books are wasted every year without being read, equating to 10 million trees being wasted. On top, of this a book’s carbon footprint ranges from 1kg to 7.5kg of CO2e, not including any emissions produced via shipping. 

Across the board, global shipping produced 706 metric tons of CO2 in 2022, rising after a sharp decline in 2020. Paper production and waste are expected to double between 2010 and 2060, and the environmental impacts associated with paper waste, production and distribution are becoming more prevalent.  

“I don’t ever see it being like a replacement for like, a physical shop,” said Sanson. “There’s something so nice about walking in and smelling the books, and talking to the person who’s there and that’s a whole experience, right? That’s something that an online service can never recreate.

“But something that we can really do for people is to take all the aspects of that, that we possibly can, and make it as quick as possible to list and buy a book, right? So you can still have that experience and browse.”

To check out Ourlit CLICK HERE.

Main image Canva montage of supplied image and screenshot.