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Students, schools and sustainability: great things happen when you put your mind to it

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Sustainability is an important cause for most bookstores, and it’s a key cause for us at Alpha Textbooks. Our business relies on the use of a major natural resource – paper. This is why it is important for us to continue to make our business environmentally sustainable, and to give back to the communities that support us.

Howard PlantingOne way that we give back is by participating in an annual tree planting event with our sister company, BookSwap Inc. BookSwap plants a tree on behalf of every school or school department that orders more than $250 dollars in book orders in one year. In 2015, the plant took place on Earth Week in Caledon, and in 2014, we participated in the reforestation of Tommy Thompson Park on Toronto’s waterfront. BookSwap has been donating trees to the TRCA since 2006. On the day-to-day level, we make a conscious effort to reduce paper waste in the office. There is one initiative, however, that is unique to Alpha: new in 2015, we now have a worm farm.

Alpha Textbook president, Howard Cohen, says that this is something he has always wanted to do, “I have a degree in biology, and I’ve always been big on protecting our environment.”

“A worm farm is an incredible example of the cycle of life. The worms consume any fruit or vegetable, as well as shredded paper, and turn it into fertilizer. This in turn will be used in our home and office plants, as well as our gardens. The worms will eat their weight in scraps daily and then turn the compost into soil,” Cohen explains. “It’s stuff that normally gets thrown out anyway. This way, it has a purpose. It’s reusable and sustainable.” And it makes great, nutrient rich, soil. All the staff at Alpha enthusiastically participate in the development of the worm farm, by using appropriate lunch leftovers to contribute to the compost.

What we love as much as the worm farm is seeing schools implement their own sustainability programs. Schools like Rowntree Montessori School and St. Mildred’s-Lightbourn School have noteworthy environmental initiatives.

Rowntree teaches students the importance of sustainability at a young age. Commencing in grade one, students learn how the recycling process works and what happens at the local recycling plant.

St. Mildred's

The playground at St. Mildred’s eco-wing.

St. Mildred’s has created an eco-wing at the school. The wing targets five specific categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, energy and atmosphere, and materials and resources. The eco-wing comes complete with motion censored lights, a daylight harvesting system, and a rainwater cistern.

Rowntree and St. Mildred’s have set a great example for students and teachers who wish to keep their schools sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint.


As many of you already know, the beginning of summer marks the beginning of Alpha’s BuyBack season. Putting books back into circulation is a huge part of how we give back to the environment. It helps reduce production of new books when there are many already printed that can be used again to teach, while offering reconditioned books to students at reduced prices.

This year, to bring home the message, a team at Alpha has been working to connect to the schools we visit and our greater community. We are aiming to remind them about the importance of putting their books back into circulation. It’s not uncommon that high school graduates bring us their books from as far back as grade nine! So this year, we’ve been working on reminding people to bring their books in early – the best time is at the end of June and in July. So, we hope to see you in the store with books to sell. Don’t forget to ask about our worm farm when you visit!



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