A group of Western University students want to turn textbooks back into trees.
Bryan Gold, Olivia Kitevski and Josh Martow are the founders of Textbook Forest. Starting this September, they plan to re-sell used textbooks at prices more affordable for students and plant trees in London along the way.
According to Gold the seed for the idea was planted during a group project at school.
In a digital creativity class, Media, Information and Technology (MIT) students were instructed identify a problem and solve it.
“Textbooks are just so expensive,” Gold said. “The store buys them at 30 percent of their value and sells them at 75 percent plus tax. So this just started as a way to fix the textbook problem.”
Gold and Kitevski decided the idea had potential beyond a good grade, so they called in Josh Martow, in his third year of medical science studies to tap his web design experience.
“I had just come back from a two-week trip to Vietnam and Cambodia,” Gold said. “The people there are so in touch with nature and there’s so little of that here, especially around the Western campus. The kids on the islands are so poor but they’re happy with what they have.”
They plan to offer a small stipend for books that are donated in good condition.
Doing it on campus is out of the question, since there are sanctions against creating competition for the official bookstore.
They considered just creating a network that could facilitate textbook exchanges between students, but Kitevski said the company would not have been able to sustain itself under that model.
“If you cut yourself out, you don’t have the opportunity to do good.”
More than that, they saw the potential to “give back” to the community through environmental means. For every book that is donated and every book they sell, Textbook Forest will plant a tree in London.
The students plan to meet with ReForest London this week to talk about sourcing saplings. They’re looking to partner with MillionTrees.ca.
“It’s kind of like textbooks are going back to their roots,” Martow said. “And we could potentially save trees by preventing textbooks from being made that are unnecessary.”
Since founding the company, putting up their pre-launch website, www.textbookforest.ca, and a Twitter account (@textbookforest) the group has grown to include several more students.
The plan is to connect with other organizations in the London community over the summer in order to branch out a network of locations where the textbooks can be exchanged, maybe drop-boxes or pick-up and delivery spots.
They say the market is there. The student population at Western is about 40,000.
“There is a huge audience out there to capture.”