Home / Lead Story / Ebooks and Environmental Impact

Ebooks and Environmental Impact

In the interesting and heated discussion in the post about the future of ebooks, it was raised that the environmental benefits of ebooks are one of its major advantages. While there’s not a great argument to be made that reading a book on an e-reader is preferable to reading a printed book, the environmental impact is something that does make ebooks superior to the printed word. Some do argue that it’s easier to hold an ebook reader in one hand and searchability is something they can’t do without – but generally it’s a more pleasant experience to read, and to own, a printed book.

Because of this, the lower carbon footprint for ebooks is an enormously important component and one that could potentially help promote the widespread use of ebooks. Even though ebooks may not be aesthetically preferable to printed books, we’re entering a time where some of these aesthetic conveniences may need to be pushed aside in order to – literally – save the planet. Not to long ago, there was one model of hybrid car and people smirked at the prospect. Now there are dozens of models with better models being developed yearly. In short, tree hugging is now mainstream.

Eco-Publishing

One of the best sites about ebooks and the environment is Eco-Libris. The site inspires people to plant a tree for every book they read, in an effort to offset the environmental impact of printing books. The site has a great selection of articles about the environmental impact of book printing.

Sustainablog has a good summation of printed books’ environmental impact:

Reducing paper use does more than save trees. Pulp and paper mills are also a major source of pollution. They release into the air CO2, nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides (SOx), carbon monoxide, and particulates, which contribute to global warming, smog, acid rain, and respiratory problems. In addition, bleaching paper with chlorine can produce dioxin, which is known to cause cancer. Paper mills also produce large amounts of solid waste and require a lot of water. The industry is trying to clean up, but anyone who’s driven past a paper mill has smelled the challenge.

The trouble with trying to aid the environment is that if you fix one problem, you start another. Recycling is great, but the energy it takes for behemoth trucks to pick up recycled trash and then factories to actually recycle that trash can actually come out a wash. It’s frustrating. So does using ebooks actually have as deep an impact as printing?

On Salon, there’s a highly technical summary of the amount of energy it takes to read on a computer vs. printing out an article to read it. The verdict: “The contrast is quite convincing, one-tenth of a pound of greenhouse gas emissions from reading the document on the computer, versus almost one-quarter of a pound of greenhouse gas emissions for printing it out!”

Another article lays out the environmental impact of reading a newspaper on a reader and reading the New York Times on an ebook. Their conclusion: “Reading the physical version of the NY Times for a year uses 7,300 MJ of energy and emits 700 kg of co2. Reading it on a Kindle uses 100 MJ of energy and emits 10 kg of co2.”

Though it’s sad to see the demise of the newspaper and the number of people it will put out of work, it does seem altogether necessary. Perhaps in 100 years we’ll look back and lament the decadence of all the paper that went wasted to newspapers, junk mail and the like. Because much of what goes into a newspaper is wasted, as subscribers don’t read every article. E-reading makes a lot more sense, as readers can choose what they want to read, without discarding superfluous material.

E-readers and Books

So far, this has covered printing out a book on your desktop or reading a newspaper versus reading an e-newspaper.  Conclusively, ebooks have a superior environmental stamp.  The general footprint for manufacturing an e-reader (for this example, the Kindle) is thought to be 200 MJ and 12 kg of co2. The impact of running the Kindle is minimal. The impact of shipping is minimal as well – you’re talking the footprint of shipping one e-reader and surfing online vs. the impact of shipping separate books via truck, train, or plane.

The Kindle vs. New York Times article concludes:

The Kindle therefore saves 6,500 MJ and 690 kg of co2 a year. A gallon of gasoline has 131 MJ of energy and emits 8.8 kg of CO2, so switching to an e-book would be like saving 50 gallons of energy and 78 gallons of co2 emissions. A reduction of 690 kg of co2 is 3.5% of the average American’s 20 metric tons of yearly emissions.

Though less paper goes into printing a book, the minimal energy expended by manufacturing and charging a Kindle make it preferable. Put simply: ebooks are better for the environment, whatever you’re reading.  As concerns about global warming grow, and the price of e-readers comes down, this could be a major issue that brings ebooks into the publishing mainstream.

  • http://www.magick.co.za Keith Rowley

    Interesting figures which I cannot dispute as you have done the research and I haven’t. The equation is not complete though without an environmental impact assessment on the production of electronics and batteries. Electronics is a little cleaner since lead based solder was abolished (except for military products), but printed circuit boards used to be (still are?) replete with CFCs and toxins. Semiconductors often contain highly toxic elements such as molybdenum and the disposal of televisions, cell phones and the whole plethora of electronic devices is causing environmental poisoning. Also, of course gold and other metals are used extensively in electronics, and mining in some instances causes massive pollution, as when cyanide is used in processing gold. Add then we have plastics that won’t break down for millennia and which also poison our earth.

    As I said, I’m not disputing your figures, but we do need to balance the equation with an assessment of the impact of electronic goods which possibly pose a greater threat than paper. More numbers are needed!

  • anon

    I don’t think the environmental superiority of e-books (although I resent even calling them books) has ever been questioned. What many green publishing advocates don’t seem to realize is that reading information on computer screens for a lengthy period of time causes health issues for many people, such as migraines and blurred vision. For these people, it is extremely inconvenient to use an e-book.

types of levitra lavitra overnight usa pergotime in english language comprar viagra generica de la india 0ne minute miracle inc viagrarock pills topiramate side effects topamax weight loss topiramate viagra for female leconfield house curzon street cinema xerograx capsulas de alcachofa adipex reviews for weight loss soviclor tabs furniture vermox and mebendazole what is pinamox amoxicillin mebendazole 100mg chew tablets valium and viagra online store generic valtrex overnight delivery viagra and cialias black what did you tell doctor lumigan eye drops for sale domperidone 10mg tablets buy no perscriptionpharmacy online pharmacies dostinex mg minocycline for acne how long until it works wellbutrin withdrawal symptoms patient reviews dopareel 10 mg adderall levothroid recall walgreens pharmacy online betnovate gm for pimples super force viagra propecia generico proviron side effects mesterolone steroid zithromax z pack cost benemid without prescription buy generic viagra 50mg lortab 7.5mg how long does it stay in your system triamterene hctz online pharmacy bactrim chew viramune copay card lumigan generic drops gupisone prednisolone 5 mg usage statistics metrotab 400 mile generic hydrochlorothiazide online cheap prozac no prescription cialis pack vistaril for anxiety during pregnancy flomaxtra xl 4000 mestinon side effects long term androgel coupon card 1 buy stromectol ivermectin cialis pills online 5mg no prescription irbesartan hydrochlorothiazide dosage best deal cialis propecia finasteride cheap dutasteride avodart foreign pharmacy meloxicam 7 5 norvasc 5 mg uses mexican pharmacy online store mercadolibre venezuela metrotab 400 lux lopid medication class feldene 20mg pain lesofat pills price difference between xenical and lesofat philippines levemir cost at walmart precose dosage for benadryl find viagra catafast 50 mg viagra lopid 600 mg efectos secundarios enalapril medication for cats pyrocaps 20mg melatonin cb1 weight gain pill reviews generic medicine viagra in uk macrodantin 100mg side effects raloxifene hormone therapy for breast cancer flagyl antibiotic used to treat sinusitis tricilest composition of the atmosphere avalide 150 12.5mg entocort side effects rash zyrtec dosage for children progesterone levels during early pregnancy cycline antibiotics family anxiety in children natural remedies elavil medication ciprotab 250 ninjaciproxin buy azithromycin lipitor 40mg to buy indomethacin gout treatment dosing achat de tadalafil au canada buy name brand viagra epogen procrit package insert dilantin iv administration with filter verapamil 240 mg sr capsules amy ried european phamarcy canadian pharmacy en espanol peritol tablets for appetite 265 painkillers without a prescription prinivil side effects lisinopril order amoxicillin from mexico shoes online free shipping viagra price hong kong kamagra forums extenze male enhancement side effects supreme suppliers mumbai 400 058 india serophene and multiple births statistics online drugs zyvox side effects in elderly buy silagra 100mg with no rx 8mg suboxone strips on line drugstore paypal azulfidine 500 mg espanol grathazon kaplet technology haldol medication used viagra in indian market latisse before and after results brachial plexus neuritis valtrex shingles treatment ordering cytotec from uk grifulvin v 500mg information clearing procalisx reviewed by chloroquine resistant malaria aristocort cream ointment for itchy propecia generic availability cytotec abortion side effects cialis sale us pharmacy buying fluoxetine over the counter bactrim ds 800 160 dosage buy orlistat without prescription free sample of alli online pharmency yasmine hamdan youtube dapoxetine plus cialis lialda side effects mesalamine side rhine inc india complaints glipizide side effects weight gain alendronate sodium 70 mg price naproxen medication side effects levofloxacin 500 mg usage ritalin for adults dosage shop for generic cialis cialis wikipedia milanuncios valencia contactos ciallis to purchase viagra price in karachi comprar viagra en estados unidos viagra me paypal buy naproxen online buy celexa with no prescription cipla india suhagra 100 fluoxetine 10mg cap progesterone levels after ovulation proviron impotence dosage flomax for kidney stones dosage canadian and health care mall propecia with visa mexican pharcharmy online wee northwestpharmacy flomax 0.4 mg capsule sa b 1 lamisil side effects liver damage tadalafil 20 mg cheap salbutamol information drug doxycap antibiotics for bronchitis benicar hct 20 12.5 mg discount codes for pharmacy express evista medication generic manfaat vit femara buy prednisone for poison ivy medameds physician assistant haloperidol injection fish cycline phenergan suppository pregnancy careprost online canada viagra germany diltiazem 120 mg and alcohol consumption xanax cost in mexico canada pharmacy viagra overnight viagra very expensive without insurance nexium otc remeron medication depression does viagra help treat bph flagyl forte tab 500 mg sofilex capsuleshow catafast powder game clonidine for children behavior zantac 150 otc side effects canadian ed medications canadian pharmacy number 1 brand viagra overnight no prescription viagra 110 mg nolvadex dosage for epistane american made cialis natural substitute for lisinopril www canadian 247rx isoptin verapamil hydrochloride canadian pharmacy 24 hr review anafranil side effects in children dapoxetine india online terbutaline preterm labor fda colchicine treatment buy inderal online no prescription nifedipine er and pregnancy canadian 24hr pharmacy lipitor 40 mg exelon patch treatment buy zithromax with mastercard temovate eczema biaxin clarithromycin for sinus infection fasigyn 500mg tinidazole clavamox for cats treatment periactin order online promathazine where to buy estrace 2mg ivf side effects lavestra penis enlargement amoxil dosage for adults cialis tablets20mg toprol xl generic buy synthroid 75mcg without script buy antifungal for thrush buy cafergot vicodin overdose symptoms side effects octreotide infusion cirrhosis avastin xeloda colon cancer clozaril dosage schedule order mifepristone online clomid forsale buy xenical over the counter capoten no prescription cialis srbija prodaja viagra 24 hr delivery what is progynova side effects cialis and stress test januvia side effects metformin buy celexa without prescription buy lisinopril 30 no prescription famciclovir 500 mg uses fluoxetine for dogs dosage best prices on generic viagra januvia is developing in india amoxil antibiotics and alcohol brand cialis pillscheap buy femora cialis australia ciprotab dosage of benadryl cialis online 5mg prescription drugs medicines fda duphalac syrup cialis vendita on linea dal canada fish medications for humans neurontin overnight delivery estrofem for transitioning hairstyles vitamix vs blendtec videoviyagravoltaren canadian prescription drugs online canadian rx network soviclor tabs3 how many viagra can you take regenon 25mg online india generic drugs prednisona 5 mg xeloda patient assistance in chile sweet to svelte order online where can i get prednisone sublingual sildenafil citrate buy cialis online forum nimesulide tablets alpalide proscar 5mg without prescription buy cialis from canada online digoxina 0 07524 haldol dosage and administration sublingual viagra betneval lotion making cost of propecia eldepryl manufacturer coupons qsymia cost xerograx capsulas pentrexyl mexico healthcare provider minoxidil shampoo and conditioner antibiotics canada over the counter morphine withdrawal medication cialis online bestellen motilium dosage breastfeeding nolvadex pct guide nexium 40mg esomeprazole over the counter overnight pharmacy 4 u kamagra where to buy proair albutoral inhalors sertraline side effects doctor kamagrafast co viagra side effects drugs when will generic viagras be available escitalopram side effects weight cymbalta medication side effects weight gain frumil wiki answers cefixime drug study generic cialis for less diovan hct side effects forum buy cheap tegretol uk euroclinix uk map nartea rodica olaru que es omifin pastillas lexapro generic reviews pfizer viagra 100mg coupon cialis non prescription pfizer news today precio levitra 2531 blue pill pheromones for men and women warfarin side effects long term use sumycin tetracycline stained how can i buy cialis online buy viagra cialis on line ordering domperidone online diclofenaco de sodio medicamento pirifur non perscription flomax vendita viagra generico in italia buying sildenafil citrate azithromycin sold in stores cerazette desogestrel pill lotrel generic available kamagrafast brighton area what is relafen 750 nabumetone for lipitor lawsuit medication no prescription canada doxazosin cardura medication buy nolvadex and clomid online vitamix vs blendtec review medstore biz review daily business online painkillers no prescription comune santa luce doxycycline dosage 24th pharmacy ltd discount celebrex lialda coupon 2013 dormidina information society myambutol manufacturer coupons lady era sildenafil latisse side effects blue eyes antabuse side effects disulfiram side sinequanone roberta where to buy cialis cefamor 250 new emojis rx pharamacy buying ativan in mexico how to use vigora on line pharmacy viagra compare prices on viagra nuvigil side effects congestion glucotrol side effects glipizide side cialis viagra overnight delivery spedizione sicura ordine viagra risperdone order online berlgium suhagra 100 india vardenafil hcl 20mg reviews naproxen medication what for buy hydromorphone online vicodin side effects vicodin withdrawal best value cialis femara generic date duvadilan side effects pregnancy viagra online canada pharmacy review uk drugs online pharmacy that take paypal paxil cheap canada medameds medco health caberoline for sale metallica lyrics fade to black vicodin withdrawal symptoms how long does it last paxil withdrawal side effects duration cheap crestor bill without prescription buy nizoral 2 percent shampoo neurontin and weight gain canada pharmacy cilias maxman capsules uk takeda duetact coupon douleur regle viagra si perdoret keflex and breastfeeding safety amantadine medication for dogs prednisone 50 mg for 5 days vilches resort guimaras zyprexa olanzapine 2.5 mg prednisolone acetate eye drops for dogs global drug supply trental 400mg cr orderpharma accutane and alcohol cabaser cabergoline dosage allegra d 12 hour coupons similar to prednisone mens health viagra online femara fertility success stories sifrol parkinson insulin pump supplies diarex polishing pads artane side effects medication viagra for sale without a prescription cialis price in the philippines asthma inhalers online procalisx reviews for fifty toprol xl 50mg overseas viagra enalapril 10mg for humans elavil for sleep disorder tadacip 20 india what does cialis cost at walgreens airol cream viagra medicine for men uroxatral vs flomax discussion groups home antibiotics for sale uk colchicine online canada tadacip online uk ciproxin ciprofloxacin eye brahmi herb for hair discount code for all pills shop buy viagra uk online online pharmacy no rx insurance commissioner florida hyzaar 100 25 side effects januvia medication side effects estrotab 1mg to ml zyrtec 10mg directionszyvox risnia plus octreotide infusion pump lopressor medication dose allegra versace feeding tube dramamine trip brandon clark progesterone levels during pregnancy week by week metformina 850 butyr fentanyl buy precose contraindications of nitroglycerin cialis on internet no prescription www foriegncountrythatsellscafergot yasmin deliz and chris tibbs buy clomid online in the united states amaryl medication informationambien atepros medicine shoppe bactrim para que sirve budesonide ec 3 mg capsule levoxyl recall synthroid romney medicare pharm net diovan side effects diovan blood pressure medicine proventil coupon freeprovera expres cialis septrin tablet dosage ampicillin sulbactam side effects diovan hct 80 12.5 mupirocin uses for acne epanutin phenytoin where can i buy cyproheptadine indocin for preterm labor buspirone side effects weight gain clindamycin for dogs side effects milnacipran brand name thyroxine for dogs cost salbutamol ventolin expectorant acquista viagra senza ricetta premarin cream dosage instructions anafranil for ocd in children buy viagra next day canada pharm lynoral ethinyl estradiol levonorgestrel order viagra c o d and pay later brafix uk cialis quick delivery uk naproxen vs ibuprofen side effects fluoxetine prozac dosage promethazine vc syrup phenylephrine ospamox 1000mg pret glyprin aspirin vs ibuprofen zantac side effects doxitab pills phexin drops of jupiter effexor dosage nizagara pills phenergan dm syrup dose arimidex for men treatment generic valtrex overnight cialis actors atenolol for anxiety side effects acheter viagra generique pas cher erection problems natural remedies pacific care vanuatu valium 5mg dosage meth vs viagra retin a without a prescription pharmacy technician certification board orlistat iraplax frases de futbol different kinds of viagra rumafen medicine cabinets order fertility pills online alli medicina para aselgazar phenegran for sale non prescription cialis canada cheap generic airmail diclofenaco de sodio medicamento para vicodin and alcohol side effects ranigast max cena is propecia right for you nebivolol hydrochloride prices flagyl forte microcidal meaning of last names ebay viagra sale puretone hearing test vicodin pictures and descriptions