Have you ever considered your technology footprint and wondered how green is the e reader you love so much? I have always loved to read…I remember as a kid my dad yelling at me to put away the book/newspaper/magazine/cereal box, etc while I was eating. I remember staying up til 3 AM with a book while I was in high school and having to get up at 5 AM to shower for school. Family vacations were spent with my nose stuffed into my latest novel. NO, mom, I do NOT want to look out the car window and see even MORE COWS! The first 100 were plenty! I just wanted to see what happened in the next chapter. I was not lucky enough to have e-readers when I was a kid…boy that would have been amazing! But, would it be greener to still be reading those paperback books?
How Green is Your e Reader?
One e-reader requires the extraction of 33 pounds of minerals. (often through strip mining in impoverished areas)
An e-reader requires 79 gallons of water for production (mainly in producing the batteries and circuit boards)
A book made with recycled paper consumes about two-thirds of a pound of minerals and it requires just 2 gallons of water.
- An e-reader uses 100 kilowatt hours of fossil fuels and results in 66 pounds of carbon dioxide for production.
- One book, which requires energy to form and dry the pages, uses just two kilowatt hours, and 100 times fewer greenhouse gases.
- For both books and e-readers, there are health impacts from inhalation of emissions given off during production, transport, usage, etc. This emissions include nitrogen and sulfur oxides which can aggravate asthma and cause chronic health issues. The adverse health impacts from making one e-reader are estimated to be 70 times greater than those from making a single book.
- Transportation of books creates tons of waste and emissions. However, you’d need to drive to a store 300 miles away to create the equivalent in toxic impacts on health of making one e-reader.
- If you read at night, your lamp uses more energy than an e-reader but if you read during the day you can let the sun light up your pages for you with no energy use at all.
- Decomposition and/or recycling of both creates lots of issues! If your book ends up in a landfill, its decomposition generates twice the global warming emissions and toxic impacts on local water systems as its manufacture. If your e-reader is sent to a third world country to be illegally broken down into scrap bits, innocent women and children are exposed to an assortment of toxic chemicals. The best outlook is if an e-reader is sent to a state of the art high incineration facility that uses emissions controls and element recovery.
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OK, Well that makes everything as clear as mud, right? Books are starting to be made with soy based inks and recycled paper. The electronics industry is trying to clean up it’s act as well. However, there is still a lot we can do to make reading a greener pastime! So, the final analysis according to the NY Times:
“With respect to fossil fuels, water use and mineral consumption, the impact of one e-reader payback equals roughly 40 to 50 books. When it comes to global warming, though, it’s 100 books; with human health consequences, it’s somewhere in between.”
So, if you are a serious book addict like I am, an e reader is probably a greener choice than buying hundreds of books.
How green is YOUR reading habit?
Do you prefer an e reader or a real, made from paper book?
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Diane has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology with a Minor in Health Management and Policy. She spent many years working in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging as a way to share this knowledge with others. While passionate about health and the environment she can’t quite give up her favorite Cheetos and Diet Coke! Learn more about her HERE.