Which is Greener: Paper or Digital? The Answer May Surprise You

Even though my brain is infused with a little too many toner particles, the Doc assumes that anything we can do to reduce paper consumption is good for the planet. But what about the significant impact of digital waste?

Even though my brain is infused with a little too many toner particles, the Doc assumes that anything we can do to reduce paper consumption is good for the planet. But what about the significant impact of digital waste?

For a fascinating read, take a look at this interview with Don Carli, the Doc's good friend and Executive Vice President of SustainCommWorld LLC and Senior Research Fellow with the Institute for Sustainable Communication. Here's a few highlights from Don:

"Other than pushing the 'cool' factor, one of the main selling points being made by marketers of eReaders is that they are greener than print. It is little surprise that the common view held by consumers who don't know the backstory is that going digital means going green and saving trees. Many are in for a rude awakening. When subjected to 'cradle-to-cradle' life cycle analysis, eReading is not nearly as green as many naively assume it is."

"There is no question that print media could do a better job of managing the sustainability of its supply chains and waste streams, but it's a misguided notion to assume that digital media is categorically greener. Computers, eReaders, and cell phones don't grow on trees and their spiraling requirement for energy is unsustainable."

"Making a computer typically requires the mining and refining of dozens of minerals and metals including gold, silver, and palladium as well as extensive use of plastics and hydrocarbon solvents. To function, digital devices require a constant flow of electrons that predominately come from the combustion of coal, and at the end of their all-too-short useful lives electronics have become the single largest stream of toxic waste created by man. Until recently, there was little, if any, voluntary disclosure of the lifecycle ‘backstory’ of digital media."

"Sadly, print has come to be seen as a wasteful, inefficient and environmentally destructive medium, despite the fact that much of print media is based on comparatively benign and renewable materials. In addition, print has incredible potential to be a far more sustainable medium than it is today… and a truly digital medium as well. Despite its importance to business, government and society, print has been cast in the role of a dark old devil in decline. Digital media has been cast as the bright young savior on the rise."

"Ironically the future of digital media and eBook readers is likely to be based on flexible polymer electronics manufactured using printing presses rather than silicon semiconductor fabrication technologies. In fact, the next generation of eReaders will most likely be digital AND be printed."

There is a lot more from Don that the Doc guarantees will stimulate your neural economy.

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