April 6, 2010

More on the "green-ness" of books and e-books


The New York Times does a little side-by-side comparison here, of the ecological efficiencies of books versus e-books, using, “life-cycle assessment, which evaluates the ecological impact of any product, at every stage of its existence, from the first tree cut down for paper to the day that hardcover decomposes in the dump.”

Some fun facts:

“One e-reader requires the extraction of 33 pounds of minerals. That includes trace amounts of exotic metals like columbite-tantalite, often mined in war-torn regions of Africa.” Please note that those war-torn African countries are usually war-torn because of fighting over mineral rights.

“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.”

“The adverse health impacts from making one e-reader are estimated to be 70 times greater than those from making a single book.”

The Time‘s conclusion: You’d have to read 40-50 books on your e-reader to break even regarding fossil fuels, water use and mineral consumption. And, according to the Times, “When it comes to global warming, though, it’s 100 books; with human health consequences, it’s somewhere in between.” So, if you buy one of these things, you better dang well use it.

Their advice if your looking for the lowest impact read: Walk to your local library.

Valerie Merians is the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.