According to a study released by the Cleantech Group last year (and cited by Sam Jordison in The Ecological Case for Books), eReaders are greener than paper books. However, Kindle Stand suspects there may be too many variables to determine if buying a Kindle is really going reduce your carbon footprint. If you live a green lifestyle, your reading habits will determine how green is your Kindle.
Kindle analysts from Cleantech estimate that producing one eReader generates about 168 kilograms of carbon dioxide. (This doesn’t include emissions from reading a book.) The lifecycle of a single print book generates about 7.5 kilograms of carbon dioxide. By these numbers, eReader users would breakeven on carbon emissions after 23 book downloads. This is only 5 books a year for 4 years. Since the average eReader user downloads 3 books a month, the environmental savings seem obvious.
An article in the Washington Post showed that Kindle also comes out on top in water usage – 7 gallons to make a paper book, 2 cups to make an electronic book. Producing a Kindle takes about 79 gallons of water. After 12 books, a Kindle is once again ahead.
What the Cleantech analysis may not have considered is that most people don’t buy every book they read. The American Library Association reports that the average person checks out 7 or 8 books annually from the public library. And, if you own a printed book, you might pass it to a friend who in turn passes it to friend ad infinitum. People donate books for resale, swap books, and otherwise extend their usefulness for years.
On the technology side, many people upgrade regularly to new versions of electronic devices. As soon as you’ve trashed your old eReader, you’re back to square one in terms of emissions.
Kindle Stand Considers
Overall, there are definite environmental advantages to an eReader. Especially in terms of academics, where printed textbooks become obsolete in a few years, using eTextbooks on a Kindle is obviously a greener choice. As long as you keep your eReader around for a while, and use it as your main source of reading material rather than as a supplement to paper books, Kindle Stand thinks eReaders could help our planet clean.