Digital vs. Print Media: Who is the Eco-Heavyweight?

The transcripts from a discussion on NPR yesterday are now posted (and making the rounds on Twitter), once again weighing the environmental pros and cons of both digital and print media.

The purpose? To try and determine which is truly more sustainable and therefore, the “better” option. The conclusion? Well, it depends.

Don Carli, a researcher for the Institute for Sustainable Communication took the pro-print approach, agreeing that print is energy intensive – but so is digital:

“There are also comparable and in some cases sometimes even greater environmental impacts in terms of energy consumption and other outputs in terms of waste. Toxic waste to the air, to the land, to water, from digital media infrastructures.

You have computers, data centers and server rooms that suck energy. You’ve also got to mine the minerals to make the devices. And, when you toss your old RAZR, it becomes e-waste. A multimillion ton toxic problem.”

Rita Schenck of the Institute for Environmental Research and Education, took the opposite approach. She believes reading news online is better… sometimes:

“Once you read several newspapers, say 10-20 newspapers, you have as much environmental impact as if you read and you took the whole life cycle of the electronic system.

When we start having the whole world connected electronically, it’s going to become really, really important that we find a way to move those electrons around cheaper, for less environmental impact.”

According to the transcripts, Schenck believes the most sustainable way to approach digital is by using renewable resources (i.e. solar energy), in order to reduce the environmental impact of electronic devices.  

So is there a clear winner in this battle? We’ll have to go to the judges for that…

Read the article in its entirety.

Learn about sustainable print solutions from Green Books N Binders.


One Response

  1. This is exactly why I am waiting to invest in an e-reading device.

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