Posted by: Burlington Public Library (WA) | February 28, 2013

Are you a green reader?

It’s tough to love both the environment and reading.  According to www.ecolibris.net (which is a charity that raises funds to offset carbon costs due to reading), 20 million trees are cut down every year to make paper for trees.  And would you believe every sheet of paper takes 13 ounces of water to make it so white?

The big question is, does digital reading decrease the environmental impact of publishing  and transporting over a million new books a year in this country alone?  It’s controversial, of course, and hard to measure – only Apple publishes the carbon footprint of its devices.

In general, researchers agree that if you’re only measuring reading itself, e-devices are WAY more green.  But if you include the carbon emissions required to produce the iPad or Nook or Kindle or whatever, the situation reverses: print books are the way to go.

But that’s based on the average adult reading rate in this country, which is, alarmingly, 6.5 books a year.  For those who read a lot, the equation changes.

Here’s the New York Times’ bottom line, taking into account the mining, production, use, and recycling impact of an e-device:

“So, how many volumes do you need to read on your e-reader to break even? 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.

All in all, the most ecologically virtuous way to read a book starts by walking to your local library.”

Well said, NYT!   What do you think?

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