Thursday, August 12, 2010

Are EBooks Really Green?

I came upon an article the other day that implied that EBooks are not as green as we'd hoped.

Raz Godelnik, co-founder and CEO of Eco-Libras, started looking into toxic waste issues such as materials used in EReaders and the recycling of such units:

"According to the EPA, Americans generated about 3 million tons of electronic waste in 2007. Out of all that waste, only 13.6 percent was recycled."

According to Raz, over half of that is shipped overseas for dismantling.

He also addressed energy consumption and environmental impact. (Only Apple makes environmental data available.) Raz compared life cycle conequences, too:

"When I compared the carbon footprint of the IPad Wi-Fi and 3G Model provided by Apple (130k CO2) with the carbon footprint of an average physical book ( 7.46 kg CO2...) I found a breakeven point of 17.4 books, meaning that in terms of carbon footprint, the IPad becomes a more environmental friendly alternative option for book reading once its user reads the 18th book on it."

He mentions that the life cycle of an EReader factors into the equasion as well. Raz points out the increased usage of recycled paper to create books has made them greener than in the past, and that both print books and EReaders are growing more ecologically friendly.

What's your opinion? EBooks still a greener option?


  1. Who ever suspected e-books would be anything but GREEN!
    But while I will cross the green treashold in no time at all, give me the multisensory experience of a 'real' book anyday.

  2. I have read much about ebooks but am still undecided in my opinion,
    I get enough hassle with a simple cell phone so anymore technology may confuse me even more,


  3. Guess I'll be guilty of polluting with all my electronic gadgets. Hope my iPad lasts a few years, though!

  4. I think it's sort of like the grocery store conundrum--paper or plastic. Neither one is a good choice! :)

  5. In Canada, they added an "Eco Fee" to electronics to fund recycling. And the consumers complain about it, because $3 on a phone, $.40 on printer cartriges ane $30-40 extra on a computer is just too much for their cheap asses!

  6. What an interesting discussion. Since the cost of manufacturing and printing traditional books is so high, the chances are slim that the industry would lean toward more expensive but greener printing alternatives. So it's discouraging that the carbon footprint isn't erased with ebooks.

    I know of one small publisher who works hard to reduce their carbon footprint. Little Pickle Press says, "We print and distribute our books and materials in an environmentally-friendly manner using recycled paper, soy inks, and green packaging ( using New Leaf Reincarnation Matte, made with 100% recycled fiber and 50% post-consumer waste, processed chlorine free, and manufactured with electricity that is offset with Green-e® certified renewable energy certificates.) We are at the forefront of publishing ebooks for children leaving as little carbon footprint as possible while educating and engaging children."

    Read more at their website:
    Little Pickle

    Thanks for raising awareness on this topic!

  7. You know...I can not remember ever putting a book of any sort in the trash. I've always passed it onto another reader, sold it back (college books), or still have it in my collection. Hmmmmmm.

  8. I have more than 18 books on my Kindle, so I guess mine's better than paper. Although, I probably read more than the average person.


  9. I don't through books away- they tend to be passed on or kept. I havn't tried e-reading really yet, so I have no idea what my opinion is on it. as far as things being green, maybe in time everything will be found a way around for recycle? but thats the future.

  10. Interesting. I've never really thought about it! And I've never actually thought about recycling books. So... I guess my answer is that I really don't know.

  11. I'm kinda of with Elizabeth on this one, although I haven't switched to e-books yet. Still pondering...

  12. Here in CA electronics must be disposed at hazardous waste centers. Seems like the term "hazardous waste" has some ominous connotations.

    Tossing It Out

  13. Interesting article. I don’t know which is greener, I just know that I still prefer the paper version.

  14. I don't know. I havent' jumped on the Ebook bandwagon. I just don't know if I will. :(

  15. For me it's more about space: space in my house (my bookshelves are bursting) and space in my luggage (can't carry as much as I used to.)

    So, for that reason, an eReader is the best option for me.

    The only down side is that eBooks aren't a easily shared as paper books, and I used to pass my books on to others when I was finished with them (because of said bursting shelves).

  16. What an interesting post - I hadn't thought about that, but it makes a lot of sense. I haven't looked into eBooks much, I enjoy my good old-fashioned paper books too much. :)

  17. Hi Diane .. I came over from Tony Eldridge (Marketing Tips for Author's site) .. we do forget that the cost of producing our techie products is probably more costly than we know .. recycling things seems to cost an arm and a leg too - shipping them here there and everywhere ..

    So the dilemma remains .. we want to move forward .. yet ...

    I love books and couldn't actually envisage reading a book on an eReader .. but I'm sure I'll change - I'd love an ipad!

    It's a good thought though - there are so many hidden costs in our world of commodities etc ..

    Thanks - Hilary