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Old vs New

February 23, 2011

I receive a newsletter about acting green in my e-mail entitled, “One Simple Act.”  This time the topic was reading and our varied options nowadays.  It was quite timely, as I was looking through my bookshelf for reading material.

Here is a section from the newsletter:

Whether you choose a real book or a digital book, they both have an environmental impact. Which is greener? It depends on the number of books you read and the various uses you can get from one electronic gadget.

 Each option’s environmental impact is concentrated in a different place. The biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the book industry is from paper production, accounting for almost 70 per cent of the industry’s emissions. For digital readers, the most carbon-intensive step is production of the device itself. The greatest impact of reading online is the energy that it takes to power the computer while reading or listening to music.  

Despite the initial cost of electronic book readers and the plastic used to create them, they can have a smaller eco-footprint than paper books. With an e-book reader, you can download books, newspapers and magazines from anywhere so you won’t have to drive to the bookstore to pick up the paper versions. To increase your green points, you can recycle your reader when you’re done with it.


I think that they really miss out on something here.  I have books that I have owned from my childhood, reading them again and again over the years.  I share books with my family and friends or donate them to the hospital when I find I am ready to part with them.   I have  sent unused textbooks to be used in third world countries before they become out of date.  Books that need to be recycled because they are no longer useful are not full of plastics and toxins that e-books contain.  I can virtually guarantee that people with e-book readers will not still be using them 15 years from now.  Paper is a renewable resource, plastic is not. 

  The newsletter suggests in the end that if I am not sold on e-books I can always hop on my bike to go to the library or the used book stores to reduce my carbon footprint.  I think I will wait for the snow to melt before I do that one and read Watership Down again for the 20th time, batteries not included. 

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