The Eco-Debate: Print versus Digital

Well here is something quite interesting…an article in Printweek (Nov 29th) titled: E-reader takes eco crown but print is still greener than online

The article shares data from Swedish researchers who claim “the environmental impact of one year of consumption of a printed newspaper is less than the impact of reading news online for more than 30 minutes a day.”


Reading on, I discovered that the research was sponsored in part by the Swedish Newspaper Publishers’ Association.  That made me a little suspicious, but let’s keep an open mind.  I’d like to see the details of that research because the story only skims the surface of what was studied.   If anyone has access to the actual research,  please send it my way…

Because I have some questions…

  1. Did the analysis include the gas needed to deliver the printed papers to subscribers and the amount of CO2 which would otherwise be processed by a full grown tree over its entire life?
  2. Did the research consider that computers are multi-purpose devices which make them, by nature, more eco-friendly than say a dedicated device like the Kindle?  It would greatly surprise me if Kindle users didn’t have computers at home and/or at work. How can buying two devices be greener than one?  Just consider the extra manufacturing and logistical costs of producing and shipping Kindle devices.  Shouldn’t we, as consumers, try to keep our devices down to a minimum for the sake of convenience as well as for the environment?
  3. As for the electricity consumed by viewing it on a device we already own and can amortize the environment costs across all of the activies we do on it – it just has to be less then running a printing press, producing ink, folding & delivering the newspaper – not to mention recycling (which is not energy efficient in itself by any means).

Anyway…intuitively, I don’t get their results.  It just doesn’t sound quite right to me.  What do you think?