Are E-Readers Good for the Environment?

According to a new study from Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, one in four American adults owns an e-reader or tablet today. As people increasingly gravitate toward digital ink, many in the environmental sector are watching and waiting to see how this trend will influence paper production and deforestation activities native to the publishing industry.

The advent of e-readers is still relatively new and ever-evolving, so the validity of the argument regarding the environmental virtues of e-reading stands—for now—yet untested. The question remains: Are e-readers better for the environment?

Both sides of the industry agree: For those looking to leave a zero carbon footprint and save a few bucks, the greenest option of all is to check out a library book.

To answer this question, two sides of the equation must be considered: deforestation and carbon emissions.

Deforestation

According to The New York Times, the newspaper and publishing industries in the U.S. cut down 125 million trees in 2008. If e-readers were to continue their upward trend in popularity, that number has the potential to drastically decline.

Carbon Emissions

The tech industry may not chop down many trees, but according to publishing veteran Nick Moran, one year of e-reading accounts for a carbon footprint five times greater than that of a year’s worth of print books.

So, What's the Best Option?

It depends on how much you read. The carbon-emission-offset organization Terapass reports that the carbon footprint of an e-reader equals about 23 books. So, if you read more than 23 books per year, e-reading is greener. If you read less, go for print.

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