February 6, 2023
E-Readers vs Physical Books: Which is More Eco-Friendly?
As an eco-tech enthusiast, I’m always on the lookout for ways to reduce my environmental footprint. One area that I’ve been thinking about lately is my reading habits.
You see, I’m a bit of a bookworm and I love the convenience of reading books on my Kindle. But for many years I’ve been wondering – is reading on an e-reader (such as a Kindle or Kobo) more eco-friendly than reading physical books?
To find out, I did some research and I’m now ready to share my discoveries with you…
The Environmental Impact of E-Readers and Books
When it comes to manufacturing, it’s important to consider the materials and energy used to make the product.
According to a study by the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, the production of e-readers requires more energy and generates more greenhouse gas emissions than the production of physical books.
However, it’s worth noting that this study was based on data from 2010 and the technology has significantly improved since then. The energy consumption for e-readers has decreased and the material used for e-reader’s production is also becoming more eco-friendly.
How E-Readers and Books Stack Up
Another important factor to consider is transport and distribution.
Physical books need to be shipped from the printing press to the bookstore or warehouse, and then to the customer. This results in emissions from transportation.
E-books, on the other hand, don’t require physical transportation. They can be downloaded instantly from the internet, which means zero emissions from shipping. (And no waiting several days for your book to be delivered!)
E-Readers and Books’ Impact After They’ve Been Read
When it comes to end of life, physical books can be recycled or donated to libraries or schools – while e-readers can be recycled or repurposed.
According to a study by the American Chemical Society, recycling paper books results in less energy consumption and fewer emissions than recycling e-readers.
However, it’s worth noting that e-readers can last for many years with proper care and maintenance, so the end of life impact can be lower if the e-reader is used for an extended period of time.
The Pros and Cons of E-Readers and Books
As you can see, there are pros and cons to both e-readers and physical books when it comes to eco-friendliness.
The manufacturing process for e-readers requires more energy and generates more greenhouse gas emissions than the production of physical books – but e-books don’t require transportation and shipping.
When it comes to end of life, recycling paper books results in less energy consumption and fewer emissions than recycling e-readers.
So, What’s the Verdict?
Well, there’s no clear winner when it comes to eco-friendliness. It really depends on the individual use case.
If you’re an avid reader who goes through books quickly, physical books might be more eco-friendly for you. But if you’re someone who prefers e-readers and uses a device for many years, this might be more eco-friendly in the long run.
Ultimately, if you want to be extra eco-friendly, opt for second-hand books or e-books from libraries. And if you’re done with your book or e-reader, consider recycling or repurposing it instead of throwing it away.
I hope this post has been insightful and will help you make an informed decision about your reading habits.
Remember, every small step we take towards sustainability can make a big difference in the long run.
Connect with Craig on Twitter.