At the moment it still feels like splitting hairs. I suppose yes, I think online news may be better for the environment, but not by much. According to the article linked below, less than half of the newsprint generated in America comes from recycled paper, compared to 80% in Europe. The electricity it takes to run a computer however, quite often comes from coal.
So, skipping the statistical details that seem pretty generalized considered different newspapers and magazine companies do things differently, it seems to come down to cutting down trees or burning coal? I vote burning coal, because I have more faith in the future of alternative energies, so might as well get a jump on it and go online to read the newspaper, and continue to support alternative energies until there is no doubt that it is better for the environment to do so.
And of course, I could be wrong.
I agree with the above poster’s final answer – I think for periodicals which are often consumed for a short period of time then disposed of, going online seems like a much more environmentally friendly way to go (and this is my opinion inspite of the fact that I have the New York Times delivered, and really enjoy the experience of reading a paper in the morning). I think it’s also fiscally more beneficial for the companies, as online content (one would imagine) is significantly cheaper to disseminate than hard copies.
I think the machines themselves (Kindles, Ipads, etc) need to also become more eco-friendly. A ton of paper is used to make newspapers, but many more plastic, metals, and minerals are necessary in the manufacture and transport of an electronic reader.
The KTH Centre for Sustainable Communications in Sweden conducted a study on the life-cycle assessment print versus web-based periodicals. Though the data was from Sweden and other European countries, the results were quite interesting. They compared the total costs, including the goods and services used to produce and distribute the products, for print periodicals, online periodical and periodicals accessed from an e-reader (like the Kindle). As user chelseaschuyler already pointed out, you’re looking at different costs associated with each product or rather, form of the product. The main environmental cost of the print version was paper, the main environmental cost of the web version was the energy used to access the internet, and the main environmental cost of the e-reader was the cost of producing it. However the study found that the e-readers had the most potential to decrease environmental impact based on factors such as the reading time, the longevity of the product, and so on. I won’t go into all of the details because it was a lengthy article, but it’s definitely something to consider.
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