When looking at the carbon footprint of books vs. e-readers, there is a short period of time necessary to make e-readers more sustainable than their paper counterparts. One tree can normally produce around 50 books, which would mean you’d come out more sustainable after reading 50 books on your e-reader. But one thing to keep in mind is the 600 coal-powered power plants in the US, meaning that some trees will inevitably be sacrificed to power your e-book. That being said, e-books don’t require a staggering amount of electricity due to good battery life, so the number of trees saved will probably remain around or a little under 50.
One tree can provide enough paper for 50-60 books, depending on the books and the tree. Therefore, choosing an e-book as opposed to a paper book keeps at least 1/60th of a tree available for other uses. An e-book requires no trees to produce, but the power required to manufacture and operate an e-reader uses up trees and coal along with other natural resources. If you take good care of your e-reader, don’t upgrade every time a new model comes out, and make good use of your e-reader by using it to essentially replace paper books, switching to e-books can be an environmentally savvy move. But continuously buying new e-readers and not using them to the fullest of their potential can actually be more environmentally damaging. All in all, the greenest move would probably be getting a library card.
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