Recently, I've come across a few publications urging me to "go green" by providing my email address in order to receive the publication electronically. We all need to do our part, but I wonder if this is really an effort to reduce printing costs instead of reducing emissions?
Personally, I receive far too much e-spam to actually read. If it makes it past my spam filter, it quickly finds its way, un-read, in my trash folder. Has it achieved the intended effect if no one actually reads it? What are the savings there?
In terms of environmental impact, everything we do has an effect and should be considered carefully.
With a printed newsletter, you can read it at your leisure, and even pass it on to a friend who shares your passion. When it has fulfilled its purpose, it can be recycled and converted in to something new. The primary resource, paper, is renewable.
With an electronic version, it must first reach its target audience (if they even have a computer — not everyone does). Then, hope that they have time to read it, otherwise it may be "saved for later" and later may never come. Or it could be printed out on single sided paper, doubling the original amount required. Not to mention the challenges of de-inking this type of printed matter.
And what about the energy needed to power all these computers? Where do they wind up when we trade them in for our new ipad? Here are some depressing statistics: The gadgets Canadians toss out each year are estimated to put 4,750 tonnes of lead, 4.5 tonnes of cadmium and 1.1 tonnes of mercury into landfills, all of which are at risk of leaching into our ground water. And Environment Canada says this waste stream is expected to triple in volume over the next five years. How green is that?
If you want to read more on the subject, here's a link to a great brochure that asks "Are pixels greener than paper?". The facts may surprise you.