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Can Technology Help Save the Environment?

chloehashemi

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[image Credit: mccun934]

Next time you come across a Facebook ad or receive an advertisement by email, instead of having the urge to throw your laptop across the room, take a moment to consider the countless resources that may have been saved by producing a digital copy instead. Online, the reach can be a lot wider, essentially extending to people from all corners of the globe without the burden of environmentally harmful paper and ink, as well as the various transportation impacts as well. In this way, the internet can be great at limiting resources required for specific industries, especially when considering the time and materials which would have been needed to reach the same volume of people.

In terms of other ‘modern substitutes’ for the simple yet not-so-green pleasures in life, they aren’t always as miraculous as they first appear to be. An example of this misconception is the e-reader versus ‘real books’ debate. A commonly mistaken belief is that buying an e-reader of any kind will suddenly solve all deforestation issues which are caused from the publishing and print industries. However, what is often overlooked is what the production of the e-reader itself involves, and the impact this has on the environment, despite its long term benefits. A New York Times study discovered that a single e-reader must extract 33lb of minerals, including coltan, which is a metallic ore. The production also required 79 gallons of water and 100 kilowatt hours of fossil fuels, which equates to 66lb of CO2. In order to produce a book, only a tiny fraction of these resources is required, and no coltan is needed. Essentially, if producing a Kindle produces the same amount of CO2 as 30 books, then you’ll need to read that number on the device to break even. According to research conducted by the Cleantech Group,

"The roughly 168 kg of CO2 produced throughout the Kindle's lifecycle is a clear winner against the potential savings: 1,074 kg of CO2 if replacing three books a month for four years; and up to 26,098 kg of CO2 when used to the fullest capacity of the Kindle DX. Less-frequent readers attracted by decreasing prices still can break even at 22.5 books over the life of the device,"

In the online versus print newspaper debate, once again, it would be a misconception to assume that print newspapers are the lead pollutants. In actual fact, a large percentage of newspapers, especially in Europe are printed on recycled materials. It seems to be a combination of both online and print media can be a sustainable way to proceed. Electronic waste is now the fastest growing component of the municipal waste stream. It has been revealed that the amount of electronic products discarded globally has recently risen to approximately 20-50 million tonnes every year.

In terms of video production, online distribution of content seems to be a positive step forward. As distribution of video is the past has required a physical copy for each single video shared, a large quantity of materials was required to reach a large audience of people. However, with the invention of the internet, thousands of people can be reached in just 24 hours, with minimal impact on the environment. For example, video production companies such as Lambda, based in East Anglia, produce high quality content without harming the environment to do so. Due to the progress in the camera industry, cameras are now considerably shrinking in size, which means even less requirement from the environment to produce video content. With film being recorded on to memory cards as opposed to disks and tapes, even less materials are being utilised every year. This means messages can be spread to the thousands without leaving a considerable dent on the environment. Of course large movie sets can cause a considerable impact on the environment it inhabits, but that’s a different story.


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