Publishers don’t have to cut down trees to make eBooks and eBooks definitely cut back on the environmental costs associated with printing and distributing books. However, producing eReaders and tablets definitely take their toll on the environment, especially for consumers who are adopting new devices every six months. So the argument that eBooks are good for the environment is a grey one.
National Geographic has a piece today arguing that eBook adoption will help the environment, if readers read enough. Here is an excerpt from the piece:
The amount of paper used for books in one year was estimated at 1.5 million metric tons, and each book produced gave off an estimated 8.85 pounds of carbon dioxide. Study groups have found that the carbon released from eBooks is offset after people read more than 14 eBooks. For the life cycle of a device for reading books, the carbon emitted is offset after the first year. The savings in carbon emitted into the air is around 168 kilograms for the following years after the first year of use.
But according to Treehugger, readers have to read at least 100 eBooks to break even with their carbon footprint and there are environmental issues associated with recycling eReaders that print books don’t have.