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Friday, June 6, 2008

Paper or Plastic?

E-books are supposed to be green, right? They are supposed to be an environmentally friendly solution to traditional print. Some colleagues from NACS sent me a really thought provoking article that appeared in the Environmental Science & Technology Journal last month. The article does a life-cycle analysis of print sources (books and newspapers) versus their electronic equivalents delivered on an e-reader. The author, Erika Engelhaupt, did some fascinating research into the topic. While a clear-cut solution to the question of "paper or plastic" was not forthcoming, I found the piece did give me something to think about in terms of assessing the short and long term environmental impacts of the two competing technologies. I thought the overall approach to the life-cycle analysis itself was quite interesting, particularly in these times where new devices (e.g., cell phones) come out so fast that many of us find ourselves moving toward increasingly shorter adoption cycles. I think Engelhaupts piece gives one a moment's pause to think about the true meaning and impact of green -- so that we might make more informed decisions, even if the answers or conclusions are not clear cut. An interesting read.

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