Carbon counter: read them and cry


Even seemingly harmless hobbies like reading have a negative impact on the environment. Printed books are made from wood pulp which would otherwise trap carbon. Electronic devices depend on plastic and need to be recharged. But which one will do the most damage if you’re reading a book or using an e-reader? The increase in the materials used and the energy required for manufacturing and distribution demonstrates the benefits of the latter.

For e-readers, we plan to use some form of tablet, like an iPad. A book emits much less carbon dioxide than a tablet. But how you read it is important. Pandemics have driven demand around the world as people look for ways to be entertained, but different countries are consuming words written at different rates. Americans and Brits seem to read roughly the same number of books each year – between 10 and 12.

Some assumptions are also needed to compare books to e-readers. Large books contain more material and therefore consume more carbon to produce. Lex assumes a printed book size of 0.75 kg.

According to a UCLA study, the average CO2 equivalent of a physical pound is 4.9 kg. Therefore, UK readers can count 50 kg of carbon dioxide emissions per year as a reading habit. If you collect a library equivalent to 1,100 books that an average shelf can hold, Reach Over 5,400 kg. That’s twice the carbon dioxide emissions of an e-reader.

For big books, the breakeven point is small. The total carbon footprint of an e-reader is 20 manualsAccording to a study using academic books. If you use your tablet for anything other than pure reading, the breakeven point will drop again.

CO2 equivalent carbon footprint (kg) between an ordinary book and an e-reader

Due to the large share of renewable energies, the manufacture and distribution of tablets must reflect a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. A large library of physical books could one day become a high carbon luxury.

Carbon Counter is a series of Lex articles that explore how lifestyle choices reduce your reader’s carbon footprint. The rest Here..

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