E-Readers Trump Books
On Thursday, Amazon announced that it sells 105 e-books for every 100 print books. That’s a nifty gain for the environment, as long as each Kindle bought replaces the purchase of more than 22.5 new books over its lifetime, according to the 2009 conclusions of business-research group Cleantech. Its report (available only to subscribers) found that on average, the carbon emitted in the lifecycle of a Kindle is fully offset after the first year of use, since printed books have notoriously high materials, production, printing, shipping, and disposal costs. According to Cleantech, the appetites of the U.S. book and newspaper industries for paper resulted in the harvesting of 125 million trees in 2008.
Introduced in 2007, something like 8 million Kindles have been sold, according to Benchmark Co. (Amazon itself is notoriously hard to pin down on numbers of all kinds, including those related to the carbon footprints of its e-readers.) In its recent study of the environmental impacts of data centers, however, Greenpeace awarded Amazon an “F” for transparency, a “D” for infrastructure siting, and a "D" for energy mitigation. Check out the Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics here.