The Green Minds

Knowledge To Get Into a Green Frame of Mind

Archive for Apple

How Green Is My iPad?


With e-readers like Apple’s new iPad and Amazon’s Kindle touting their vast libraries of digital titles, some bookworms are bound to wonder if tomes-on-paper will one day become quaint relics. But the question also arises, which is more environmentally friendly: an e-reader or an old-fashioned book?

To find the answer, we turned to life-cycle assessment, which evaluates the ecological impact of any product, at every stage of its existence, from the first tree cut down for paper to the day that hardcover decomposes in the dump. With this method, we can determine the greenest way to read.

(A note about e-readers: some technical details — for instance, how those special screens are manufactured — are not publicly available and these products vary in their exact composition. We’ve based our estimates on a composite derived from available information. It’s also important to keep in mind that we’re focusing on the e-reader aspect of these devices, not any other functions they may offer.)

One e-reader requires the extraction of 33 pounds of minerals. That includes trace amounts of exotic metals like columbite-tantalite, often mined in war-torn regions of Africa. But it’s mostly sand and gravel to build landfills; they hold all the waste from manufacturing wafer boards for the integrated circuits. An e-reader also requires 79 gallons of water to produce its batteries and printed wiring boards, and in refining metals like the gold used in trace quantities in the circuits.

A book made with recycled paper consumes about two-thirds of a pound of minerals. (Here again, the greatest mineral use is actually gravel, mainly for the roads used to transport materials throughout the supply chain.) And it requires just 2 gallons of water to make the pulp slurry that is then pressed and heat-dried to make paper.

FOSSIL FUELS The e-reader’s manufacture, along a vast supply chain of consumer electronics, is relatively energy-hungry, using 100 kilowatt hours of fossil fuels and resulting in 66 pounds of carbon dioxide. For a single book, which, recycled or not, requires energy to form and dry the sheets, it’s just two kilowatt hours, and 100 times fewer greenhouse gases.

HEALTH The unit for comparison here is a “disability adjusted life-year,” the length of time someone loses to disability because of exposure to, say, toxic material released into the air, water and soil, anywhere along the line. For both the book and the e-reader, the main health impacts come from particulate emissions like nitrogen and sulfur oxides, which travel deep into our lungs, worsening asthma and chronic coughing and increasing the risk of premature death. The adverse health impacts from making one e-reader are estimated to be 70 times greater than those from making a single book.

If you order a book online and have it shipped 500 miles by air, that creates roughly the same pollution and waste as making the book in the first place. Driving five miles to the bookstore and back causes about 10 times the pollution and resource depletion as producing it. You’d need to drive to a store 300 miles away to create the equivalent in toxic impacts on health of making one e-reader — but you might do that and more if you drive to the mall every time you buy a new book.

If you like to read a book in bed at night for an hour or two, the light bulb will use more energy than it takes to charge an e-reader, which has a highly energy-efficient screen. But if you read in daylight, the advantage tips to a book.

If your e-reader ends up being “recycled” illegally so that workers, including children, in developing countries dismantle it by hand, they will be exposed to a range of toxic substances. If it goes through state-of-the-art procedures — for example, high-temperature incineration with the best emissions controls and metals recovery — the “disability adjusted life-year” count will be far less for workers.

If your book ends up in a landfill, its decomposition generates double the global warming emissions and toxic impacts on local water systems as its manufacture


Some of this math is improving. More and more books are being printed with soy-based inks, rather than petroleum-based ones, on paper that is recycled or sourced from well-managed forests and that was produced at pulp mills that don’t use poisons like chlorine to whiten it. The electronics industry, too, is trying to reduce the use of toxic chemicals, and to improve working conditions and worker safety throughout its far-flung supply chains.

So, how many volumes do you need to read on your e-reader to break even?

With respect to fossil fuels, water use and mineral consumption, the impact of one e-reader payback equals roughly 40 to 50 books. When it comes to global warming, though, it’s 100 books; with human health consequences, it’s somewhere in between.

All in all, the most ecologically virtuous way to read a book starts by walking to your local library.

Source : The New York Times

Improving Transportation Through New Media

While cities and citizens have used new media tools and strategies to provide information and help improve a variety of public services such education and crime, the issue that most often seems to exhibit the most interest and experimentation is transportation. One reason is for this is probably that data about transportation systems – be it bus and train schedules, traffic counts, or pedestrian and bicycle accidents – is often readily available and is (at least potentially) less controversial to release. Another reason is likely that the transportation system is so ubiquitous in cities, and directly impacts the vast majority of residents on a daily basis, that there is a naturally broad constituency interested in its operation and improvement. And as transportation as a professional discipline has always been interested in technology, the two go hand in hand.

To explore the issue further, EMBARQ, the sustainable transportation arm of the World Resources Institute, organized a panel discussion and roundtable at its headquarters in Washington, D.C this past Tuesday. Part of a week-long citywide festival focused on technology and innovation, the event brought together citizen activists and representatives from government agencies and non-profits to discuss open data, online citizen engagement and collaboration – while looking at the nation’s capital as a case study.

While the local city government has been at the forefront of releasing its municipal data for the public and developers to utilize, most of the region’s transportation falls under the jurisdiction of WMATA, the regional transit agency. Even so, Bryan Sivak, the city’s CTO, presented some of the latest transportation oriented projects – including an API for real-time location data for the city’s small fleet of circulator buses, the utilization of QR codes on buses and shelters to assist both passengers and transit managers, and plans for location-based social networking games aimed at promoting a community among riders.

In the same spirit, Lance Schine, the newly hired Director of Innovation for the DC Department of Transportation announced the agency’s launch of a crowdsourcing application to help planners locate stations for the city’s growing bikesharing network. To help spread the word (and reach citizens that may not have access to the Web at home), the department partnered with the city’s libraries to display notices at branch computer workstations (along with the library’s main website).

Aside from government initiatives, the panel included a presentation from David Alpert of the Greater Greater Washington blog, which has served as a powerful example of how online citizen activism can influence policy. In addition, Justin Jouvenal, a Web editor with the Washington Post, highlighted its effort to integrate SeeClickFix reporting into its locally focused online section, and engage the public in reporting issues.

Outside of D.C., Nick Grossman, Director of Civic Works for OpenPlans, highlighted efforts to develop an open source trip planner in partnership with Portland’s TriMet and a number of other agencies, and an upcoming collaboration with New York’s Department of Transportation to pilot online civic engagement and planning tools. Related to this effort, he stressed the importance of focusing on content and processes, and less on technology – adding that many suitable tools already exist, and just need to be deployed in the appropriate context.

Certainly, as our society has become increasingly urbanized, the importance of transportation policy and planning has grown dramatically. Facilitating the efficient movement of people and goods within and between cities and regions is essential for economic growth. At the same time, transportation systems require large investments and can have significant negative impacts on humans and the environment. Maximizing the benefits derived from enhanced mobility while minimizing its costs and externalities is the fundamental challenge facing modern day transportation policymakers and planners.

While transportation policy and planning has historically been the domain of a small group of technical experts, there has been growing recognition that increased participation from a much wider range of stakeholders has the potential to improve the quality of transportation plans and projects. The last round of federal transportation funding designated money for research into online engagement strategies and the piloting of a number of projects, and hopefully the next federal transportation bill will support this further. Given the need to develop more sustainable urban transportation systems, and the significant interest for public involvement, transportation agencies have ample opportunity to adopt new media tools and strategies to communicate and collaborate with citizens.

Source: NextAmericaCity