Newspapers May Be Greener, But What About Redundancy?

If you want to “green” your news reading, just go online, right? Ditch that dirty, landfill-clogging paper. Not so fast, argues Sarah Westervelt, environmental expert and activist. In a recent article on The Dead Tree Edition, Westervelt said that she was “too informed about what’s going to happen to my computer when I’m done with it” to feel good about reading Web news and gave a number of compelling reasons that newspapers are actually the greener choice.

Among her reasons for rejecting e-news, as reported by The Dead Tree Edition, the toxic materials contained in electronic devices and a complex waste cycle (including more than a dozen plastics in each), combined with not enough value in re-use to make recycling the parts non-economical. Paper, on the other hand, comes from a renewable resource, doesn’t contain the toxic materials, and is highly recyclable.

The post is a great read, and it certainly makes you think about the consequences of our wired world. (Some of the arguments that have been made against Apple’s new iPad.)

At the same time — and while I cannot disagree with Westervelt’s facts — this argument really only works if it’s an either-or proposition. If I have to turn my computer on in order to read the news online, then her argument makes sense. I’m choosing an electronic gadget over print. But the truth is that I don’t (and I doubt anyone else does either). That computer is going to be on whether I read the newspaper or not.

Thus, while the paper cycle may be greener than the e-media cycle, in this case, it’s actually the less green choice simply because it’s redundant. I wonder why no one ever talks about that?

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