Are eBooks More Eco-Friendly Than Printed Books?

One argument I’ve heard against e-readers like Kindles and nooks is that they are environmentally unfriendly when compared with the printed book. This argument always seemed counterintuitive to me because of all the paper, and therefore trees, required to make books. On the other hand, e-readers require electricity to run and will likely end up in landfills when they are obsolete. So which is more eco-friendly?

G Magazine, an Australian publication, recently decided to investigate this issue. They looked at the “environmental burdens associated with producing, storing, shipping and selling traditional print books” versus the “electricity e-readers consume and the materials they’re made from.” Their verdict is that e-readers appear to be greener. In fact, they cite a study that says if you actively use e-books in place of printed books, a “Kindle could save you an average of 168 kg of greenhouse gas emissions a year.”

The catch is that e-book owners need to be responsible and recycle their device at the end of its lifecycle. One thing I learned from this article is that Amazon has a recycling program for the Kindle and its batteries. You simply contact them and they send you packaging materials and mailing instructions. Amazon says,

All Kindles sent for recycling will undergo material reclamation by a licensed recycling facility. All identifying marks or personal documents will be erased or destroyed before or during the recycling process. For your convenience, Amazon covers all the costs associated with shipping and recycling your Kindle.

How cool is that? This is information every Kindle owner should have. Has anyone used Amazon’s recycling program? Do you agree with G Magazine’s assessment that e-books are greener than printed books? Let me know in the comments.

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