The Canberra Times had its usual share of junk tucked into it today, but layered under the Spotlight sale catalogue was a booklet-shaped advertising feature called Imaginem, 'Your 24-page guide to promoting your brand or business with the help of Canberra's "creatives"'.
Flipping through the pages, glancing at the different pleas for being more creative than the team on the next page, I came across an article called Print is Greener by Rodney Wade, a sustainability consultant. It's a ripper little piece about print reading vs online, and uses The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, a 700-page report, as its example:
The printed version of The Stern Review was validated as 85 grams of CO2 in total for the complete manufacturing process and the paper. Because it is a finished printed book, that is the maximum CO2 it will ever amount to and can be read as many times as you like over the next 100 years.
For every hour that a person reads The Stern Review in PDF format on a typical desktop computer, 226 grams of CO2 are generated. This does not include the CO2 footprint for the IT infrastructure to deliver the PDF via the Internet, nor does it include the footprint to print it out on an inkjet or laser printer. Of course, a typical reader will print out parts or all of the repoprt. Why? Because the majority of people generally prefer to read from hard copy.
A study in 1007 by Australian Dr Tony Wilkins, Group Manager, Environment and Climate Change for News Ltd, has validated that the manufacture of a CD with The Stern Review data generates 300 grams of CO2 per disk or a DVD 350 grams and that is even before it is put into a computer and viewed or printed.
I'm interested in whether he factored into the print version the energy needed to distribute the volume, by post or via bookshops, but even so, they are very impressive figures.
One of the first things I read online this morning (via Editorial Anonymous) was about the declining state of school libraries in Britain, which is an article less about computers taking over books and more about ignorant ideas of staffing needs, but still, in a world where people think children are getting a well-rounded education from computers alone, shouldn't this sort of environmental calculation be taken into account?
Walk with me, tell me what you think. Are books sustainable, really?