E-Reading for the E-nvironment

By John Martin

A recent, unscientific survey (by yours truly) estimated that between 20-50 percent of subway riders have their noses stuck in some book, newspaper or electronic reading device at any one time. Until roughly a year ago, paper reading was the clear favorite among the straphanger crowd, but more recently, Kindles, Nooks, iPads and even smart phones have established themselves as the go-to options of choice.

Aside from their convenient size and ability to keep thousands of titles at your fingertips, these devices can also offer a good alternative for those interested in being environmentally friendly. The average printed book has a carbon footprint of almost nine pounds of CO2. Assuming you read at least 23 books a year, the CO2 from the manufacture and use of your Kindle or Nook gets completely offset. The more books you happen to read, the more you’ll be fighting global warming once you switch over to e-books.

If shelling out over $100 for an e-reader isn’t your thing, or you don’t feel right about reading books from a screen, don’t fret. You could always borrow books from the library or from friends, which is still the greenest option of them all — in terms of both money and carbon saved.

If you are an e-reader user, it is not too early to start thinking about what to do once it’s time to upgrade to the latest version of your device. Gifting or donating it to an appreciative school or charity is a great way to encourage reading while conserving resources. If that’s not an option, make sure to have your device properly recycled. Amazon runs a recycling program in which they pay you to ship your used Kindle or Nook to a certified recycler. For other devices, a good place to get more info is EPA’s eCycling page.