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Newspapers Are Greener Than Web News, Says Environmental Expert

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Issue date: 
Monday, February 1, 2010
Publisher Name: 
Dead Tree Edition
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Which is greener, getting news online or reading a newspaper? For environmental expert and activist Sarah Westervelt, the obvious answer is the printed newspaper.

“It doesn’t take electricity to read my paper,” she said in a video posted recently at PBS' Mediashift site. “I’m too informed about what’s going to happen to my computer when I’m done with it and too concerned about that” to rely on the Web for news.

“I try to rely on the really good bio-compatible materials that have been around a long time,” said Westervelt, who as e-stewardship director at the Basel Action Network has done much to expose the bogus “recycling” of toxic wastes from discarded electronic gadgets.

Editors voice: This is an Amazon Kindle advertising which can currently (Feb 2010) be seen at various Websites

“If everybody stops reading newspapers then perhaps we stop growing trees,” Westervelt said during the video, which was taken from a discussion sponsored by USC Annenberg's Specialized Journalism Program. Among other participants in the discussion were the production directors of the San Jose Mercury News and Chronicle Books.

Westervelt didn’t claim that everything about printing and paper is environmentally friendly, noting that trees for paper are sometimes grown on single-species plantations. But those issues pale in comparison with the many toxic materials and “15 different plastics” typically found in computers, she said.

Unlike paper, computer components do not lend themselves well to recycling and reuse because “you have this really complex waste combined with not enough value in the materials to pay for responsible recycling,” Westervelt said.

“So what we have is companies that are presenting themselves as recyclers and really what they are is waste brokers. They are just consolidating, loading up shipping containers and it goes off to China or India or Pakistan. And it’s just having absolutely horrific impacts in a lot of these developing countries to both human health and the environment.”

For a briefer and more light-hearted defense of printed newspapers against the digital onslaught, check out this video of a male a capella quartet doing a fabulous take-off on Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”, with lines like "Does that make us crazy? Wanting you to read."

And, yes, this blogger does check his facts twice.

  • Smackdown: Printed Editions vs. Digital Editions: A look at the environmental impact of Dead Tree editions (ink on paper) versus Dead Dinosaur editions (digital content read on devices containing 15 different petrochemical-based plastics).
  • The Greenwashing Media Award Goes to . . .: Vendors of digital-publication software have made some bogus claims about the environmental friendliness of Dead Dinosaur editions.
  • Green Publishing Quiz: Test your knowledge, and your misconceptions, about environmentally friendly publishing
  • E-read it and weep?:The folks at Forrester Research published a report into this nascent sector last September which concluded that mass take-up would require a price-point for the e-readers of around $50, but...


Extpub | by Dr. Radut