When you consider the latest high technology gadgets what goes through your head? It will differ from one individual to another. Some may think that they’re trendy. Others might think that they’re expensive. Perhaps you feel that they’re overly complex and frequently difficult to operate. It very much depends on your own individual viewpoint. However, it’s probably a fair bet to say that you almost certainly don’t associate the latest “must have” electronic gadget with doing your bit for the environment – but electronic devices can, in the right circumstances, be environmentally friendly.
Digital photo frames for example have become very popular over the last two or three years. As a result of fierce competition, prices have reduced considerably and you can now pick up perfectly serviceable digital frames for more or less the same price that you might expect to pay for a traditional photo frame. Digital frames have a number of perceived advantages, one of which is their ability to display hundreds of different photographs using a single frame.
A lot will depend upon how many photographs you take in an average year, but if you are in the habit of getting a bit snap happy then using a digital frame to display your photo collection could have a positive environmental impact. Whether you avoid having photos printed out at a processing lab or if you just print out less on your computer printer you will wind up using fewer materials.
Another good, and very topical, example is the current trendy gadget – the e-book reader. E-book readers have actually been available for quite some time, but they really caught the public’s imagination in 2009 and now seem poised to increase sales even further in 2010. The Kindle reader is currently the most popular by a long way and Sony have also established a good market presence.
Every year, the American book, magazine and newspaper industry consumes 125 million trees to provide the paper required. Large amounts of water, energy and a whole host of chemicals are also required to satisfy the nation’s reading habit. On top of that, since books are a physical product they need to be delivered from the publisher to the book store – generally using road transport. The gas used by customers who drive to and from the retail outlet is also a factor in determining the carbon footprint of a typical book.
Electronic books of course, do not consume large amounts of paper, ink etc. in their production. Also, as they are not a physical product, they can be delivered over the internet rather than using the road transport network.
Of course, as both e-book readers and digital photo frames are themselves physical products, they do require both materials and energy for their production. They also require delivery to the point of sale or direct to the final customer. Nevertheless, studies have shown that, even when these materials are offset against the savings in paper, energy, ink etc. that such devices can be better for the environment (though it will depend, to a certain extent, on how many books you read or how many photos you process each year).