By Richard Romano on May 2nd, 2011
Phil Riebel has a good article online that looks at some of the environmental impacts of electronic devices—some aren’t quite so obvious. For example,
coltan is a rare metal that contains tantalum, a key component of electronic circuitry in computers, smart phones and e-readers. The global tantalum capacitor market is worth about $2 billion annually. Based on an article by the Globe and Mail (3), a significant amount of coltan is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo and helping finance a civil war.
At least print just disseminates the ideas that lead to conflicts…
We’ve tread this ground before, but it’s worth reiterating that server farms and datacenters are not without their GHG emissions and carbon footprints (feetprint?): “every year 62 trillion spam emails are sent, contributing greenhouse gases equivalent to two billion gallons of gasoline, or enough to drive a car around the globe 1.6 million times.” Gas prices being what they are these days, I would not advise that road trip.
Anyway, as I mentioned in an earlier post below, the idea is not to denigrate the ungreenness of one medium and extol the virtues of another. Rather, as Mr. Riebel mentions at the end of his article, there are ways that we as consumers and as buyers of business equipment and supplies can help to obviate many of the destructive impacts of electronic media, just as it is within our power to make print more sustainable, too.