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Books from an environmental perspective: Part 2. E-books as an alternative to paper books
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Urban Planning and Environment, Environmental Strategies. School of Computer Science and Communication (CSC), Centres, KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Centres, Centre for Sustainable Communications, CESC. (Centre for Sustainable Communications)
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Urban Planning and Environment, Environmental Strategies. School of Computer Science and Communication (CSC), Centres, KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Centres, Centre for Sustainable Communications, CESC. (Centre for Sustainable Communications)
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Urban Planning and Environment, Environmental Strategies. School of Computer Science and Communication (CSC), Centres, KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Centres, Centre for Sustainable Communications, CESC.
2011 (English)In: The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, ISSN 0948-3349, E-ISSN 1614-7502, Vol. 16, no 3, 238-246 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose Information and communication technology (ICT) has been proposed as a means to facilitate environmental sustainability. Dematerialisation is one potential way of DOIng this. Forbooks, this could be realized through using e-book readers, which share many of the qualities of printed media and have notably low-energy requirements during use. The main aim of this study was to analyse the environmental impacts of an e-book read on an e-book reader, and to identify key issues determining the magnitude of the impact. A second aim was to compare the e-book product system with a paper book product system using a life cycle perspective. Materials and methods A screening LCA was performed on an e-book produced and read in Sweden. The e-book reader was assumed to be produced in China. The data used were general data from Ecoinvent 2.0 and site-specific data from companies participating in the study, whenever average data were not available. Results and discussion The results showed that production of the e-book reader was the life cycle step contributing most to the environmentalimpact of the system studied, although data on the e-ink screen were lacking. The disposal phase leads to avoided impact as materials are recycled; however, these results are less certain due to limited data availability. When the e-book was compared with a paper book, the results indicated that the number of books read on the e-book reader during its lifetime was crucial when evaluating its environmental performance compared with paper books. The results indicate that there are impact categories and circumstances where paper books are preferable to e-booksfrom an environmental perspective and vice versa. Conclusions There is no single answer as to which book is better from an environmental perspective according to the results of the current study. To improve the e-book environmental performance, an e-book reader should be used frequently, the life time of the device should be prolonged, as far as possible, and when not in use anymore, the device should be disposed of in a proper way, making material recycling possible. In addition, the production of the e-reader should be energy efficient and striving towards minimisation of toxic and rare substances. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011. Vol. 16, no 3, 238-246 p.
Keyword [en]
book, e-book, e-paper, e-book reader, internet, printed media
National Category
Other Environmental Engineering
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-12499DOI: 10.1007/s11367-011-0255-0Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-79958733282OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-12499DiVA: diva2:315383
Note
QC 20120328. Updated from submitted to published.Available from: 2010-04-29 Created: 2010-04-29 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Assessment of media and communication from a sustainability perspective
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Assessment of media and communication from a sustainability perspective
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis aims to assess potential environmental impacts of media and communication and to contribute to the development of methods for sustainability assessment. Although the main focus is on printed and electronic media products and environmental impacts, a broader sector analysis is also included and social aspects are discussed. The thesis provides a review of different environmental assessment tools in order to better understand their relationships and the appropriateness of different tools in different situations. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is used to assess printed and electronic versions of newspapers, books and invoices. Results of the screening LCAs of newspapers and books indicate that when comparing printed and electronic versions there are benefits and drawbacks for both. For news and books read on e-reading devices with energy efficient e-ink screens, the main environmental impacts in the studies stemmed from the production of the device and partly from disposal, with the latter having the potential to reduce some environmental impacts through recycling of materials. However, there are data gaps regarding the production of the e-reading devices, most notably for the e-ink screen and the waste management of obsolete e-reading devices. Existing data on internet energy use are uncertain. The potential impacts from a hypothetical total change from paper invoices to electronic invoices in Sweden were assessed through a screening consequential LCA regarding greenhouse gas emissions and cumulative energy demand. The results indicate that emissions and energy demand could decrease as a result of a change. The screening LCAs performed indicate that users’ practices could substantially influence the environmental impacts. Key factors which can influence results and comparisons of printed and electronic media products are total use of electronic devices, total use of printed media, amount and type of paper, energy use of electronic devices, potential printing of electronic media, electricity mix, and the system boundaries set for the assessments.

To get a wider perspective, a sector study of the ICT sector and media sector concerning global greenhouse gas emissions and operational electricity use was performed. It was estimated that the contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions in 2007 was roughly 1-2 % for each sector. To assess media and communication products from a sustainability perspective, social aspects should also be covered. The author participated in an international project group on social aspects and LCA, one outcome from which was guidelines for social LCA (S-LCA). In addition to providing guidance for S-LCA, another important role of the guidelines is to facilitate discussions, criticism and proposals for improvement and development of the methodology being developed.

The LCA and sector studies in this thesis are limited to direct and to some extent indirect environmental impacts. Further studies of the environmental impacts of more long-term changes in practices and potential structural changes, as well as potential social impacts, could provide important additional insights. This could increase the possibility of facilitating sustainable practices related to ICT and media.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH, 2010. 74 p.
Series
Trita-SOM , ISSN 1653-6126 ; 2010-05
Keyword
electronic media, e-reading device, print media, newspaper, book, invoice, information and communication technology (ICT), environmental assessment, life cycle assessment (LCA), social life cycle assessment (S-LCA), sector analysis
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Other Environmental Engineering Natural Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-12502 (URN)978-91-7415-636-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-05-27, F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26, KTH, Stockholm, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
QC 20100610Available from: 2010-05-03 Created: 2010-04-29 Last updated: 2010-06-10Bibliographically approved

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