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Assessment of media and communication from a sustainability perspective
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Urban Planning and Environment, Environmental Strategic Analysis. (Centre for Sustainable Communications)
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 [en]
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: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-12502ISBN: 978-91-7415-636-2 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-12502DiVA: diva2:315395
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
List of papers
1. Environmental systems analysis tools: an overview
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Environmental systems analysis tools: an overview
2005 (English)In: Journal of Cleaner Production, ISSN 0959-6526, E-ISSN 1879-1786, Vol. 13, no 12, 1165-1173 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

A large number of tools for assessing environmental impacts are available. It is of interest to characterise different tools in order to better understand their relationships and the appropriateness of different tools in different situations. The characteristics used here are whether the tools are procedural or analytical, what types of impacts are included, what the object of the study is and whether the studies are descriptive or change-orientated. For each object discussed here, there is a tool focusing on both use of natural resources and environmental impacts that seems to be the most suitable. Because different tools focus on different objects, different tools cannot in general easily replace each other.

Keyword
Decision making, Environmental protection, Life cycle, Natural resources, Project management, Societies and institutions
National Category
Other Environmental Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-5559 (URN)10.1016/j.jclepro.2004.06.004 (DOI)000230017300005 ()2-s2.0-15544380518 (Scopus ID)
Note
QC 20100610Available from: 2006-04-06 Created: 2006-04-06 Last updated: 2017-11-21Bibliographically approved
2. Printed and tablet e-paper newspaper from an environmental perspective: a screening life cycle assessment
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Printed and tablet e-paper newspaper from an environmental perspective: a screening life cycle assessment
2010 (English)In: Environmental impact assessment review, ISSN 0195-9255, E-ISSN 1873-6432, Vol. 30, no 3, 177-191 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Viable alternatives to conventional newspapers, such as electronic papers, e-papers or e-readers, are intended to have many of the qualities of paper, such as reading using reflective light, high resolution, 180° viewing angle. It has been suggested that the environmental impact of e-paper can be lower than for printed and internet-based newspapers. However, in order to find the facts of the matter, a thorough life cycle perspective covering raw material acquisition, production, use and disposal should preferably be used to study the environmental performance of the different products. A screening life cycle assessment was performed to describe the potential environmental impacts of two product systems; printed on paper and tablet e-paper newspapers. Results show that the most significant phase of the life cycle for both product systems was the production of substrate or platform. Accordingly, key aspects that may affect the resulting environmental performance of newspaper product systems were for the printed newspaper number of readers per copy and number of pages per issue and for the tablet e-paper newspaper lifetime and multi-use of the device. The printed newspaper in general had a higher energy use, higher emissions of gases contributing to climate change and several other impact categories than the tablet e-paper newspaper. It was concluded that tablet e-paper has the potential to decrease the environmental impact of newspaper consumption. However, further studies regarding the environmental impact of production and waste management of electronic devices and internet use, as well as more comprehensive assessment of toxicological impacts are needed. As the data on the electronic devices becomes more comprehensive this may prove to be a major limitation of electronic newspaper systems. Developers are suggested to strive towards minimisation of toxic and rare substances in production.

Keyword
life cycle assessment, newspaper, e-paper, multichannel, reading tablet, electronic media
National Category
Media and Communications Other Environmental Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-12480 (URN)10.1016/j.eiar.2009.07.001 (DOI)000278320500004 ()2-s2.0-77049105620 (Scopus ID)
Note
QC 20100610Available from: 2010-04-28 Created: 2010-04-28 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved
3. Books from an environmental perspective - Part 1: Environmental impacts of paper books sold in traditional and internet bookshops
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Books from an environmental perspective - Part 1: Environmental impacts of paper books sold in traditional and internet bookshops
2011 (English)In: The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, ISSN 0948-3349, E-ISSN 1614-7502, Vol. 16, no 2, 138-147 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose The sale and distribution of books are activities that have changed through increased use of the internet. The main aim of this paper was to determine the potential environmental impacts of paper books and identify key issues determining the magnitude of those impacts. A second aim was to study the environmental difference between a paper book bought in a traditional bookshop and through an internet bookshop. In addition, areas with a lack of data and major uncertainties were to be noted.

Materials and methods A screening life cycle assessment was performed on an average hardback novel produced and read in Sweden. 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 the most important processes to be pulp and paper production. However, if a substantial distance was travelled by car, to buy a book or collect it, this had a major influence on the environmental performance. Comparing the two bookshop alternatives, the results showed a slight benefit for the internet bookshop due to fewer books being returned to the publisher and the avoidance of energy use at the traditional bookshop. The buyer of a book could significantly influence the total impact by choosing to walk to the bookshop or to combine the trip with several other activities to decrease the impact of the travel per activity performed. When books ordered via the internet were sent by postal services directly to the end consumer, the climate change impact was lowered.

Conclusions This study showed that, in addition to the paper used, the way books are bought and distributed, including possible personal transportation, can significantly affect the total environmental impact of paper books. The impact per book read can be significantly decreased by sharing books with others.

Keyword
book, e-commerce, transport, distribution, internet, printed media
National Category
Other Environmental Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-12498 (URN)10.1007/s11367-011-0254-1 (DOI)000288120800005 ()2-s2.0-79958750982 (Scopus ID)
Note
QC 20100610 (Uppdaterad från submitted till published 20110329)Available from: 2010-04-29 Created: 2010-04-29 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved
4. Books from an environmental perspective: Part 2. E-books as an alternative to paper books
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Books from an environmental perspective: Part 2. E-books as an alternative to paper books
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. 

Keyword
book, e-book, e-paper, e-book reader, internet, printed media
National Category
Other Environmental Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-12499 (URN)10.1007/s11367-011-0255-0 (DOI)2-s2.0-79958733282 (Scopus ID)
Note
QC 20120328. Updated from submitted to published.Available from: 2010-04-29 Created: 2010-04-29 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved
5. Environmental impacts of electronic invoicing
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Environmental impacts of electronic invoicing
2010 (English)In: Progress in Industrial Ecology, An International Journal, ISSN 1476-8917, E-ISSN 1478-8764, Vol. 7, no 2, 93-113 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Climate change threatens ecosystems and health and may cause severe economic impacts. All sectors of society need to act. New solutions based on information and communication technology (ICT) have been proposed to enable action. One possible conversion is from paper invoices to electronic invoices. The aim of this article is to increase current knowledge about the advantages and disadvantages of a possible total transition from all paper invoicing to all electronic invoicing in Sweden regarding cumulative energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions. A screening life cycle assessment (LCA) was performed as a life cycle perspective should preferably be used when considering environmental impacts of products. The results of the study show that there are benefits from transition to electronic invoices regarding cumulative energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions. The magnitude of the benefits is mainly dependent on the amount of paper used for the traditional invoices and whether the electronic invoices are printed.

Keyword
invoicing, electronic invoicing, e-invoicing, life cycle assessment, energy use, cumulative energy demand, greenhouse gas emissions
National Category
Environmental Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-12500 (URN)10.1504/PIE.2010.036044 (DOI)2-s2.0-77958108904 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20100610. Updated from accepted to published 2013-11-06.

Available from: 2010-04-29 Created: 2010-04-29 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved
6. Greenhouse gas emissions and operational electricity use in the ICT and entertainment & media sectors
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Greenhouse gas emissions and operational electricity use in the ICT and entertainment & media sectors
Show others...
2010 (English)In: Journal of Industrial Ecology, ISSN 1088-1980, E-ISSN 1530-9290, Vol. 14, no 5, 770-790 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The positive and negative environmental impacts of information and communication technology (ICT) are widely debated. This study assesses the electricity use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions related to the ICT and entertainment & media (E&M) sectors at sector level, including end users, and thus complements information on the product level. GHGs are studied in a life cycle perspective, but for electricity use, only the operational use is considered. The study also considers which product groups or processes are major contributors. Using available data and extrapolating existing figures to the global scale for 2007 reveals that the ICT sector produced 1.3% of global GHG emissions in 2007 and the E&M sector 1.7%. The corresponding figures for global electricity use were 3.9% and 3.2%, respectively. The results indicate that for the ICT sector, operation leads to more GHG emissions than manufacture, although impacts from the manufacture of some products are significant. For the E&M sector, operation of TVs and production of printed media are the main reasons for overall GHG emissions. TVs as well as printed media, with the estimations made here, led to more GHG emissions on a global level in 2007 than PCs (manufacture and operation). A sector study of this type provides information on a macro scale, a perspective easily lost when considering, for example, the product-related results of life cycle assessments. The macro scale is essential to capture changes in total consumption and use. However, the potential of the ICT sector to help decrease environmental impacts from other sectors was not included in the assessment.

Keyword
climate change, industrial ecology, information and communication technology (ICT), life cycle assessment (LCA), technology and environment, telecommunications
National Category
Other Environmental Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-12501 (URN)10.1111/j.1530-9290.2010.00278.x (DOI)000283692700009 ()2-s2.0-78049469919 (Scopus ID)
Projects
Development of sustainability assessment tools for ICT
Note
QC 20100610. Uppdaterad från submitted till published (20101208).Available from: 2010-04-29 Created: 2010-04-29 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved
7. The Guidelines for Social Life Cycle Assessment of products: Just in time!
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Guidelines for Social Life Cycle Assessment of products: Just in time!
Show others...
2010 (English)In: The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, ISSN 0948-3349, E-ISSN 1614-7502, Vol. 15, no 2, 156-163 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose Authors of different sustainability journals, including authors of articles in past issues of the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment have acknowledged the rising interest and the pressing need for a social and socio-economic life cycle assessment methodology and identified challenges in its development and implementation. Social life cycle assessment (LCA) allows identification of key issues, assessing, and telling the story of social conditions in the production, use, and disposal of products. In this article, the United Nations Environment Programme/The Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Guidelines for Social Life Cycle Assessment of Products will be presented.

Aim and scope The guidelines demystifies the assessment of product life cycle social impacts and presents an effective framework representing the consensus of an international group of experts leading research in this field. The guidelines complement those for environmental life cycle assessment and life cycle costing, and by doing so contribute to the full assessment of goods and services within the context of sustainable development. They enable a larger group of stakeholders to engage. Key aspects of the framework and the research needs identified in the guidelines will be summarized.

Conclusions In a globalized world where transparency and information occupies a predominant place and where consumers and companies reach out to shed light on both the brightest and the darkest side of the economy and, when applicable, transform its condition, social LCA brings strong value. At a moment where major companies and initiatives are going forward with using LCA and are trying to track and communicate about the social impacts of their products they are increasingly held accountable for the guidelines for social life cycle assessment arrive just in time to inform their efforts.

Keyword
business, guidelines, social life cycle assessment (S-LCA), social responsibility, socioeconomic, supply chain, sustainability
National Category
Other Environmental Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-12496 (URN)10.1007/s11367-009-0147-8 (DOI)000274404700005 ()2-s2.0-77953476807 (Scopus ID)
Note
QC 20100610Available from: 2010-04-29 Created: 2010-04-29 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
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  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
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