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Environmental Impacts of Electronic Media: A Comparison of a Magazine’s Tablet and Print Editions
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Urban Planning and Environment, Environmental Strategies. KTH, School of Computer Science and Communication (CSC), Centres, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Centres, Centre for Sustainable Communications, CESC.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7761-2350
2013 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this thesis is to assess potential environmental impacts of electronic media distribution and consumption—from a life cycle perspective—as compared to those of print media.

The thesis consists of a cover essay and two papers appended at the end of the thesis. The cover essay summarizes the papers and puts them in context. The main objectives of the thesis are twofold: to assess potential environmental impacts of production and consumption of tablet editions of magazines from a life cycle perspective (Paper I), and to compare potential environmental impacts of a magazine’s print edition with that of its tablet edition (Paper II).

The thesis examines the following specific research questions: (1) What are the main environmental impacts of print and tablet editions? (2) Which activities are giving rise to the main environmental impacts of the print and tablet editions? (3) What are the key factors influencing these impacts? (4) What are major data gaps and uncertainties?

Based on the present assessment, it is clear that for the print magazine, pulp and paper production is the principal cause of most of the potential environmental impacts. For this reason, the use of recycled paper, rather than virgin fiber, in newsprint production may considerably offset environmental impacts.

For the tablet edition, the content production dominates the potential environmental impacts when readers are few. This appears to be the case in an emerging state of the magazine, but with distribution of more media products to smaller groups of people, this may persist for “mature” products as well. As the number of tablet readers grows, more of the environmental impact of the is due to manufacturing of the device and electronic distribution. However, content production may still be a major factor, depending on the specific environmental impacts studied.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2013. , 31 p.
Series
Trita-SOM , ISSN 1653-6126 ; 2013:02
Keyword [en]
electronic media, tablet computer, print media, magazine, information and communication technology (ICT), Internet, energy use, environmental impacts, life cycle assessment (LCA)
National Category
Other Environmental Engineering
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-118835ISBN: 978-91-7501-669-6 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-118835DiVA: diva2:608724
Presentation
2013-03-22, B2, Brinellvägen 23 Entreplan, KTH, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

QC 20130306

Available from: 2013-03-06 Created: 2013-02-28 Last updated: 2013-03-06Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Life Cycle Assessment of a Magazine: Part I: Tablet Edition in Emerging and Mature States
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Life Cycle Assessment of a Magazine: Part I: Tablet Edition in Emerging and Mature States
2015 (English)In: Journal of Industrial Ecology, ISSN 1088-1980, E-ISSN 1530-9290, Vol. 19, no 4Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Information and communication technology (ICT) is providing new ways to access media content. ICT has environmental benefits and burdens. The overall goal of the present study was to assess the environmental impacts of production and consumption of magazines read on tablets from a life cycle perspective. Important goals were to identify the activities giving rise to the main impacts and the key factors influencing the overall environmental impacts. Data gaps and uncertainties were also addressed. The results are compared against those for the print edition of the magazine in a separate article (part 2). The methodology used in the study was life cycle assessment. The environmental impacts assessed included climate change, cumulative energy/exergy demand, metal depletion, photochemical oxidant formation, particulate matter formation, terrestrial acidification, freshwater/marine eutrophication, fossil depletion, human toxicity, and ecotoxicity. The results indicate that content production can be the major contributor to environmental impacts if readers are few (as for the emerging version of the magazine studied). Assuming more readers (more mature version) or a larger file size for the tablet magazine, electronic storage and distribution may be the major contributor. Thus, in contrast to previous studies on electronic media, which reported a dominant impact of the use phase, this study found a higher impact for content production (emerging version) and electronic storage and distribution (mature version). However, with inefficient, low overall use of the tablet with a mature version of the tablet magazine, the greatest impact was shown to come from the reading activity (i.e., the use phase). In conclusion, the relative impacts of the tablet magazine would decrease considerably with high numbers of readers, their efficient use of the tablet (i.e., for many purposes over a long life of the device), and a smaller magazine file.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
John Wiley & Sons, 2015
Keyword
electronic media, tablet computer, magazine, information and communication technology (ICT), Internet, energy use, environmental impacts, life cycle assessment (LCA)
National Category
Other Environmental Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-118833 (URN)10.1111/jiec.12227 (DOI)000362594200006 ()2-s2.0-84942295020 (Scopus ID)
Projects
CESC - Media and Sustainability
Funder
VINNOVA
Note

QC 20151103

Available from: 2013-02-28 Created: 2013-02-28 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
2. Life cycle assessment of a magazine: part 2: A comparison of print and tablet editions
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Life cycle assessment of a magazine: part 2: A comparison of print and tablet editions
2015 (English)In: Journal of Industrial Ecology, ISSN 1088-1980, E-ISSN 1530-9290, Vol. 19, no 4Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The rapid development of information and communications technology (ICT) is providing new ways to access media content. Electronic media are sometimes more advantageous from an environmental perspective than paper-based media solutions, but ICT-based media can also bring environmental burdens. This study compared the potential environmental impacts in a life cycle perspective of a print edition of a magazine and that of its electronic edition read on a tablet device. Important objectives were to identify activities giving rise to the main environmental impacts for both the print and tablet editions, determine the key factors influencing these impacts, and address data gaps and uncertainties. A detailed assessment of the tablet edition is provided in a previous article (part 1), whereas this article compares it with the print edition. The methodology used was life cycle assessment and the environmental impacts assessed included climate change, cumulative energy/exergy demand, metal depletion, photochemical oxidant formation, particulate matter formation, terrestrial acidification, freshwater eutrophication, marine eutrophication, and fossil depletion. Use of different functional units to compare the print and tablet editions of the magazine resulted in different relative environmental impacts. In addition, emerging (low number of readers and low reading time per copy) and mature (higher number of readers and higher reading time per copy) tablet editions yielded varying results. The emerging tablet edition resulted in higher potential environmental impacts per reader than the print edition, but the mature tablet edition yielded lower impacts per reader in half the impact categories assessed. This illustrates the importance of spreading the environmental impacts over a large number of readers. The electricity mix used in product system processes did not greatly affect the results of tablet/print comparisons, but overall number of readers for the tablet edition, number of readers per copy for the print edition, file size, and degree of use of the tablet device proved crucial for the comparison results.

Keyword
electronic media, tablet computer, print media, magazine, information and communication technology (ICT), Internet, energy use, environmental impacts, life cycle assessment (LCA).
National Category
Other Environmental Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-118834 (URN)10.1111/jiec.12229 (DOI)000362594200007 ()2-s2.0-84942294108 (Scopus ID)
Projects
CESC - Media and Sustainability
Note

QC 20151103

Available from: 2013-02-28 Created: 2013-02-28 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved

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Ahmadi Achachlouei, Mohammad

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