Is “Going Electronic” Actually Greener?

According to a wildlife conservation biologist going paperless may not be the “greenest” option. Research done by Dr. Fred Bercovitch proves that as our society continues to go paperless, there is a huge ecological footprint.  We may think that we are helping the environment by using our tablets, computers and phones instead of paper, but in all reality the production of these items requires the use of rare earth elements which causes an upset in the environment when they are used.

In order to get to the rare earth elements or REE’s they must be extracted from the earth by using open pit mining. The process of this extraction includes separating the REE’s from their geological materials. This is done by using water, solvents, chemicals and toxic metals which could all pollute the air.

This does not mean that paper is off the hook; however it does mean that there are other environmental concerns that should not be over looked including the production of electronic devices.  Even though paper does have some environmental costs, it also has many environmentally sustainable features to it.

  • Paper is made from a renewable resource…trees! Trees can be used indefinitely if they are planted and forested correctly.
  • Paper is recycled all the time, in fact it is one of the most recycled goods in the world. Paper can be recycled about 5-7 times which means it has the potential to turn into 5-7 different new paper products.
  • The production of paper has one of the highest renewable energy sources with 65% of the energy coming from renewable sources.

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Riebel, P. (2015, June 1). Think “Going Electronic” is Greener? Retrieved April 21, 2017, from http://www.twosidesna.org/US/Think-going-electronic-is-greener–read-on