A new cliche: The paperless digital media are environmentally conscious.
Neither is particularly true.
Newsprint is made from wood waste and the business has taken many measures in the last decade to minimize its environmental footprint through smarter manufacturing practices and an emphasis on recycling. And digital media are built with great energy, consume great energy, and generate great environmental waste and hazards in being stockpiled after use.
PBS' Mediashift carries an essay by its environmental correspondent, Don Carli, a research fellow steeped in industry studies. He argues that we are deluding ourselves if we believe digital media have brought about an environmentally clean era.
"If you thought you were saving forests and protecting the environment by going paperless...think again," he writes. "The real dilemma you face is that you may be doing more to cause environmental degradation and deforestation by going paperless than you think, and making responsible choices requires informed decisions and rational tradeoffs."
While he concedes there is a visibility to smokestack industries and piles of newsprint, he suggests we do not adequately calibrate the hidden digital costs to the environment. It's a thoughtful essay to rethink precepts.