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Old 01-16-2012, 02:56 AM   #1
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How many trees?

Nobody has ever accused me for being an ecological nut job. Yet, here I find myself wondering how many trees are still standing because I now read on E-ink instead of paper. Has there been any surveys? Is it possible to make some estimation? One tree yields how many 250 page paperbacks?
Anyone with a sound grounding in mathematics that can come up with a formula?
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Old 01-16-2012, 03:03 AM   #2
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Good question, and I'm also very interested in the answer.
On the other side you must take into account the ecological loads of manufactoring electronical devices, too.
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Old 01-16-2012, 03:20 AM   #3
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I'd just like to point out that it's a more complex issue than you think (at least if we're talking about the overall ecological impact, rather than sheer number of trees left standing)

Against print, you also have to take into consideration books that get pulped (i.e. unsold copies), or if we're talking about carbon footprint in general, transportation of said books (including returns).

Against eBook readers, aside from the resources consumed in production of eBook readers, one element that often gets overlooked is electricity consumption. The value of a print book is that you simply have an "overhead" carbon footprint: once the book has been produced, delivered, etc., the carbon footprint it leaves ends there. With eBooks, however, if you're reading (or re-reading) a book, you're possibly leaving a carbon footprint since you're expending electricity (or rather, the device needs to be charged in order to be used). This actually depends on your local power supply, but unfortunately, fossil fuels are still prevalent (and arguably the most cost-efficient) sources of energy in many parts of the world.
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Old 01-16-2012, 03:21 AM   #4
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Doesn't production of ink require oil? What about e-ink?
If I have 100 e-books that translates into 100 transports of p-books, right?
I didn't say it was easy, just interesting.
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Old 01-16-2012, 03:37 AM   #5
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Using some random numbers off of the Internet, it looks like you can get 100 books out of one tree.

I also have doubts about how environmentally safe ereaders are compared to printed media: books come from renewable resources, are recyclable, have a fairly long shelf life, are made from materials that are easier to refine, go through a simpler manufacturing process, etc..

So maybe it's best to say that you like using ereaders, and not bring up the trees bit.
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Old 01-16-2012, 04:06 AM   #6
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And here I thought electrons were 100 % recyclable
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Old 01-16-2012, 04:21 AM   #7
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With eBooks, however, if you're reading (or re-reading) a book, you're possibly leaving a carbon footprint since you're expending electricity (or rather, the device needs to be charged in order to be used).
Charging one of those power hungry Android based ereaders overnight is equivalent to cooking a simple meal for for 5 to 10 minutes. That would amount to planting a single tree every 3 years to account for the carbon footprint based on electricity use.

Of course, that is making some non-so-generous assumptions. In reality, the charging process probably uses far less electricity than I'm suggesting. Eink readers are also much more energy efficient than the Android based one I based the calculations on.
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Old 01-16-2012, 04:26 AM   #8
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And here I thought electrons were 100 % recyclable
Quantum physicists would beg to differ! They actually seem to get a few giggles out of destroying electrons.
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Old 01-16-2012, 05:16 AM   #9
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Guess I'm stuck in Newtonian physics, but then again we (Isaac and I) are of the same genration
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Old 01-16-2012, 05:54 AM   #10
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Mmmmm....

And, as mentioned, there are some very nasty things inside that little reader - and even more in pads, laptops and PC.....

No, I don't reckon we have the moral high ground here, I'm sorry to say.

Although a friend did say he was he was helping the environment by not having such heavy luggage - i.e. books - which must help in reducing fossil fuel consumption.

There again, he is a stockbroker.....
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Old 01-16-2012, 06:26 AM   #11
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Trees are an agricultural crop.
Asking how many stalks of corn might still be standing if a lot of people gave up eating corn on the cob at restaurants would be the exact same sort of question. The answer would be that the corn harvest would go for some other use. Mature corn would be harvested regardless.
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Old 01-16-2012, 06:28 AM   #12
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That's like asking how many extra pigs and cows are still alive now that you're a vegan. The answer is none. The sort of trees used for paper are farmed commercially, and as such there will only ever be as many as they need. If the demand for paper ever dries up, the land used for farming trees will be repurposed, most likely for property development.
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Old 01-16-2012, 10:07 AM   #13
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I crunched the numbers for this once in terms of CO_2:

http://www.mobileread.com/forums/sho...1&postcount=11

to repeat:

The vast majority of trees which are cut for paper pulp are quick-growing loblolly pines which will be re-planted almost immediately, larger, older, nicer trees are usually cut for lumber, so one should be able to let the 8.85 pounds (of CO_2 per book) figure stand for paper products w/o concern for deforestation.

Here's a page which indicates most CO_2 production is for energy:
http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/1605/ggrpt/carbon.html

And here's a page which indicates that CO_2 production is a much larger problem for the manufacturing of electronics:
http://www.energybulletin.net/node/49730
w/ a ratio of 12 to 1 for energy usage to weight, so my PRS-505 weighs roughly 9 ozs., so presumably required 108 ounces of fuel to manufacture (on-going energy usage is not considered)
http://www.epa.gov/oms/climate/420f05001.htm
gives us a figure of 19.4 pounds of CO_2 per gallon of gasoline which equals roughly 16.36875 pounds of CO_2 to make the ebook reader.

So getting two books for the Sony should make it roughly break even, and each printed book beyond that which is not purchased should result in a net reduction of CO_2 emissions, since the energybulletin.net page indicates that the embodied energy usage for electronics is much greater than the lifetime usage.

Last edited by WillAdams; 01-16-2012 at 10:08 AM. Reason: clarify initial value
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Old 01-16-2012, 10:24 AM   #14
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Two paperbacks or one dictionary. Interesting.
Not that I'm trying to create any environmental propaganda, yet, interesting.
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Old 01-16-2012, 11:42 AM   #15
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