The iPad is Hot-- is it Green, Too?
A survey by research firm Nielsen suggests that Apple's iPad is the number one item kids aged 6 to 12 are wishing for this holiday. 31 percent of kids in this age group are wishing for the device, compared with 18 percent of kids 13 and older. Further, Apple has increased its rate of production for the iPad in anticipation of holiday demand. However, is this craze good or bad news for the environment?
Part of the answer has to do with the hardware itself. The iPad's LED-backlit display is more efficient than LCD's, and its casing is made of recycled aluminum. There is no mercury or arsenic in its glass, and it contains no PVCs.
Then there's some of the iPad's software. The iPad and other e-readers have the potential to save a lot of trees and fossil fuel. There are a lot of environmental costs associated with books, magazines, and other printed media that are not a factor for e-books, such as raw materials to make the book, production, and fuel consumed during shipping. Not to mention that many unsold books are returned to the publisher, where they are recycled or incinerated.
However, that potential might not be fully realized for a while. “Right now, e-books are having effectively no positive impact on the environment,” said media analyst Sarah Rottman Epps, in a study on the effect of Amazon's Kindle on the environment, “unless publishers print fewer books in anticipation of e-book sales.” In other words, although an iPad might be greener than a conventional book or magazine, it hasn't actually reduced the presence of those more consumptive forms of media-- at least, not yet.
Of course, it takes energy and resources to build an iPad too, and although Steve Jobs termed the tablet "highly recyclable", it must be said that electronics recycling remains far from perfect.
The answer, then, is a mixed bag. So much that used to be physical can now be digital, and Apple has certainly made an effort make the computer greener, but it will take a while for the world to get used to devices like the iPad, and make the most of their potential.