Bad news, tech lovers. IT is not so eco-friendly. According to University of Calgary researcher Richard Hawkins, digital technologies are not reducing our environmental footprint, but may in fact be turning us all into polluters.
"It was once assumed that there was little or no material dimension to information technology, thus, it should be clean with minimal environmental impact," says Hawkins. "However, we are finding that reality is much more complicated."
In reality, digital technologies create highly toxic "electronic junk" that fills landfills and uses up large amounts of energy, both during manufacture and everyday use. You could run the world's air transport system off the energy required for IT. And there are even more second-hand, "rebound" environmental effects. Traditional computers at least had the benefit of keeping us at our desks, but these days you can do just about everything from your iPhone or Blackberry. While it's great to work (or play) on the run, mobile devices encourage, well, mobility. The more you move -- in planes, trains, and automobiles -- the bigger the environmental impact.
To become more eco-friendly, companies are now creating "greener IT" products. While the green label is a good selling point, Hawkins warns the steps might not be enough to reduce negative impacts on the environment. "Creating a greener cell phone won't reduce the impact of increased mobility. The real question is, what amount of mobility is sustainable?" And because digital technologies are all around us, the environmental impact of IT is easy to overlook.
Hawkins will present his findings at the United Nations' Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark later this year.
wow, this article and study is complete BS. At no point has our technology or lack there of, been a deciding factor of whether to travel or not. Having e-mail on my hip does not make me more willing to leave the house. It simply means I communicate instantly instead of waiting until I get home, gees. In fact they should be lauding things like the blackberry because it means I no longer leave my home CPU on 24-7. I only turn it on if I am there and need to do some actual finance work, or "playing". I do agree with the fact that electronics create a lot of "trash", though. But where I am from, it is not exactly easy to recycle those things. If you truly want it to happen, make it convenient or monetarily advantageous to the common man.
>wow, this article and study is complete BS
Why the animosity Curtis? I really hope you can work on expressing your opinions without sounding so offensive. And by the way, how can you say the study is BS when it hasn't been released yet, so you haven't been able to see and evaluate the evidence?
>At no point has our technology or lack there of, been a deciding factor of whether to travel or not.
Curtis, of course the invention of mobile information technologies doesn't mean that everyone in the world is suddenly moving around more. For example, if you're working on a help desk, you might not have as much control over when and where you work, but maybe the net effect is a harmful increase in pollution. Do people drive more during their workdays — thus burning more gasoline — because they know they can always be reached on their cellphones?
Hawkins and his research team are working to establish a reliable measure of information technology's environmental footprint, including the rebound effects.
Sounds like a noble and worthwhile idea to me.
This is a good argument. Does it, or does it not? I think that in some ways it does, and in some ways it doesn't. I think that you might be right fuji, maybe we do go around more because we know we won't miss anything. But what is really bad on the environment is all of the car engines, all of the factories, and all of that kind of stuff. If we want to be better on the environment, and we do, then we need to cut down on that kind of stuff. (I know that people are working on that). Are we worrying about the all the cell phones when we should be worring more about the factories? I'd love to hear your opinion.
For quite some time I have been concerned about the impact our electronic gadgets are having on the environment. Plastics, heavy metals, batteries -- more debris finding its way into our landfills. In our home alone we have 4 PCs, 4 laptops, 2 I-pods, 3 cell phones just to mention a few. From manufacturing to disposal, this "electronic junk" clearly has an ecological impact. I have recycled well before it was politically correct to do so, but I am stockpiling outdated or worn out electronics because there's no recycling to be found in our area. What happens this stuff when it wears out or is replaced?
I never thought of the mobility angle as causing an even larger environmental footprint by our IT gadgets. Thanks to this article I am waiting to see what Mr. Hawkins' study has to say. I'm with Fugimoto ... let's read the study before we condemn it. At least someone is trying to make us aware of what might be before have to once again fix what has been.
In the late 70's/early 80's it was thought that paper waste would drop drastically due to computers. The opposite happened, thanks to printers. There was more paper waste than ever. At least today there are a lot of recycling programs for paper.
Today, our electronic gadgets are designed to be thrown away once they are broken. It is not cost affective to fix a cd/dvd player when you can buy a new one for $20. http://www.librarything.com/profile/johnmorgan