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Amazon Kindle: Reading Green?

Amazon Kindle: Reading Green? has an intriguing product called the Kindle. It’s a way to read books electronically, and it’s got some great features. At 10.3 ounces it’s lighter than most paperbacks. It has a user-friendly screen with adjustable font sizes, it can be accessed without a wireless network, and it comes with a 90,000 title library. At $399 it’s pretty expensive, but the price will probably come down as the product catches on.

At first blush, the Kindle seems like a great way to “read green.” About 20 million trees are cut down annually for print books sold in the United States alone. If we all used the Kindle, we’d be saving all those trees, right? Well, yes, but the story’s more complicated than that. A comprehensive “green-alysis” of the Kindle would see the forest as well as the trees. It would analyze the materials used to create the Kindle, how the devices will be disposed of, and more. If they’re going to end up leaching heavy metals into open fields, they may not improve on print books, even if they do spare trees.

The folks at Amazon did not respond to several inquiries about the Kindle’s eco-assets. We can only speculate as to the reason for this radio silence. Maybe their marketing gurus have told them “green” doesn’t sell. Or maybe they’ve decided that the Kindle won’t hold up as green if subjected to close scrutiny.

Here’s our guess, though we can’t prove it: Amazon developed the Kindle with a focus on getting it right technologically. The product’s green qualities were an afterthought at best. If the product is a winner, the company will get around to sprucing up its eco-attributes, especially if there’s enough consumer pressure. Even if it’s not green now, it will probably get there eventually.

So: If you want to read green, should you buy the Kindle? In our view, it’s a judgment call. If you’re basing your decision on whether the Kindle you just purchased is helping the environment, there’s really no way of knowing. You’re saving trees, but who knows what negatives your purchase is supporting?

If you take a longer-term, higher-level view, the prospects get rosier—or greener. Let’s imagine a time when everyone uses e-readers, and they’re green from stem to stern. This world will be more eco-friendly than one where print books are the rule. If you want to help bring this world into being, you can, er, kindle it by buying an e-reader.

Meanwhile, as you ponder this decision, you might want to check out Eco-Libris, where you can pay for a tree to be planted for every book you read.

Read more: Crafts & Design, Green Home Decor

By Carl Frankel, Care2 Green Living contributing writer

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Carl Frankel

Carl Frankel is a journalist and author who has been writing about green business, green products, and integral living for the past 20 years. He has published and written a newsletter on green products and green consumerism (Green MarketAlert), served as North American editor for a magazine on socially responsible business (Tomorrow Magazine), and authored one book on green business (In Earth's Company) and another on integral living (Out of the Labyrinth).


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5:39AM PDT on Apr 23, 2012

Thanks for the article.

12:30AM PDT on Apr 11, 2011

The concept of Kindle is nice, but I still prefer the feel of a real book in my hands. I guess I'm old-fashioned that way. Thanks.

8:31PM PDT on Apr 10, 2011

I love my Kindle and I do see it as reading green. I don't purchase paper newspapers or magazines, and rarely buy paperbacks anymore, all because I can get it on my Kindle or laptop.

I notice this article was written 3 years ago. Has any more research been done since, into whether the Kindle is manufactured in a eco-friendly way? Has Amazon commented yet? The Kindle has really taken off in popularity, so it would surprise me if they are still keeping mum on this issue.

An update would be great. :)

12:39AM PDT on Jun 19, 2009

mega kabin

8:49PM PDT on May 22, 2008

Absolutely agree with Wendy. Boycott Amazon.

5:57AM PDT on May 22, 2008

I, for one, am not currently purchasing anything from Amazon. They sell instruction manuals on both cock fighting and dog fighting. Dog fighting is illegal in all 50 states and cock fighting is illegal in 48 states. Any company that uses the excuse of "censorship" for promoting this illegal, immoral and unethical practice should be boycotted. If you agree, search books on Amazon for dog fighting and cock fighting. When you find the titles, contact them and let them know you will continue to boycot them until they stop promoting methods to torture animals.

9:26PM PDT on May 21, 2008

My girlfriend and I have wondered about the negative side of all this new technology. We have decided to buy only used or refurbished versions of equipment that we want rather than buy new. When we are done with it we will sell it or trade it. If that is not an option we dismantle it and recycle the components accordingly. Is anyone else doing this? Or have any comments on if what we are doing is helping?

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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