What’s better for the planet: ebooks or print books?

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I try not to got holier than thou with environmental footprint prescriptives. I try. (Although, when it comes to bottled water, I’m rather unforgiving.) Mostly I prefer to advocate making better choices. And mostly there is a better choice. And small, everyday, mindful things we can all do.

what’s better: dishwashers v hand washing?

Based on Green Lifestyle Mag’s research, dishwashers work out better. But here’s some tips for both:

  • Dishwashers come out on top – they use less water and are usually better on the electrical energy – when stacked properly and you do a full load.
  • If washing by hand, use two sinks – one full of hot, sudsy water for washing, and another for rinsing.
  • Clean a dishwasher filter regularly for increased efficiency, and, if you can, bypass the drying phase – simply open the door to let out air while the dishes are hot – you’ll be surprised how quickly they dry.
  • If you’re in the market for a new dishwasher, shop by the stars.

tip i want to share: boil only as much water as you need in your kettle.

Kettles and jugs are one of the BIGGEST suck holes of energy in your kitchen. So many people fill the jug unnecessarily to make one cup of tea. Don’t be one of them!

what’s better: print books versus ebooks?

The e-book appears to be greener (when you weigh up the eco-cost of paper v the energy and tech infrastructure used to make an eReader), according to Green Lifestyle Mag‘s research. Here’s a few notes to help you if you’re new to the ebook world:

  • To reduce your reading impact, you need to actively use your eReader for as much reading as possible – newspaper, books etc. A Kindle could save you an average of 168kg of greenhouse gas emissions a year…if you’re not buying print books etc as well.
  • Ensure that your eReader uses E Ink – it’s the closest mimic to reading paper, is easier on the eyes and takes less power than an LCD screen so you save on battery; investigate greener ways to charge the battery; hold onto the unit for as long as possible; and ensure the device is recycled at the end of its life.
  • If you’re a paper addict, a library is the greenest option. Second-hand bookshops, markets and op-shops are second best. Or, try I Love Reading – an online book club that posts books to members. Read at your leisure and return in the pre-paid envelope provided.

tip i want to share: don’t declutter, just buy less.

You can read about how I do this, and why it’s so free-ing here.

tip i want to share: don’t buy a prius, ride a bike.

I read a study that showed owning a fancy Prius instead of, say, a medium-sized normal car, ain’t that great.

Hybrids are still internal-combustion, petrol-powered cars. While they might use less of it than other vehicles (a hybrid car will emit 23.1 kilograms of carbon dioxide for every 161 kms driven, while a conventional car will emit 34 kgs), they still depend on fuel, and they still create emissions when they’re driven around.

The amount of emissions saved in one week by driving a pious hybrid can still be beaten by simply doing 1-2 less trips down the road and riding or walking instead.

what about coffee versus tea?

Green Lifestyle mag’s study on this one shows that tea trumps coffee in the energy stakes.

According to Dutch researchers, for a single cup of coffee, growing the beans, processing them and making the cuppa at home requires 140 litres of water. That’s fourteen buckets of water for just one coffee! This is eight times more water than what is needed to make a cup of tea. Might not turn you into a tea drinker… but thought I should let you know!

tip i want to share: turn your fridge down.

Mostly we run our fridges unnecessarily cold.

what’s better: liquid versus bar soap?

This Green Lifestyle mag study highlights a couple of things:

  • in terms of ingredients that minimise harm to fragile aquatic ecosystems, there are more options for environmentally friendly bar soap than liquid soap.
  • Choose products formulated without palm oil to avoid harm to terrestrial ecosystems. The soap ingredients elaeis guineensis, sodium lauryl sulphate, cetyl alcohol, stearic acid, isopropyl and other palmitates, steareth-2, steareth-20 and fatty alcohol sulphates may be derived from palm oil.
  • Bar soap packaging has less of an impact than that for liquid soap. You can prolong the life of bar soap and prevent waste by keeping it on a draining tray.
  • Avoid [at all costs – Sarah] anti-bacterial soap – liquid or bar; studies suggest they bring no hygiene advantage, and cause environmental harm [and harm to your health; they’re endocrine disruptors – Sarah].
  • If you buy liquid soap choose larger packs and refills to minimise packaging waste.
  • The greenest option is to make your own bar soap using sustainable ingredients.

tip i want to share: fill your freezer.

Solids freeze at a higher temperature than air and so a full freeze freezer requires less energy to maintain it at a constant temperature.

tip i want to share: use less washing powder.

I heard someone from CHOICE tell an audience once that one of the best things they can do for the environment is use half the amount of washing detergent than the manufacturer advises. Your clothes will wash just as well.

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