Plastic Logic: Greenwashed?

Would you buy an eReader because of its environmental benefits? The newest Plastic Logic talking point suggests that eReaders, particularly of the Plastic Logic variety, are the greener alternative to chopping down trees for paper and relying on ‘big trucks’ to transport paper products.

Does the reader really offer the “green reading revolution” it promises? As Jaymi Heimbuch points on, there are environmental benefits to paper that eReaders can’t meet:

  • Paper is recyclable unlike most electronics which are manufactured, used and then dumped in places like Africa once the original consumer is done with them.
  • Paper is a renewable resource that can be grown and harvested in relatively ethical ways. Can the components of a Plastic Logic reader be created in a low impact way? The device will still need to be distributed and I’m guessing that will probably happen in, well, big trucks. It’s lighter and smaller, sure, but materials to create the reader are being shipped to the manufacturer in the same way that paper is shipped to the printer. There’s a saving here but it might not be as dramatic as reported.

Could it have a lighter footprint? Sure. But as we learn more about the whole life cycle of the electronics we often assume to be greener than traditional alternatives, we need to remain active in insisting that companies go deeper than just PR and actually create and deliver the green products they promise.