Environmental Impacts of Electronic Media : A Comparison of a Magazine’s Tablet and Print Editions

Abstract: The aim of this thesis is to assess potential environmental impacts of electronic media distribution and consumption—from a life cycle perspective—as compared to those of print media.The thesis consists of a cover essay and two papers appended at the end of the thesis. The cover essay summarizes the papers and puts them in context. The main objectives of the thesis are twofold: to assess potential environmental impacts of production and consumption of tablet editions of magazines from a life cycle perspective (Paper I), and to compare potential environmental impacts of a magazine’s print edition with that of its tablet edition (Paper II).The thesis examines the following specific research questions: (1) What are the main environmental impacts of print and tablet editions? (2) Which activities are giving rise to the main environmental impacts of the print and tablet editions? (3) What are the key factors influencing these impacts? (4) What are major data gaps and uncertainties?Based on the present assessment, it is clear that for the print magazine, pulp and paper production is the principal cause of most of the potential environmental impacts. For this reason, the use of recycled paper, rather than virgin fiber, in newsprint production may considerably offset environmental impacts.For the tablet edition, the content production dominates the potential environmental impacts when readers are few. This appears to be the case in an emerging state of the magazine, but with distribution of more media products to smaller groups of people, this may persist for “mature” products as well. As the number of tablet readers grows, more of the environmental impact of the is due to manufacturing of the device and electronic distribution. However, content production may still be a major factor, depending on the specific environmental impacts studied.

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