Electronic Green: Considering The ‘Eco-Backpack’ of a CD

Is downloading music good for the environment? Is paying your bills online socially responsible? How green is your CD- compact disc and certificate of deposit? When we stop to consider the ‘ecological backpack’ of the CD (compact disc) and that little plastic jewel case, it might just be that downloading our favorite band‘s greatest hits is the greenest way to grow our music library.

The German scientist Friedrich Schmidt-Bleek coined the phrase ‘ecological backpack’ to describe the overall environmental impact of a product. In a 2006 article in The Guardian, Leo Hickman explains:

“Similar in thinking to a person’s ecological footprint, [a product’s ecological backpack] is a measure used to calculate the amount of resources – fuel, minerals, water etc – that must “be moved” throughout the full lifespan of a product. For example, a 10-gram wedding ring has an ecological backpack of five tons, whereas a 3kg laptop has a backpack of about 400kg.”

Hickman looks at a 2003 European study that examined the “sustainability of our new ‘networked world’” The research project “looked specifically at the environmental impact of digital music, by analyzing three methods for acquiring 56 minutes of music (the average length of an album).”

“The first purchasing route the study looked at was buying 56 minutes of music on a CD at a high-street store. It then looked at buying the same CD online, and then finally at downloading all the music. Buying a CD at a shop produced a backpack of 1.6kg, said the study, whereas buying it online reduced the impact to 1.3kg. But by downloading the music, the backpack fell to 0.7kg. In other words, a clear advantage – although hardly a ‘zero-impact’ approach.”

Electronic Green

Similarly, Electronic Bill Pay and Presentment (EBPP) and online banking promises to significantly reduce the environmental impact of traditional C2B transactions, saving trees, millions of tons of landfill waste and the immeasurable resources used (production, distribution and disposal). According to a study in the US, by the Electronic Payments Association and Javelin Strategy & Research,

If every American household viewed and paid its bills online, it would reduce solid waste in U.S. landfills by more than 800,000 tons a year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2.1 million tons.

PA-based Sovereign Bank is among the many banks encouraging its customers to adopt EBPP. Sovereign has issued the ‘Go Paperless’ challenge, recognizing that EBPP is cost-effective, convenient and environmentally sound. According to Marshall Soura, managing director of the Global Solutions Group, Sovereign Bank,

“People today are much more environmentally aware than ever, and are looking for ways–no matter how big or small–to do their part, from recycling to buying a hybrid car. Sovereign, together with our technology partner CheckFree, hopes that consumers will take the ‘Go Paperless’ challenge and start paying and receiving bills online as a way of doing their part to improve the environment.”

At Love Tomorrow Today and on this forum, we strive to promote lifestyle choices that allow for simple, sustainable course corrections in our daily lives. When it comes to your music collection and the way you pay your bills, going digital is an easy and convenient way to save time, save carbon emissions and reduce waste.

  • Tags: Misc., Paper Trail, Simple Change, Technology
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