Electronic media have a heavy carbon footprint because of the energy they require to exist. Unlike physical media digital media only work if there is energy to deliver them. They also need energy to survive, so the emissions associated with electronic media are substantial. This much we know and although emissions associated with data centres are recognised as problem, we do not really know how to quantify them. Nor do we know how to reduce their energy footprints without the risk of frying or freezing the data. But something must be done because data centres are responsible for more carbon dioxide generation than the entire aviation industry.
It probably doesn’t occur to many people that electronic media may have a much larger environmental footprint than print media. How can that be when print is so visibly polluting? Well, it’s a simple calculation because print has a one-off carbon footprint and printed paper can be recycled up to seven times. It’s part of a supply chain that encourages tree-planting which preserves habitats and creates a means of capturing carbon dioxide organically.
It takes a million years for glass to biodegrade, so it’s good that we’ve worked out sensible recycling processes for it. However as the packaging industry gets slicker, we need to look more carefully at how we can keep recycling glass, particularly containers, effectively. Digital printing technology is making it easier to print direct to shape (DtS) and as we turn away from plastics, we need to be thinking more about ink formulations and deinking processes for glass containers. It must be economically viable to continue recycling them without increasing environmental impacts through more complex deinking and recycling processes.
It’s got a long and clumsy title, but what ISO 21632 (Graphic technology — Determination of the energy consumption of digital printing devices including transitional and related modes) can do for the graphics industry has nothing to do with clumsiness. Far from it. This document will help make short run digital printing devices, including large format machines, much more environmentally accountable.
It’s amazing how long it took for computer-to-plate (CtP) technology to become widespread. CtP in prepress has made a huge contribution to improving print’s environmental impact. Going direct to plate and bypassing the film imaging and contacting stages removes processes in printing plate production. CtP had been around since the 1980s, but its key goals proved elusive. That all changed in 1995.