ISO 20294 for calculating the carbon footprint of electronic media

medium_laurel2015.jpgThe weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

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.

Electronic media on the other hand have a carbon footprint that keeps on stamping ever more vigorously on the environment, because it requires energy to store and access. The enormous range of storage requirements for digital media depends on armies of servers operating all the time, burning through the kilowatts day and night. Even if you keep your email mail boxes clean and tidy, regularly deleting what’s redundant or disposable, you can be sure that somewhere out there all of them are still knocking about just waiting to be retrieved. This is not only creepy, it’s extremely bad for the environment.

We aren’t about to turn away from electronic media. It’s just too useful and we’ve all come to depend on it from emails to Netflix downloads. However we do need to know more about its environmental impact, which is why the publication of ISO 20294 (Graphic technology — Quantification and communication for calculating the carbon footprint of e-media) is so important.

This document is a framework for data collection that takes the first steps towards developing accurate and complete data for the environmental footprints of electronic media. It isn’t going to change the world tomorrow, but over time it is hoped that enough data will be collected to inform policy and investment decisions, especially in media and how digital systems function to support communications, including education, entertainment and socio-economic systems. ISO 20294 is a framework which allows interested parties to obtain electronic media carbon footprint data in a consistent and transparent way. It ensures consistency in carbon footprint calculator design and provides e-media users throughout the supply chain with a common model for data collection. Most significantly it helps with tracking and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which is something the planet’s health depends upon if its future is to be assured.

– Laurel Brunner

This article was produced by the Verdigris Project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, HP, Kodak, Kornit, Ricoh, Spindrift, Splash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

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