Paper vs. the iPad

January 3, 2012
An electronic device emerged to the students of the 21st century as a note-taking tool, but can this technology be better for the earth than the old fashion paper and pencil? Both utilize materials that negatively affect the earth. Manufacturing enormous amounts of paper demands for hundreds of trees to be cut down, and creating the iPad requires rare earth metals. Both products are handled for the same thing, but one of these items is better for the earth.

When it comes down to taking notes, go for the iPad. As told by Brian Palmer in his article “Green Your Notes”, “The iPad releases .004 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalents into the atmosphere per hour. A single piece of recycled paper releases .017 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalents into the atmosphere.” When the user engages in taking notes with the iPad for four hours, it gives out less CO2 than a piece of eco-friendly paper. A student who takes notes for four hours needs more than one sheet of paper. The iPad for this instance is declared the best choice because more notes can be taken.

However, the iPad comprises a different impact on the world. The iPad requires rare earth metals. “These rare earth metals are found in environmentally and politically sensitive areas like the Congo,” stated Palmer. Mining these rare earth metals erodes the land and pollutes the lakes and rivers. Trees can be replaced; the lakes and rivers polluted by the chemicals during the mining craves an expensive cleaning process. These chemicals seep into the lakes and rivers, killing the wild life or severely damaging the area. The damage to areas around a mining site escalates and do not go away. The land cannot come back from the damage. In this case, recycled paper demonstrates a better outcome because it causes less damage to the surrounding environment.

But the iPad saves on the emissions. As stated by Palmer, “The entire life of the iPad will account for 231 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalents when used extensively each day for three years. This is equivalent to the emissions given off by producing 7,700 pieces of virgin paper or 13,600 pieces of recycled paper.” It is unlikely that a student burns through that amount of paper in three years.
Students possess new electronic devices like the iPad for different purposes. The iPad serves many uses: looking up a recipe, sending an application for a job, and skyping with friends. The user can get more out of an iPad than thousands of blank pieces of paper. Students need to make their iPads last. By making them last a couple or even a few more years, the amount of emissions will be less than buying notebooks.

Both products have their downfalls. Paper destroys thousands of trees a year, and the iPad requires rare earth metals which cause the surrounding area damage. To save the environment from more damage, people need to use their resources to the fullest extent. iPads owners need to utilize this product as long as possible and those who do not have iPads should take advantage of all unused paper.

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