The Environmental Implications
of iPads and Other Tablet Computers

The electronics revolution that
defined the last decade turned companies like Apple into corporate empires,
provided fuel for economic and industrial revolutions in China and elsewhere in
Asia, and gave consumers access to extraordinary technology that would have
been considered science fiction just a few short years before. Tablets such as
the iPad have become the digital face of this revolution.

Powerhouses that revolutionized the way we work, play, and consume media,
tablets also have a darker side in regards to environmental and social impact.
Here are the pros and cons of tablets.

Pro: Truly Paperless

Computers were supposed to usher in a “paperless society.” In
reality, the ability to word process and print alone created mountains upon
mountains of paper that hadn’t previously been imaginable. Tablets give us a
unique ability to truly remove paper clutter from our lives and from our
landfills and keep trees rooted in the ground while taking the burden off of
recycling centers.

By utilizing credit-card readers such as Square,
businesses can make electronic transactions without receipts. Its portability
means that you can take your notes, calendars, and to-do lists with you – all
without ever picking up a pencil.

Facts: The Environmental Argument for Tablets

·  New
shows that nearly half of all tablet users have decreased their
printing habits.

·  Seven gallons of water are required to
produce an average paper book. An e-book, however, requires fewer than two cups
of water.

·  2.5 grams of carbon dioxide are produced
every hour by a tablet. Compare that to a 13-15 watt CFL light bulb (60-watt
incandescent equivalent), which generates more than 54 grams of the greenhouse
gas every hour.

Con: eWaste

In 2010, 2 percent of Americans owned tablets. Today, that number is 25
percent. As tablet ownerships skyrockets, so does eWaste. It is estimated that
by 2025, the amount of global eWaste will reach an unsustainable 25 million
tons per year.

eWaste is a general term used to describe waste that comes from disposing
electronics such as tablets. Dangerous elements such as lithium, lead, or
mercury can be found in both the housing, batteries, and circuitry of many
electronics. Because of stricter regulations in America and the West, these
dangerous elements often end up in landfills in poorer countries.

Con: Labor Issues

While millions of people have been lifted out of poverty in Asia in recent
years, the booming economies of emerging powers such as China have risen on the
backs of what are sometimes morally deficient labor practices. Not only are the
workers who assemble tablets often young, vulnerable, underpaid, overworked,
and mistreated, but the minerals used for producing – specifically for
batteries – some electrical components are mined in countries where labor and
environmental laws are all but nonexistent. One of the reasons tablets are
affordable for average consumers is because of the labor conditions suffered by
the people who build them.

Tablets are changing the country – and the world. Consumed in ever-growing
numbers by comparatively wealthy people in the West, they have improved
communication, media, and business in ways previously never imagined. There
are, however, downsides when it comes to their environmental and social impact.
Research, learn, and weigh the pros and cons before you buy.

Andrew Lisa
is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. He writes about technology and the
green movement, as well as financial and regional topics such as how to find
inexpensive California
car insurance