Print Products Negligible Factor in Household Climate Impact, Study Finds

ESPOO, FINLAND—March 25, 2011—The greenhouse gas emissions produced by a single newspaper during its entire lifecycle correspond to a car journey of approximately one kilometer (.62 miles). The carbon footprint of a book bought from a store is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of a car journey of approximately 7 kilometers (4.35 miles).

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland recently published a study on the carbon footprint and other environmental impacts of newspapers, magazines, photo books, books and advertising leaflets. The case studies were based on a lifecycle assessment that followed print products from cradle to grave: fibre supply, paper production, printing, transport, use, and recycling and waste management.

The carbon footprint is a useful indicator of climate impacts. It measures the greenhouse gases produced during the lifecycle of print products. International ISO standards for carbon footprints of products and organisations are under development.

The outcome of research is extensive knowledge about environmental impacts of print products. Among all the evaluated environmental impacts associated with the lifecycle of newspapers the most significant are climate change, acidification, the depletion of fossil and mineral resources, and the formation of particulate matter. These impacts are mainly attributable to energy production and consumption (electricity, heating and fuels) during the production process.

The carbon footprint of newspapers mostly comprises emissions caused by the electricity and heat production required for making the product as well as greenhouse gas emissions resulting from transport. In addition, methane is produced as a result of the decomposition of newspapers deposited in landfill sites.

Emissions resulting from the use of purchased electricity in paper production and printing are responsible for approximately 50 percent of the carbon footprint of a typical Finnish newspaper. If all of the purchased electricity required for the production of newspapers constituted what is known as ‘green electricity’, such as wind power or hydropower, the carbon footprint of a typical Finnish newspaper would drop by approximately 40 percent.

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