Buy an iPad, Help the Planet

As if the iPad’s 45 to 60 million projected buyers (this year alone) need any more reasons to justify its triple-digit price tag, the device may have the potential to reduce our carbon footprint. The UK’s Guardian recently surveyed the environmental pros and cons of the iPad, as well as other tablets.

ipadFirst the bad news: “The collective carbon footprint of all the tablets sold this decade would be approximately 24.8bn kg of CO2 by 2014, about the equivalent carbon footprint of Tunisia or Angola,” says the Guardian.

On the other hand, the iPad is a fierce competitor to many existing technologies and as such, could singlehandedly create the end of an era for products that leave far bigger footprints. For one, tablet sales are already outpacing sales of their bulkier computer comrades, including desktops, workstations, laptops, and netbooks. In fact, researchers at International Data Corporation and Gartner both reported declining PC sales worldwide in the first quarter of 2011, marking the first drop in sales since the recession. The New York Times even identified the desktop computer as a gadget you should just get rid of.

Eventually, many of these devices will become obsolete. They’ll become part of a growing category known as “e-waste,” whose members include the answering machine, boom box and Walkman.

Also, usage of the iPad will reduce consumption of physical books, DVDs, video games and magazines. According to the Association of American Publishers, ebooks were the highest-selling format “among all categories of trade publishing” in February. It’s only inevitable that brick and mortar outlets will require less space to operate. An extreme case is Borders Group, which, as we know, has decided to close all its stores, since declaring bankruptcy. And just recently Best Buy announced plans to reduce square footage of its big-box stores by 10 percent over the next three to five years. Analysts have indicated that the company’s excess store space is partly a result of a drop in sales of music, movies and games.

Curious to know what your carbon footprint measures these days?  You can go to FindYourFootPrint.com and download a free application that calculates your approximate impact on the environment. The app, backed by Proctor and Gamble, asks you a number of questions to estimate the size of your footprint. I doubt the app will ask about iPad usage, but given some of its eco-friendly implications, that may not be such a terrible idea.