The paper boy always used to deliver at least two newspapers to my home every morning when I was growing up. In case you don’t know what a paper boy is, this is a job (still) done children who either cycle or walk the neighbourhood every morning, delivering newspapers to earn some pocket money. My mother used to be a fan of The Daily Mail, which has now deteriorated into a dreadful paper full of sensationalist gossip, while my father liked more highbrow The Telegraph. This habit continued once my parents moved to Spain where there is no paper boy. They would use ‘getting the paper’ as an excuse to drive into town and have a coffee or a stroll. My parents read those papers from cover to cover before giving them to the neighbours, who were far too stingy to buy their own.
In 2015 there are no newspapers in my house because, obviously, all this information is available online. The same goes for CDs because I subscribe to a music streaming service and don’t even have a CD player in the house any more, other than the one in my laptop. I am about to get rid of the DVDs too. Whoever would have thought?
While digital technologies have great potential for better sustainability, we still need to factor the carbon footprint of digital news delivery into the calculation, for example the minerals and metals mined to manufacture computers and networks, electricity consumption and the coal burned, in many cases to produce it.
One printed product that many environmentally conscious people would like to go away is the freesheet, or the free newspaper. These are handed out to commuters on the streets of large cities and it has been calculated that around 44 countries produce 35.8 million free papers every day. In London alone, there are 1.5 million distributed every day. That equates to 400 trees every day after use of recycled pulp. Most people only devote 10 minutes to scanning through these publications before discarding them because the main content is advertising and poor journalism. A stupid use of resources, don’t you think?
I just love the choice of reading material on the internet. Before travelling I browse the travel sections of The New York Times and The Guardian for suggested activities all over the world. If I feel like reading a bit of trashy gossip I log onto The Daily Mail and for reliable Spanish news you can’t beat El País. They’ll even deliver the headlines to your inbox every morning if you like. One of the joys of living in the Digital Age. When did you last buy a newspaper then?