25 April 2013 - The Concordian
By Mike Rose
SGA has put sustainability as one of the issues at the forefront of its platform for the upcoming year by stressing sustainability during elections and with the creation of a new position on their team, the Sustainability Commissioner. SGA’s focus on sustainability for our campus is great, but was the decision to purchase iPads truly sustainable? This last week, the incoming SGA team announced the purchase of 14 iPads that will be used next year by the group at their forum meeting and by leaders in the Parke Student Leadership Center.
The claims made for the purchase by the team were that the iPads will improve communication, record keeping and sustainability while providing long-term growth. At first glance these claims seem great; however, when looking through a critical lens this purchase may not be as sustainable as it is claimed to be. First off, it’s safe to say that most, if not all, members have phones, laptops or tablets that should facilitate proper communication and record keeping. As for long term growth, has the word, “long-term” ever been used to describe technology?
The iPads will be out of date in a few short years, and more will have to be purchased. When it comes to sustainability, the main reason that the team cited for the purchase was that the tablets would cut down on paper usage. However, according to Apple’s 2010 environmental report the carbon footprint of one iPad is 130kg of CO2.When this is multiplied by the number of tablets purchased, the total carbon emission is 1820kg of CO2, which doesn’t even include the cases and keyboards that were also purchased. According to last week’s article, SGA uses approximately 5000 sheets of paper annually, and based on data from blueskymodel.org this would equate to 180 kg of CO2 if the paper wasn’t recycled. If recycled, the carbon footprint decreases all the way to 50kg of CO2.
This means that purchasing the iPads didn’t decrease the group’s carbon footprint, it increased it by 36 times. This would mean that those iPads would have to be in use for more than 36 years for them to approach carbon neutrality. To further compound the issue, when these iPads are disposed of (hopefully recycled) they will be adding electronic waste which is much harder to degrade/recycle than paper waste. The bottom line is that we can never be sustainable by consuming more things that we don’t actually need. When will sustainability on our campus truly be based on using the products that we already have, conserving resources and minimizing consumption?