I was thrilled to see that the cause for this year’s Blog Action Day was climate change–it’s something all of us at The LAMP hold very dear. Last March, we participated in and helped promote Earth Hour, a campaign encouraging individuals and cities to turn off all their lights for one hour to raise awareness about climate change. Of course, this is great, and it’s an effective visual way to demonstrate the power that a simple act can have on the environment when people work together for a common purpose. But one thing puzzled us–during the hour, people were asked to email and call friends and share their Earth Hour experience with them. What about the power used by those devices?
It’s easy to ignore the impact media has on the environment. A lot of us are guilty of leaving our cell phones in the charger long after the battery has fully charged, or of leaving computers on overnight, or of leaving the television on when nobody is watching it. However, our phones, computers, televisions and gaming systems can also be huge energy hogs–for example, around 2/3 of the energy used by mobile devices is the result of them being fully charged but idle in their chargers. Video gamers may use as much energy in one year as the entire city of San Diego. In August 2009, 60 Minutes reported that Americans throw out roughly 130,000 computers every day, and about 1 million cell phones every year. Even when e-waste is earmarked for recycling, it may have to travel thousands of miles to be processed.
In addition to forgetting to turn things off, it’s easy to fall prey to marketers whose business depends on convincing you that you NEED a hot new phone (even though yours works just fine) or that you NEED a more high-powered computer. When you do decide to buy a new gadget, how closely are you evaluating the impact it has on the environment? Not all gaming systems are equal, many of the materials used to make electronic devices have to be shipped from other countries, and something with a shorter battery life will need to be charged more frequently.
This is where media literacy comes in. One component of being a more literate media consumer is that you understand the media choices you make, and this extends to making thoughtful media purchases. Our addiction to electronic devices uses up a lot of energy; the IT industry emits as much carbon dioxide as the aviation industry. It’s difficult to underplay just what that means.
In response to this, The LAMP has been hard at work developing and seeking funding for a program which would use media literacy to address climate change, explore how our media choices impact the environment, and devise ways we can each minimize that impact. We also accept recycled equipment to use in our workshops, so if you decide you want or need a more souped-up Macbook or camcorder than what you currently have, you can send us your old one.
Meanwhile, remember that even though our digital devices can do an awful lot of cool things, when used thoughtlessly they can also do the opposite.