Physical versus virtual: some numbers


Great find by contributor James Christie:

Confirmation of possible negative effects for newsprint (meaning that it is less sustainable) and for other “broadband” activities.

Negatives numbers mean that we USE more oil when we substitute online activities for real ones. In other words, with the exception of telecommuting, many online replacements for the physical have very small positive effects, or even negative ones.

Exhibit 32: Summary of Monte Carlo Simulations for the US
http://gesi.org/files/Reports/Measuring%20the%20Energy%20Reduction%20Impact%20of%20Selected%20Broadband-Enabled%20Activities%20within%20Households.pdf

Source: ACEEE and Yankee Group, 2012

Savings in Million
Barrels of Oil
Online
News
Music
Streaming
Online
Banking
Telecommuting
Lower -0.6 0.2 -2.2 130.8
Upper 1.0 3.4 17.7 298.4
Average 0.2 1.8 7.8 214.6

Here are some additional numbers:

Online
Shopping
Online
Education
Digital
Photos
E-Mail Total
1.5 -0.6 -3.6 -0.7 163.6
15.7 4.6 26.3 7.4 335.8
8.6 2.0 11.3 3.4 249.7

This will be a problem if the ease of use of online services causes greater consumption than present, invoking Jevons’ paradox. However, there is one big win here – telecommuting. It stands to reason that design firms should encourage home workers.

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