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Carbon footprint of a single newspaper equals one kilometre in a car


March 29, 2011
By Pulp & Paper Canada

A Finnish study has concluded the greenhouse gas emissions produced by a single newspaper during its entire life cycle correspond to a car journey of approximately one kilometre. About half of those emissions are attributed to the electricity…

A Finnish study has concluded the greenhouse gas emissions produced by a single newspaper during its entire life cycle correspond to a car journey of approximately one kilometre. About half of those emissions are attributed to the electricity and heat required in the production process.

These data are taken from a recent study on the carbon footprint and other environmental impacts of newspapers, magazines, books, and advertising leaflets. The case studies published by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland were based on a life cycle assessment that followed print products from cradle to grave: fibre supply, paper production, printing, transport, use, and recycling and waste management. The carbon footprint is a useful indicator of climate impacts. It measures the greenhouse gases produced during the life cycle of print products.

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Among all the evaluated environmental impacts associated with the life cycle of newspapers, the most significant are climate change, acidification, the depletion of fossil and mineral resources, and the formation of particulate matter. These impacts are mainly attributable to energy production and consumption (electricity, heating, and fuels) during the production process.

The carbon footprint of newspapers mostly comprises emissions caused by the electricity and heat production required for making the product as well as greenhouse gas emissions resulting from transport. Emissions resulting from the use of purchased electricity in paper production and printing are responsible for approximately 50% of the carbon footprint of a typical Finnish newspaper.

If the purchased electricity required for the production of the newspaper was “green” electricity, the carbon footprint of a typical Finnish newspaper would drop by approximately 40%.

The carbon footprint of an annual volume of daily newspapers amounts to approximately 75 kg of carbon dioxide equivalents and that of a single newspaper to approximately 210 g. The carbon footprint of an annual volume of daily newspapers is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of a car journey of 456 kilometres.

The carbon footprint of an annual volume of weekly magazines is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of a journey of 45 kilometres by a car. Based on the assumptions made in the study, the greenhouse gas emissions produced over the entire life cycle of a single magazine are therefore equivalent to a car journey of approximately one kilometre.

The contribution of newspapers, books, and other paper products to the climate impacts of consumption by Finnish households in 2005 was small (approximately 1%). The biggest climate impacts of consumption by Finnish households were attributable to housing (28%), food products (16%), and transport (13%).


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