Environmental Statements

At our Authors’ request (but without any extra charge or cost), we can prepare a very detailed kind of environmental statement, known as a ‘Life Cycle Inventory’ (an ‘LCI’), for the eBooks we publish. To be more precise: We can prepare a cradle-to-gate, ‘distributed and comparative’ Life Cycle Inventory (DC-LCI) that examines three different book buying and delivery scenarios. This is how we can proclaim the superior resource efficiency and the environmental benefits of our eBooks, compared to their traditional, hardcopy analogues.

What distinguishes a 'cradle-to-gate' LCI from a more extensive 'cradle-to-grave' LCI, is that a cradle-to-gate LCI only examines the resource requirements and environmental emissions that arise from the production and distribution of a product, but not any of the subsequent requirements or impacts that arise during product use and end-of-life disposal. We justify taking this shortcut, because the comparison we want to make is made quite adequately by our cradle-to-gate LCI. Moreover, going the extra distance of preparing a cradle-to-grave LCI would be more than a few steps too far, because disposing of an eBook is essentially a zero-footprint activity, whereas disposing of a hardcopy book definitely does leave a footprint. Granted, reading an eBook does consume a little bit of electricity in a way that a hardcopy book does not; and we would also have to allot a portion of the resource requirements and environmental emissions that arise from manufacturing an eReader or comparable device; which we would not have to do for hardcopy books. Perhaps, when we find reliable statistics concerning eReader power consumption and device lifetime usage (i.e. the average number of eBooks read using an eReader before that device is scrapped); as well as statistics concerning the disposal burden of an eReader; perhaps then, we might undertake the preparation of a cradle-to-grave LCI for our eBooks. Until then, we will work to extend and enrich our cradle-to-gate LCI model, adding more nuance and greater sophistication, in order to more accurately model the subtle and gross differences between various book buying and distribution scenarios.
The 'comparative' aspect is owing to the fact that our LCIs don't just inventory a single product. Rather, they inventory three equivalent products and their equivalent logistical flows; for one of our eBooks and two equivalent hardcopy editions. This three-way comparison provides a full-spectrum inventory of all three purchase and delivery scenarios. It is this comparison that enables us to quantify the relative environmental benefits and resource efficiency of our 'dematerialized' electronic publications, over their 'material' analogues. What makes our LCIs 'distributed', is that we don't try to calculate a generalized set of estimates, in order to compute an average scenario, given a normative range of parameters, the way that most LCIs do. Instead, we compute the specific resource requirements and environmental emissions that arise from a very specific scenario of product manufacture and delivery. Accordingly, we prepare a different LCI for each delivery destination. We can do this because our heuristic model enables us to accurately account for the energy requirements and resulting airborne emissions that stem from the specific logistical flows required to deliver a (very tightly specified) hardcopy book to a specific delivery destination. This is why our 'distributed and comparative'(DC) LCI for eBook and hardcopy book deliveries to Lebanon, Kansas; details different findings than our DC-LCI for deliveries to Los Angeles, California (the first two delivery destinations we prepared DC-LCIs for).

Essentially, our DC-LCIs examine three different scenarios that arise when someone shops online, buys online and has a book delivered to them. In scenario #1, we inventory the electric power consumption and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions of the online purchase and digital download (delivery) of our Authors’ specific eBooks. In scenarios #2 and #3, we model the (multi-faceted) resource requirements and resulting (multi-aspect) environmental emissions that arise when an equivalent-sized hardcopy book is bought online, manufactured in material form, packaged in a corrugated shipping carton, and shipped to the purchaser. Scenario #2 models for express delivery that includes air freight; while scenario #3 models for ground shipping, end-to-end by truck.

It is this comparison that enables us to quantify the relative resource efficiency and environmental emissions reductions that can be achieved when readers choose our eBooks, instead of the hardcopy editions of the same publications.

In broad strokes, there are two sets of factors that determine the degree to which our eBooks achieve greater resource efficiency and reduced environmental impacts, compared to hardcopy books. The first set of factors pertain to the material composition and mass of hardcopy books (where eBooks are dematerialized and have no mass, per se); and the second set of factors pertain to the logistical burden of physically transporting a hardcopy book (while eBooks are delivered by digital download).

Because of the way our heuristic DC-LCI model works; with the specifications of an eBook informing the specifications of its hardcopy analogue, and in turn, also its tight-fitting corrugated shipping carton; the operative set of variables, on a case by case basis, concern the specific logistical details of a particular delivery. In other words; for a given publication, the eBook is a constant for scenario #1, while the hardcopy books are constant in scenarios #2 and #3, with only the logistical details varying for a particular delivery, depending on the final destination for the delivery, and how those hardcopy books are delivered.

Accordingly, our DC-LCI model pays very close attention to the energy requirements and the airborne emissions that arise from the physical transport of the hardcopy books we compare our eBooks to. Of necessity, this means that our material flow analysis had to consider specific starting points, specific delivery destinations, specific routes between them, as well as specific vehicles, transportation fuels and quantities thereof. To do this, we have drawn on the most applicable primary data sets, and have used the most accurate calculations, and have not applied any simplified methods or other shortcuts. With this uncompromising approach, we are able to prepare a different, bespoke life cycle inventory for every delivery destination in our (expanding) library of delivery destinations. This is why we call our environmental statement a ‘distributed and comparative, life cycle inventory’ (a DC-LCI).

To our knowledge, DigiNatal Publishing is the only publisher in the world that is able to provide this exacting service. Yet, our DC-LCIs also set us apart from others who prepare LCIs, in a number of important ways. One in particular, deserves some up-front explanation.

Most (if not all) life cycle inventories take the form of a singular written report that states the ‘average case’. Our DC-LCIs break both of these conventions. We haven’t tried to model the ‘average case’, and we haven’t written a report either (not exactly, anyway). Instead, we have prepared the primary document for our DC-LCIs as a PDF poster, not as a multi-page report, and we prepare one such poster for each and every delivery destination we have modeled for. While these PDF posters can be printed on paper (with native dimensions of 36″ x 72″); we would much rather that they were reviewed only on a computer screen (or overhead projector), in order to save on paper. This would also preserve the full-featured functionality of these unique electronic documents, such as support for text search and zoom and scroll (which is particularly handy with our DC-LCI posters, since we have made extensive use of fine print, in order to provide rich contextual background to all the numbers we will have reported).

The net result — we believe — is a detailed document that is also very accessible and easy to understand, even for people who may not be in the habit of studying life cycle inventories. To see an example, check out the two PDFs below.

 

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