Rashmi thinks so. Well, when I read about her idea of getting herself a digital photo-frame gifted from her parents, I let her know about the environmental concerns. So am I an eco-terrorist? I shall like to defend. Let me begin with a small calculation:
This website talks about average power consumed by various digital frames. Usage per day and number of days used per year are my own assumptions but I guess they are reasonable for a digital photo frame, aren’t they? Annual power consumption is basic math, once you have power and time. The same site which gives power consumption of frames, also gives CO2 equivalent emitted annually. I have used the current average value of traded CO2 equivalent in market (yes, carbon credits are being sold and bought). In simple words the environmental cost of using such frames for a year is almost Rs. 200.
How much does the user pay? Taking the electricity tariff for Maharashtra, and assuming that only high end domestic consumers would go for these frames (at least as long as they remain costly), I have chosen a conservative value of 290 paise per unit (one unit = 1 KWH). So a user pays only about 100 bucks per year as increase in electricity bill.
To sum up, the true cost of using a digital photo frame is about 300 bucks per year out of which the actual user pays for only 1/3rd of it. Who pays for the remaining 2/3rds? Ever thought of that? The rest of the world!! Afterall, CO2 equivalent is nothing but a proxy for the amount of global warming damage that the use of a particular electrical appliance leads to. Till these costs are internalized, the supply demand curve, even at equilibrium can never be sustainable.
So Rashmi, I might be an eco-terrorist (I like the title by the way 🙂 ) but I do have a point.
By the way, Rashmi also pointed to me that even the production of paper involves cutting of trees and that way we are leading to environmental damage. How do I take care of that?
She is talking about the environmental cost during production. I was talking about environmental cost during usage. But I can talk about the production process too. Let me.
The external costs during production are usually (or at least can usually) be internalized. For example the government can charges extra tax for cutting trees. Usually, the recent trend is to ask the producers to plant more trees than are being cut, somewhere else. This does not reduce the environmental damage to zero, but over a long period, could still prove to be sustainable.
But think about the manufacturing process of a digital photo frame! A paper only needs wood and some chemicals. A digital photo frame needs so much more minerals including silica. Can you replace all those minerals? Silica is already fast depleting!
So yeah, on the cost-front, there is no doubt that a digital photo frame is a bad idea. But then, the real question is, should it really be treated as another substitute to the regular frames? Some might say it’s like comparing a car with bullock-cart. The true cost of a bullock-cart, either during production or during usage/operation are way lower than a motor-car. So does that mean, we should stop using cars? This is tricky to answer.
We are suckers for anything that is convenient. Cars added value to the the experience of transportation, just as the digital photo frame promises to add to the experience of watching a photograph. But what do we have today? Traffic clogged roads? War over petrol? Increased pollution in cities?
What is needed and what is not, can always be debated, can always be questioned. What is a luxury today becomes a necessity tomorrow. But who lets that happen? Who leads to consumption of more and more limited resources at a faster and faster pace? Who is slowly destroying the planet by heating up the arctic snow? We, the consumers. Can we think? Can we pause. Can we turn into eco-terrorists?