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Calculating the carbon footprint of electronic media: the Verdigris Blog

Article written by

Laurel Brunner

Written on 04/11/2014 | Posted 3 years 3 months 17 days ago

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Measuring the carbon footprint of electronic media will require expert input from the electronics and graphic arts industries ( cc Compfight // andreas rodler) Measuring the carbon footprint of electronic media will require expert input from the electronics and graphic arts industries ( cc Compfight // andreas rodler)

Measuring the carbon footprint of electronic media might be an impossible task, but it is crucial in order for the media industry to benchmark and monitor its carbon footprint. We have managed to develop an ISO standard for calculating the carbon footprint of print media – ISO 16759 – and now all eyes are on electronic media.

The idea has been knocking around for a while within Working Group 11 (WG11) of TC130, the ISO technical committee responsible for graphics technology standards. Most of the TC130 work relates to print but some of it, for instance, in PDF standards, also relates to electronic communications. The problem is that understanding electronic media’s carbon footprint depends on a different knowledge base that than of print media. It requires understanding of all the stuff related to content that happens in pre-press, from content creation to colour management. But it also requires an understanding of networks, servers, archiving, data distribution and, of course, the devices used to view electronic media.

Quantifying the carbon footprint of it all is difficult, however, it can be done if enough brainpower is thrown at the problem. A document is already under development, based on the same methodology as ISO 16759. It specifies a consistent method that should provide defensible, trustworthy and above all accurate data. This document is now in the hands of a Joint Working Group (JWG) set up between ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission's committee, which is responsible for audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment. The IEC is already working on a quantification methodology for calculating the greenhouse gas emissions of electrical and electronic products and systems. The new JWG combines the expertise of WG11 and IEC members to develop a robust standard for calculating the carbon footprint of electronic media.

It won’t be easy to achieve this, because the document must specify how organisations and end users should define the parameters for calculating the carbon footprint of electronic media. The document will be published as an ISO standard and will provide specifications for how to calculate the carbon footprint. This includes information about the carbon footprint of the viewing hardware and of the data load associated with a given electronic media product and its use.

The creation, publication, distribution, storage, archiving and use of electronic media on any digital device are all to be included. This work is expected to depend on expertise sourced from the electronics and graphic arts industries and is anticipated to take two years to complete. The timeline is subject to the availability of required expertise for developing the document. Experts specialised in data, server, network and content management and publishing are requested to express their interest to participate in this work. Experts who do become involed are required to attend two one-day international meetings per year, plus additional meetings with local experts.

This article is part of the Verdigris series of blogs about understanding the environmental impact of print. The Verdigris project is supported by founder members Agfa Graphics, Canon Europe, Digital Dots, drupa, Ricoh and Unity Publishing, and associate members EFI, FESPA, Pragati, Splash PR and Xeikon. Output is a proud publishing partner of the Verdigris project, which is led by its expert contributor Laurel Brunner. 

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