How to Reduce Packaging Waste and Carbon Emissions with Your Music Buying Habits

The Contrapuntist is participating in Blog Action Day 2009’s topic about the environment. I’d like to share two stories from about how to help the environment by adjusting your music buying habits.

Reduce Carbon Emissions by 80% by Purchasing Music Online

A report put together by Carnegie Mellon University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Stanford University describes the effect on carbon emissions of environmentally friendly digital music distribution versus traditional methods. Here is some information from the post:

The report, entitled The Energy and Climate Change Impacts of Different Music Delivery Methods, looks at energy and CO2 emissions associated with how we get our music – either delivery of an album of music in the traditional way or via the Internet. While we can guess that just in materials and fuel for delivery of CDs to your house, online would be more efficient, the degree to which it is an improvement is surprising. Online purchases show a 40% and 80% savings.

The scenarios the researchers looked at are:

1) Album published on CD and delivered via traditional retail methods
2) Album published on CD and delivered by light-duty truck through an online e-tail
3) Album published on CD and delivered by express air through an online e-tail
4) Album downloaded as mp3/mp4 files from an online music service and used
5) Album downloaded as mp3/mp4 files from an online music service and burned to
CD-R for digital and CD use (no CD packaging)
6) Album downloaded as mp3/mp4 files from an online music service and burned to
CD-R for digital and CD use, stored in individual CD packaging, i.e., slimline jewel cases.

For those of you who are into this “newfangled” music downloading thing, give yourselves a pat on the back. You’ve been helping out the environment, and you didn’t even know it.

The World’s Most Eco-Friendly CD Case

TerraCycle, a company that makes eco-friendly products from non-recyclable waste materials, is making “upcycled” CD jewel cases out of recycled, shredded potato chip bags. In his post, CEO Tom Szaky, writes that most CD cases are manufactured from plastics which break easily and are difficult to recycle. Creating the CD cases out of recycled materials reduces the amount of packaging is waste in landfills made by broken CD jewel cases and potato chip bags. In addition, the company will take the used CD cases back and turn them into some other type of product.

Szaky’s wife, classical pianist Soyeon Lee, released her second album, Re!nvented using “upcycled” CD cases. According to Szaky:

The name Re!nvented is a perfect match for the CD case because there are several music selections that have been reused, transcribed or revisited. As she says, every time you do something again and bring creativity to it, it becomes something totally different and therefore new.

I think that the upcycled CD cases are a fantastic idea. I would much rather buy a CD than download music. I enjoy holding the album in my hands, checking out the liner notes, and looking at the artwork and photographs. Contrapuntist and I certainly have our share of broken CD cases. It would be great to be able to turn in an old CD case rather than tossing it out.

Please share your thoughts on this. I would love to hear them.

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