Digital or film: Which is greener? | Living Green | Indy Week

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Digital or film: Which is greener?



With increased environmental awareness, there is a debate on whether digital or print photography is more eco-friendly. Digital and print images each have environmental pros and cons, and it's difficult to determine which method is greener. We'll let your conscience decide.

Digital Photography Pros:

  • One of the biggest advantages of digital photography is the elimination, if the photographer decides, of printing pictures. E-mail, iPods and photo hosting sites make image transfer simple.
  • Another advantage is the conservation of water and paper. In a photo lab, printed images are rinsed to remove the chemicals used in the processing. Massive amounts of paper are required for test and final prints. Digital photos can greatly reduce waste related to water and paper.

Digital Photography Cons:

  • As great as digital cameras are, many consumer point-and-shoots don't last that long—three to four years, if you're lucky. If the cameras aren't recyclable, they are discarded into the landfill. And more metals need to be mined to produce new cameras.
  • Manufacturing digital cameras also carries an environmental burden. Digital cameras and memory cards use semiconductors, which are environmentally hazardous to make. In general, electronics account for about a fifth of all semiconductor consumption. There is also lead in the camera's microchips.

Film Photography Pros:

  • An important advantage of film over digital photography lies in the longevity of the equipment. A good film camera lasts a lot longer than a digital one, which reduces the need to keep buying cameras.
  • The battery life of film cameras tends to last longer than that of digital ones.

Film Photography Cons:

  • With most nondigital cameras, film must be developed to view the photos, which requires a lot of water, paper and toxic chemicals (see above). On the other hand, film photos tend to last longer than digital prints.

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