Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Photography and environmental footprints - how big are yours?

If you are interested in photography, have any Pentax kit, and are interested in green issues, you might have come across this excellent Pentax blog called OK1000.

I am keen on digital photography and have an old 3Meg Canon Powershot A70 and some Pentax SLR gear, including my prized ME Super that my father-in-law kindly gave me some years back.

It is easy to assume that going digital would mean that a consumer's impacts on the environment would reduce and would therefore be a good thing. No more chemicals in the dark room etc.

The scale of the pollution and harm linked to the manufacture of film has been highlighted on Leo Hickman's blog, with Kodak being the focus. Thankfully, their switch to digital has demonstrated a massive reduction in the amount of pollution they generate.

Digital has not done away with coated paper usage though. The cameras themselves with their LCD screens and funky features eat battery power. With all those digital images taken, there is an increased demand for more storage online or on huge hard disks. The manipulation of images demand higher spec power-hungry PCs or MACs. Then there are the costs and impacts associated with home, online or high street printing services. The solid-state memory cards are a product from the semi-conductor industry, itself making use of highly toxic chemicals.

Digital photo frames sold in their thousands last Christmas - they use electricity and all these digital gadgets can cause harm in their production and improper disposal.

One things is clear. The marketeers try to convince that we must have the latest, digital whizzy megapixel-beast or our photographs will be pants.


I'm still using my 3 megapixel Canon A70 and Pentax SLR gear and to be honest, a new camera would distract me from getting used to the equipment I have and practicising to improve my photography skills. Sure, I would like a digital SLR (so long as I can still use my existing Pentax lenses with it) but I would not chuck out the kit I have now. There is always eBay, Freecycle, or charity shops where you can recycle your unwanted stuff.

I'm not sure that digital has a smaller environment footprint than than traditional photography but it is clear that consumer behaviour can make things better.

It isn't all doom and gloom and I would urge all digital photographers to read this excellent post OK1000 Pentax Blog: Considering Green Digital Photography.
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