Today is Earth Day, and it’s a good time to think about how we all can decrease our negative impact on our planet. Being a fan of comics, sci-fi, fantasy, movies, or whatever you might be into inevitably leads to your accumulating a whole lot of “stuff.” That stuff can pile up over time, and a lot of it really goes to waste, as it can consist of books, DVDs, comics, and other media that you will enjoy once and then forget. All that wasteful media can be avoided, though, if you shift your fandom into digital alternatives. Going digital reduces your ecological footprint, and as a surprising byproduct it can make your hobbies a lot more convenient and fun to pursue.
Here are four technogeek-friendly ways to make the move from having mounds of dead trees and plastic laying around to having just a few cool gadgets.
1. Music – Use an iPod
Music is at the forefront of the digital revolution, and most people already have made the change. Thanks to the MP3 format and the innovations of portable MP3 players–the iPod in particular–it’s never been easier to take your music collection with you everywhere.
If you’re still buying and collecting CDs, ask yourself this question: Do you get the CDs so that you can listen to the music, or do you simply like to have the discs and jewel cases in your collection? If you buy just to be able to listen to the music, then ask yourself how many of your CDs you actively listen to on a daily basis. Most likely you’ll find that there are a lot of discs you haven’t put into the player in a very long time. Wouldn’t it be more convenient to go digital with your collection? You wouldn’t have the clutter of all those unused discs around the house, plus you’d have the convenience of being able to take your music with you anywhere.
I know I’m likely preaching to the choir on this one. The iTunes store already makes up around 70% of worldwide music sales, and if you’re reading this blog, it’s highly likely that you own an iPod, and chances are that you’ve snatched your share of tunes off BitTorrent (for shame!). Still, it’s worth mentioning that it’s worthwhile, convenient, and easy to go digital with your music if you’re not already there. And with the price of iPods dropping, there’s never been a better time.
2. Books – Get a Kindle
Books are another form of media that can accumulate very quickly if you’re not careful. And, even more than music, it’s very common to have a have backlog of books you’ve read once and then never return to. Think about how much paper you don’t really need is moldering in your closet or piled on your bookshelves. Further, mass market books don’t stand the test of time. I recently went through some old paperbacks I had from maybe ten years ago and was stunned to see how much the pages had yellowed and how discolored the inside covers had become. The glue had even let go on some of the spines, making a few of the books virtually unreadable.
Going digital with books is a notion that’s been around for a long time (after all, how long have you been reading text on the computer?), but it’s met with a lot of resistance from people who insist that eBooks never will be as convenient or as tactile a reading experience as real books have been. With the recent advent and rising popularity of portable eBook readers like the Amazon Kindle and the Sony eReader, I would argue that those protests are losing ground.
I recently got my own Amazon Kindle and am stunned by how much I like it. It’s lighter than most paperbacks, and it uses e-ink technology to make the screen high contrast and every bit as readable as print on paper. I love having the option to carry my whole library around with me via the Kindle and SD cards, and its wireless capabilities interface with Amazon to let you add new books whenever you like and wherever you are. Additionally, it’s easy to convert PDFs and other formats into the Kindle-readable format for free.
Keeping physical copies of signed books or books with significant sentimental value is one thing, but in this age of fast results and portability, there is no reason to continue killing trees just so you can read the next Dean Koontz.
3. Movies – Download or Rent from Netflix
Movies are making a quick transition to digital with the introduction of Netflix’s Instant Watching options, iTunes’ carrying of downloadable movies and TV shows, Amazon’s Unboxed options, and even the integration of downloadable videos via XBox Live, it’s never been easier to watch your shows and movies without leaving a trail of waste and clutter.
If you regularly buy DVDs or BluRay discs that you only watch once and then never go back to, you’re wasting valuable real estate in your house as well as wasting the resources used to make the movies you’re purchasing. In cases like that, why not grab the movie digitally or maybe even just rent it from Netflix or Blockbuster Online? It’s super easy, it’s cost effective, and it lets you enjoy your movies and TV shows without forcing you to be wasteful.
4. Video Games – Download Digital Copies or Rent
Video games comprise a huge amount of wasteful buying and clutter in many gamers’ homes. The typical game (unless it’s a Halo, a Call of Duty, a Rock Band, or a GTA) will see maybe a couple weeks’ worth of play before it’s stuck back on the shelf when the next big game hits. There’s no reason to keep buying games you’re only going to play for a couple of weeks (or less!). It wastes money, and it’s definitely not an eco-friendly way to go with your hobby.
Instead, consider these options:
1) Rent your games from Gamefly. They have a fantastic rental program that lets you keep games for as long as you like and then send them back to get the next game on your list. You’ll end up playing a whole lot more games this way, and you’ll have none of the cluttery, dust-collecting side effects of buying all your games at retail. If you do happen upon a game you’re going to want to play for a long time, you can easily pay a fee and keep it, manual and case and all (and it’s always cheaper than buying at retail!).
2) Get your games through download. There are a lot of options for getting digitally downloaded games that don’t require you to have packaging or manuals. One way is through the Playstation Network or XBox Live Marketplace. They typically don’t allow you to download full retail games there, but their selection of arcade titles is great. Perhaps an even better option is to go with Steam, a popular online digital distribution site. Steam does carry full retail games, and they let you pay for what you want, download it, and start playing right away.
The majority of waste in fandom comes from people purchasing media they don’t really need or want. Making the purchase and having the movie, music, game, or book is fine as long as you don’t leave a physical trail behind you. Get rid of all the physical byproduct of enjoying your stuff, and you’re well on your way to being eco-friendly while still getting the benefit of your entertainment.