I suddenly had to write a packing list for a trip I'm going to make (a really sustainable one), scribbling it off the top of my head while it was on my mind.

I had the choice of writing the list with pencil on the unused back of a piece of paper from the scrap pile that I slowly go through, or waking up my MacBook Pro from sleep/hibernation and writing it on the computer instead.

Given those two rough candidates for the one compared to the other, which would generally be a better choice to make environmentally, or what factors should one at least be mindful of in trying to weigh up this decision?

And with both alternatives - what would be 'best practices' to make either alternative more attractive sustainability-wise? There's obviously a lot of variables in the equation.

  • Which one is more environmentally-friendly probably depends on whether or not you include manufacturing and disposal of your MacBook.
    – THelper
    Dec 21, 2014 at 13:48
  • I definitely included manufacture, as for disposal, good point, as I was thinking of disposal of the paper too. I think everything should be thought of (including the whole idea of trying to keep everything in your head as a third option), so yes, disposal of MacBook too.
    – user487
    Dec 21, 2014 at 20:32

1 Answer 1


OK, writing on a used piece of paper is hard to beat. Because you own the laptop already and the paper is from the waste I would say the remaining factors are the pencil vs. the energy and the computers wear. Then it starts: How is your energy produced? What kind of pencil? What's the livespan of your computer?

Since I'm quite sure there is no definite answer to your question I'll give you an opinion.

If you use green electricity there is probably very little difference between the two options. So little in fact, that I believe posting this question was not the most sustainable option you had : )
Unfortunately the internet is a coal burning monster at the moment.

Next time just do what you prefer and spend the saved time planting something nice on the side of the street. (and that's probably what I should have done).

  • 1
    I'm not sure that the wear on the computer could be considered minimal in comparison to a pencil. I think a cheap pencil or lead refill (for a mechanical pencil) can be purchased for as little as about 10 cents (and will last quite some time, with a good quality sharpener), whereas the cost of wear and tear for using a computer for 30 minutes may well exceed that. Dec 23, 2014 at 9:25
  • Hm, might be true, edited answer.
    – elpoto
    Dec 23, 2014 at 12:16

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