Digital Signage’s Effect on the Environment

Posted by: Richard Williams | Posted on: | 0 Comments

As digital signage replaces traditional print media, taking over shopping malls, retail stores and the billboards of major towns and cities, one argument that has started cropping up is the effect digital signage has on the environment.

Of course, there are some obvious environmental benefits in using a digital signage screen to display advertising content. Firstly, being paper-free, no trees are cut down as with create paper adverts. This is of course an environmental benefit, as is the ability to upload content remotely, without having to have technicians travelling around the country to replace content.

However, the energy requirements of digital signage outweigh any environmental benefits of being paper free, although there are several ways of reducing the energy modern displays consume.

LCD displays used in digital signage obviously require power to function. The energy use required for a screen varies from make to make. The majority of the energy used by an LCD screen, however, doesn’t go into generating the image, but goes into powering the backlight. Traditionally, LCD screen backlights have used fluorescent tubing, and these tubes are quite power hungry. More modern LCD TVs, however, are being manufactured using LED lights to provide the backlighting. LEDs use far less powered than traditional backlights and can drastically reduce energy consumption whilst still providing the same brightness levels, which can also lead to a reduction in running costs too.

For networked screens, one area perhaps not thought of as a burden on the environment is the use of data-centers to store and transfer content. The energy consumption from data centers is quite startling, equating to 2% of the total energy consumed in the US. Of course, for smaller signage networks where content is uploaded manually, there is no need to access a data center, but this is not practical for large-scale digital signage networks.

Another area of concern cited by environmentalist over the growth of digital signage is light pollution, especially with the spread of outdoor digital signage. And while most outdoor screens do function throughout the night, light pollution doesn’t really have a detrimental effect on the environment, merely an aesthetic one.

Calculating the environmental impact of digital signage is extremely difficult, while the saving in paper and use of low-energy screens may provide environmental benefits, other factors such as the pollution generated in manufacturing LCD displays and disposing of them complicate matters further. But while digital signage may not be a green form of advertising and messaging, the same can surely be said of the internet and other modern media, which are just as detrimental, if not more so, to the environment.

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