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The Sustainable Network by Sarah Sorensen

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Chapter 13. Dematerialization

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We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.

Mother Teresa

The age-old mantra, “Do more with less” is particularly pertinent of late. In the current climate, less can refer to almost anything, from money to stability to environmental resources. In this book’s case, it refers to all our physical stuff and the role the network can play to help reduce our consumption.

One of the most immediate, most identifiable benefits the network delivers is its capability to translate the physical into the digital (called dematerialization) to the point that we no longer want or need to use that physical thing. In fact, the digital product often opens a whole new world not tied to the physical restraints of tactile objects. And when the digital is able to substitute for the physical, it saves us from creating the entire lifecycle of the physical product, representing all that energy, pollution, and waste that is attributable to the making, use, and disposal of the “thing.”

One of the easiest examples of the dematerialization benefits of the network can be found in the entertainment industry. Just think of downloading a movie to your computer instead of going to a store to buy a DVD. It makes sense; there are sustainability benefits to this network-enabled transaction. The most obvious is ...

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