Lines are already circling the block with eager gadget junkies hoping to get ahold of one of Apple’s hotly anticipated iPad 2, which hits store shelves today. Since its release almost a year ago, the iPad has spurred a technological revolution in the realm of personal gadgets. The new iPad 2 will be 33% thinner, lighter, boast a longer battery life, better graphics, a faster cpu, front and rear facing (720p recording), cameras as well as a HDMI output. It sounds like they’ve made some notable improvements, but ultimately how much greener will the iPad 2 be?

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The iPad 2’s thinner and lighter stature (8.8mm versus 13.4mm) means that it requires fewer materials than the previous iPad to produce. Like its predecessor, the iPad 2 is also free of arsenic, BFRs, mercury, PVC, and is highly recyclable – Mother Nature Network has a great article on the best ways to retire your old iPad if you’re due for an upgrade.

There’s lots of debate over whether an electronic reader is actually better for the environment than printed paper – Good Magazine found that the CO2 scale tips in favor of the iPad upon the purchase of 20 e-books, so if you’re a particularly voracious reader you could be doing the earth a favor by making the switch. On the other hand, this doesn’t take into account the greenest option of all – borrowing books from a library or lending them among friends. However, you’ll be hard pressed to find some titles in physical form in the increasingly de-materialized realm of online publishing.

So can the iPad 2 be considered green? It ultimately comes down to a question of how it will be used – how many books you read, and whether it will supplement – or replace – the use of a larger, more energy and resource-intensive system like a laptop or desktop PC. For now it’s not likely that many will give up their keyboards and desktops to go full-time tablet, although for a casual computer user the iPad 2 could be a great scaled-down solution.

+ Apple