Replacing DVD production with streaming will help slow down the climate change

Streaming movies reduces carbon footprint of entertainment

Scrapping DVDs would help reduce CO2 emissions by billions of kilograms and contribute to slowing down the climate change, a study has suggested.

Published in Environmental Research Letters, the study by Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory and Northwestern University researchers states that currently rising entertainment services such as video content streaming are much more environmentally friendly compared with rather old-fashioned DVDs

In comparison to DVD production, streaming requires less energy, thus producing a significantly smaller amount of CO2.

Apart from the DVD production itself, the study argues, modern laptops, tablets and smartphones used to view streamed content, consume far less energy than older DVD-players.  

Further carbon footprint reduction comes as accessing streamed video content online doesn’t require the customer to drive to the store, meaning no fuel is being burned.

However, the higher the definition of the streamed video, the higher the carbon footprint, as transmitting larger volumes of data increases energy consumption.  

The study’s authors estimate that if all DVD viewing in the USA had been replaced by streaming in 2011, around 2 billion kg of CO2 emissions could have been avoided and around 30 petajoules (PJ) of energy saved — the equivalent of the amount of electricity needed to meet the demands of 200,000 US households.

They estimated that in 2011, 192 PJ of energy was used, and 10.4 billion kg of CO2 emitted, for all methods of DVD consumption and streaming in the US.

From this, they calculated that one hour of video streaming requires 7.9 megajoules (MJ) of energy, compared to as much as 12 MJ for traditional DVD viewing, and emits 0.4 kg of CO2, compared with as much as 0.71 kg of CO2 for DVD viewing.

“It’s a modern-day equivalent of the debate about which is more environmentally sound — the disposable or the cloth diaper,” said Arman Shehabi, from Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, who led the team behind the report.

“Our study suggests that equipment designers and policy makers should focus on improving the efficiency of end-user devices and network transmission energy to curb the energy use from future increases in video streaming.

“Such efficiency improvements will be particularly important in the near future, when society is expected to consume far greater quantities of streaming video content compared to today.”

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