Stream a movie, save the planet
Image: AlexussK/Shutterstock

Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, spent the past couple of years researching how DVD players impact the environment.

Their study, published recently in the journal Environmental Research Letters, compared the energy consumption used to watch DVDs at home vs. the energy consumption needed to stream a video.

In the case of the DVD, energy consumption meant all the energy needed to get a movie from Hollywood to your home, i.e. manufacturing, shipping, delivery, storing files on servers, and playback methods, plus the energy each person needed to either order the DVD online, drive to the nearest supermarket to get one, or get it through the mail. All of these translate into an average of 8 megajoules of energy per hour of watching – if you drove to get your DVD then it amounts to 12 megajoules!

What does this mean for the environment?

If people in the US had streamed videos instead of renting DVDs in 2011, they would have saved the planet 2 billion kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions and 30 petajoules of energy – just enough to power 200,000 US household per year according to Smithsonian.

The researchers found that DVD players also waste lots of energy and recommend unplugging them when not in use to lower energy consumption.

Storing movies and TV shows in data centres doesn’t consume as much energy as expected. Sarah Zielinski explains over at Smithsonian that storing movies and television shows in the cloud accounts to less than 1 percent of video streaming energy use. “That’s because even though a data centre can use a huge amount of energy, lots of data is stored in that one place, and lots of people are using that video data. So once it’s averaged out, data centers contribute just a tiny bit of energy consumption to a single movie.”

And the same thing applies for music. When Beyonce launched her new album back in December 2013, it was labelled as an eco-friendly release because it was available in digital format first. Although it was a marketing strategy, the release also provided scientists with some cool data comparing physical vs. digital music consumption.


So try to stream your movies, TV shows and fave songs, you’ll save the planet.