What is the environmental impact of watching your favourite show? The sustainability of streaming is something we should all care about
It takes a lot of technology to run the modern world (and not just streaming media, but social media as well as the rest of the web / internet). If you’ve ever spent time in data centres, you’ll be well aware of just how much kit there is in these modern warehouses of wisdom (and pictures of cats), and the larger ones consume the same amount of power as a small city. They also produce a lot of heat and often requirement vast amounts of air-conditioning. This makes them an easy target for those wishing to drive home the messages of climate change.
If you’re interested in data, this report on social media usage is recommended.
Why is this important?
Being a clear target makes data centres an opportunity for regulation and taxation. The big streamers need to be seen to be socially responsible, and while we think the days of paying a CO2 tax for every episode of Bridgerton people watch are some way off, we can see streamers competing over their green credentials. It’s also good to see them (or at least Netflix) taking it seriously and (obviously they may are more likely to promote a report that isn’t too bleak for their industry) putting some better information in front of people.
The Sustainability of Streaming Report
The report is the result of a decade of work by researchers at the University of Bristol. You can see the full report on the Carbon Trust website, but may wish to start with Netflix’s own take aways:
One hour of streaming in Europe equates to 55 gCO2e (the measurement used), which is around three kettle boilings (so if you have a cup of tea when you watch TV, your impact is 33% higher
4K streaming is only marginally more impacting than SD
Streaming and internet use has risen but energy consumption is lower — all driven by efficiency in the centre
Consumer devices are more than half the impact — it’s down to each and every one of us to use more efficient devices more sensibly.
You can read the Netflix article here, and maybe just consider your contribution to climate change with every picture you post on social media, every time you leave something streaming while not watching it, and stay informed.