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On-demand internet streaming vs watching DVDs: greenhouse gas emissions and energy use

On-demand internet streaming vs watching DVDs: greenhouse gas emissions and energy use

how sustainable is…

This study compares the greenhouse gas emissions and the energy use associated with:

  • on-demand internet streaming vs
  • watching DVDs.

For DVDs, the study includes the energy use and greenhouse gas emissions for their manufacture; distribution; pick up from a store or DVD hire place or home delivery; as well as the energy and greenhouse gas emissions associated with their use. It does not appear to include any energy use or greenhouse gas emissions associated with their disposal.

For on-demand internet streaming, the study includes the energy use and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the server; the network; and the equipment required for viewing at home.

The results indicate (for the US market) that:

  • If a car is used to pick up the DVD, hiring or buying DVDs creates the greatest amount of greenhouse gas emissions and requires the greatest amount of energy, out of all scenarios investigated (the study did not consider walking, cycling or taking public transport to pick up a DVD from a store)
  • When DVDs are not picked up individually by the consumer by car but posted to the consumer (either rental or purchased), the energy use and greenhouse gas emissions appear to be similar to on-demand streaming. I.e. on-demand streaming does not perform better in this case, due to the high greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption of the data transmission network.

Interestingly, the energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the operation of data centres appears to be negligible. However, data transmission requires significant amounts of energy and results in significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. The data transmission rate (e.g. in Mbps) also has a big impact on the results. The above results are based on a transmission rate of 2.33 Mbps (base case). A higher transfer rate requires significantly more energy and emits more greenhouse gases while a slower data transmission rate would result in a decrease.

Link to full report

While we make every effort to be accurate, we do not claim that this summary is representative. Please refer to our Legal Disclaimer for details.

what can I do to reduce my environmental footprint?

If you want to minimise the environmental impact of watching a DVD at home, get it posted to you (if this is an option where you live) or walk or cycle to the store if possible. And regardless of whether you watch a movie streamed on demand or from a DVD, make sure you turn your electronic device off when you are not using it (DVD player; TV; computer etc).

Report Rating: 3 out of 3

Report Published: 2014

Country: U.S.

Author(s): Arman Shehabi, Ben Walker and Eric Masanet

Publisher: IOP Publishing

Funder: Office of Science of the United States Department of Energy, Google

Keywords: sustainability, energy, greenhouse gas emissions, CO2, environmental footprint, TV, television, on-demand streaming, video, DVD, movie, data centre, transmission

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