Your Netflix habit has a carbon footprint, but not a huge one

According to an industry-backed study from the climate group Carbon Trust, streaming your favorite hour-long TV show is the environmental equivalent of boiling a kettle for six minutes or micro-sautéing four bags of popcorn. waves.

The results are encouraging for the researchers – and good news for streamers such as Netflix Inc., which helped fund the work – as they show that streaming’s carbon footprint is lower than some estimates in the past have. shown. In addition, the study revealed ways in which entertainment companies can reduce the emissions generated by their products.


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Like most industries, the film and television industry is on a wild ride to reduce carbon dioxide production, in hopes of helping mitigate the worst effects of climate change. While streaming a show has less of an impact on the environment than, say, producing a new movie, companies are looking for every possible way to improve sustainability.

“There was a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about the carbon impact of video streaming,” said Andie Stephens, lead author of the white paper and associate director of the Carbon Trust. “So we wanted to put this into perspective and help increase knowledge and understanding of the impact of video streaming. ”

Research has found that an hour of streaming emits the equivalent of about 55 grams of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to a user in Europe. About half of the emissions come from the device itself, with larger and older technology that harms the environment the most. The remaining emissions come from data centers, centralized hubs where Internet information is processed and stored, and various distribution networks.

The researchers behind the white paper also looked at whether viewing high-definition content had a greater impact on broadcasts than standard definition. They found it made little difference. In addition, the sustainability of the company has improved. While the demand for streaming has skyrocketed, especially during the pandemic, the amount of energy consumed by these activities has decreased as equipment becomes more efficient and green energy gains popularity.

A group called Dimpact – made up of media companies and researchers from the University of Bristol in the UK – tried to get a better idea of ​​how poor streaming quality is for the environment. In March, Bristol researchers created a carbon calculator to show that an hour of streaming emitted less than 100 grams of CO2 equivalent, similar to the latest findings.

The new report is a “validation of the work we’ve done,” said Emma Stewart, head of sustainability at Netflix.

Separately, Netflix plans to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2022, a target that means it will offset any emissions it cannot eliminate by then. About 50% of Netflix shows come from the physical production of new content and 45% from the company’s operations.

The company does not include its customers’ web use when calculating its carbon footprint, although Stewart said they can encourage partners to make cleaner devices and customers to switch to so-called green tariffs. that add more renewable energy to the grid.

© 2021 Bloomberg

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