Billions of kg of CO2 could be saved by scrapping DVDs, research suggests

May 28, 2014
Credit: Ian L/public domain

A trip down to the local DVD store has slowly become a thing of the past thanks to the rise of video streaming services, which allow viewers to indulge in back-to-back episodes of hit TV series like House of Cards and Breaking Bad at the click of a button.

Now, a new study has shown that streaming can be much better for the environment, requiring less energy and emitting less carbon dioxide (CO2), than some traditional methods of DVD renting, buying and viewing.

The researchers, who have published their study today, 29 May, in IOP Publishing's journal Environmental Research Letters, cite modern devices such as laptops and tablets as the reason for this improvement, as they are much more efficient than older, energy-sapping DVD players.

Furthermore, the driving that is required to go and buy, or rent, DVDs makes this method much more energy- and carbon-intensive.

A significant proportion of the and carbon emissions for streaming comes from the transmission of data, which increases drastically when more complex, high-definition content is streamed.

In their study, the researchers, from Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory and Northwestern University, estimated that if all DVD viewing in the US was shifted to streaming services 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 to as much as 0.71 kg of CO2 for DVD viewing.

To arrive at their results, the researchers compared video streaming with four different types of DVD consumerism: DVDs that are rented from online mailers; DVDs that are rented from a store; DVDs that are purchased online; and DVDs that are bought from a store.

Video streaming was limited to TV and movies and did not include shorter videos that are streamed online through YouTube etc.

They found that video streaming and the online rental of DVDs required similar amounts of energy; however, the renting and purchasing of DVDs from a store were much more energy intensive, due to the impact of driving.

Lead author of the research Arman Shehabi, from Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, said: "It's a modern-day equivalent of the debate about which is more environmentally sound—the disposable or the cloth diaper.

"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 use from future increases in .

"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."

Explore further: Yahoo! looking to buy video streaming start-up

More information: 'The energy and greenhouse has implications of internet video streaming in the United States' Arman Shehabi et al 2014 Environ. Res. Lett. 9 054007. iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/9/5/054007/article

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User comments : 20

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hurricane25
2 / 5 (5) May 28, 2014
personally, I'd rather have the research and the co2 could go to plants. ;)
BSD
4.3 / 5 (6) May 28, 2014
Certainly some of the crap that passes for entertainment could be prevented from going on DVD, that would save some green house gasses.

personally, I'd rather have the research and the co2 could go to plants. ;)


Sounds reasonable, but unfortunately, we are also committed to rain forest destruction, so there is less take up of CO2 via plants.
bpmasterson7
5 / 5 (5) May 29, 2014
To confirm: replacing all DVD sales in the U.S. with streaming reduces U.S. CO2 emissions by about 2 million tons per year, compared with total U.S. emissions above 6 billion tons per year. That's a 0.03% reduction, not a world-saver. There must be many other measures that would have a greater effect on CO2 emissions.
Mike_Massen
4.5 / 5 (8) May 29, 2014
hurricane25 claimed
personally, I'd rather have the research and the co2 could go to plants. ;)
Sadly the situation with plants is far more complex than you imagine,

Higher CO2 reduces some food plant growth and nutrition.

Also some food plants shift their equilibria away from food to protection and produce cyanogens, that means cyanide when cooked or ingested, great care must be taken.

This is already happening with Cassava in Africa, a staple food crop - people are slowly getting exposed to cyanogens which doesnt kill outright it starts by causing paralysis and symptoms like polio.

The same occurs with clover, a staple food for livestock.

ie. Higher CO2 can mean big problems for food production in the long term and in the short term higher prices...

alfie_null
4.2 / 5 (5) May 29, 2014
Technology changes rapidly. Spending a lot of effort analyzing DVD usage is not useful. By the time some hypothetical policy is in place, society will have moved on past DVDs. As seems to be happening now.
boudreaux
5 / 5 (5) May 29, 2014
Yes and then the NSAFBICIAMI6KGB can then see what you're watching and how many times you watched it and when you watched it. Yet another level of privacy will be eradicated with the loss of DVD's. Why not?
rockwolf1000
4.2 / 5 (5) May 29, 2014
They never mentioned accounting for the fact that you can watch a purchased DVD 1000 times with driving anywhere after it's bought.

I have never, ever, ever made a trip to the store, solely to get a DVD and I have hundreds of them.

@alfie
"Technology changes rapidly. Spending a lot of effort analyzing DVD usage is not useful. By the time some hypothetical policy is in place, society will have moved on past DVDs. As seems to be happening now."

Good point! Can you even rent DVD's anymore? I haven't rented a movie in a almost a decade. It seems this study is a dollar short and a day late.
rockwolf1000
5 / 5 (2) May 29, 2014
that's "without driving anywhere" (oops)
Noumenon
2.6 / 5 (5) May 29, 2014
It seems this study is a dollar short and a day late.


Yes, obviously because the market drives what tech is used and when,.... not environmental gov social engineering policy.

The salient message that should be gleaned from this "study" is the extent to which the political far left believes 'government central planning' is appropriate in a free society. They desire to control and regulate every action you take. They will sacrifice your liberty at the alter of their earth god, Gaia.

These environmental leftist morons expect government social engineering based on endless "studies" to be effective, yet it can't even service the health needs of war veterans who have presumably fought to maintain liberty.

Caliban
5 / 5 (1) May 31, 2014
To confirm: replacing all DVD sales in the U.S. with streaming reduces U.S. CO2 emissions by about 2 million tons per year, compared with total U.S. emissions above 6 billion tons per year. That's a 0.03% reduction, not a world-saver. There must be many other measures that would have a greater effect on CO2 emissions.


Nuh-uh,bpm7. You must've misread.

Article says 2 Billion -not 2 Million. 2B is 33% of total emissions, which is quite a significant reduction, by any measure.
Mike_Massen
3 / 5 (2) May 31, 2014
Noumenon is prattling irrational propaganda disguised as a political rant with
...'government central planning' is appropriate in a free society. They desire to control and regulate every action you take.
Noumenon, no one is or has stopped you making/selling dvd's or any earlier tech like:-
floppy disks,
punch tape
punch cards
or any of the other products & services.

Just work out a way to do it by being responsible, ie. Don't upset the atmospheric equlibria.

The days you Noumenon & people like you can be stupid with waste are & should be gone !

No more lead from petrol emissions
No more mercury, cfcs etc from industrial emissions
No more of the other pollutants which are known to impact badly

CO2 is an odd case, it is a waste product of many life processes & a resource for some, it has well known and easily demonstrated thermal properties.

This is a science site Noumenonm, focus on the science, not the rubbish rants which show you lack focus & show you have no ideas !
Noumenon
3 / 5 (2) Jun 01, 2014
Noumenon, no one is or has stopped you making/selling dvd's


As I said, and I quote,.... "obviously because the market drives what tech is used and when,.... not environmental gov social engineering policy."

This is clearly the present state for me, but does not mean there is no threat of massive social engineering. Why do you think the endless stream of such studies continue to flow? You can't possibly be that ignorant wrt political science.

Just work out a way to do it by being responsible, ie. Don't upset the atmospheric equlibria.


Relying on people to voluntarily put themselves at a disadvantage, lower their standard of living, act counter to their instinct of egoism, and go to increased expense for the benefit of a climate theory they may never actually notice, .... is bedwetting naiveté,... and is directly counter to the facts. While the number who agree with AGW continues to rise, so does the consumption of CO2 based emergy.
Noumenon
3 / 5 (2) Jun 01, 2014
The days you Noumenon & people like you can be stupid with waste are & should be gone !


You say "Should be gone". Yes, there are political forces that also think this way, ... what human behavior "should be" as opposed to "what it actually is".

One of these political forces is "liberal progressivism", a more mild form of several. These are people who will make use of scientific analysis to control human behavior. Because such studies are legitimate and scientific, they justify social engineering at the cost of liberty.

I will name one such adviser as far up in government as to advise Obama , Cass Susstein who even wrote a book called "nudge",.... how to influence human behavior.

This is a science site, so you should be discussing political science as it relates to AGW.
SamB
5 / 5 (1) Jun 01, 2014
Ok.. Not sure how it will help but we burned all our CD's.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Jun 01, 2014
Yes and then the NSAFBICIAMI6KGB can then see what you're watching and how many times you watched it and when you watched it. Yet another level of privacy will be eradicated with the loss of DVD's. Why not?
Sorry they already track what Redbox you rent via credit card and company records. They own, and will always own, your ass.

Dont worry your ass is safe as long as it serves a purpose.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Jun 01, 2014
Spending a lot of effort analyzing DVD usage is not useful. By the time some hypothetical policy is in place, society will have moved on past DVDs.

The age of spinning discs is over. It may not need to be a policy - if people just are made aware of this some may change their behavior.
If the reseach on this takes up less resources than the news about this saves then it's a win. Lifecyle research is something that is just now being done - and it does turn up some surprising results..
Yet another level of privacy will be eradicated with the loss of DVD's.

I'd love to be able to go to a store with a USB stick and anonymously buy a product and just download it there to take home. Market niche?
Noumenon
3 / 5 (2) Jun 01, 2014

The age of spinning discs is over. It may not need to be a policy - if people just are made aware of this some may change their behavior.


What's wonderful about capitalism, egoism and liberty (freedom from endless gov "policies"), is that we don't have to rely on "making people aware" and "hoping" that they change their behavior, nor using the power of government for coercion.

Rather, profit motive and competition breeds innovation, which in turn produces cost effective products, that become IN THE BEST INTEREST OF consumers to obtain, thus ensuring progress, not by hoping but by a tangible economic mechanism that takes advantage of human behavior rather than trying to operate against it.

Oh wait, that already happened, and there are better storage than dvd's and vhs tapes. No need for "policies" nor was there.
Feldagast
not rated yet Jun 01, 2014
I say ground all the planes of the world, that should fix it.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Jun 02, 2014
is that we don't have to rely on "making people aware" and "hoping" that they change their behavior, nor using the power of government for coercion.

Not quite. Capitalism doesn't give the best product, nor what the customer wants. Nor does it react to things that are in other speheres of interest ´but don't bear on profit (e.g. when it does something that might be detrimental in the future - like polluting now in order to cut costs)

Capitalism only gives the best profit-making product.

That, in turn means that capitalism can (note 'can' - not 'will') generate the most tax revenue which can be used to mitigate its the negative effects. We need to move towards a system where we don't produce these negative effects in the first place, as there is a crucial element here: time. The time between causing a negative effect and the cleanup. If that time gets to short (i.e. a catastrophi consequence happens before cleanup is possible) then we're screwed.
Noumenon
not rated yet Jun 09, 2014
Capitalism doesn't give the best product, nor what the customer wants.


What the #%@^.

'Want the customer WANTS' is by definition where profit can be made and so is where capitalism focuses. It's called supply and demand. It's not even a matter of opinion,.. it is simply a truism. By virtue of demand, there is profit motive.

There is a market for price and there is a market for quality for the same product, typically. If one company is designing shit products, the next can make a better product at the same price and steel away that market share.

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