RIP DVD to save emissions

03 June 2014

Laptops and tablets are more efficient than DVD players, and the demise of the DVD is a positive for emission and energy savings.

Researchers, from Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory and Northwestern University have estimated that if all DVD viewing in the US was shifted to streaming services in 2011, around 2billion 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.

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

Researchers calculated that one hour of video streaming requires 7.9Mjoules (MJ) of energy (compared to up to 12 MJ for traditional DVD viewing) and emits 0.4kg of CO2, compared to up to 0.71kg of CO2 for DVD viewing.

The group 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 channels such as YouTube.

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, urges equipment designers and policy makers to focus on improving the efficiency of end-user devices and network transmission energy for the inevitable increase in video streaming.

“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.”

The study is published in IOP Publishing’s journal Environmental Research Letters.


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