Think you’re going green by streaming everything? Think again

Climate change activists are coming for our content, and a new report shows that they have a point.


October 29, 2019

Renting a movie used to involve a car. Now the world’s content fever can be cured from home — no pollutant-pushing car ride necessary. 

In other words, by Netflix and chill-ing, we’ve all become our own versions of Greta Thunberg… right? WRONG. In fact, an environmental impact report from The Shift Project says we need to chill out on Netflix altogether (or at least the quality in which we view it). 

Yup, even stream-venience hurts the ozone. And, as the video-on-demand  landscape continues to grow, and video file sizes keep getting bigger, it’s expected to get worse. 

*Throws up hands in defeat*

It’s a hard truth to tell. But online video produces 300m tons of CO2 per year, AKA 1% of global emissions (which is equivalent to those emitted by the entire country of Spain), and video-on-demand platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu make up 34% of the online video content pie.

At the same time, the technology used to watch online videos is getting larger, with the average TV screen size expected to grow to more than 50 inches by 2021 — a whole 28 inches since we had to wait to watch Friends once a week back in 1997.

So what now? Light a candle and relearn to read?

The report encourages “digital sobriety,” but that doesn’t mean to quit cold turkey. It just means to be friggin’ mindful, you know?

The Shift Project suggests streaming in lower-grade visual formats over Wi-Fi — Wait, no 4K? OK, you be mindful, I got Ross and Rachel reruns to watch. 

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