It’s hard to imagine life without Netflix, having become a staple source of entertainment for millions across the world. And, given the unfortunate times we are currently in, more people than ever before are going to be reliant on the service to provide them with a much needed distraction.

Whatever your thoughts are about whether carbon dioxide emissions are a large contributor to the warming trends of our planet, it’s worth examining how energy intensive is the act of streaming of movies and TV shows. An energy comparison website known as SaveonEnergy used official viewership figures to discover what watching Netflix’s top original movies and shows is equivalent to in terms of miles driven by a car, and the amount of CO2 emitted. Is the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) generated from the electricity consumed leaving a devastating impact on the environment?

 

You can see the full original study here should you wish to dig further down into the data. However, some of the findings from the research include the revealing fact that the energy generated from 80 million views of Birdbox is the equivalent of driving more than 146 million miles and emitting over 66 million kg of carbon dioxide (CO2). Furthermore, the energy produced from 73 million streams of Murder Mystery translates to driving over 104 million miles and generating greater than 47 million kg of CO2, while 64 million views of Stranger Things season three is comparable to more than 420 million driving miles and producing over 189 million kg of CO2. The energy amassed from 45 million views of ‘Umbrella Academy’ is the equivalent of over 364 million driving miles and emitting more than 164 million kg of CO2

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Sam Posten

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Woah woah woah this is total political hackery. This is political astroturfing from an energy company...
 

Adam Gregorich

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Astroturfing it is. Kind of ironic that the company promoting it is trying to lower your electricity cost so you can stream more. :D I'm a bit surprised that they didn't count the CO you breath out while watching a streamed movie and the power used to both process and cook the microwave popcorn. With the current pandemic, staying home with either physical media, streaming or a combination of both is about the best thing you can do.
 

Adam Gregorich

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Ditto here, plus a 12kW solar array on the roof.

Going forward I am going to change from measuring my electrical usage in kWh (kilowatt hour) to SCH (streamed content hour).
 

Dave Upton

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To be fair, the power usage in Netflix's data-centers is far, far higher than you are accounting for. It may be astroturfing, but the numbers aren't as far off as you might think.
 

Josh Steinberg

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Just as a guess, but wouldn’t the energy/resource consumption of a server farm on balance be less environmentally harmful than the cost of, say, manufacturing discs in one country, manufacturing cases in another, printing the inserts at yet another place, shipping them to another location for assembly, and then shipping again through a variety of distributors and retailers until it makes its way into the hands of the consumer? Not to mention all the unsold inventory that gets returned and liquidated and shipped again to discount outlets, and them shipped to the trash when they don’t sell.
 

BobO'Link

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Just as a guess, but wouldn’t the energy/resource consumption of a server farm on balance be less environmentally harmful than the cost of, say, manufacturing discs in one country, manufacturing cases in another, printing the inserts at yet another place, shipping them to another location for assembly, and then shipping again through a variety of distributors and retailers until it makes its way into the hands of the consumer? Not to mention all the unsold inventory that gets returned and liquidated and shipped again to discount outlets, and them shipped to the trash when they don’t sell.
I've not read the story so don't have a comparison but *do* have real world examples of the amount of heat generated by a server farm.

Our main server room has 12 rack mounted servers and 4 NAS units plus the switching equipment to connect the room to itself and the rest of our infrastructure. We run AC in that room 24/7/365. If the AC dedicated to that room goes out we have to open the door and turn the heat//air down in the adjacent room while using fans to blow that cooler air into the server room to keep things from over heating.

When I worked in broadcasting we had a "smallish" control room (about 50'x50'). The AC in it ran 24/7/365. One year it died in the middle of a cold snap (temps running ~15 degrees outside). Within 30 minutes it got hot enough in the room to cause people to sweat. We had to open the double doors to engineering and then their double doors to outside running a 3' fan to pull in enough cold air from outside to keep the room cool.

All in all, our current power hungry world is the true fault and I'd guess streaming is a drop in the bucket against everything else.

How many items in your home "trickle charge"? I know my power usage is easily 100% higher than it was 20 years ago in spite of lower wattage light bulb replacements. It can *all* be traced to and blamed on devices that don't actually power off when turned off, device chargers constantly connected, and computers that are rarely turned off. Even though individually it's rather small, it all adds up rather quickly.

Just how the electricity for a server farm is generated is what makes the difference. There are still a huge number of coal fired systems in use and they're quite "dirty" in CO2 output. I would guess the "study" is using the worst case scenario for power generation to obtain their numbers.

I *do* agree with your manufacturing/shipping examples and suspect Amazon's shipping methods alone do just as much, if not more, damage to the environment than do server farms/streaming.
 

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Would like to see how this compares to shipping the same volume through old-fashioned cable (not on demand).
 

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Was this study conducted by the same organization that, several years ago, published a viral study that "proved" driving a Humvee was more eco-friendly than driving a Prius?