The last few years have seen a tectonic shift towards streaming across the board. Not long ago, the main purpose of streaming was to get music on-demand, watch videos that people had posted online, or see the latest series that click-bait articles were raving about. Now, with the concept of remote work being widely accepted, new streaming solutions in work and study have risen to the fore.
With all of this content being readily available at home, without the need to travel or widely distribute it, most would put two and two together to assume that streaming is more sustainable. In many ways, this is true, but the many ways that we now utilize streaming may not be as eco-friendly as initially assumed, as has been explored by the Guardian’s look at Netflix.
Streaming Reducing Travel and Material Production
Most recently, the biggest play in streaming has been in the video conference department. All of a sudden, whole offices and teams needed to come together online, with the most user and business-friendly platforms becoming colossal entities over the last couple of years. Initially, Zoom ruled the roost, but now there are plenty of other competitors.
According to PCMag reviews, WebEx stands as the best video conference software right now. Thanks to its meetings features and ease of use, it’s helping to cut out the need for everyone to engage in regular carbon-costly commuting. To a lesser extent – regarding reduced travel, that is – there are plenty of online study and learning platforms that utilize streaming now. Masterclass is the most accessible of the bunch, while The Great Courses Plus offers a more academic approach to a huge range of courses and modules.
Of course, entertainment is still the primary driver of streaming adoption. Easily the most innovative application, particularly of live streaming, is the ability to livestream games. Such a popular option that it has become available to most genres in the gaming industry, from livestreaming popular console games at Twitch, to live streaming table games at the Australian casino PlayAmo. Perhaps more interactive than its Twitch counterpart, live casino games stream a professional croupier directly to the user, with the UI allowing for real-money play, creating an authentic casino gaming experience without needing to travel to a venue.
Streaming series and movies have now become ubiquitous with everyday life, even to the extent that many of the biggest films over the last few years and beyond debuted on streaming platforms. The likes of Netflix and Prime Video are more than happy to snap up top movies like Annihilation, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, One Night in Miami, Small Axe, Palm Springs, and Sound of Metal.
Is Streaming Really Much Greener?
With all of the above activities having streaming options, the carbon emissions from commuting, running an office, printing materials, heating blocks, powering a venue, and making and distributing physical copies are all greatly reduced. However, streaming is still a power-intensive activity in a world where only 28 percent of global electricity is produced by renewable sources.
This EuroNews green CDs examination found that the US music industry went from 61,000 tonnes of plastic to 8,000 tonnes from 2000 to 2016 due to streaming. However, from a carbon emissions perspective, storing and processing music online in real-time emits around 350,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases per year. That said, plastic pollution being reduced on that scale naturally has several other benefits.
Regardless, great gains have been made thanks to streaming allowing for remote work, remote learning, and even remote entertainment. Just working from home for four days each week would cut nitrogen dioxide emissions by a good ten percent, with that only being possible thanks to streaming. Still, one hour of streaming still emits up to 1,000 grams of carbon dioxide and requires up to 2 liters of water. This, too, can be reduced, though, by simply not turning on your camera – which cuts the eco-cost of video calls by up to 96 percent.
Overall, streaming does look to provide a much more sustainable and eco-friendly way of going about key activities in our everyday lives. The services can certainly improve, but right now, the reduced emissions from travel alone make a very strong case for streaming.