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Is Netflixen bad for the environment? So much carbon dioxide is created during video streaming – and you can do that

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Everywhere people try to live sustainably. Many people are not aware that CO2nd arises, for example during video streaming via Netflix.

One hour of high-definition video streaming produces about 100 to 175 grams of carbon dioxide. That is about as much as is caused when we drive a kilometer in a small car.

A Berlin startup wants the CO2nd– Balance consumption when Netflixing: “Plantyflix”. The concept: measured by their streaming hours, people pay a monthly fee from which the startup plants trees.

We drink coffee from recyclable to-go cups, plan more vacations by train instead of airplanes, buy organic food, fair fashion or at best become vegan – all about our CO2nd– Keep the footprint as small as possible. But in the evenings of long days we end up on the sofa. The range of films and series is almost endless. Everything to instantly stream or download – Netflix or YouTube on and off. Finally think of nothing and relax. Unfortunately at the expense of the environment. Because at least they know: Even streaming (yes, YouTube too) causes some carbon dioxide. But how bad is it really?

Before the stream lands on the screen, a lot of data has to be set in motion by a lot of electricity

When we stream we see our screen. But not the thousands of connections, processes, data and servers behind it. Every minute of streaming queries data that is stored on entire farms by servers. On YouTube it is Google, on Netflix it is Google or Amazon. The servers need a lot of electricity to store the data or just send them to us on the screen while traveling. In addition, the rooms in which the servers are located must be air-conditioned and cooled. This also requires electricity. In Germany, we create almost six million a year with data centers alone Tons of CO2nd.

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It is clear that the share of video streaming will grow and with it the energy requirement for the use of data centers – even if they become more efficient. It will only be cleaner if the electricity from which the data centers feed their energy is also produced from renewable energies. Elizabeth Jardim, Greenpeace campaigner and co-author of the Clicking Clean Report 2017, said: “How we build and power the Internet will be an important factor in whether we are able to do more in the next decade prevent catastrophic climate change. ”

According to calculations by the Borderstep Institute for Information and Communication Technology, data centers in Germany consume 14 billion kilowatt hours per year – the performance of four medium-sized coal-fired power plants. These technologies include streaming services, but also social media platforms, video telephony and cloud services.

“Videos make up 75 percent of data traffic in German networks”

“Videos make up more than 75 percent of the data traffic on the German Internet,” says Ralph Hintemann, researcher at the Borderstep Institute for Innovation and Sustainability. It is 80 percent worldwide, writes the French think tank “The Shift Project”.

Videos are often a large amount of data that take up a lot of space on the servers and, accordingly, a lot of power during transmission. So the more consumers stream videos, the more data has to be provided, the more electricity has to flow. But what share do streaming services have – and above all how much CO2nd do they release?

Video streaming services in Germany cause CO2ndEmissions like Chile in a year

According to the researchers at The Shift Project, video-on-demand services, i.e. Amazon Prime or Netflix, have the largest share in worldwide video consumption with 34 percent; followed by porn videos and video platforms like YouTube. Social media videos on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok or Snapchat make up the smallest share.

All of them together caused around 300 million tons of CO worldwide in 20182ndEquivalents, i.e. in addition to CO2nd also other greenhouse gases such as methane or nitrous oxide. A third of these make up video-on-demand services: 100 million tons. The researchers write: This would correspond to the amount that the country of Chile emits in a year.

Ralph Hintemann also emphasizes that video streaming causes high greenhouse gas emissions overall. Nobody knows exactly how high the numbers are. The investigations on this would come to clearly different results. And: The contribution of the individual user depends on many factors. On the data center side, it depends on where they get their electricity from and how much electricity they use. On the user’s side, it depends on which device – tablet, PC or large television – you are streaming and which network you are using.

Together with his research group, he calculated the following figures: One hour of video streaming in Full HD resolution requires 220 to 370 watt hours of electrical energy, depending on whether you are streaming on a tablet or television. This results in: 100 to 175 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2nd). And would be about as much as if we drive a kilometer in a small car.

Plantyflix: plant and stream trees

Two students, Fabrice Diedrich, 24, and Liam Hänel, 27, took a closer look at such numbers. Together they built a platform that at least private CO2nd– Consumption during video streaming can be balanced: “Plantyflix”. The concept: measured by their streaming hours, people pay a monthly fee from which the startup plants trees. Plants plus Netflixen is therefore climate-conscious streaming. Binge streamers then get around 30 trees for six euros, little streamers get two trees per month for 1 euro.

Plantyflix

“There is currently a nice quote on the streets of Berlin,” explains Diedrich, “it says: More deadly than Corona: the climate crisis.” This is exactly what the platform aims at: only a few people would currently know about their CO2nd– Think about the footprint at zoom meetings or Netflix, even though the climate crisis is the bigger task in the long term. They wanted to educate people about it. Therefore, unlike NGOs, the founders keep half of the users’ money. They want to use it to develop new solutions that help people to make their personal CO footprint visible and understand it. Soon, for example, they want to offer trees in Instagram’s shopping area.

However, planting trees can only be the first step in the debate about how video streaming will become more climate-friendly: “Internet users can become active,” said Elizabeth Jardim, Greenpeace campaigner, “by demanding that their preferred streaming providers use renewable energy Energy can be hosted. ”Paying attention to your own data footprint can also help. Because more data usually means more energy. And that brings us back to the data center.

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