Is Streaming Media Bad For the Planet?

By Jamie Condliffe on at

Streaming is fast becoming the way most of us consume media, whether it's music, TV or film. But caught up by the sheer convenience of it all, it's easy to forget to question its environmental impacts. Could streaming actually be bad for the planet?

That's just what a study by Music Tank set out to discover. Some of the results are interesting. How, for instance, does streaming music compare to buying physical media? The report explains:

Streaming or downloading 12 tracks, without compression, just 27 times by one user would, in energy terms, equate to the production and shipping of one physical 12-track CD album.

In other words, repeated streaming of favourite tracks might not be a desirable long-term media solution. Fortunately some apps—like Spotify—feature a local caching feature, which avoids repeatedly streaming the same song over and over.

But what about the fact that teenagers use YouTube as their main music source these days? The mighty 'Tube's rise is seeing it use more and more electricity—and the report speculates that its energy consumption looks set to rise from around 0.1 per cent of 2010 global electricity levels to 1 per cent by 2013.

The report offers one extremely leftfield solution to the problem: observing Moore's law, it speculates that a 1 petabyte drive capable of storing all the songs ever recorded could soon cost just £65. Ship that to every user, it suggests, along with some remote server-based player required to access the content, and the planet's resources won't be drained as quickly. Convinced? [Music Tank via Paid Content]