The environmental impact of the entertainment industry

Many of us are becoming more environmentally conscious when it comes to our daily lives, even if it’s just finding the right bin to recycle our plastics or taking our own shopping bags to a supermarket.

But when it comes to entertainment, it’s very easy to let the environmental impact slip our minds. After all, how can digitised content affect the planet anyway?

The environmental impact of the entertainment industry is very much real, however – and we’re going to explore why that is.

In this blog:

Does digital content impact the environment?

In short, yes. But how it’s increased emissions is quite alarming.

Matt Brennan, a researcher at the University of Glasgow estimated that in the 2000s, about 61 million kilograms of plastic were used in music record production, but this number dropped to roughly 8 million in 2016 when the demand for digital streaming increased.

But streaming music does emit greenhouse gases. In fact, it’s estimated that music consumption caused a spike in emissions by 157 million kilograms of gases in the 2000s. If you think about the amount of streaming we do in today’s society, that number can easily be tripled! If you thought that was alarming, these figures don’t include the emissions created from data centres to make streaming possible.

Fortunately, companies like Spotify (one of the biggest streaming platforms in the world) make conscious efforts to become more sustainable. In fact, they release a yearly sustainability report which goes into depth about their efforts to become more sustainable, including figures on their energy usage and travel.

The environmental impact of games, CDs and DVDs

Streaming – whether that’s music, film or games – has an environmental impact that is costing the planet more than we think. Data centres that make streaming possible are constantly increasing around the globe to cater for our increased demand to stream content. This means carbon emissions are increasing too, as the electricity to power and cool these centres is extremely high.

Physical products are still being produced too, as it’s still important for gamers to own physical copies of their favourite games, or for musicians and film enthusiasts to have the real product in their hands. Whilst production may be reducing for these mediums, it doesn’t mean it’s been eradicated entirely.

That’s why the demand for second hand or pre-owned content has been growing massively over the past couple of decades. Whilst the main focus for getting your hands on pre-owned content is the massive reduction in price, really, it should be on the positive environmental impact this enforces.

By recycling video games, selling old CDs and DVDs, you can help keep physical media in circulation or trust a company like musicMagpie to recycle them responsibly.

The environmental impact of streaming

We’ve talked heavily about how much music streaming is causing negative effects on the environment, but what about the environmental impact of game and film streaming?

The world’s biggest internet traffic comes purely from watching online video content. And according to The Shift Project, this generates about 300 million tonnes of CO2 per year, which in context is about 1% of global CO2 emissions. Think that number is way too high? When you take into account the power used by your device, the energy consumed by the servers in data centres, and the networks distributing the content you want to watch…it certainly adds up!

The environmental impact of on-demand video services

Sites like Netflix and Amazon are one of the main drivers for CO2 emissions when it comes to streaming – and sites like YouTube, Twitch and video content on social media follow closely behind. In fact, Netflix alone says its total global consumption was around 451,000 megawatt-hours per year. Apparently, this is enough to power around 37,000 homes.

How can I lessen my digital environmental impact?

We’re certainly not on an “anti-streaming” or anti-media bandwagon – but rather, we aim to help those who want to make a conscious effort to reduce their environmental impact in simple ways. When it comes to consuming entertainment, there are some really easy steps you can take:

  • Use streaming services like Spotify for “background noise” instead of a YouTube video
  • Stream videos on Wi-Fi rather than your phone’s network
  • Switch off unnecessary cloud backups and updates
  • Buy second hand CDs, used DVDs and pre owned games
  • Lower your monitor’s resolution – especially if you’re only listening to content as opposed to watching it

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Looking for a used iPhone for sale? We have plenty of models to choose from, including cheap iPhone 11 Pro Max,  refurbished iPhone 12 and refurbished iPhone 13 models. You can also buy other tech with us too like refurbished iPad and MacBook models! 

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