Your Netflix habit is fairly good for the environment if you’re streaming movies rather than renting DVDs. DVD players and the driving required to pick up a movie or have it delivered to your home add up to a larger energy consumption than watching a film on your iPad or TV at home.
Based on 2011 data, the researchers calculated that if everyone that year who had watched DVDs instead streamed their movies, they would have avoided emitting 2 billion kilograms of carbon dioxide and saved enough energy to power 200,000 U.S. households for a year. (The energy consumption the researchers looked at included all the energy needed to get a movie from Hollywood to home, including DVD manufacture, shipping and delivery, storing files on data servers and methods of playback and viewing.) Plus, the researchers found that DVD players, even when they’re not in use, eat up a lot of energy. “Older versions, in particular, are big energy guzzlers,” according to Smithsonian. Meanwhile, “movies streamed at home usually depend on more-efficient, newer devices.”
The worry now is that the energy efficiencies of video streaming could be offset by increases in streaming of more complex — and more energy-demanding — video content, according to Smithsonian.