Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
Media Power Entertainment Technology Hardware

The Energy Saved By Ditching DVDs Could Power 200,000 Homes 339

Daniel_Stuckey (2647775) writes "The environmental benefits of streaming a movie (or downloading it) rather than purchasing a DVD are staggering, according to a new U.S. government study by researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. If all DVDs purchased in 2011 were streamed instead, the energy savings would have been enough to meet the electricity demands of roughly 200,000 households. It would have cut roughly 2 billion kilograms of carbon emissions. According to the study, published in Environmental Research Letters, even when you take into account cloud storage, data servers, the streaming device, streaming uses much less energy than purchasing a DVD. If, like me, you're thinking, 'who buys DVDs anymore, anyways?', the answer is 'a lot of people.'" The linked paper is all there, too — not just an abstract and a paywall.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Energy Saved By Ditching DVDs Could Power 200,000 Homes

Comments Filter:
  • Hard copy (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 29, 2014 @03:30PM (#47122395)

    And if you're unable to read the study online, you can order a paper copy.

    • Re:Hard copy (Score:4, Insightful)

      by The Snowman ( 116231 ) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @07:21PM (#47124621)

      You joke, but I always wanted to know what happens when the cloud blows away? A hard copy will still play. My Blu-ray player has but does not require network access. I can play Blu-rays and DVDs during a cable outage. I can (legally) play games that do not phone home without net access.

      And that does not even get into the question of what happens when a cloud provider goes out of business or decides to end their service for whatever reason.

  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @03:31PM (#47122415)

    Just par for the course for the internet, with snail mail being it's first and biggest victim (and slowest to die).

    A more interesting question to me, is what future libraries will look like bereft of physical media.

    Who knew, when they were building thepiratebay, they were simply making the library of the future? Not just in an idealized sense, but in an actual sense of keeping the industry somewhat honest, like what the used car or textbook business does.

    • Snail mail is serving an important role in small-package delivery, something that wasn't needed very much prior to the commercialization of the internet and the invention of Ebay.

      • Are you kidding me? Sears and Roebuck, America's biggest retailer up to the late 1980s, built it's business on mail order back in the late 1890s. Mail order catalogs were huge up to the 1990s, internet merely replaced it, didn't invent it.

        That said, the USPS still cut it's distribution centers in half a while back: []

        • People didn't mail-order nearly as much as stuff back in those days as they do now.

  • by maxwell demon ( 590494 ) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @03:31PM (#47122417) Journal

    Did they also calculate how much energy would be saved if we would not waste processor power on DRM decoding?

    • Just integrate DRM directly into the hardware -- more power efficient, and it Creates Jobs, Too! (But of course you shouldn't count the energy used for designing and fabricating those little ASICs -- that would be silly!)
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @03:32PM (#47122423)

    >> If all DVDs purchased in 2011 were streamed instead, the energy savings would have been enough to meet the electricity demands of roughly 200,000 households.

    Or, if you're like my family, the energy "saved" from spinning up DVDs on two different TVs has now gone into a more powerful wireless router (to support better streaming), bigger TVs (bought with money saved from cancelling cable), a digital antenna booster (so we can watch HD network TV without cable), and personal tablets that none my three kids had in 2011.

    • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @03:39PM (#47122493) Homepage

      If you read the article in detail, the energy cost for a DVD rented or purchased by mail is pretty much identical to that of one streamed (figure 4.)

      The purported energy cost difference between DVD and streaming is entirely due to the fact that they assume you drive to the store to buy or rent the DVD. (In fact, there is actually a tiny bit more carbon emitted if you stream instead of rent or buy by mail, if you look at the right image on figure 4).

      I assume if you buy or rent from a store you're going to visit anyway, this differnce vanishes

      • by xaxa ( 988988 )

        I assume if you buy or rent from a store you're going to visit anyway, this difference vanishes

        They accounted for that, only 50% of the trip is assumed to be for the DVD.

        You could cycle or walk to the store.

        • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @04:14PM (#47122869)

          That 50% assumption is stupid. You can't stream the food items or other things you buy while you're at that store. So you need to go to the store anyway, DVD or not.

          • by xaxa ( 988988 )

            It means that for every time you were going to the store anyway (but get a DVD too), you go to the store only for the DVD.

          • That 50% assumption is stupid. You can't stream the food items or other things you buy while you're at that store. So you need to go to the store anyway, DVD or not.

            I agree completely. If you're going to make the trip for any item, plus dvd, the only fair comparison is the extra energy used to carry the weight of the dvd around as a percentage of the other items you bought. Which would, of course, be negligible.

        • by David_Hart ( 1184661 ) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @04:28PM (#47122987)

          I assume if you buy or rent from a store you're going to visit anyway, this difference vanishes

          They accounted for that, only 50% of the trip is assumed to be for the DVD.

          You could cycle or walk to the store.

          I rent or buy Blu-ray, not DVD. I do stream every so often. However, the local Redbox, which is within walking distance, is cheaper. I did have Netflix for a while, but they suck for new movies so I dropped them.

          I'm willing to bet that the energy use would reverse if they did the same study using Blu-ray quality bit-rates. The energy used to go to the store to rent would end up being the same (possibly lowed due to higher fuel efficiency) but the streaming energy cost would increase due to the higher amount of data being stored, streamed, etc.

      • They seem to think client device operation of streaming is less than that of a dvd player, by about a factor of 2.

        The study assumes a set top box of some sort being used for streaming. It's no surprise to me that the energy usage of that is about half that of a dvd player.
        However, with the number of people streaming on PC, and the number playing DVD on PC, it is a nontrivial point that they have excluded - the cost of running those devices. I bet the power consumptions of those devices are dwarfed
      • Of course, they also made the mistake of providing numbers. Energy cost differential for one hour of DVD vs Streaming is about 1KWh.

        Which amounts to maybe 5% of the cost of the DVD. And it's not like you get a discount on cost because you're saving all that energy....

      • Even if you didn't read the article, the obvious conclusion should be that watching only broadcast/cable TV will save even more electricity than streaming; or that watching no TV at all is best! Articles like this come with a built-in question: "what are they trying to sell me?"

    • by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @03:42PM (#47122539)
      Since, on a global scale, 200,000 homes' use of energy is completely insignificant, I think we might want to focus the effort elsewhere.
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

        You completely missed the point. Completely.

        Streaming movies instead of distributing them on physical media is just one way that digital distribution has changed the way we do things. My bank sends me one statement a year now, the rest is paperless online. No paper is wasted to get me daily news articles any more, and I don't need shelves full of packaged up discs that will eventually end up in landfill any more. Sometimes I browse the web via tablet or phone, instead of a full power desktop PC.

        Technology i

  • False comparison (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @03:33PM (#47122427)
    Apples and oranges comparison.

    When I buy a DVD, I own that DVD. That is why I buy DVDs. I don't want some DRM server somewhere suddenly saying that I cannot stream a movie I purchased.

    Now if streaming allowed me to purchase and keep a copy free of DRM, then I'd be interested.

    But so long as there is DRM, I'll continue buying DVDs.

    • If I pay with cash, it's mine and nobody has that data to sell to someone about me. Also, nobody ever knows if I ever watched it at all, or if I went back and watched a hot sex scene or some dude's head exploding over and over again.

      Streaming services track this kind of info. Many just blow that off, but it matters to some.

    • In addition, streaming from, say, Amazon only provides the movie itself, not any "extras" - and, for example, I enjoyed the extras for Gravity (on Bluray) a lot. Do other streaming sources, like Netflix provide more? In addition, the experience / bit rate is limited by the available bandwidth and any transient events (I had a streaming movie from Amazon pause on me for about 30 seconds 3/4 the way through the movie last night)

    • But DVDs *do* have DRM -- it's just easy to circumvent. Is your issue with more advanced DRM that it's centralized (servers owned by some company), so your rights could be revoked at any time?
      • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

        DVDs are generally fine - a given DVD will always work on any DVD player around at the time it is created, and any newer player.

        Blu-Ray is different - those can potentially be retroactively revoked, but in practice this isn't implemented. Otherwise discs will always work on newer players, but potentially not in older ones. At least, not until the master keys are determined (I don't think they are yet, but if enough get discovered they apparently can be found).

      • DVD DRM is so trivial, and already circumvented, that it might as well be ignored.

        More advanced DRM forms cannot be ignored, and haven't been circumvented yet.

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        If I can't "own" a copy on my own disk and copy that to another disk that I also control, then I don't really "own" anything.

        Doesn't matter if it's physical media, a stream, or a file.

        Centralized revocation of rights through DRM is a very real problem. Access to works get revoked or entire services go offline.

        Some of my own media is older than any corresponding "service".

        • by SirGeek ( 120712 )

          That is one thing they're NOT talking about. Companies are trying to push people away from all concepts of ownership.

          They want you to rent:

          • Books (Why the push to more electronic books) ?
          • Streaming of Music and Movies (why OWN something as lame as a CD/DVD - Rent it and save space !)
          • Renting furniture (I'm almost 47 and I can't EVER remember there being rental furniture when I was growing up
          • Renting of Video Games (why else push for download/etc. - other than no resale of the games)
          • I think you're being a bit pessimistic, and I definitely have to disagree that this is a new trend. I'm currently reading Vanity Fair - a book written in the 1840s that's mainly about the social and domestic life of the wealthy and wannabe wealthy of England after the Napoleanic wars. I was surprised to discover how many of the accoutrements of wealth were actually rented by the British nobility. They would borrow hunting horses from a livery stable, rent a (furnished) townhouse from a middle class landl

          • Streaming services are also selling to "own" as well, but it's rather lame. It just means you can watch it many times without a time limit, but when the company decides not to stream anymore, or the internet is down, then you no longer have access to it. It's way for them to charge you $15 for a movie instead of $5.

            (I used to think owning the movie wasn't such a smart move, but then a lot of parents tell me that they had kids who wanted to see the same movie each and every weekend)

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      When I buy a DVD, I own that DVD. That is why I buy DVDs.

      When I rent a DVD, I own that DVD. That is why I rent DVDs.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        When I buy a DVD, I own that DVD. That is why I buy DVDs.

        When I rent a DVD, I own that DVD. That is why I rent DVDs.

        When I illegally download a DVD, I own that DVD. That is why I illegally download DVDs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      But buying the DVD robs you of the opportunity to stare at a "buffering" screen 4 or 5 times randomly throughout the movie... Why would you deny yourself the chance to make your blood pressure surge like that?

    • by nurb432 ( 527695 )

      I agree, but in the future, if companies like Sony get their way, you will have to be online to view content you even have the physical media for. ( with all the checks to see how many sets of eyes are in the room, the size of the screen, if its your house, etc etc. )

  • by Jawnn ( 445279 ) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @03:34PM (#47122445)
    ...constructing the infrastructure to support all that streaming? Not saying we shouldn't build it, but let's not suggest that it's any more "green" to go that way.
    • by alen ( 225700 )

      ha ha

      most of the internet buildout of the last few years have been to support streaming. without streaming video 10 megabit would be more than enough for everyone

      the streaming cost should include all the switches and routers added in the last 5 years while the delivers for DVD's is already there to deliver other things. not like UPS/Fedex only drive around and deliver DVD's

  • by PhotoJim ( 813785 ) < minus poet> on Thursday May 29, 2014 @03:34PM (#47122451) Homepage

    I still buy physical DVDs - primarily because they are passively archival and don't depend on me a) having connectivity or b) having my server nearby. I view programming at some locations (like my cottage) where it's easier to bring a few DVDs than it is to copy a bunch of data onto a hard disk and then connect a computer to the television.

    I also wonder if the energy consumption considers the issues of ramped-up Internet infrastructure and server capacity required to store, back up and stream the content. This isn't free and isn't emission-neutral. High-def (e.g. Blu-Ray) content is even moreso whereas the cost of a Blu-Ray disc versus DVD is actually almost trivial. Once you own the Blu-Ray player, you're done except for the marginal two or three dollar cost for the higher definition media.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 29, 2014 @03:34PM (#47122453)

    That pirating movies has actually been helping the environment the whole time? I for one am glad keep up with my civic duty for a better tomorrow...

  • i buy a DVD or blu ray all the delivery costs are paid for once
    i stream Dune or some other movie more than once and the costs of the data center and delivery have to be paid each time in electricity

    maybe geeks don't watch movies on TV, but all my movies are watched on a TV using the same game console or an apple TV. and every blu ray player does streaming as well

  • by DigitAl56K ( 805623 ) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @03:41PM (#47122517)

    And if cloud services didn't disappear from time to time either all together or on legacy platforms, risk me losing access to content due to an account block on some other part of the providers service, rely on me always having a fast connection handy, allowed me to download the content in high quality and transcode it for all my devices, maybe that would be okay.

    But they don't. So it isn't.

    • Oh and let's not forget with Comcast buying out TWC and talking more about metered/capped plans, it may in fact soon cost even more money if you want to watch too much of the content you've "bought" or rented, every time you watch it.

    • The savings are infinite when you cannot play at all what you wanted to see, a dark screen uses no power at all.

  • I wonder how many people are reading that journal in printed in paper and mailed to subscribers form. And how many are streaming it? When would the journal Environmental Research Letters switch to pure electronic delivery to be friendly to the environment?
  • by Jmc23 ( 2353706 ) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @03:41PM (#47122527) Journal
    Not quite. The only difference seen is with people driving cars to purchase the dvd.

    So all of the 'environmental benefits' boil down to the assumptions they make about those purchases.

    Perhaps it's just me, but I would lean more towards people already being at a store/mall for another purpose and picking up the dvd as an impulse buy. Non-impulse buys of dvd would seem to more logically take place over the internet.

    • by pla ( 258480 ) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @04:03PM (#47122743) Journal
      Not quite. The only difference seen is with people driving cars to purchase the dvd.

      This - THANK you, someone on Slashdot knows how to read! Hell, you don't even need to read, just look at the pretty chart.

      Physically dragging yourself to the store, just for the purpose of buying or renting a single DVD comes out to more energy used. Every other scenario comes out to less energy, including buying it and having it mailed to you. And if you ignore the salmon-colored portion of each bar (the part that goes toward driving) because, for example, you bought a DVD while out and already at the store getting other stuff... Store-bought would actually come out as the most efficient.

      More suspiciously, I find it odd that they dropped the "client device operation" energy consumption by over half for streaming. I don't know about you, but my USB-powered DVD drive draws under 2.5W; My TV draws 80-90W. I'd love to ask the authors what part of streaming magically makes my TV 20x more energy efficient.

      "This info-tisement brought to you by Netflix and Blockbuster, who really wish you'd quit insisting we stock all these damned physical discs; and by the MPAA, who would like to remind you that you only license the contents of your DVDs, they can still revoke that license any time they want."
  • by epyT-R ( 613989 ) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @03:46PM (#47122589)

    1. no control over purchase as it can be revoked at any time for any reason.
    2. even the best internet streams hitch, lag, and drop frames.
    3. complexity: the majority of nontechnical people understand the concept of placing a disk in a tray and hitting play.
    4. value proposition. I won't pay $20 for a movie I can't really own.

  • by cpghost ( 719344 ) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @03:50PM (#47122627) Homepage
    I'm still buying DVDs, because
    • they are a good archival media
    • they are multilingual
    • they play everywhere, thanks region-free DVD players
    • they are not DRM-infested like BluRay (thanks DeCSS!)
    • they are faster to get than to download, esp. box sets of series
    • they are always available, and can't be revoked or disabled by some anonymous entity
    • Well said. I buy my music on CDs for the same reason. (Granted, I rip it and file the originals away almost instantly; I still actually use my DVD and Blu-Ray media but that might change soon too if I can ramp up the server space).

  • Movies I buy (and I still do buy DVDs as well as online content such as through iTunes), usually are bought because I plan to watch more than once.

    I'm sure the manufacturing and distribution costs of my DVD purchases are a lot less of a strain on the environment than having streamed these movies over and over. I cant count how many times I have watches some movies in my collection.

  • The american notion that we should continuously purchase new things as quickly as possible so as to ensure our continued virility and happiness is whats really the problem. Imagine if instead of remaking a movie half a dozen times, we contented ourselves with the original and cultivated an appreciation for film as not just a disposable commodity but an art. Instead of butter-churning 10 sequels we stopped trying to milk storylines for box office parity. If instead of buying ever newer and larger televisi
  • by Andover Chick ( 1859494 ) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @04:38PM (#47123077)
    Is the assumption here that the cloud severs and network connectivity, which need to be running 24/7, doesn't require any power?
  • by Bert64 ( 520050 ) < ... NBSDom minus bsd> on Thursday May 29, 2014 @05:25PM (#47123611) Homepage

    And streaming is stupid... Downloading movies would make a lot more sense than DVDs, but streaming is ridiculous...
    Most people would want to watch movies around the same time, so think of the crippling bandwidth requirements all at once. And what about those who can't get fast connections at home for whatever reason - streaming would be impractical, but downloading would usually still be quicker than a mail order dvd.

  • by rnturn ( 11092 ) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @06:37PM (#47124267)

    ... and find out what broadband is like in the private sector. It sucks like a tornado outside the major metropolitan areas. Between crummy bandwidth and data caps -- neither of which, I suspect, the researchers ever have to deal with -- physical DVDs are the easiest way to watch movies in many locations.

  • by superdave80 ( 1226592 ) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @06:47PM (#47124343)

    1. 17 km to drive and purchase DVD? 50% of the trip is apportioned to the DVD transport to account for multiple purchases and errands per trip in the base-case? I doubt people are driving 10 miles just to purchase a DVD, or as only 50% of the reason to take the trip in the first place.

    2. Average disc lifetime 5 years? I still have 'The Matrix' that I got for free with my first DVD player back in 1999. None of my DVDs seem to really have a 'lifetime' that I can tell.

    • Yes, the assumptions are complete BULLSHIT.

      My DVD's arrive by mail or UPS, and NONE of my commercially pressed optical media has failed in service going back to the free CDs that came with my Sony CD player that I purchased 31 years ago.

      This is complete malarkey.

  • by frank_adrian314159 ( 469671 ) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @08:16PM (#47125105) Homepage

    AOL must have single-handedly doubled the CO2 output of the earth during the 1980's and '90's.

Fear is the greatest salesman. -- Robert Klein