Stop Streaming to Reduce Carbon Footprint

If consumers account for 81% of internet traffic, Streaming videos takes us 80-90% of that total consumer traffic. That number is huge. Streaming is part of a trend to move electricity consumption from people’s homes to networks and to data centers. When the data that is streamed is in the cloud, it is harder to know how much electricity is actually being used.

The amount of data the streaming industry powers through is problematic in its own right. But the other problem is that the streaming traffic is concentrated heavily on the busy hours. Busy hours are the times when people are at home and ready for entertainment. Network capacity has to be designed to handle the busy hours, it cannot be designed on averages. This means Bigger Networks and Bigger Data Centers.

However, data centers are becoming much more efficient than they used to be. The change is due to better infrastructure, and companies are using machine learning to find out the best way to use less energy. BUT, video demand is growing much faster. It is estimated (by Cisco) that in 2022 more than 80 percent of all IP traffic will be video traffic.

Much of that traffic is from Netflix.

Netflix Carbon Footprint

Netflix recently announced that 10 percent of all TV watching in the US. is theirs. They said they stream 100 million hours in one just in the US. There are 130 million people streaming movies and TV shows from Netflix. Those numbers make Netflix carbon footprint massive.

Netflix has not released information on how they are trying to reduce carbon footprint they are making. According to Greenpeace, they are not doing that great in their attempts. Apparently Netflixs fuel mix is 17% Clean energy 24% Natural gas 30% Coal and 26% Nuclear.

It is impossible to calculate accurately Netflix Carbon Footprint, because the numbers are not out there. But for fun, let’s make a very rough estimation on what the electricity consumption of streaming from Netflix is.

Netflix Carbon Footprint Example

On their site, Netflix say streaming on standard resolution takes 1 GB per hour and in HD it can take up to 3 GB per hour. Studies say that in 2015 0.06 kWh of energy was used to stream 1 GB. Much of Netflix watching is binging, so we’ll choose watching all seasons of Orange is the New Black, which take up 42h.

This means: All seasons of Orange is the New Black in HD is 42 * 3 * 0.06 = 7,56 kWh All seasons of Orange is the New Black in standard is 42 * 1 * 0.06 = 2,52 kWh

This is only on the server. If you include Wifi, let’s say 10W, because streaming is intensive. The device you watch the stream takes up around 200W if you are on desktop and 65-90W on a laptop. Often Netflix is watched on an external screen. A plasma screen takes 300W, LED 100W and LCD around 110W.

42 hours of Orange is the New Black would take: Minimum (wifi + laptop) = 3.15 kWh

Maximum (wifi + desktop + plasma) = 13.02 kWh

Streaming all seasons of Orange is the New Black can take up 20.58 kWh of energy. To put that in context, that is 5.83 kg of carbon released into the air, based on UK averages. According to myclimate.org, flying from London to Berlin one way in economy creates 213 kg of carbon.