Earth Day: Does a “Green Stream” Exist?


A study published in 2019 by "The Shift Project" found that streaming causes roughly the same amount of CO2 emissions as the entire country of Spain. However, the latest findings defuse these statements and inspire optimism. Nevertheless, deliberate steps must be taken to achieve a fully climate-neutral streaming experience.

Streaming has become the centerpiece of our everyday lives. Whether it's for the latest news, entertainment, or fascinating documentaries, video is the mouthpiece of a new generation. However, a look behind the scenes has so far left climate-conscious streaming fans scratching their heads: The use of major providers like Netflix promised not only hot series evenings, but also hot outside temperatures. An article by described it particularly vividly: season three alone of the hit series "Stranger Things" produced the same amount of CO2 emissions as 57,600 German car drivers in one year. A fact that makes the horror stories of the small town of Hawkins even scarier.

Playing the numbers game with the Demogorgon

Of course, these arguments cannot be completely refuted, since such a data volume, especially from a provider like Netflix, is certainly not climate-neutral. However, the Fraunhofer Institute in Karlsruhe recently criticized the data from France. The study at the time was based on highly unfavorable parameters and the communicated figures were clearly overestimated. This leads to a misrepresentation of the CO2 emissions caused by streaming.

Fittingly, the Fraunhofer Institute presented its own data at the end of last year, based on measured values rather than estimates. According to them, streaming via glass cable connection generates an average of only 2 grams of CO2 per hour, while this value doubles with copper cables. In stark contrast to original assumptions, drivers would only travel a few meters with such a CO2 limit. However, this basic value increases significantly when using mobile networks (90 grams/hour). While the new 5G standard promises improvement, there is still great potential for streaming users to make savings.

According to the institute, however, there are also opportunities for emission-free streaming, for example through the use of renewable energies. Accordingly, both individuals and companies can make their own mark - for example, by using a sustainable streaming solution.

A roll for climate protection

So what should you look for when choosing a provider? First and foremost, the provider should commit to complying with clearly defined measures and subsequently to making an active contribution to global climate goals. As is often the case, transparent communication of strengths and potential improvements is essential. Since energy-efficient server structures in particular are the be-all and end-all of sustainable streaming, a sustainable concept should also exist here. In short: Anyone who lacks the courage to talk probably has something to hide.

Since large providers like Netflix and Amazon owe us such a concept, they still have some catching up to do. However, such changes don't happen overnight. As a result, debates about sustainability in streaming will probably continue to have a lot in common with climate change: We can expect a lot of heated talk.

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