The carbon footprint of the streaming does not look great. Online videos today already account for 60 percent of global traffic – and the number is rising. More and more elaborate productions want to be considered in even better quality. The only thing you really do not think about when you click on play is that all of this data is kept on servers, cooled and sent around the world. “This energy consumption is neither visible to users nor directly associated with costs,” says Marianne Wolff, Environmental Officer at VSB. Accordingly, the rethinking in the minds of people and in our everyday habits must begin. So here are five tips on how to use your streaming behavior to reduce your environmental footprint.
1. Sharpen your awareness of good content
Just because the recommendation algorithm suggests a video, it does not have to be good for a long time. Therefore, you should know on the one hand, according to which points of view suggestions are presented to you, and on the other hand, how to independently find the content that really interests you. For example, Netflix specifically suggests its own productions to introduce you to more and more formats that you can only find there. The quality of a new series is absolutely secondary. And YouTube’s AutoPlay feature is only intended to keep you on the page for a little while longer – not just to give you more perspective on a topic. On the contrary, the longer you let the algorithm decide, the less your interests are in the foreground. That’s why it pays off to look for objective recommendations so far away from the platforms – for example in the weekly streaming tips here at LEAD.
More on this topic: This is how the recommendation algorithm of Netflix works
2. Screw down the quality
The easiest and fastest way to adapt to climate-friendly streaming is by not playing videos in the highest resolution and in the largest color gamut. At least with fast-cut action movies, the eye on the couch can no longer distinguish between HD and 4K resolution anyway. So why get the bigger bandwidth? In the TV showroom of your trust run for this reason often only quiet picture slideshows or animal documentaries. Because the pixel density is only then really visible. Just try it by switching from the highest to the middle rate of your streaming subscription. Then you not only save a few euros a month, but also do something good for the environment.
3. Do not run videos in the background
At first glance, the thing seems clear: You should only stream videos, if you can give them their full attention. Be sure to recall that when you start with a new series and you’re halfway through episode 1 again through Instagram. Your climate alarm should start when your TV becomes second-screen again. Things get a little trickier when it comes to audio formats such as podcasts or radio plays, which are only discovered through YouTube as the second largest search engine in the world. Before you ask for large amounts of data in video form, you should rather invest a few more clicks and switch to the appropriate audio app. The same is true with music videos that are turned on only for the purpose of background sound. Note: If you are not watching (or there is no reason for it), then stop the video stream.
4. Store videos in advance in the WLAN, do not call them off mobile
Although mobile operators can advertise with data flat rates, it is still not the most environmentally friendly way to fully exploit them. For mobile data transmission over the mobile network requires much more energy than is the case at home in WLAN. Here it is recommended in particular videos that you know that you will look at them, download in advance and play them on the road offline. With the offline library, you not only save energy, but also focus on streaming to a few selected tracks again.
More on the subject: The ten best tips and tricks for Netflix
5. Make a carbon offset for your streaming
Joko and Paul from the “All roads lead to fame” podcast are already doing it and the federal government too: supporting environmental projects to offset the CO2 released by their air miles. Of course, this form of additional donation in addition to the regular subscription fees for streaming possible. Browser add-ons like “Carbonanalyser” for Firefox help to find out how high the energy demand has been due to your own surfing behavior and how much CO2 you have released when converting to the corresponding amount. For non-profit projects such as Atmosfair or Primaklima, this could be turned into a donation that affords reforestation or alternative sources of energy around the world. This is just the right middle ground, so as not to have to restrict yourself and still do good.
What platforms and politics can do
We do not want to be content with the five tips on climate-friendly streaming. After all, researchers and analysts still see the greatest potential for savings in the areas of data compression and server cooling – to which we users have little to no influence. There, it would be desirable if Netflix shared its secrets with Prime Video, how they manage to offer mobile video downloads in better quality at half the memory requirements. A little more open-source DNA would certainly be good for the industry! Especially as data saving is of great social interest and so far plays no role in marketing.
In terms of data centers, the policy is actually required to formulate the requirements for energy consumption and reuse of waste heat much stricter. At the moment, the Blue Angel from the Federal Environment Agency is simply an efficiency seal for data centers that are already extremely energy and resource efficient – but have no impact on those who do not. This can be done better!
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