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  • Writer's pictureVera Mark

To Stream Or Not To Stream

Hands up: who can claim that during the pandemic, they did not turn to streaming to make up for the loss of social interaction? To keep from going stir-crazy, or worse? Thank you, Ted Lasso, and I mean it.

And not only is there a lot of genuinely good content out there these days… we as (film) creatives depend on this for our careers and should be glad that Disney & Co. have ramped up their productions the way they have. As book authors, we hope one of these giants will snap up our IP.

Emission Equivalent of a Return Trip to Saturn

However, as this Guardian article points out, streaming uses massive amounts of data. According to one source, worldwide streaming equals the combined energy consumption of Germany, Italy and Poland. Another impressive number is 6 billion hours of watching Netflix hit shows measured over the period of 28 days, the equivalent of travelling to Saturn and back by car. A trip I’ve always wanted to take but shied away from, for environmental reasons, obvs.

So what do I do? Cancel all my subscriptions? Well, there are these things called books… and my local library has an awesome DVD collection. But we need system solutions - and they do exist.


I came across this organisation 'Greening of Streaming' that claims to address growing concerns about the impact of the streaming sector. Apart from the fact that I don’t like the terms ‘address’ and ‘growing concerns’ - they make it sound like we have a wee small issue developing when in fact this planet is basically on fire - they are geared towards ‘video providers’, and there’s little actual info, but okay, it may be a laudable effort.

This German company seems more accessible. It has installed its data centre inside (!) a wind turbine, improving the efficiency of their use of energy - of 100% renewable energy. They service content providers across German-speaking countries and also have a consumer side; their price model compares with any single one of any of the big streamers. Unfortunately none of the channels in their packages interest me, and the Big Streamers are not (yet?) part of this deal.

What to do? Wait until Netflix signs on with a company like this? Or perhaps… ask Netflix to do exactly that? How about we create the demand? Let’s lobby the streamers - if they are inundated in requests about these kinds of models, perhaps they’ll do something about it.

Other Dirty Data Habits

I am no friend of typing on phones - a combination of clumsy fingers and eyes that are not getting any younger. So in theory I love voice messaging on WhatsApp & Co. In practice, a voice message uses up massively higher amounts of data and thus energy. So perhaps reserve voice messaging for special occasions…? And I guess the same applies to photo and video messaging and gifs.

Gulp. You mean I have to give up using gifs and sending cute kitty pics? * It pains me to say so but… at least consider reducing…

More impressive numbers: storing photos and emails in cloud services in the UK equals the emissions of 112,500 return flights London-Los Angeles. Much of this, however, is an easy fix - tidy up your mailboxes, delete those emails from 2015 and weed out some photos in your cloud servers. You may find you don’t want to keep 3/4 of them… or make some unexpected discoveries!

Saving the planet, one less download at a time?

Don’t get me wrong. Not sending kitty pics is not going to save this planet. And there is a huge danger in pushing the ‘individual responsibility’ narrative - it detracts attention from the Big Emitters. Me picking up my DVDs from the library does not let Amazon off the hook.

But individual action can trigger a change in mindset, my own and that of people around me. And that’s why I’m going for it.

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