The days of DVD video have been numbered for years now as online streaming and instant video downloads have been taking over. Now a new study reveals that getting rid of DVDs altogether would result in massive energy savings and greenhouse gas reductions in the United States. Estimates show that if everyone who currently rents or buys DVDs shifted to streaming in 2011, American households would emit about 2 billion kilograms (about 4,400,000 pounds) less carbon and use about 30 petajoules less energy – about as much energy needed to power 200,000 U.S. homes.
The study, carried out by researchers at Northwestern University and published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, shows video streaming can be much better for the environment because it uses less energy and produces less carbon dioxide than the process of renting, and watching a DVD. According to the study, modern devices like laptops and tablets use significantly less energy than older appliances like DVD players. Therefore, streaming directly to your home eliminates the driving and subsequent emissions required to buy or rent a DVD from a store. The researchers found that one hour of video streaming eats up 7.9 megajoules of energy and emits 0.4 kilograms (0.88 pounds) of carbon dioxide, compared to 12 megajoules and 0.71 kilograms (1.5 pounds) for DVDs.
“It’s a modern-day equivalent of the debate about which is more environmentally sound, the disposable or the cloth diaper,” lead author Arman Shehabi of Lawrence Berkley National Library told Phys.org. “Our study suggests that equipment designers and policy makers should focus on improving the efficiency of end-user devices and network transmission energy to curb the energy use from future increases in video streaming. Such efficiency improvements will be particularly important in the near future when society is expected to consume far greater quantities of streaming video content compared to today.”
The market may be making the results of this study into a reality. The Wall Street Journal reports that digital movie sales increased by 47 per cent in 2013, while the sales of DVD discs have been in steady decline since their peak in 2004.