Climate-friendly streaming: How to reduce emissions while you binge


If you want to help save the planet, don't fall asleep while streaming Netflix in 4K definition. — Christin Klose/dpa

Pick up your litter, cycle to work and stream in lower definition: The list of things you can do to slow climate change now also includes being wary of how you watch content online.

If you want to reduce your carbon footprint while binging Netflix, then your choice of video quality and Internet connection will make a difference.

Choosing HD resolution (instead of a higher quality) and using fibre optic broadband Internet (instead of WiFi or copper cable) is the most environmentally friendly method, according to a recent study by Germany's Federal Environment Agency (UBA).

This setup results in two grams of CO2 being released per hour of video streaming, compared to four grams if you have an older Internet setup using copper cables instead.

Netflix and other streaming services offer Ultra HD resolution for better video quality on 4K TVs, and yet this requires 10 times the data to be streamed to your device compared to HD resolution.

In the case of mobile devices the quality difference is not even perceptible to the human eye, so you'll also be reducing greenhouse gas emissions by streaming in lower quality where possible.

The agency found that your data centre's carbon footprint is a relatively low 1.5g of CO2 per hour if you stream in HD quality.

Falling asleep in front of Netflix is also a waste of energy, it seems, and the agency recommends that users disable autoplay on their streaming service so that you only stream content when you want it.

The study also found that the worst transmission method in environmental terms is to use the cellular network used by mobile phones.

While 3G produces a massive 90g of CO2 per hour, the newest transmission standard, 5G, produces only about five grams of CO2 per hour of HD video streaming. So from a climate protection perspective, 5G technology is very promising, the agency says.

Cities can meanwhile reduce their carbon emissions by setting up more public WiFi hotspots because these are more climate-friendly than cellular networks. – dpa

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