Streaming and sustainability

You've probably asked yourself what impact your streaming behavior has on your ecological footprint. That's not so easy to answer. Let's see what Bitkom e.V., Germany's largest association for media, tech and telecommunications companies, has to say about it:

In Germany, eight out of ten Internet users aged 16 and over watch films, series and short clips online. Just under a quarter of them do so every day. Videos have thus become an integral part of the Internet: They can be found in social media as well as on news sites, video platforms and streaming services. They are watched both privately and in a professional context. This boom in moving images on the Internet and the heightened awareness of sustainability issues have recently prompted cautionary voices: They warned about the energy consumption of streaming, the CO2 emissions it causes, in short: the environmental impact of watching movies, series, clips on the net.

The most important facts in brief: The energy requirements of video usage depend heavily on which end device is used to watch and at what resolution.

Watching video at SD resolution on a smartphone, tablet or notebook requires much less energy than watching traditional TV or playing a DVD on a 50" flat-screen TV. For the frequent case of watching in HD quality on a fixed network, between 100 and 200 grams of CO2 are produced per hour with today's energy mix. This is comparable to driving one kilometer in a car with an internal combustion engine. Accordingly, the CO2 emissions of watching video on the net are low compared to many other leisure activities.

Streaming is continuously becoming more energy efficient: For the year 2020, it can be assumed that, compared to the year 2018, the provision and transmission of the same film (same resolution) will require about 25 percent less energy. This Bitkom e.V. guide is intended to contribute to a fact-based assessment of the energy requirements and CO2 emissions of video viewing on the Internet and to look at what users and companies can do to achieve sustainable video streaming.