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Netflix: Analysing the UK’s Habit

2 December, 2019 | Thomas Devesa
Categories: CO2Balance

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Netflix is a big deal. How big? Well, according to this article there were roughly 9.8 million UK subscribers in 2018. That leads to an impressive amount of streaming occurring every day within the UK, but have you ever considered the environmental impact of our on-demand habit?

CO2balance decided to take a look and the results certainly provide food for thought. This blog is inspired by a recent article which estimated that watching 30 minutes of Netflix leads to emissions of 1.6kg of CO2 equivalent (CO2e). Such an amount of CO2 may seem startling at first and indeed it is roughly equal to taking a 4 mile drive!

In addition, global figures suggest the average user spends 71 minutes per day watching Netflix. Armed with these key figures, we can have a go at (very roughly) estimating the UK’s Netflix-watching impact.

For the average UK user our analysis, based on the above values, shows total yearly emissions of 1.38 tonnes CO2e. But what does this look like? The USA Environmental Protection Agency’s handy greenhouse gas equivalence calculator provides some interesting comparisons. You would need to replace 53 incandescent light bulbs with LEDs to avoid a similar amount of CO2e for the year.

But for the whole UK subscription base, the results are staggering. A whopping 13.5 million tonnes CO2e per year. To put that into context, Croatia’s 2017 CO2 emissions were estimated at 13.2 million tonnes!

Even though this exercise uses rough values and estimations it does draw to attention the energy-intensive nature of streaming. With higher resolution innovations continuing at breakneck speed, the energy required to deliver increasingly higher definition streams will grow.

Looks like I need to find myself a new hobby…

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