Carbon Footprint of Podcasts/Music

A phone connected to a pair of earphones

Image by Firmbee from Pixabay

How often do you listen to music or podcasts? I for one have it on while I commute, work or when I do my chores.

I cannot imagine a life where I do not listen for at least 30 mins a day. But have you ever wondered if this streaming of music and podcasts has an impact on the carbon emissions of our planet?

Well I never thought much of it either, up until I heard the episode ‘The Internet’s Carbon Footprint’ by IRL. And it was a definite ear-opener (for lack of a better word) for me

The medium with which we consumed recorded music has changed over the years
* Gramophone Records
* Radios
* Cassettes
* Compact Discs (CDs)
* Mp3s / Ipods
* And now Streaming

Each of these has its own impact on the environment, be if from manufacturing the products, to shipping, to the electricity used while using the products. And calculating the carbon footprint of these is not easy particularly when you have to consider what powers the electricity used – Is it coal, nuclear, solar or other renewables. How does it get transported – air, sea, road? There are so many variables involved.

One would think that streaming music is the easiest solution and is carbon efficient. But what is streaming ?

“the act of sending sound or video to a computer, mobile phone, etc. directly from the internet so that it does not need to be downloaded and saved first:” – Cambridge Dictionary

So there are data centers running somewhere around the world, powered by some source of electricity. And this Data center has to run non-stop so that we have the pleasure of listening to music without a break.

Kyle Devine is the Head of Research and Associate Professor in the Department of Musicology at the University of Oslo.

According to Kyle Devine, streaming music online emits up to 350 million kilograms of greenhouse gas in 1 year in the US alone. This is equal to the same amount if we drove 74,000 cars for a year

Illustrative depiction of Carbon dioxide as molecules of C and two oxygen atoms, flying in the atmosphere

Image by Malte Reimold from Pixabay

And that is a lot of emissions. So do we stop listening to music? Well I hope not 🙂

Downloading is a better alternative. Downloading is only using the data center once. After that the song or podcast episode lives in your device till you decide to delete it. Isn’t this better than say playing your favourite song multiple times?

So the next time you stream your podcast or music think again!

To know more:
https://irlpodcast.org/season5/episode3/
https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/environmental-impact-streaming-music-835220/
https://mitpress.mit.edu/9780262537780/

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