Feeds

Music downloads greener than buying CDs

iTunes = three billion miles saved

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Downloading digital music is better for the environment than buying physical CDs from a retail store or online etailer, according to a trio of researchers.

Their study (PDF), entitled The Energy and Climate Change Impacts of Different Music Delivery Methods and sponsored by Microsoft and Intel, details an exhaustive investigation into six different digital-music distribution and purchasing scenarios, ranging from traditional retail CD sales to digital downloads played on a computer or digital-media device.

The Reg highly recommends downloading and perusing the 30-page paper - it's perfect light reading for your late-summer beach holiday.

To determine the carbon footprint and energy required for each scenario, the researchers took into account such factors as CD production and materials, packaging, air and surface shipping, data-center energy requirements, car trips to retail stores, the energy used in web shopping and music playing, and more.

Each assumption was assigned a data range, and the resulting uncertainties were subjected to probabilistic analysis using a Monte Carlo simulation.

As is true with any responsible scientific analysis, caveats abound in the paper, but the bottom line is clear. "Given our assumptions," it concludes, "our results indicate the superiority of downloadable online music, which even in the worst-case scenario produces on average 65 per cent lower CO2 emissions than the best-case e-tail delivery method. Significantly higher savings (nearly a factor of five) can be seen if the customer forgoes CD-R burning in favor of fully digital use, thereby eliminating the energy it took to produce the CD and its packaging."

The worst-case retail scenario - a customer driving to a retail store and buying a CD - produces an average of 3,200 grams of CO2 per album. The best-case digital-download scenario - a customer downloading a CD's worth of tunes and not burning them to a CD-R - produces an average of 400 grams of CO2.

Such data, of course, might beg the question: "So what?", so we pulled out our calculators, punched in a few numbers, and tallied up the CO2 emissions saved by Apple's iTunes Music Store.

In January of this year, Apple senior vice president for marketing Phil Schiller announced that six billion songs had been downloaded from the iTunes Store since it opened in 2003. Assuming 12 songs per album, that'd be the equivalent of 500 million CDs.

Five-hundred million physical CDs bought in retail stores would thus produce 1,600,000 metric tons of CO2. The same number of purely digital albums would produce one-eighth of that amount, namely 200,000 metric tons.

According to calculations developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the average US passenger vehicle - a mix of cars and light trucks - produces about 5.5 metric tons of CO2 per year of driving, which the EPA deems to average 12,000 miles.

By January of this year, therefore, the iTunes Music Store had reduced CO2 emissions equivalent to those produced by over three billion miles of driving, That's an impressive figure - until you learn that the EPA also estimates that Americans drive a total of over 2.4 trillion miles per year.

Still, every little bit helps when it comes to delaying Thermageddon. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
DOUBLE BONK: Testy fanbois catch Apple Pay picking pockets
Users wail as tapcash transactions are duplicated
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
In the next four weeks, 100 people will decide the future of the web
While America tucks into Thanksgiving turkey, the world will be taking over the net
Microsoft EU warns: If you have ties to the US, Feds can get your data
European corps can't afford to get complacent while American Big Biz battles Uncle Sam
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.