Green Technology
Why Internet Downloads Will Save the Planet
Downloadable music and movies are now mainstream and proving to be an effective way to reduce your carbon footprint.
download music and movies
September 25, 2008 by Rebecca Day

My first real vacation was a weeklong excursion to Miami Beach. What I remember more than Ethel Merman in “Call Me Madam,” the menacing funnel cloud of a waterspout, or my stolen coin purse, was the direction of the guide on the Jolly Roger tour boat. “Just throw it overboard,” he said in response to a question about empty soda cups. “It’ll end up somewhere downstream.” Even at six, I knew that was wrong.

I can proudly say I’ve never dumped trash in the ocean. But what about my carbon footprint as an audio/video enthusiast? I have to wonder what effect my years of collecting packaged media is having on the environment. When I moved last year from a roomy house to a cozy apartment, only half of my 1,500 CDs and DVDs could go with me. All obsolete VHS tapes had to go, too. I left behind a regrettable amount of plastic, including discs, jewel boxes and cassette shells.

After a lifetime of collecting LPs, tapes and discs, I’m amazed to think there’s a new wave of consumers who may never own a physical scrap of prerecorded media. They can download music and videos and store them on a hard drive. Me? I now score much of my music from iTunes—and would be inspired to do more if tracks weren’t left off iTunes albums.

Although I can justify the purchase of some CDs because I’ll play them again and again, I can’t say the same for movies which, save for some classics and good demo material, I rarely watch more than once or twice. That makes the recent onslaught of video download options—without environmentally unfriendly discs or cases—that much more appealing.

I’m about to hook up a Vudu player to download movies in HD. I have Apple TV, which sends my music, iTunes TV shows and photos from the PC to the living room. I can rent standard- or high-def movies from various studios and download them to the PlayStation 3 and shuttle them over to the PlayStation Portable.

If I’m feeling especially green, I can download “near-DVD-quality” movies from Netflix rather than going the snail mail route. I can use TiVo as a window to Amazon’s Unbox video collection. New releases typically run $4 per rental and $15 for purchase, but when I buy a title for playback on my PC or TiVo, I get a smaller file, too, for playback on a portable.

Of course, there are caveats in the download world. The media you buy or rent has stringent playback restrictions, media players report back information from your PC, and if your hard disk crashes, it takes your media with it.

Green media isn’t perfect, but it’s a carbon step in the right direction.

Read more:
Exploring Your Video-On-Demand Options
Are Media Extenders Finally Catching On?
The Death of In-Store Rentals

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