Book or reading book? CDs or streams? Ademe assesses the impact of digitized culture

Book or reading book? CDs or streams? Ademe assesses the impact of digitized culture

Considering our environmental impact, should we prefer an e-reader or a good old book? DVD or streamed movie? To help us make the right choices, on Thursday, November 17, Ademe published the first major study (1) of four “cultural services” among the most common – reading a book, listening to music, watching a movie and playing a video game – and compared their “physical” and “digital” versions.

The study took into account all phases of the service’s life cycle – production, use, end of life – and assessed its impact on various environmental protection criteria (greenhouse gas emissions, resource mobilization, air pollution, etc.). Ultimately, the study does not provide a black-and-white conclusion. “This study does not allow a general conclusion that digital cultural services are better than their physical alternatives, underlines Adema. The impact of a cultural service on the environment, whether digital or physical, partly depends on the intensity of its use. »

In order to choose the behavior that is least harmful to the environment, the amateur-consumer must therefore consider how he intends to use the desired cultural asset. Listening to music from a CD has a greater impact on the environment (throughout its life cycle) compared to digital formats, but this will decrease as you listen. This is also true for DVDs, even if globally they are reused less than CDs. The study is however categorical in the fact that“buying a CD or DVD for one-time viewing is not relevant from an environmental point of view”.

Readers reserved for very difficult readers

Adema’s study will delight book lovers. Among the cultural practices studied, reading a book – here a 300-page hard copy novel – has the lowest environmental impact according to all indicators considered (resources, CO2 emissions, etc.). If we compare the e-reader with reading a new paper book (one-time use), the carbon impact of the e-reader is amortized after 50 books read, according to Ademe. In the case of books that are reused or bought second hand, the effect is amortized after 100 books read. On the other hand, the influence of the reader on the resources needed for its creation is amortized only after 210 books read.

When it comes to music, the study shows that “listening to streaming music can be better than listening to a CD if equipment such as speakers or hi-fi equipment is used”. She also recommends watching streaming videos at “small screens (WHO) have the least impact, and reduce the resolution.

Slow down equipment regeneration

Overall, the agency warns that digitization has caused an explosion in the consumption of cultural services, “previously controlled by physical media”. She points out that video streaming will soon account for 80% of global web traffic. With the risk of headlong rush, in terms of intensity of use and permanent renewal of equipment. When watching a movie or a video game, the equipment (TV, TV box and video game console) represents more than 60% and 80% of the impact on the environment, respectively. Not surprisingly, Adema recommends “limit the number of equipment purchased for service and extend their life as much as possible”.

Finally, in terms of good practice, Ademe recommends downloading music and visual content during off-peak hours, turning off video when you just want to listen to music, downloading music titles instead of streaming them each time you listen, to adjust video resolution. looking at the equipment to limit its weight, to favor the use of Wi-Fi over mobile networks whose infrastructure consumes more electricity.

The fact remains that a really good attitude is to consume culture responsibly, avoiding overconsumption and waste: carefully choose your books, CDs, DVDs and equipment (readers, speakers, hi-fi system, etc.) to use them repeatedly , before giving away or reselling them to extend their life cycle.

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