Published on Fri Jun 19 2020

All you can stream: Investigating the role of user behavior for greenhouse gas intensity of video streaming

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The information and communication technology sector reportedly has a relevant impact on the environment. Within this sector, video streaming has been identified as a major driver of CO2-emissions. To make streaming more sustainable, environmentally relevant factors must be identified on both the user and the provider side. Hence, environmental assessments, like life cycle assessments (LCA), need to broaden their perspective from a mere technological to one that includes user decisions and behavior. However, quantitative data on user behavior (e.g. streaming duration, choice of end device and resolution) are often lacking or difficult to integrate in LCA. Additionally, identifying relevant determinants of user behavior, such as the design of streaming platforms or user motivations, may help to design streaming services that keep environmental impact at a passable level. In order to carry out assessments in such a way, interdisciplinary collaboration is necessary. Therefore, this exploratory study combined LCA with an online survey (N= 91, 7 consecutive days of assessment). Based on this dataset the use phase of online video streaming was modeled. Additionally, factors such as sociodemographic, motivational and contextual determinants were measured. Results show that CO2-intensity of video streaming depends on several factors. It is shown that for climate intensity there is a factor 10 between choosing a smart TV and smartphone for video streaming. Furthermore, results show that some factors can be tackled from provider side to reduce overall energy demand at the user side; one of which is setting a low resolution as default.

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