A new study by research teams from Carnegie Mellon University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Stanford University verifies that downloading music cuts energy consumption and CO2 emissions significantly in comparison to shopping at your local music store.
The study shows that purchasing digital music downloads results in a 40-80 percent reduction in energy use and carbon emissions compared to distributing CDs. The study took into consideration the energy used to download the files over the Internet. It compared 4 different ways of obtaining and listening to music.
The least energy intensive way of acquiring music is to download it and listen to it digitally.
Downloading and burning a CD wastes more energy, purchasing a CD online wastes even more energy, and finally purchasing a CD at a retail store wastes the most energy. And, if you have to drive to the store to buy music in person, you waste even more energy.
Now the study does not take into account the environmental impact of manufacturing the computers, routers and digital infrastructure that makes this all happen in the first place, but assuming that cost is already sunk, downloading is the “greener” way to acquire music.
So it looks like downloading music is better for the environment than any other means of acquisition to date. Now if we can only find a way to properly monetize that activity across the board, we all win, the artists, the infrastructure and the environment. Additional motivation for the ultimate solution of a music ecosystem that flows like water.