this startup is planting trees while you watch Netflix
All Netflix users combined emit as much CO2 in 1 second as driving a car 3.8x around the world.
When we think of the energy consumption in our homes, our minds usually jump to lights, heating and cooling systems, or kitchen equipment like the fridge.
Yet we rarely think of the internet. However, the internet’s energy and carbon footprints are estimated to exceed those of air travel.
The manufacturing and shipping of the internet’s hardware including servers, computers, and smartphones uses up a lot of energy. Those computers then need to be powered and cooled continuously. Electricity is drawn from grids and generated from unsustainable sources like coal, natural gas, and petroleum.
When we make a unique Google search, multiple servers are required to be able to display a result. This is why there is an output of greenhouse gasses every time we use a search engine for example.
A similar thing happens when we stream videos or audio, except that even more emissions are emitted because of the large volume of data that needs to be stored and run.
“60% of the internet’s emissions come from video streaming”. - source
The website Planyflix was born to solve this problem. It was created to offset the emissions based on your Netflix streaming behavior, by planting trees.
Plantyflix was brought to life during peak COVID-19 times by Fabrice and Liam, who are two young founders based in Berlin. From idea to launch it took them less than 2 weeks. Originally they worked on the project for fun, to see if they could work well together.
When they launched in late April this year, however, the website received more exposure than they expected. As a result, they planted 10,000 trees already together with partner organisation Eden Reforestation Projects.
Plantyflix provides three plans based on how many hours you watch Netflix every day - ‘Some’ (less than 1 hour), ‘Habit’ (1-3 hours) and ‘Binge’(3+ hours). You pick the plan that aligns with you and Plantyflix will plant up to 30 trees per month for you to offset your emissions. The goal for the platform is to help people take environmental action, while they enjoy watching Netflix.
A number of studies were referenced to calculate how many trees need to be planted based on a person’s Netflix streaming habits. On average one tree absorbs 20kg of greenhouse gases per year. A number of trees also die during the process of tree planting - so Plantyflix ensures that more trees are planted than would be required to offset the amount of emissions from streaming.
We like that the website sets itself apart through its fun and quirky copy. For Liam and Fabrice it was important to reach a large audience, not just sustainability experts who are familiar with the topic and environmental terms.
Besides Plantyflix the two are working on carbon.so, a carbon offset subscription for individuals and businesses. Their long term goal is for everyone to be on zero net emissions. They aim to do their part in this by supporting people to take more responsibility for their carbon emission contribution.
While streaming does emit a lot of emissions, another article outlines that video streaming today actually has a relatively low climate impact.
Many companies are making rapid improvements in the energy efficiency of their data centres, networks and devices.
Apple, for example, aims to be 100% carbon neutral by 2030. Using renewable energy to power their data centres is just one of the things they are doing to make this happen. In North Carolina, the centres are powered by solar energy, and in Nevada, they use geothermal and solar energy. Additionally, Apple is looking into sourcing 100% recycled and renewable materials across all their products and packaging.
Apart from planting trees to offset your carbon emissions, there are other actions you can take. The first step is to become aware of how much you are using the internet and especially how much you’re streaming. It can help to switch off your devices from time to time and enjoy the company of a good book. Much less energy will also be used when you lower the quality of the video. Watching a high definition video is not always necessary. You can also be more sustainable by using fewer devices. Watching Netflix with your friends or lovers does have its benefits. As Plantyflix mentions on their website: who knew that “Netflix and chill” could be better for the environment?