Carbon Footprint of a DVD

I was asked during my HPA sustainable media session to compare the carbon footprint of a movie delivered by DVD versus one delivered by streaming. It was a good question, but one that required much research.  Here's the first half of the answer.

News Corporation has been investing a lot of time and money in tracking the carbon footprint of their DVDs, so they had a wealth of data for me to look at. After working through the numbers, here is what I came up with, using "Production" in the entertainment industry sense and including manufacture of the DVD and its package in the "Distribution" number.

Lbs C02
per DVD
% of total
Media Production 0.33 31%
Manufacture / Distribution 0.73 69%
Total 1.06

So, the carbon footprint of a DVD is about one pound, with a few caveats. First, the NewsCorp numbers are based on direct bulk shipment from the manufacturing facility to a big-box store. A more complex supply chain, such as getting the DVD to a local video store, is likely to yield a higher footprint. Second, the Production footprint can be highly variable. This analysis is for the 2008 animated feature Futurama: Bender's Game. A live-action feature with extensive location work is likely to have a much higher production footprint. Third, a more exacting analysis would average production costs across all distribution, including theatrical and television, so the unit production footprint would be lower.

That almost 70% of the footprint comes from distribution suggests two things. First, a "footprint per viewing" metric would likely be less with a rented DVD than a purchased one. Second, we get a hint at the likely outcome of the final comparison with streaming/download. But what will be even more important to the final comparison is the footprint to get that DVD from the store to your house. A five mile round trip in a reasonably fuel efficient family sedan will generate four pounds of CO2, dwarfing the emission of the DVD itself.

I'll close by noting that Fox Entertainment has made considerable progress in reducing the carbon footprint of its animation productions. This DVD's Production number is 53% lower than that reported for 2007's Futurama: Bender's Big Score.

Also, see a comparison between digital and physical delivery.

EcoDisc can also lowers your

EcoDisc can also lowers your Carbon Footprint. It reduces raw material waste, energy consumption and the CO2 created during a standard DVD run.

Avatar on Earth Day: Where is Fox's Carbon Footprint for the DVD

Fox has been publishing carbon footprint data for its Futurama movie series, which has been very helpful for performing green media analysis like the above.

Now, Fox appears to be planning to release the first version of the Avatar DVD on 22 April 2010. Given the Earth Day connection, I went looking for similar data.

There doesn't seem to be any available. Maybe it just has not yet been released. Or maybe the carbon footprint of Avatar's production is so huge that the number is too embarrassing. Note, above, that in a low-budget production like the Futurama made-for-TV movie, the production footprint is relatively small compared to the manufacturing/distribution footprint.

Fox has even gotten the most recent Futurama movie DVD release to be carbon-neutral through a combination of improved practices and purchased offsets. Will they do this for the Avatar DVD? I'm not betting on it.

Please post a comment if you find any interesting data about the Avatar DVD.

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