Digital Music Has Bigger Carbon Footprint than Material Music are many people concerned about climate change these days, and rightly so. To help with climate change, they’re willing to give up or reduce consumption of a lot of things from fossil fuel cars to flying to fast fashion, etc. However, I wonder if they’d be willing to give up on some other ones that are also well integrated in their every day lives, like digital music, or is already big with big aspirations, like cryptocurrency.

Today, on the Spark podcast episode #501, I learned that digital music has a bigger carbon footprint than CDs, tapes, or records, what I’ll call “material” music! That’s shocking, though once I think about it, I suppose it’s not due to all the streaming energy involved. I am still thinking about mp3 libraries on my iPod mini and my computer. With millennials and other recent generations being such big users of digital music, while being environmental activists, I’d love to know how many of them would go back to CDs, tapes, or records! Seriously, would they?


On a different vector than digital music is cryptocurrency. Elon Musk recently made a big bet on Bitcoin, but Bitcoin now has a carbon footprint bigger than many countries, and we ain’t talking about just the little ones! BitCoin also has other serious practical limitations like about a transaction every 5 seconds max for what we currently could do if we poured all our resources into it. Even with technological advances a thousand fold of that, can you see the entire world running on 200 monetary transactions per second??? I’ll like, line up at the bank again, thank you. I could fart a hundred times during that wait and have far less of a carbon footprint, or maybe smellprint, than BitCoin!

Now, these are just a few of the things many of the younger generations are excited about, but which I don’t ever think they’ve thought much about giving up besides what they’ve never had or had limited access to, like cars or homes. What if we were to add podcasts instead of radio? Or a lot of social media? Now there’s a hard one to give up! What will those youngins’ say then?

To be fair, I also care about the environment and I must turn the spotlight on myself to answer the same questions as I would like to challenge others with. For digital music, I listen to a handful of hours livestreamed each week, most of which only because I can’t hook up my MP3 library to my Google Home for my weekday morning alarm. It’s quite annoying actually, and I’d be able to do without it if I could. Otherwise, I have been on digital music from the 2000 aughts, but my digital music isn’t the kind with the bigger carbon footprint since I hardly stream any of it. Rather, most of it is played from my MP3 library on my iPod mini when I run, and sometimes at my computer on rather generic monitor speakers. I have enough of a library that I can literally do with that for music in my life as I hardly listen to anything new any more. There’s not a lot of music there, for my tastes. If you want me to really go back to material music, well, I’d just pass that up and go for the radio. The carbon footprint of material music equivalent to my MP3 library would be so ridiculous I would accuse you of only going on principle rather than what the data would say given how I don’t stream my music that is the biggest portion of the carbon footprint of digital music.

As for other things like fast fashion, I’ve hardly buy any clothes in the past decade! I’ve made myself a bunch, but even stopped that from having gotten enough at a point.


BitCoin and cryptocurrency? Don’t even get me started!


I use social media, but given I am charging my phone about once every 4 or 5 days this year, and once every 3 or so days last year, I’m not exactly making even a toddler sized carbon footprint there. I also don’t have a car by choice, even a bike, and definitely not a house. I wonder how many of the environmentalists can say that? I wonder how many of the millennials preaching about climate change can even say that?


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