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The Green Life: Buying Music Online Saves Miles and Materials

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October 13, 2009

Buying Music Online Saves Miles and Materials

Downloading music is more eco-friendly than normal retail delivery methods With digital technologies phasing out the conventional use of what once were everyday products, it looks like the CD is going the way of its tape and vinyl predecessors. Which means the eco-impact of buying music is improving.

Carnegie Mellon, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Stanford released a study in August about the emissions associated with delivering a single music album. The conclusion: Buying music digitally (as opposed to driving to the store to buy a burned, packaged, and shipped CD) slashes emissions between 40 and 80 percent.

The researchers considered six scenarios that included an “album published on CD and delivered via traditional retail methods” to an “album downloaded as mp3. . .from an online music service and burned to a CD” and stored in individual packaging. The study didn't take into consideration alternative environmental practices such as using biofuels for transport, only taking into account delivery methods like trucks and planes. It also considered the increased use of electricity for the internet but not the manufacturing and purchasing of iPods.

Several scenarios actually showed digital music performing equally or worse than traditional music-buying. For example, if you walk to the store to buy a CD, your footprint becomes equal to downloading and burning the same music.

When it comes down to it, though, saving gas and packaging is a significant improvement brought about by the ability to buy music online. If you need help getting into the eco-friendly music mindset, save money (and the world) by downloading this free song by Soul Majestic.

--Michael Mullaley

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