Not to go against Elvis Costello, but it turns out that digital music, not radio, is a sound salvation, at least when it comes to fighting climate change.
A new study conducted by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Stanford University confirms what we already assumed: Downloading music cuts energy consumption and CO2 emissions compared to shopping at your local record store. Digitizing wins again.
The study found that buying digital music results in a 40 to 80 percent reduction in energy use and carbon emissions compared to distributing CDs, and that factors in the energy used to download the files over the Internet. The study compared four different ways of obtaining and listening to music, listed from most energy intensive to the least: Buying a CD in-person at a record store, buying a CD online, downloading an album and then burning it to a CD (both with and without a jewel case), and downloading an album and listening to it digitally.
There were some situations that blurred the lines. If you walked to the music store instead of driving, that would equal the energy and emissions of downloading and then burning an album to disc, meaning the driving to the store is the worst part of buying music in person. Also, if the album size is 260MB (compared to the standard 60MB to 100MB) or more, then that would equal the energy and emissions of buying a CD online because of the extra energy needed to download it.
So, the moral of the story is: Download your music and keep it on your computer or iPod. Luckily, that's what most of us are already doing.