Streaming gives us the perfect opportunity to enjoy our favourite shows exactly how we want to, whether that’s bingeing a single show or curating the perfect evening of TV. While this might seem like it wouldn’t have too much impact on the environment, the electricity needed to power your TV habit can quickly add up, producing excesses of carbon dioxide (CO2).
But how many trees would you need to plant to offset the emissions caused by bingeing your favourite series?
The team at Spin Genie UK has analysed the total runtime of the most popular TV series available on Netflix, multiplying this by the average CO2 emissions of an hour spent streaming TV to find out.
The TV shows with the biggest carbon footprint
1. Come Dine with Me
39 trees to offset carbon emissions
Taking the top spot is the hugely popular reality competition cooking show Come Dine with Me, which has run for a whopping 19 series and has been adapted in more than 50 countries. With a total runtime of 715 hours, devoted fans would have to plant 39 trees over the next decade to offset their carbon emissions if they binged every episode.
2. Below Deck, Gilmore Girls, The Big Bang Theory, Vampire Diaries
6 trees to offset carbon emissions
Four shows take second place, with The Big Bang Theory, Below Deck, Gilmore Girls and Vampire Diaries. All of these long-running shows have a total runtime of between 110 and 120 hours, adding around £4 to the average household electricity bill and producing just over 4 kilograms of carbon dioxide if you watch the entire series. Such output would mean fans would have to plant 6 trees over the next decade to offset their carbon emissions if they binged every episode.
3. Orange is the New Black
5 trees to offset carbon emissions
Taking third place is the comedy-drama Orange is the New Black. Running for 91 episodes over 7 seasons the show cemented Netflix’s reputation for producing original shows and hooked viewers with its funny and sometimes dark storylines. You’d need to plant 5 trees to offset your emissions if you watched the series every year for a decade.
4. Friends, Homeland, Gossip Girl, Love Is Blind, The Office (US), Seinfeld
4 trees to offset carbon emissions
Bad news for eco-conscious sitcom fans: you’d need to plant 4 trees over the next decade to offset the emissions from streaming Friends, The Office (US) and Seinfeld. Streaming all 3 shows would produce around 3 kilos of CO2 each, thanks to their long-running series.
The reality show Love is Blind and the dramas Gossip Girl and Homeland also share fourth place, with each series producing 2.35 and 3.05 kilos of CO2 to stream, respectively.
5. 13 Reasons Why, Below Deck Sailing Yacht, Benidorm, Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Community, Elite, Grace And Frankie, Queer Eye, The Crown
3 trees to offset carbon emissions
Streaming is by far the most convenient way to watch TV, as you can catch up on anything you might have missed at the touch of a button. However, if you watched every episode of 11 of Netflix’s most-streamed series, including Breaking Bad and The Crown, you’d need to plant 3 trees over the next decade to offset your emissions.
The TV genres with the biggest carbon footprint
Average CO2 Emissions Per Show: 25.73 kg
When it comes to the TV genres with the highest average emissions, cooking shows like Come Dine with Me take the top spot, averaging 25.73 kg of CO2, or 39 trees. This is thanks to their long runtimes, as cookery shows are easy and inexpensive for networks to produce, making them a television staple.
2. Game Shows
Average CO2 Emissions Per Show 13.51 kg
Game shows are up next, with the typical game show producing an average of more than 13 kilograms of CO2 if streamed all the way through. So you’d need to plant an average of 20 trees over the next decade to offset your streaming emissions.
Like cooking shows, game shows such as Too Hot to Handle are easy to produce, often only requiring challenges and contestants, meaning they can run for years, creating a huge backlog of episodes to binge on Netflix.
Average CO2 Emissions Per Show: 4.10 kg
Whether it’s Selling Sunset or Below Deck, we can’t get enough of the glitz, glamour and drama that makes reality TV a mainstay of our Netflix queues. Unfortunately, the average reality series produces 4.10 kg of CO2 for its runtime, making it the third most polluting genre to stream. To combat the emissions produced you’d need to plant 6 trees over the next decade.
Average CO2 Emissions Per Show: 1.42 kg
With plenty of stories to tug on your heartstrings and plotlines to make you laugh and cry throughout the series, romances like Gilmore Girls rank in the top 5 most polluting genres. These dramas produce an average of just under 1.5 kilograms of CO2 if streamed all the way through, so you would need to plant 2 trees to offset your CO2 emissions.
Average CO2 Emissions: 1.04 kg
Rounding up the top 5 is the crime genre. Whether it’s crime dramas like Ozark or documentaries about notorious cases such as When Missing Turns to Murder, the twists and turns the genre takes keep us hooked series after series. However, the average crime genre fan would have to plant 2 trees over the next decade to offset their emissions with the average crime series producing around 1 kg of CO2.
Beginning with lists of the most popular TV shows on Netflix UK according to sources including Netflix, we took the number of episodes and the average runtime of each episode according to TVDB to find the total runtime in hours of each TV series.
We then multiplied the total runtime of each series by the average amount of power used by an LCD TV for 1 hour according to Heatable, to find the kilowatt hours needed to stream each series. We then used this figure to calculate the number of trees needed to offset this amount of carbon over a decade using Carbonify’s carbon calculator.
To find the total CO2 emission from each series, we multiplied the total average runtime for each series by the amount of carbon dioxide produced by an hour of streaming according to The IEA.
Data correct as of 26/10/23.
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