Greening my music – it’s about time!

I bought a Sony Discman in the mid 1980s and have been buying my music on CD ever since (i.e., the past 35 years).  I am finally ready to let go of physical media such as CDs and buy MP3s to reduce clutter and to save the planet.

Old Sony Discman CD playerIn the past, I have preferred to own CDs and rip the music into my library versus buying songs from iTunes, etc.  I own hundreds of CDs, most of which came in jewel cases that I still have with their inserts on a floor to ceiling storage cabinet even though most of my CDs live in binders.  I’m going green.  Going forward, my music purchases will be 100% digital downloads.  I’m still not as hip as my teenagers to go with a streaming service, like Amazon Music, because I want to own my copy of the music, and not be subject to changes in contracts or dropped artists.

Wait, how does giving up CDs help the planet? Let’s look at what goes into creating a CD.

Impact of 1 CD

A single CD weighs 0.58 ounces and a standard jewel case weighs 2.5 ounces, combined that is roughly a fifth of a pound (3.08 oz).

According to Eco Coalition it takes 300 cubic feet of natural gas, 2 cups of crude oil and 24 gallons of water to make one pound of plastic.

shattered CD

Image from Rolling Stones

1 CD with a jewel case takes:

  • 60 cubic feet of natural gas
  • 0.4 cups of crude oil
  • 4.8 gallons of water

and that is before you add the metallic layer and factor in the energy needed to ship the CD to you.    

If I had bought all of my 300+ CDs as digital downloads, I would have saved over 1,800 cubic feet of natural gas (18 therms).  For comparison, an average household in Massachusetts with our cold winters consumes 721 therms a year in 2019/2020. I would have also saved 120 cups of crude oil (7.5 gallons of crude oil) and 1,440 gallons of water (or 18 days worth at the average rate of 80 gallons per day for an American).

Why didn’t I switch sooner?

I’ve told myself a number of reasons for not moving past physical media.  The two strongest are:

  1. I wanted to control the quality (sampling rate) of the digital audio file – though to be honest I can’t tell the difference.
  2. I wanted to be able to play the music in my cars and my home.   Now with CarPlay and USB media ports in cars, it is trivial to play music from your phone.  I even had to think to be sure our current plug-in minivan  could actually play a CD.

Of course even before cars had USB ports, we were playing music from our iPods through the tape deck adapters more often than actual CDs and I could have switched 10+ years ago.

Digital downloads and streaming services are not without their impacts as it takes energy to power the cloud storage and web servers, but compared to energy that it takes to manufacture the CDs and ship it to the consumer, the cloud energy use spread over the millions of users has minimal impact.

What to do with all those old CDs

While I am going to hold onto my CDs (for now at least), if you are ready to part with them, there are some good resources to recycle them.  Check out the material at the CD Recycling Center of America for tips and leads.

How do you prefer to get your music?  Answer in the comments below.

Happy Greening!

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Where to buy MP3s

While you can buy MP3s from a number of places like iTunes, Amazon Musci & Google Play Music I prefer to get my MP3s from Amazon because I can easily download the actual MP3 file such that if I ever wanted to switch to an Android in the future, I wouldn’t have to buy my music again. I also like that I can go back and re-download the files if for some reason I lose them from my computer, though I expect that is possible through other sources as well.

Shop Amazon – Hot New Releases in MP3 Downloads

The first album for which I bought all the MP3s for is Halsey’s Manic and I love it.

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