Some things never go out of style. And great music happens to rank on the list. Even by means of listening to your favourite tunes. Nothing beats hearing the audio of a vinyl record on a turntable. But, as with most classic great tools, one question does emerge: How do vinyl records impact the environment?
The answer is pretty complicated. But let’s go over the information we have available to see the carbon footprint your vinyl records leave. And best of all, we’ll see what form of music is truly more environmentally friendly. So stay tuned with us here, this is a discussion you won’t want to miss!
Vinyl: It’s a messy process
Some of the best things in this world aren’t made in the prettiest of fashions. Think sausage for example. It tastes great, but it’s ingredients and composition are things that will kill any appetite. And perhaps the same could be said for vinyl. You could almost think of it as the “sausage” of the music world.
First of all, it’s important to note that vinyl contains PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride). This substance releases dioxin into the atmosphere. Once inhaled in large quantities, it becomes harmful for the body. But really, it takes a lot before your body feels any of the consequences here. So it’s more something to be aware of than anything that should cause all-out panic.
Here’s the other part where vinyl becomes messy: PV is made from fossil fuels. Of course, plenty of factors decide the extent to which this harms the environment. For example, the extraction process plays a huge role in the carbon footprint left behind here. And, unfortunately, most companies refrain from discussing how the factories obtained the petrol to make the vinyl records.
Does this mean you shouldn’t purchase any vinyl records?
Of course not! Not everything about vinyl is technically damaging for the environment.
Keep in mind that vinyl records are often recycled and reused. Most the time, collectors purchase pre-owned albums from second hand stores. So it’s not like the extraction process occurs every time you purchase an album. Instead, it’s more of a matter of you repurchasing an already made product. AKA recycling. In fact, many music stores will even allow owners to sell back their records if they prefer. This means that these records have a pretty low chance of ending up in a landfill somewhere. So the carbon footprint is kept to a minimum in that regard.
Also, note that the sleeves of vinyl are often made of paper/ cardboard. So even when discarded, some parts are easily recyclable.
Another important fact to keep in mind is that vinyl records are far less popular than current digital streaming and purchases. We’ll get to an all-out comparison in a moment. But for now, just note that it’s a niche hobby, which means there’s less of a demand for the constant production of vinyl records.
And lastly, there’s another big question to ask yourself. Can you truly justify giving up all physical copies of your music? Remember, technology malfunctions. Accounts become deleted or corrupted. So it’s always nice to have a physical backup copy on hand. Especially for those Wi-Fi outages.
Vinyl Vs. Streaming: Which Leaves Less of a Carbon Footprint?
So, we know vinyl leaves some form of carbon footprint. But is it really anything worse than modern forms of listening to music? Before we delve further into this question, it’s important to consider a couple things:
- There’s not much research on this topic.
- The existing research is pretty vague.
So, this ultimately means that comparing the environmental impact between streaming and vinyl is pretty complicated. And there’s also plenty of room for further research and discussion. But for now, let’s take a look at what is known.
First of all, consider the environmental impact of streaming services like Spotify. These methods make use of server farms, data connections, routers, digital devices, and many more in-betweens. So there’s quite a carbon footprint left behind here.
And think heavily about how you stream your music. You’ll need a tablet or laptop, right? Obviously, these devices use energy; about 15W worth. On the other hand, vinyl records only need a turntable and an amplifier. Turntables only use about 5W of energy. Add in a speaker, and the numbers here are pretty even.
And then there’s the composition of these devices. We already talked about the PV in vinyl. But keep in mind that most electronic devices also contain plenty of plastics and metals that leave their own mark in the environment. So again, the playing field is pretty even here.
So with that in mind, it’s safe to say that the environmental impact from streaming and vinyl records is relatively even. And until further research emerges, we won’t have a clear answer to this question. So you can pick your favourite medium without worrying that some alternative will impact the environment to a lesser extent.
All in all, vinyl records are a cool means of listening to your music. And you’d be right to assume that they leave some form of carbon footprint. But from the information we have available, note that the environmental impact of vinyl records is nothing worse than streaming or any other modern means of listening to your favourite jams. Even better, you can reduce your footprint by reselling and purchasing pre owned records. So, buying your vinyl records can be a guilt-free process.