Does Better Home Entertainment Help The Environment?

People aren’t going out as much these days. That’s not to say the middle of your city’s downtown won’t be bustling on a Friday night, or that major new films don’t sell out cinemas. Speaking very broadly though, there are more reasons for people to stay in, and for younger generations in particular, staying in is the new going out.

There are actually a few different reasons for this. One clear one is that millennials are often without too much spending money due to student loans, limited career options, etc., and staying in is usually the more affordable option. However, it’s also because home entertainment has become drastically better over the past two decades. Consider the following:

  • Video games account for significant social activity. These days everything from a mobile puzzle game to a brand new console adventure with cutting-edge graphics can involve live multiplayer with friends, family, or even strangers. There’s no legitimate way to accurately measure how much this replaces in-person socializing, but suffice it to say linking up with friends via online gaming is now every bit as ordinary as meeting out somewhere for a drink.
  • Casino games too have come home, so to speak. Untold millions of people around the world enjoy this genre of gaming, whether at live casinos or around card tables in person. Now, however, it’s all available online, with live multiplayer options for all relevant games. Many will even argue that there are a lot of things online casinos do better than the real thing, which has made this an even trendier form of home entertainment – and socializing – than you may expect.
  • Video and television streaming negate the need for entertainment outside of the house. Granted there’s always something nice about seeing a big new movie at a packed theater on opening night. But we’ve all grown so used to services like Hulu, Netflix, HBO Now, etc. that there’s never really a need to head out for a film, a play, or any other form of entertainment. Staying at home in this regard is certainly becoming the norm.
  • Cooking is getting trendy. And what’s more, you don’t even need to go out shopping for ingredients! Numerous meal kit delivery services have become extremely popular, and with them you can have ingredients and step-by-step recipes delivered to you on demand. It can definitely save you a few trips to a restaurant each month, at least.

Staying in is the new going out

There are likely many more examples we could point to, but the ones listed above convey the basic idea: while going out is still good for this and that, it’s not quite as necessary as it once was. The question is whether or not this is good for the environment, or has any measurable impact in either direction.

This idea has been explored broadly with mixed conclusions. On the one hand, the energy required to use electronics, stream content, etc. can result in a surprisingly large carbon footprint. On the other, in certain situations it can still be less than the impact of, say, driving into town, consuming food and drink (and generating waste) at a bar, restaurant or movie theater, and driving home. Furthermore, there are ways to engage in home entertainment in a more carbon-neutral way. For instance you can use streaming services, like Netflix, that have strived to make themselves carbon neutral. Or you can buy electronics that are specifically designed to consume less energy (there’s a whole category of energy-efficient televisions, for instance).

It’s still hard to answer the core question here with any kind of certainty or even with a particularly clear explanation. However there is undeniably some potential benefit to people staying home more to entertain themselves and socialize. And if you go about these activities with a conscious eye toward responsibility and energy efficiency, you may well come out ahead.