Will going digital save the planet?

I am reading the book “Fighting Globesity” by Phillip Mills and Dr Jackie Mills and a great premise that I have taken from the book is what small things we can do as individuals that could assist in changing the world for a better place. 



I have believed for a long time that one rule to live by is “Treat other people as you wish to be treated”.  To have thoughts and Ideas shared with me is the way I would like to be treated so there for I need to honour that and share some of mine.  Maybe, just maybe one of my thoughts could spark and ignite the idea that starts the chain to one of the big ideas that change the world. 


So the thought was a simple one “What if Les Mills™ went digital?” 


This is a question that many companies would ask themselves in this day and age looking at the advantages and disadvantages of such a change and usually just to see if it would increase the profitability of the company,  But it appears that Les Mills also has a conscience and may look at this from a different angle to other corporations.  


Every quarter Les Mills™ release there new programmes to the world and every instructor that teaches them receives and education pack containing a CD, DVD and choreography notes and programme notes.   


How could this be made digital? 

All of these components more than likely started their life in a form of a digital format.  The notes would have been typed up on a computer in a publishing platform and are probably sent to the printers as a PDF document to be printed on to paper.  The CDs would start as a set of MP3 that are burnt on to a disc as would the video and educations session be burnt on to the  DVD being a Digital Versatile Disc. 

So it appears that all of the media is already digital before it transferred to what we would now call a hard copy. 

There is no reason that this could not just be put in a digital folder and downloaded via the web. 


But there must be! 

Of course there must reasons that a company like Les Mills™ feel that they have to spend all the time and money to transfer all of the digital data in to hard copies before sending it out to their dedicated instructors. 


I would expect that the main reason to do this is to protect the copyright of the material that they have spent vast amounts of money in researching and developing.  By placing the Audio Visual presentations in this format they can be copy protected to stop them from being copied and distributed. 


The question is then throws up is, does this work? 

Quite frankly the answer is no. 

The encryption that is used to protect the media on the hard copy is easily bypassed with free software that is available on the internet.  Legitimate software such as itunes from Apple will allow you to rip the music from the CD and burn your own copy in just a few steps.  The same is available to do the same with DVDs. 


This then brings up two questions 

Is it worth it then? And 

Is it a problem? 

Is it worth it is a question That only Les Mills™ can answer whether the amount of money they spend encrypting the media is a viable option if its so easily bypassed. 


Is it a problem? 

From what I can see the majority of instructors that copy their music onto MP3 do so for the following reasons 

A Backup in case of damage 

Use on an MP3 player 


The beauty of the MP3 player is its ease of portability and its efficient filing systems as well as being able to create playlists, at the touch of a button you have your entire music collection in a package the size of a mobile phone or even intergraded into it.  

Those instructors that copy the DVD do it to be able to play it on an alternative portable device, allowing them to access the information anywhere, and at times it was impossible to do in the past. 

Now days we can watch video on a smart phone where as before we were tied to having a video player connected to a large tubed TV. 

So in essence this probably isn’t a problem for Les Mills™ the media is being used as it was intended and by the recipient who bought it.  It has just become more mobile allowing the purchaser access to it at more convenient times. 


The problem comes from the few bad apples that are in any society that believe that they are entitled to everything for nothing.  For instance instructors would ask their fellow instructors to give them a copy of the releases.  Or someone even more unscrupulously selling the copies.  


So how do you combat this? 

The second one Les Mills™ already do by legally challenging and where appropriate persecuting people who knowingly and with intent breach the copyright and distribute their material.  As cases are won and published.  Les Mills™ are showing that they protecting their property rights to their material and the large amounts of money they put into it. As each case is highlighted it will become a warning to others. 


The first is a harder fish to fry.  Bonds between instructors and loyalties raised between them can be hard to break to safeguard your copyright. One way to tackle this is to point out a very simple fact to instructors, apart from having signed an agreement not to do this when you first trained the simple point is.  

Why the Hell should you BODYPUMP™, BODYATTACK™, BODYCOMBAT™, CXWORX™ or any other of the Les Mills™ programmes your arse off to pay for your training pack for someone else to steal your hard work off of you. 

There is always the one instructor that asks, and they ask every one and probably never pay for their own. By giving yours away you are effectively paying for theirs too as they never have the expense and why should they take home more for doing the same job! 


The other way of looking at this requires what seems like a leap into another dimension across a period of time and a bit of a history lesson. 



In the 1980s a new technology came about that was going to kill the film and television industries, This was the video recorder. Of course those of us that were around at the time remember that there was more than one platform to use the Betamax from Sony and the VHS.  This medium was heralded at the destroyer of all film media.  With this product entering our homes we would just record what we saw on televisions and never want to see anything new ever again! 


“We are now faced with a new and troubling assault on our fiscal security, on our very economic life, and we are facing it from a thing called the video cassette recorder” 

Jack Valentti, MPAA President 1982 


With hind sight it is easy to see that the video Cassette was not that at all but ended up being a valuable commodity to the film and television industries.  Probably accounting to a large proportion of sales in the years after as we the consumer strove to have good quality pre recorded versions to keep.  This was an income that they never would have had before. 


With each new technology coming to fruition there is always someone heralding the end of world because of it, yet we grow we adapt and people gain well from these growths. 


Les Mills™ would never have been able to have sent out their programmes to the world with out the development of this media they have used everything from Video and music cassettes and moved with the times eventually to CD and DVD. 


Of course there were always pirates that reproduced the material but as we all knew the videos were never as good as the shop ones.  They may have been cheaper but you got what you paid for. 


Gabe Newell Head of Valve software a video game development and the largest digital distribution company in the United States Said “Piracy is a service problem. The way to defeat piracy is to provide a better service than the pirates” 


This statement has proven true.  By Apple taking on many of the pirates they created a platform that nearly everyone is aware of and called it iTunes.  I personally have never bought more music than I do today because of this platform.  Why?  Because it’s easy I can find the tune I want, listen to it and with one click I can buy it.  But do I buy just one? No I buy the EP and then go looking for other songs or suggestions that they give me. They have made it easy to purchase songs legally, rather than for me to go and find a platform which I have to download to my computer, to then search for someone who is on line to file share who has the track I want and then hope they are not going to log off whilst I’m downloading it.  

One click, and its mine in seconds. 


By going digital Instructors would never have the excuse of blaming the agency that sends out the media to them as it would be almost instantaneous between purchasing and having a file on your computer.  It would be come more hassle to get it off someone else than download yourself.  That is, if you have done the periodical training to keep up your certification allowing you to buy the product.  This would diminish the amount of excuses an instructor could give to another one for the reason they want one. 


The only problem I can see here is our older generation of instructors that are technophobic.  But what are we if not educators and teachers.  How hard would it be to teach them how to down load.  If it has been made simple to combat piracy it will be simple for the most technophobic instructors to be able to pick up.  But as a tribe we support those within the tribe. 

Besides you can still have a cross over period and teach them on the educational sessions on the DVD. 


So is that it? 

No its not.  You see the whole premise of fighting globiesity is to save the world one little bit at a time.   

How will Les Mills™ going digital save the world? 


Now I know where I am going to take this but so far I haven’t done the research to go with it.  I can only hope that I can find the information easily, but I think that even I might be surprised to the actual numbers I’m going to find out. 


So lets find the figures that save the world! 


These are the figures that I am going to use and they are conservative. 

Les Mills™ believe they have 50,000 instructors around the world. 

We know that they may teach more than one of the 10 programmes that Les Mills™ produce (I personally teach 8 at the moment), We also know that they are likely to teach more than one a week but for the purpose of this we shall say that 50,000 instructors teach a 1 hour class a week as it’s a nice number and easy to configure in sums and then you can multiply it by as many programmes or classes that you want to for the complete range. 


So every Quarter each instructor receives a pack containing 


1x DVD 

1x Choreography notes 

In a double DVD case. 


The CD, DVD and Case are all made majorly of plastic.  As we all know plastic is non biodegradable and some plastics are estimated to have a life of hundreds if not thousands of years once they are disguarded.  But what some people may not know is that plastics are made of oil. 


How much oil is used to make plastic? 


It’s a hard thing to work because you don’t just make x amount of plastic from one barrel of oil, as different things come from the barrel at different points in the processing action. From my best accounts of scouring the internet I have found you need about two tenths of a gallon of oil make 1kg of plastic.   

There are 42 gallons in a barrel of oil so that makes 210kg of plastic. 


Each educational pack (conveniently) weighs 100g so that’s 1kg for every 10 packs. 

50,000 copies comes to 5,000kg or 5 Metric Tonnes 

Which in turn equates to just shy of 24 barrels of oil. 


For ease of calculations I am going to round this up to 100 barrels a year.  But remember this is just the amount of oil, the raw building blocks that has been used to physically make the plastic not the energy needed to get those building blocks out of the oil or to transport it between plants and factories or to turn it into a CD, DVD or case. 


And when we have finished with all this plastic what happens to it? 

Well if put it in a landfill site it could be there for hundreds if not thousands of years we can only make educated guesses as to how long it could be there as even a hundred years is outside of our timescale to actually see if it degrades and plastics haven’t been around long enough to see the real impact of this. 


We could just burn it to get rid of it, but then we know that burning oil sends Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in to the atmosphere which most scientists agree is warming the planet up. 

Each barrel of oil if burnt produces 317kg of CO2 which would make our 100 barrels of oil 3,170kg of CO2 to pumped into our atmosphere. 


Our 5 Tonnes would become over 3 Tonnes of CO2.  Times that by 10 programmes, over a decade, and the numbers start to exaggerate wildly, to over 300 Tonnes of CO2. 


If you think that the programme BODYPUMP™ has been going strong for over 20 years. 


This is all long before you even add in the energy cost of manufacturing and transporting the product globally.  Thank fully someone else all ready did this and put it on a graph which I have borrowed and placed below. 



Its not all bad, Plastic can be recycled and we can use again, what we already have. 

One tonne of recycled plastics saves 685 gallons of oil. 

10kg of recycled plastic can make one gallon of synthetic crude oil. 

There is hope. 


CO2 is also pulled out of the atmosphere and used in the building blocks of plants and trees.  Unfortunately the other part of the pack is choreography notes printed on paper which as we know is made from trees. 


Finding out how many trees are in paper is even harder than finding out how much plastic than is in oil.  Paper now is largely recycled and there are different grades and coats that go on paper and that’s before you even add any ink or cut and bind them. 


Here’s what I found on average 1 tree will make 16.67 reams of copy paper or 8,333.3 sheets. 

Lets say that each pack contains 10 sheets of paper in the notes (this doesn’t include the paper in the DVD cover or any additional advertising leaflets or the paper used in packing for transportation) 

That’s 500,000 sheets a quarter or 2 million a year 

That equates to 240 trees a year. 


Now on average a broad leaf tree in its lifetime can absorb in the region of 1 tonne of CO2 in its life time. 


So by not printing the choreography notes Les Mills™ could save 240 trees, which in their life time would absorb 240 Tonnes of CO2. 

Now all of a sudden that 300 Tonnes of CO2 from plastics produced in a decade, seems saveable in a single year. 


But lets take this even further.  Lets say that Les Mills™ go digital. 

Over the next year they could not produce a minimum of 30 Tonnes of CO2 the saving on paper would save 240 trees which would take out 240 tonnes of CO2 from the air. 

Their carbon foot print from this alone would mean they have then started to take out 210 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere on top of what they have saved! 

And that way before you even look at the savings of transportation and then imagine if Les Mills™ actually planted those trees so they really have saved them! 


Ok that’s quite impressive but I have a feeling that this has far wider implications on a global scale. 


A CD player used 85watts an hour 


If everyone of the 50,000 instructors taught 1 hour long class a week the CD player alone would use 4,250,000 watts or 4,250kwh a week. 


An IPod in contrast uses only 7wh under the same calculations it would use 350kwh a week. 


The difference yearly would be CD at 221,000kwh minus IPod at 18,200kwh saving a grand total globally of 202,800kwh. 


Are you still with me? I know its amazing but wait the impact is phenomenal. 


1kwh of energy produces about 1kg of CO2 which means with this single swap over Les Mills™ via this change from CD players could save an additional 203 Tonnes of CO2 or the equivalent of 203 trees.  Times that by 10 Les Mills™ programmes and that’s 2030 Tonnes or trees a year! 


I’m not going to work out the actual money saving that would be for you or you club you can do that yourself all the info is there for you to use. 


So can Les Mills™ save the world by going digital well it looks like they could save 2290 trees a year. 

Or even 22,900 tonnes of CO2 in a decade from one switch and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 


The financial incentive behind this is a strong enough one on its own, which I have only touched on here and should not be underestimated it’s a hell of a lot bigger than it looks, but this goes so much deeper. In fact because of this move it could increase the standard and quality of the products that Les Mills™ produce not to mention the replication by the instructors that deliver programmes.  But how that works is a whole other ball game which would require a massive spider diagram a white board and laser lights to help add to the effect of its awesomeness LOL. 


So this is what I came up with from reading the book “Fighting Globesity” by Dr Jackie and Phillip Mills, and I’m only half way through. 


What would happen if you read it? 



About lukekatt

Ex Pro Dancer, Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, Assessor, Les Mills Junkie, Zumba, Snowboarder, novice Kitesurfer & self confessed short arse and loud mouth. I posted some of these articles under an alter ego but have moved some of the relevant ones here and then added more.
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