A Greener Way to Watch DVDs: Zip.ca


I have a friend who owns over 1,000 DVDs. He bought most of them second-hand, or through one of those buying clubs, but even if he paid an average of $10 a pop that’s a lot of money to have invested in things that clutter up your house. He hasn’t even watched them all.

We do own a few DVDs, but we only buy them if we’ve seen them already and think they’re worth watching more than once. Mostly we borrow them through Zip.ca.

Renting or borrowing is a great way to reduce the number of things you own and to decrease your ecological footprint. Alex Steffen of World Changing holds up product-service systems, “the substitution of access for ownership,” as one important pathway towards a more sustainable future. In his post, he uses the American company Netflix as an example of a thriving product-service system. Not only does Netflix allow people to watch videos without owning them, it also uses the postal system to circulate them. So instead of people driving their cars to the video store, they are delivered by mail carriers who are coming around your neighbourhood anyway. (See also articles by Treehugger and Ask Pablo.)

The Canadian version of Netflix, Zip.ca, is a homegrown Ottawa company. While they now have several warehouses across the country, they started out in a warehouse in the suburb of Nepean. I still get all my DVDs from the Ottawa warehouse (you can tell by the address on the return envelope), which means that they aren’t traveling that far to get to and from my house. Recently Zip.ca have become even more environmentally-friendly by making all their envelopes out of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper.

We have been Zip.ca members for about three years now. We’ve never had cable or satellite or even good regular tv reception so we watch DVDs way more often that we watch regular tv. I knew I was going to write this post, so I did a bit of looking around in Zip’s vast collection and a found a number of “green” videos: An Inconvenient Truth, Who Killed the Electric Car, A Crude Awakening, to name a few. I even got The Sacred Balance out so I could blog about watching it. However, I have to confess that I ended up leaving David Suzuki lying on the bookshelf while I binged on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. What can I say, every once in a while I get the urge to watch vampires get a good ass-kicking and I indulge that urge in the greenest way I can.

4 thoughts on “A Greener Way to Watch DVDs: Zip.ca

  • We got a Zip membership a few months ago and had been loving it until last week when they inexplicably stopped sending us movies. My better half emailed them last week and asked what was up. They replied that this was a normal turnover and we should be receiving our movies shortly. It’s a week later and they still haven’t sent us any more DVDs. He contacted them again this morning but so far no reply.

    I love the IDEA of zip.ca but now I’m not so sure about their service. Once this gets sorted out, I will likely continue our membership, simply because it’s such a great business idea. But if this carries on too long, or happens again with out a transparent reason why, then I will jump off the Zip bandwagon.

  • I like the idea, but think that it is a bit deceptive as fare as the environmentally friendly description of the service concerned. The postal service does not deliver your packages on foot, even if they are coming from Nepean. Your DVD is probably carried by 3 different cargo vehicles before it even reaches your local postie. Renting vs. owning – definitely. But why not walk or bus to your local video store?

  • We live in rural Alberta with only two fairly dismal tv channels and no satellite dish, and have had a Zip membership for the past two years or so. But what I really like is our library, which since September has allowed DVDs (and music CDs as well) to be borrowed via interlibrary loan. The selection is wonderful for newer movies, much faster than Zip and with no limits, and the price is right. And no extra fuel costs or even packaging, as with the Zip envelopes.

  • I personally think renting from your ‘local’ video store would be your best option. Environmentally speaking I would say downloading is even better as you don’t support Hollywood’s destructive habits. Just think of all the waste that generated for any of those crappy Americana action movies!

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