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Apple Rated As Least Green Tech Company

Apple Rated As Least Green Tech Company

Yes, Apple is on a “winning streak,” with iPhone sales more than doubling (a total 18.65 million sold) in the last quarter, and huge gains in sale of MacBooks and iPads, according to the New York Times. But in one area, Apple has a gotten a failing grade: It’s been named the least green technology company by Greenpeace, because of its reliance on “dirty data”—coal-burning—centers.

These are the centers that are behind the massive data cloud we’re all living in, with and through. According to Greenpeace, the cloud currently consumes 1.5%-2% of the world’s total power and is growing at a rate of 12% a year. Every time you leave a comment, upload a photo, or publish a blog post, you’re using some energy. Sure, Facebook and Twitter and Google are all “free,” but they do cost us—cost the planet—something. 

Says the Guardian:

Greenpeace’s report, How Dirty is Your Data? reveals that the company’s investment in a new North Carolina facility will triple its electricity consumption, equivalent to the electricity demand of 80,000 average US homes. The facility’s power will be supplied by Duke Energy, with a mix of 62% coal and 32% nuclear. On Wednesday, Apple posted a large boost in quarterly earnings, which grew by 95% to $6bn (£3.65bn).

Gary Cook, Greenpeace’s IT policy analyst and lead author of the report, said: “Consumers want to know that when they upload a video or change their Facebook status that they are not contributing to global warming or future Fukushimas.”

Companies in the US are not required by law to disclose their energy use or carbon emissions. But Greenpeace drew on publicly available information on investments made in data centres, to estimate the maximum power these facilities will consume, and matched that information with data from the government or utilities.

The report estimates dependence on coal at Apple’s data centers to be 54.5% (Apple has a huge new data center that draws its energy from North Carolina’s coal-powered grid), followed by Facebook with 53.2%, IBM with 51.6%, HP with 49.4% and Twitter with 42.5%. Yahoo gets top marks in Greenpeace’s clean energy index, followed by Google (which has made a $100 million investment in a wind farm) and Amazon.

Greenpeace has also started on a campaign for Facebook to “unfriend coal” and to use cleaner energy to power its servers.

TechCrunch puts Greenpeace’s rankings into perspective:

… this is Greenpeace and so there has to be some finger pointing and letter grading. The main purpose of this report is to reveal top company’s impact on the environment by mainly examining their dependency on fossil and nuclear fuels rather than using renewable sources. However, even Greenpeace notes that these numbers might not be exact since they were calculated without all the facts. Simply put, these ten companies didn’t divulge this info; Greenpeace pieced together their data. It’s a bit dirty itself, actually.

Greenpeace applauds Yahoo’s practice of situating data centers near sources of clean energy. The report also notes that Yahoo no longer purchases carbon offsets and is striving towards energy efficiency with a self-set goal of reducing data center’s carbon intensity by at least 40% by 2014.

Still, it’s important to remember that Greenpeace admits it does not have all the facts here. The Transparency column grades these companies on their willingness to share energy data publicly. Understandably, most don’t want to share their energy and accompanying financial data.

Greenpeace does give something of approval to living in a “living in a massive data cloud” as it makes telecommuting more possible. Music bought via web service like iTunes also leaves a smaller carbon footprint than buying a cellophane-wrapped CD.

While so many of Apple’s products look like the epitome of “clean,” all silvery and white and shiny, look carefully and you might indeed find a little dirt.

 

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Photo by Yutaka Tsutano.

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40 comments

+ add your own
10:50AM PDT on Apr 20, 2013

We are all too "hooked" on technology not to contribute. Greenpeace keep the pressure on, we can do better!!!

4:10PM PDT on Jul 12, 2012

hmm...

6:44AM PST on Nov 6, 2011

We are such suckers. Alternative erg is just another big buck corporate scam. Tesla showed us this over a hundred years ago.
Let's not blame Apple for using what is offered. Let's go to the source and UN-license GE. UN-plug the power companies and return to Tesla tech. Free power for all.
The Earth - love it or leave it.

3:36AM PDT on Apr 25, 2011

isn't it ironic that the brand name is "apple" and it's not "green"? :)

Just had to say it. Sorry.

8:33PM PDT on Apr 24, 2011

apple are junk! even their laptops, which are at least ibm compatible PCs these days (after years of lying about their mac cpus being faster, they finally admitted that the intel cpu is superior), are knobbled compared to how all the other brands build them.

add to that, the poor quality construction & components and apple's fascist attitude to preventing users doing whatever they like with the product they've paid for, and it's obvious that NOBODY should ever buy an apple crapintosh product.

6:43PM PDT on Apr 23, 2011

I HAVE a server room and I can not get CLEAN POWER from anywhere....
COSERVE is the provider and the ONLY one in this area and if I want to have lights that is who I can use, DEREGULATION does not guarantee clean power either. Someone creates the power through wind, water, thermal, coal, nuclear, or solar. I am the end user unless I build my own power station I can not choose where my POWER ACTUALLY comes from.

If I have to build my own I would use solar, wind, and Diesel generators for backup as these would be mostly accessible to replace when exhausted. I would have to get zoning and other required permits to generate power and the land to build the generation facilities.

So WE can not GET non coal power guaranteed unless you generate it yourself so you know where it came from.

Im all for renewable energy but I do not have 200 acres to build on and will never have the space or the funds.

9:07AM PDT on Apr 23, 2011

I love Apple!

1:46AM PDT on Apr 23, 2011

Seriously? Pick on Apple again, Greenpeace? Didn't you get enough when you bashed Apple for making the least earth friendly computers while totally ignoring Dell? How is it that Greenpeaved always seems to ignore the concept of scale? How many Apple computers are sold compared to Dell? How much online data does Apple use compared to Netflix? How much energy does cloud computing use compared to printing everything on paper or plastic? Seriously, Greenpeace has to get a grip on perspective and start focusing on something important. Stop picking on the little guy that makes an effort just because he is vulnerable. Its the big guys who are ruining the world. Don't blame the guy with the lamp for the nuclear meltdown.

12:54AM PDT on Apr 23, 2011

While I have to applaud Green Peace for leaning on these high-tech firms (Apple included) to become more green, there is more to "green-ness" that how much of the "cloud" companies invest in. Now I admittedly don't know how "green" Apples policies are in general but they have made some serious strides in being sure to source their metals from non-conflict areas. They have also provided recycling services (through a vendor) for electronics since 2001 (I'm not sure if they recycle them here in the US or in China).
As I said I'm not defending the use of dirty coal (as opposed to "clean coal" -what President Obama campaigned on) power, I'd like to see that end as much as anyone.

8:56PM PDT on Apr 22, 2011

I'm an Apple addict from way back - when their software was really user friendly. Not so much now, but still ahead of Windows. To make Mac a total gift to humanity, Steve please remove the 'gimmicky' graphics and concentrate on ease of use again, and go green! It's a win/win situation all round.
An example of not so user friendly any more: I tried to use a photo of one of my paintings as a screen saver. Followed all the prompts to 'preview', but couldn't find a prompt to say 'install' or whatever, i.e. the final step to get it onto the screen saver. Took it to an Apple store where a technician fiddled with it for half an hour, zooming through all sorts of connections at the speed of light, and couldn't do it either! So what hope do I have? Come on guys; pretty graphics are great, but not at the cost of user friendly commands!
P.S. The Bookmarks pages now have half the page taken up with graphics. I have to delete bookmarks I'd really rather keep because I only have half the room for them now! Frustrating! My older desk top still reserves the entire page for bookmarks. Am I missing something here? I've tried putting in a bookmark that disappears below the screen, but can't access it!

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