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How Green Was Apple: Products Lose Environmentally Friendly Designation

How Green Was Apple: Products Lose Environmentally Friendly Designation

Apple has withdrawn itself from a program granting environmentally friendly certification to electronic products. According to CNET, it was late last month that Apple announced that it would no longer submit its devices to the nonprofit EPEAT group for green certification and that it was also withdrawing its currently certified products from the organization’s registry.

The Environmental Protection Agency helps to fund EPEAT, the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool. EPEAT describes itself as “the leading global environmental rating system for electronic products, connecting purchasers to environmentally preferable choices and benefiting producers who demonstrate environmental responsibility and innovation.” An EPEAT seal means that, as Joel Schechtman writes on the the Wall Street Journal’s CIO Journal, a product is “recyclable and designed to maximize energy efficiency and minimize environmental harm.”

Apple actually played a part in creating EPEAT’s standards along with other manufacturers, advocacy groups and government agencies. The US government now requires that 95 percent of its electronics have EPEAT certification and major corporations including Ford, HSBC, and Kaiser Permanente require their CIOs to purchase products from manufacturers with EPEAT certification. Even more, many educational institutions — a market that Apple has taken care to cultivate — emphasize that their IT departments purchase from environmentally friendly corporations.

39 of Apple’s products, including the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air, had received EPEAT’s green certification. Apple (as revealed by a screenshot on CNET) has not hesitated to note the “EPEAT GoldStar” rating for its iMac computer. A review of Apple’s webpage about its environmental footprint suggests that the company feels it has much invested in showing its commitment to being environmentally responsible.

So why did Apple drop out from EPEAT?

The reason is the “design direction” for its products, as EPEAT CEO Robert Frisbee says in CIO Journal. To meet EPEAT’s standards, products need to be easy to take apart, so their components can be recycled. But such is not the case with Apple’s star products, the iPhone, the iPad and the new MacBook Pro with Retina display, as Schechtman explains:

One of Apple’s newest products, the MacBook Pro with a high-resolution “Retina” display, was nearly impossible to fully disassemble, said Kyle Wiens, co-founder of iFixit.com, a website that provides directions for users to repair their own machines. The battery was glued to the case, and the glass display was glued to its back. The product, released just a month ago, had not been submitted for EPEAT certification, according to the organization.

If battery is glued to the case, neither part can be recycled.

Schechtman also cites Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee, who says that Apple’s intent is not to make it hard to open the cases of its devices. Rather, “they are just trying to pack as much as they can into a small space–it’s a design decision,” Wu notes. It is also a business decision, with consumers eager for smaller, thinner, lighter products.

Apple, as Wu also notes, will very likely soon devise an “alternate standard for its own products.” But should not consumers be wary of Apple using standards it creates to proclaim how environmentally friendly its own products are?

The word is out that a new, smaller, iPad Mini is in the works: How “green,” how recyclable, will this new device be?

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Photo by Earl-Wilkerson

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98 comments

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10:43PM PDT on Jul 16, 2012

It's odd. Apple used to be the forerunner in clever forward thinking. And now I find myself signing petition after petition asking them to get their game together in more ways than one.

9:43AM PDT on Jul 14, 2012

I recently received this notice from Greenpeace:


"Greenpeace volunteers went to Apple's flagship store in London to expose the truth about how much coal goes into powering 'the cloud' - the giant data centres which store and send all the pictures, emails, songs and streaming videos we enjoy every day.

Apple's iCloud is one of these services partially powered by coal. As a leading technology company, Apple could lead the way by powering the data centres that host its iCloud with clean, renewable energy.

Tell Apple to switch off coal and clean our cloud - email CEO Tim Cook now

Last year, you helped persuade Facebook to move towards clean energy which was an amazing success - thank you! Other companies like Google and Yahoo are also industry leaders with data centres powered by renewable energy. Now it's time for Apple to join them by switching off coal.

Apple knows the future is in renewable energy - its HQ in Ireland runs on 100% renewable energy and it has made an encouraging announcement about one of its US data centres. But the bulk of its iCloud data centres are trailing behind and are still reliant on a Victorian power source, coal.

Tell Apple CEO Tim Cook to switch off coal and power the cloud with clean renewable energy

After all, as visionary Apple founder Steve Jobs famously said, "...the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do." Today, it's time for Apple to live up to that spirit."
Personally I

9:43AM PDT on Jul 14, 2012

I recently received this notice from Greenpeace:


"Greenpeace volunteers went to Apple's flagship store in London to expose the truth about how much coal goes into powering 'the cloud' - the giant data centres which store and send all the pictures, emails, songs and streaming videos we enjoy every day.

Apple's iCloud is one of these services partially powered by coal. As a leading technology company, Apple could lead the way by powering the data centres that host its iCloud with clean, renewable energy.

Tell Apple to switch off coal and clean our cloud - email CEO Tim Cook now

Last year, you helped persuade Facebook to move towards clean energy which was an amazing success - thank you! Other companies like Google and Yahoo are also industry leaders with data centres powered by renewable energy. Now it's time for Apple to join them by switching off coal.

Apple knows the future is in renewable energy - its HQ in Ireland runs on 100% renewable energy and it has made an encouraging announcement about one of its US data centres. But the bulk of its iCloud data centres are trailing behind and are still reliant on a Victorian power source, coal.

Tell Apple CEO Tim Cook to switch off coal and power the cloud with clean renewable energy

After all, as visionary Apple founder Steve Jobs famously said, "...the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do." Today, it's time for Apple to live up to that spirit."
Personally I

10:30AM PDT on Jul 13, 2012

Thank you for article!

11:25AM PDT on Jul 12, 2012

grr soo sad!Misleading their consumers!!

2:31PM PDT on Jul 10, 2012

Apple, HP, all cell phones, whatever, there are toxic elements in all this technology. I now feel very uneasy using my Mac Book or any technology. I know I would not fit in with Amish culture, but I do appreciate certain aspects of how they live - living close to earth, helping each other, and eschewing technology.

1:21PM PDT on Jul 10, 2012

HHHHMMMMM

1:14PM PDT on Jul 10, 2012

TOO KOOL

1:14PM PDT on Jul 10, 2012

TOO KOOL

4:59AM PDT on Jul 10, 2012

I have money, I have power so why should I worry about environment. I have full power to disrupt the environment as my only motto is to sell my units and make more money.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches and writes about ancient Greek and Latin and is Online Advocacy and Marketing... more
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