Why Apple Lost San Francisco’s Heart: City To Stop Buying Macs

The city of San Francisco has announced that it will no longer purchase Apple products after the company  withdrew itself from a program granting environmentally friendly certification to electronic products. “We are disappointed that Apple chose to withdraw from EPEAT and we hope that the city saying it will not buy Apple products will make Apple reconsider its participation,” Melanie Nutter, director of San Francisco’s Department of Environment, told Joel Schechtman on the Wall Street Journal’s CIO Journal.

Late last month, Apple announced that it would no longer submit its devices to the nonprofit EPEAT group for green certification. EPEAT, the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, receives funding from the Environmental Protection Agency; products with EPEAT’s “green certification” are recyclable and designed to do minimal harm to the environment and to maximize energy efficiency.

On today’s CNET, says that Apple has responded to the criticism. Apple cites its own “rigorous environmental standards” for ensuring that its products are green; as the company tells The Loop, its own standards are not those used by EPEAT. Referring to its webpage about its environmental footprint, Apple spokesperson Kristin Huguet noted that Apple “leads the industry” in reporting greenhouse gas emissions via its website.

But as Kerr observes, EPEAT’s green certification is looking at somewhat different factors:

EPEAT, however, focuses on hardware recycling rather than measuring toxins and carbon emissions. Recycling is a big deal in the computer world because so many components are noxious and often end up in landfills. In order to get EPEAT certified, companies have to make products that recyclers can easily disassemble and separate dangerous components, like batteries.

The iPhone, the iPad and the new MacBook Pro with Retina display cannot be readily taken apart as their components are glued together..

Schechtman of CIO Journal points out that San Francisco’s decision not to purchase Apple’s not so green products will most likely be of minimal financial impact to the company.

The move by city officials is largely symbolic. Only around 500-700, or 1%-2% total, of municipal computers are Macs, [San Francisco’s chief information officer, Jon] Walton estimated. In 2010, the last year for which the city has complete reports, the city spent $45,579 on Apple desktops, laptops and iPads (the last of which are not certifiable under EPEAT and would not be barred by the city’s policy.) That’s compared to a total of $3.8 million spent overall on desktops and laptops, in 2010.

But the symbolic impact could still be costly. IT officials at Cornell University and the University of California, Berkeley, have told Schechtman they are considering whether or not to keep purchasing Apple products. Chris Geiger, manager of green purchasing at San Francisco’s Department of Environment, also notes that San Francisco is “prominent in environmental circles, and many local governments from around the country look to his office for guidance on green purchasing.” Many cities and counties will follow what San Francisco does, says Geiger.

Certainly San Francisco’s decision has drawn far more attention to Apple’s pulling out of EPEAT.

Colin Gillis, senior technology analyst at BGC Partners, tells the BBC that Apple is simply taking its long-term interests, especially as these relate to design, into account.

But design can be environmentally responsible and sustainable. Given the financial position Apple is in thanks to the immense popularity of its products, and due to its stated commitment to the environment, the company can do better. We consumers need to remind Apple that it must and that it can.


Related Care2 Coverage

How Green Was Apple: Products Lose Environmentally Friendly Certification

Apple Rated As Least Green Tech Company

The Green Apple?

Google’s Nexus Q, Made in the USA

Photo of Apple store on Stockton Street in San Francisco by John Pastor


Mika Jones
Mika Jones5 years ago

They have now returned to the scrutiny of EPEAT-Good job!!!

Isabel A.
Isabel Araujo5 years ago


Jennifer C.
Past Member 5 years ago


Georgia Armstrong
Georgia a5 years ago

Apple can now keep their damned computers if they aren't willing to work towards saving an environment in dire need of saving.

Alicia N.
Alicia N5 years ago


ii q.
g d c5 years ago


Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

John Helak
John Helak5 years ago

Decades ago, Apple ran an ad on TV that showed "Big Brother" Goliath (IBM PCs) being smashed by David (Apple PC's) I never understood that ad because IBM PCs were totally open in their hardware and software, while from the start, Apple tied you in to one system. Its still the same today, but now Apple has it apologists, like MIchelle S., who prefer to pay ludicrous sums of money so someone can hold their hand, instead of learning a system. But I am happy to see so many people now realizing that Apple is not what it purports to be, its not made in the USA by happy workers, and so on.

Terry O.
Terry O.5 years ago

If products are difficult to disassemble then they are difficult to repair. Products need to be easy to repair so that they do not need to be replaced so often and therefore produce less waste. Making things last longer is better for the environment than recycling.

Bruce K.
Bruce K5 years ago

All I can say is if I was a city or School trying to save money (In theses Times) you can buy 11 Windows Laptops for the price of ONE Mac Book Air Laptop!