How Green Is Your New iPad?

There’s no denying the iPad is a hot item. Apple’s tablet computer, which is primarily used for audio-visual media such as e-books, movies, games, music, the web, and talking live, got an upgrade in March. If it sells like the first iPad, you can expect the figures to reach the tens of millions. But is it an eco-conscious product?

Apple sure thinks so. They put out an environmental profile of the iPad that cites several features designed to reduce its impact on the planet, including:

  • Mercury-free LED-backlit display
  • Arsenic-free display glass
  • Brominated flame retardant free
  • PVC free (polyvinyl chloride is a common plastic that’s raised health concerns)
  • Recyclable aluminum and glass enclosure
  • Power adapter that outperforms the strictest global energy-efficiency standards

You can at least say the company has made a clear effort to mass produce a high-quality product with attention to the environment and human health. Whether the e-reader function of the iPad makes it even greener is very debatable. (In the end, the greenest option is probably walking to your local library.)

The manufacturing emissions are where things get tricky. As Ken Silverstein points out in Harper’s, the iPad is made in China. Under a federal emissions program — which Apple has lobbied for and Congress has failed to pass — the company would pay for the 400,000 tons of carbon dioxide it emits every year in its U.S. buildings and domestic operations as well as the 500,000 tons emitted shipping its products. But this pales in comparison to the 3.8 million tons of CO2 emitted from its manufacturing — that’s 81 percent of the company’s total — that would be exempt from the program because they’re belched in China.

The fact that the iPad 2 is being released just a year after the first one also brings up the issue of how fast consumer electronics become obsolete. This should be an environmental concern. Sure, users will recycle their old iPads or maybe resell them when they buy the new one. But not all e-cycling is done legally. And e-waste is still a huge problem worldwide.

Plus, as we’ve pointed out before, the constant drive to update new products leads to more consumption of raw materials and more emissions from extracting the materials, manufacturing, and transporting the finished products.

The manufacturers of consumer electronics such as the iPad have little to no incentive to take on the extra effort to make their products usable over the long term. Keeping profits up means they need to keep the consumer buying the latest and greatest products. And to be fair, it’s difficult to design a product with all the features consumers want on the first time out.

These problems will likely not be resolved anytime soon. Consumers should keep up the pressure on companies such as Apple to green their entire supply chain — foreign and domestic — and ask themselves if they really need that extra gadget, and if so, whether they can wait a few months until it’s available on eBay.

This post was originally published by the Center for American Progress.

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Photo from connorsmac via flickr
Written by bloggers from the Center for American Progress


Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra5 years ago

Thank you Lindsay, for Sharing this!

Thomas S.
Thomas S.6 years ago

The constant drive to update new products leads to more consumption of raw materials and more emissions from extracting the materials, manufacturing, and transporting the finished products.


KrassiAWAY B.
Krasimira B6 years ago

Noted with interest.

Magdalena H.

Even the greenest gadgets and their solar chargers still depend on rare earth minerals - that are very destructive to mine, and yes, very rare, not enough to supply for a large fraction of humanity with such gadgets (or even the more basic needs like solar panels).

Wake up people! Stop being the insatiable consumers, who collude with polluters in your mutual need for and protective excuses made for each other, in this profit-driven capitalist system. Your sheer numbers, coupled with your decadence and stupidity of not understanding the clear message from Mother Earth, is digging our collective grave.

Bernadette P.
berny p6 years ago

It is a start...BUT do we NEED all of this gadget????
Something to think about!

Karen W.
Karen W6 years ago

I'm glad to see companies like apple are taking note that they have to start getting greener, it's not going to happen overnight, but it's a start in the right direction. I don't have an I-pod/pad or any other I-/e machine here, we have a 4 year old pc that gets restored every years, it does the job. As for going to the library though, That would be using more energy then ever for me, I would have to get a bus to start with and when I get there they will probable tell me that they haven't got the book I want, so will have to order it for me, this will come from somewhere else in the country, thereby have to be transfered (by road), then I would have to go back and collect it in about a months time, you can see why people like the latest gadgets! You can't beat a good book though can you and when it falls on your face while reading in bed. it's a lot softer than an e-reader.

Robin Candelario
Robin Candelario6 years ago

Samantha Mackie spoke my mind... APPLE is really trying with their products and they need to hear kudos for trying. They cannot control what consumers do; people throw out everything and only some have conciouses like us on here. So give them the thunbs up for trying...

Shirley E.
Shirley E6 years ago

At the end of the day if people want to ditch their old piece of kit to upgrade with this new one, they're being green if they think it's green! It's bringing more products with the associated manufacturing and transport implications and more waste because of making the old technology obselete. It also feels like its making obsolete those people like me who can't afford to keep getting new kit the moment it comes out. I feel more like a dinosaur every day with my two year old phone, three year old computer and limited IT skills.

Ida W.
Ida W.6 years ago

i bought a solar charger for my ipad and iphone too. so i won't have to rely on power at home. i wish i can have a indoor solar panel for my fridge and imac too.

Hege Torset
Hege Torset6 years ago