updated 11:15 pm EDT, Thu September 24, 2009
Apple overhauls green info
Apple tonight put new life into its eco-friendly image with a major overhaul of its environment data. The new site puts an emphasis on the company's complete ecological impact and includes details of how each iPhone, iPod and Mac impacts the environment from its assembly through to its recycling or disposal, including detailed breakdowns of the toxicity of the materials used and the energy used in a sleep state when it applies. A broader scope also shows the company's total carbon emission footprint beyond its product, including its offices and retail stores.
The Cupertino-based company explains the move as an attempt to show the true, existing impact of a company on the environment rather than just its future plans or immediate factors under its control, such as its offices. Apple claims through BusinessWeek that while its reported carbon footprint is higher than that of Dell and HP, at 10.2 million tons versus 471,000 tons and 8.4 million tons, the two rivals and others aren't actually counting the full product lifecycle or some of the assembly process. Were these to be counted, they would reportedly show the Windows PC makers' carbon output to be about seven times higher and that much of their polluting effect comes from toxic products. Excluding these is tantamount to ignoring the real issue, according to the Mac producer.
"It's like asking a cigarette company how green their office is," Apple chief Steve Jobs says.
While the update is one of the most thorough of any home electronics manufacturer and is likely to bolster the company's recent trend towards favorable Greenpeace rankings, critics already see the gesture as a response to pointed attacks from Dell and other companies that have argued Apple's initial environmental push from late 2008 was too vague in its claims and ignored others' accomplishments. When it introduced the unibody MacBook line last October, Apple focused not only on concrete goals like eliminating bromide flame retardants (BFRs) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) from its systems but more generic attributes like the uses of aluminum and glass, the efficiency of LED-backlit displays and battery life. Since then it has gradually been more specific and lately has stressed the estimated five-year longevity of its lithium-ion battery packs and their potential reduction of waste.
Dell and others have since said they already eliminated internal toxins, though more of their systems use plastic or non-aluminum metals that aren't as easily recycled. Lower-end systems from some companies have in recent years also used much lower-capacity batteries that often need to be recharged in two to three hours and often have much shorter useful lifespans as a result.