Jennifer van der Meer

A GREENER APPLE: Steve Jobs Steps Up

by , 05/05/07

Ask Inhabitat, Green design Q&A, Eco Design Q&A, Sustainable Design question, Greenpeace Green My Apple Campaign,

In a reversal of Apple’s long-held lipped and secretive stance, yesterday Steve Jobs announced the company’s environmental policies. Responding to the Greenpeace campaign for a greener Apple, Jobs acknowledged a failure to communicate that – actually – Apple is doing quite well on the environmental front.


It turns out that Apple had phased out CRTs mid-2006, met RoHS restrictions years before the EU regulations went into effect, and had significantly increased the amount of e-waste recycling as a percentage of sales. Most surprising was Job’s commitments for the future. As we covered in our report on the Green My Apple campaign, Apple likes keeping things close to its chest for a reason. “It is generally not Apple’s policy to trumpet our plans for the future; we tend to talk about things we have just accomplished.”

But the results of the Green My Apple campaign must have had some effect, and Jobs recognized that this policy has left “customers, shareholders, employees and the industry in the dark about Apple’s plans to become greener”. In response, Jobs announced the removal of the bad stuff that can get trapped in our bodies and make us sick. Arsenic in displays will be eliminated by the end of 2008. By the same date it will stop using polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs). Additionally, Apple plans to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of mercury by transitioning to LED backlighting for all displays when technically and economically feasible.

Looking beyond Greenpeace’s tunnel vision focus on toxins and recycling, Apple promised more coverage of the company’s energy use and carbon footprint impacts in coming reports. We are looking forward to these reports – no use worrying about toxins and recycling if energy use is further hastening climate change.

Go Apple. Steve Jobs, thanks for listening. You’re my hero again.

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12 Comments

  1. minskmaz January 16, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Companies should simply be required to report exactly what and how much materials, including manufacturing waste & effluents as well as energy and resulting carbon emissions went into their products. It’s call mass balancing and will be pivotal to assessing the total environmental interaction of economies with the biosphere. Consumers must demand that companies like apple do this – after all apple is claiming to be innovative and supposedly holds themselves to a higher standard than their competitors. Think Suspicious.

  2. andrew k from az May 8, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    It’s about time. I only wish Steve had gone further and helped really bring sustainable descision-making (not compromising the ability for future generations to meet their needs) to the mainstream. Why not talk about plans to create an upgradeable, user-serviceable iPod to reduce e-waste? That would be a truly innovative, ground-breaking announcement. Apple has not openly embraced the culture of sustainability, and I find that disturbing. While Dell, Lenovo, and others have a long ways to go, I think they’re more openly making strides, and I support that.
    I don’t think Greenpeace deserves the attacks Apple fanboys have been constantly lobbing. If you go to the Green Apple site, you’ll see that they actually embrace Apple, almost to the level of pandering to the fanboys. Just goes to show how many people have been brain-washed by the machine that is Steve Jobs.

  3. mick May 7, 2007 at 9:51 am

    louis, your totally right. i don’t know for sure what apple’s carbon footprint is compared to others. i only know what i read and hear, which is the same for you. so our opinions are based on the same relevancy. my problem is this. apple sees that the current trend is “going green” (whatever that means) and in an effort to stay hip they just put it out there that they are doing good when they really havn’t yet made much progress in that aspect.

    stay cool louis it’s not like i made a “your mamma” joke.

  4. Tom May 7, 2007 at 9:35 am

    I’m from Greenpeace – It’s good news from Apple and to see Steve finally responding to the thousands of Apple fans who have asked for a greener Apple. Here is our response

    http://www.greenpeace.org/international/news/tasty-apple-news-020507

    Firstly improved transparency is good – it helps up the pressure for all electronics companies to improve their policies – the ultimate objective of our electronics campaign.

    To everyone who read the statement as ‘Apple has been doing this all along now we are just saying it’ (which is surely how Apple PR folks intended) there are some policy changes in the statement:

    Toxic Chemicals

    Apple has declared a phase out of the worst chemicals in its product range, Brominated Fire Retardants (BFRs) and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) by 2008. Previously they put no date on this pledge (which was more limited) so now lets see if they beat competitors like Dell, Lenovo etc to this goal.

    Recycling

    “Dell has proposed a simple measure – assume a seven year product lifetime, and measure the percentage of the total weight you recycle each year compared to the total weight of what you sold seven years earlier. This makes sense to us, and has the added advantages of clarity and simplicity.”

    That’s Apple agreeing to measure its recycling goals by industry standards so they can be compared to Dell, HP to see which one is doing the most on recycling. Previously Apple only measure recycling amount in less meaningful weight only. Currently using the agreed metric HP, Dell and Apple all have similar current recycling rates (roughly 10%)

    To the comments that Dell does nothing, just gave us money etc. Well we don’t take money from any company and Dell has had a global takeback policy since Nov 2006.

    There’s also increasing focus on energy use from IT equipment so it also good to hear that Apple will also be reporting on this in the future. While our campaign has focussed only on toxics and recycling (good recycling policies do help reduce a products carbon footprint) it seems to have helped spur some of these companies to address wider environmental issues. In Jan Dell focussed on climate with their plant a tree program. Leaving aside the questionable benefit of tree planting to address CO2 emissions, its got to be a good thing to see CEO’s of big electronics companies highlighting the environment.

    Tom
    Greenpeace

  5. J May 7, 2007 at 9:06 am

    ok seriously…what gives with the naked steve jobs picture?? its so immature…I wish Greenpeace would grow up already, maybe then they will actually get some respect again. The “Think Green” pic with the granny smith apple is so much more appealing and truer to the cause…let’s try ditch smear campaigns and personal attacks shall we? or is that asking for too much?

  6. Hun Boon May 7, 2007 at 3:55 am

    Yes I agree with Louis. Does anyone know the link for the report, and whether it’s done by an independent body? I would like to find out more about the scoring methodology.

    I don’t understand how companies can score highly just by talking about what they intend to do. Shouldn’t they be measured by their actions?

  7. royalestel May 6, 2007 at 6:56 pm

    “no use worrying about toxins and recycling if energy use is further hastening climate change.”

    I almost can’t believe you wrote this. You’re saying that actual, REAL danger of toxins is less important than a theoretical climate danger. Not that climate change isn’t real, but the supposed danger of it warming.

    I wish you were kidding. If someone is threatening you with a knife, you don’t worry about making the payments for your toddler’s college tuition. You worry about the knife. Toxins currently kill. You can prove it. With real bodies.

    Climate change killing? Less than the least of our worries.

  8. Emily May 6, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    The fact that Apple, up to this point, has not made a huge stink about their green measures tells me that they are not as concerned about all the glory that surrounds companies who decide to go green. Yes, we should absolutely support any measures companies take to reduce their carbon footprint, but it doesn’t have to be done on such a self-congratulatory scale.

    If a consumer wants to support a green company, do research. Find out more about a company before making any claims about it. I owned various Dell computers for years without any backgournd research on their green policies, and when they claimed to be making strides I believed them. It wasn’t until I looked into their actual changes that I realized there weren’t any. Louis makes a great point: “Dell has made promises to clean up its act, but hasn’t done anything yet. Apple makes no promises, but leads the industry in lowering e-waste.” I commed Steve Jobs and all of Apple for doing what every company should do anyway, regardless of the publicity.

  9. Louis May 6, 2007 at 11:22 am

    Mick said, “Apple currently has the worse environmental impact. That is not doing well.”

    How do you know that Apple is has the “worst environmental impact?” What independent source says that? Who are you listening to, besides Greenpeace, mick? Dell is still using toxic elements in its construction techniques which Apple eliminated long ago and has four to five times the e-waste of Apple. Apple is in compliance with the EU’s more stringent recycling requirements; Dell is not.

    So, what is going on? Dell has made promises to clean up its act, but hasn’t done anything yet. Apple makes no promises, but leads the industry in lowering e-waste.

    Naturally, Greenpeace attacks Apple. Why? Two reasons. First, Dell has made numerous contributions to Greenpeace. Then, Dell isn’t sexy now; Apple is. Greenpeace gets greater publicity by attacking Apple, rather than Dell.

    It’s an old story– one of greed. Greenpeace has been corrupted by money and power. Even Socialist environmentalists can be corrupted by power.

  10. Daniel May 6, 2007 at 1:34 am

    I’m glad Greenpeace has been called on it’s smear campaign. It’s been documented time and time again that Greenpeace had no factual basis for it’s claims. They just wanted a high profile target to generate media buzz.

  11. Kurt Schwind May 5, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    “the worse environmental impact” ? What does that mean? The only reason Apple was rated poorly is because they didn’t report exactly what they were doing. I think Jobs saw that the standard hush-hush company policy will only get you a bad raiting. Apple should have been better about being more transparent on their environmental record. ALL companies should.

  12. mick May 5, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    “Apple is doing quite well on the environmental front”? Apple currently has the worse enviromental impact. That is not doing well.

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