Apple just launched their newest line of desktop iMacs – slim, graceful, and made from glass and aluminum. “Aluminum is durable and lightweight; recyclers love it,” said Steve Jobs. “Glass is elegant, very scratch resistant and very recyclable.” These are likely the first Apple products designed with ecology and environmental issues in mind, and while the eyecandy iMac may still be a long ways off from serious ecological sustainability, we appreciate the efforts being made by Apple to integrate stylish aesthetics with more thoughtful material choices.

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The launch of the gorgeous and slightly greener iMac comes months after Apple responded to criticism for the lack of a public environmental policy. In typical Jobs style, Apple would rather show than tell. The simplicity and sleekness of the iMac speaks for itself, it’s a machine made from elements we remember from the periodic table.

The iMac is powered by energy-efficient Intel Core 2 Duos, which are claimed to conform to EPA’s Energy Star guidelines. The casing is constructed from a single sheet of aluminum instead of the previous white polycarbonate. You can’t see the seams – nor the screws – just a single compartment on the bottom that provides easy access to the memory slots, and carefully built in iSight camera and microphone.

The newest iMac demonstrates a trend we’ve seen in eco-fashion, architecture, and furniture design: a shift from plastics and polycarbonates to more elemental materials. For years consumer electronics designs were focused on getting the maximum performance, and highest quality look, for the cheapest price. Now that the value placed on recycled parts is a consideration, will we see a shift in how decisions are made in the design phase? Years from now, will we look back on the shiny white plastic iPod as shortsighted design?

We’d love to see the Mac get even greener in the future but appreciate the small steps that Apple is taking. Mac fans out there – please do everything you can to encourage this company to go further in its environmental efforts.

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