How Your Mac is Saving the World

While you sit in front of your screen for hours on end, perusing tech blogs and pretending not to be addicted to Facbook, are you considering what sort of impact you’re having on the environment!? If you’re like me, the answer is “Hey pal, it’s a computer not a Hummer. Back off.” Luckily however, the good folks at Apple have put a lot of time and effort into this problem for us.

In honor of Blog Action Day we’ll be taking a look into what makes Apple one of the greenest technology companies you’ll find by examining the actions that they are taking to reduce their carbon footprint in the areas of manufacturing, transportation, product use, recycling, and facilities.

Introduction

In the past few years, Apple has become increasingly transparent regarding its environmental footprint. As global warming guru and current Apple board member Al Gore would tell you, they’ve made some pretty impressive leaps towards being as environmentally friendly as possible.

Apple’s website outlines five key areas of the product life cycle that affect it’s environmental footprint and what they’ve done to improve the greenhouse gas emissions in these areas. I’ll briefly outline these and discuss how a greener Apple can lead to significant savings for consumers.

lifecycle

Manufacturing

Apple’s manufacturing efficiencies boil down to reducing both manufacturing materials and toxic substances. Engineering breakthroughs like the new unibody MacBook Pro, which uses a single piece of aluminum for its super light, fully recyclable enclosure, as well as the current iMac which use a mere 8.3 kg in materials, not only reduce Apple’s carbon footprint but also cut down on manufacturing costs (remember, when green = cheap, companies win big).

As far as toxic chemicals go, Apple claims to be “years ahead of anyone in the industry” in eliminating arsenic, brominated flame retardants (BFRs), mercury, phthalates, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) from their products. Even if you don’t know what phthalates are (and let’s face it, who does?), you can rest assured with the knowledge that there aren’t a bunch in your Mac.

Transportation

It is a well known fact that Apple uses solar powered spy planes and Star Trek level transporters to ship its product, thereby reducing all measurable greenhouse gasses. Ok, that was a lie. Really they’ve just made as many product packaging material reductions as possible. Smaller package sizes mean less materials, which in turn means more product can fit onto a single plane or truck, which means less fuel consumption, which results in much less of an all out assault on the atmosphere.

Again, note that the good folks at Apple are smart enough to know that going green is just good business. Less packaging material and more products per load equate to significant savings for Apple, which can then be passed on to consumers in the form of cheaper products or lead to profit which can be paid out to stockholders, making the company more valuable.

Product Use

Most of Apple’s claimed greenhouse gas emissions actually come from you and me. 5,352,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from product usage might sound like a lot, but that number would be a lot higher if Apple weren’t selling us some of the most energy efficient products out there.

With iMacs using about as much energy as a 60-watt lightbulb and Mac Minis using far less, many of us probably use more energy lighting our home offices than running the computers in them. Apple again claims industry leadership in this area by stating that they are the only company in the industry that is Energy Star compliant on every computer in their current lineup.

For this one the monetary savings go directly to us. Less energy consumption means a lower electric bill, which of course leads to more money for iPhone apps!

Recycling

It’s ironic that recycling results in greenhouse gas emissions, but the idea is that you’re doing more good than harm. Just have a look at Apple’s aluminum and glass filled lineup and you can see that they’re designing products with recycling in mind.

They’ve managed to increase their worldwide recycling rate more than six times over since 2005 and their goal is to reach 50% by 2010. The benefit for us is obvious: we get products made almost entirely out of aluminum and glass! For the style impaired, this is considered “cool.”

Facilities

Apple has several several offices, distribution facilities, stores and the like that understandably use a significant amount of energy to maintain. They are battling this by creating entire facilities that run on renewable energy and providing bio-diesel “commuter coaches” for employees to take to work. Sure that sounds like a glorified bus ride, but I’m sure it saves Apple employees loads of gas money.

The Competition

Here at AppStorm, we love Macs and unashamedly profess their superiority over any PC. However, I’d be remiss if I suggested that Apple was the only company in their industry doing anything about climate change. A quick look at Dell and Microsoft reveals that Apple is by no means alone in attempting to stand out as the environment’s best buddy in the tech world.

Dell Earth is loaded with information on what Dell is doing for the environment and even keeps a running tally of the CO2 emissions that they’ve avoided. According to this site, Dell ranks #1 in corporate sustainability for 2009 as measured by the Corporate Sustainability Index (CSI). Just as with Apple, you’ll see that Dell is committed to better packaging, low energy consumption, and using recyclable materials.

Microsoft’s Environment site is also full of business practices and initiatives aimed at improving the environment (but you can only view the content if you install the stupid Silverlight plugin! Sorry… rant). The point is, most big tech companies are taking big, admirable steps towards a more sustainable world. Be sure to check out each and tell us who you think is doing the best.

10 iPhone Apps to Help You Green Your Routine

Buying a Mac isn’t the only tech-savvy way to go green. There are a ton of iPhone/iPod Touch apps that perform a wide variety of functions to help you battle climate change. Here’s a list of ten that I found, be sure to use the comments below to tell us about any that you might have!

phorestiPhorest
Plant a digital tree (or you could just get off the couch and go plant a real one).
Price: $4.99

Green Gas Saver
Monitors your fuel consumption and warns you if you’re driving too fast.
Price: Free

getgreenGet Green
Useful tips for how to live a greener lifestyle.
Price: $0.99

The Green Book
Learn to make small, green adjustments to your daily lifestyle.
Price: $5.99

greencalculatorGreen Calculator
Calculate your CO2 emissions based on your lifestyle.
Price: $1.99

iNewz Green
Eco-friendly and environment-aware news.
Price: Free

greenmetergreenMeter
Computes fuel usage and evaluates driving to increase efficiency.
Price: $5.99

Green Energy Now
Green energy news and tips along with a green trivia game.
Price: Free

greenmeGreen Me
Make a list of fiver things per day that you’ve contributed to being green.
Price: $1.99

Pollution
Informs you about local pollution conditions.
Price: Free

Conclusion

By this point you should be bursting with eco-friendly Mac information and applications. Whether or not you subscribe to climate change theories, it’s difficult to argue that environmentally friendly technology isn’t a great thing for us all in terms of monetary savings, waste reduction and job creation. Go spread the word and do your part in making a difference!


  • Mattijs

    I don’t know if my Mac is saving the world. According to UPS tracking it went from Shanghigh to Korea to Poland to Germany and then finally to my country Holland. Somehow I doubt that’s good for the environment…

    • Digital Monkey

      what if along the way… they also drop shipments to Koreans, Polish and Germans. Instead of 4 separate planes to 4 different countries. Well, I hope that’s the reason.

  • http://www.uxbooth.com Matthew

    My favorite part of this post is that Microsoft’s Environmental site links to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phthalates :). Just something I found while reading.

    Good post :).

    • http://www.twitter.com/secondfret Joshua Johnson

      Good catch, fixed it :)

  • ben maharey

    Hmmm, Apple really aren’t one of the greenest companies, while IBM, HP, Intel and Dell were all in the top 5 of Newsweeks annual Green poll, Apple came an embarrassing 133. None of these could claim to be saving the world however. Consumption, especially of computer products requires exploitation of resources. If your purchase had an overall positive effect on the environment, perhaps you’d have some lee-way, but the best going right now, is that your computer purchase might be be ‘less-negative’ than other computers. http://greenrankings.newsweek.com/top500

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  • http://www.thisisjeffwong.com jeffwong

    This is a misleading idea to spread.

    At best, the buyer is supporting operations that are less harmful than they would otherwise be, and sustainable practices by industry should be lauded.

    However, the idea that “you buying a Mac” is saving the world is harmful because of the psychological effect it has. If customers are convinced they are doing “good” by buying a Mac, they may use this activity to support the idea that they are “doing their bit” for the environment.

    Apple as a whole is not exactly a sustainable business. Its prosperity depends on convincing customers that they need to replace their computers, phones, and music devices. However, one could argue that Macs are more sustainable because they last longer, have higher resale value, or that Apple is more capable of managing the lifecycle chain of its products.

    What should a reader make of the claims written in your article? How does building products out of aluminum and glass help? Are they recycled materials? Does Apple take back or plan to take back or buyback these AND recycle them? Isn’t glass less durable than plastic?

    Lifecycle assessment is a complicated affair. Thinking about the complexity of it can drive a person to just give up on the whole idea.

    A more realistic headline would be, “What Apple does to reduce its harm to the future.”

    • Joshua Johnson

      Ever heard of hyperbole?

  • Nicolas

    what a shitty article, my mac saving the world jaja
    come on guys, you can do better than just ripping content of apple website, it can be a green company, so what? there are many already, and they are not SAVING the world, they are JUST making a bit less harm.

    i support mac addicts like you, i use mac, but we dont have to be naive.

  • http://garota.mobi Grace

    Since I bought my first mac (the macbook black) I could see with my own eyes how energy efficient mac are.

    People keep telling there is more Apple could do, but the same people dont recycle their own garbage… :)

    I loved the suggestions of apps :)

  • http://inspiredbywordpress.co.uk Daniel Groves

    Woooo! Go us for owning Macs!

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