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Despite dirty data center, Apple has improved its environmental impact


It’s Earth Day today which is a good time to reflect on how Apple fares on environmental impact.

Yesterday we covered Apple’s low clean energy ranking among IT data centers because of its North Carolina data center. The report from Greenpeace was a bit alarmist and It should be noted that, in fact, because of the activist organization, Apple has taken great strides to improve their environmental impact.

Recall that four years ago, Steve Jobs posted A Greener Apple in direct response to Greenpeace’s call for action and they responded with a positive assessment.

Fast forward to today and they still have a very good record with a transparent report card on each of its products.

iPad 2 environmental impact

Apple has decreased the size and weight of the iPad 2 and taken other steps to minimize its impact including features such as “mercury-free LED-backlit display, arsenic-free display glass, brominated flame retardant (BFR)−free, polyvinyl chloride (PVC)−free.”

iPad 2 retail packaging consumes 51 percent less material and allows up to 38 percent more units to fit in each airline shipping container than the original iPad.

Material Use for iPad 2.png

Apple Facilities Report

According to the 2010 Facilities Report [PDF], Apple instituted a renewable energy program in 2009 to its facilities in Cork, Ireland; Austin, Texas and Elk Grove, California.

These programs have converted over 38 million killowatt-hours worth of consumption per annum to local renewable sources, including wind power. This represents over 11 percent of Apple’s worldwide facility-related electricity consumption.

The company also claims its facilities represent “only 3 percent of its assessed GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions.” Though this figure is likely to climb dramatically as they move to cloud services and a resulting increase in electricity consumption.

Outside pressure from environmental activist groups such as Greenpeace has had a positive impact and Apple has a track record of responding to requests and, in some cases, even leading efforts to minimize environmental impact. We will wait patiently for them to respond to the low rank among industry peers for the North Carolina data center and issue a new report for 2011.

Happy Earth Day and be sure to recycle your unwanted Apple gear.

Greenpeace and
Apple and the Environment]