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How Apple Became One of the Greenest Companies in America

There’s one thing you probably don’t know about Apple.  The information technology conglomerate was ranked 48th on Newsweek’s Greenest Companies of America list this year.  To put that in perspective, of the six million businesses registered in the United States, only 47 are considered “greener” than Apple.  You’ve got to admit that’s impressive.

But how does Apple do it?  Having to manufacture millions of specialty products that consist of expensive materials, and then having to ship them all over the world has got to produce tons of carbon emissions, right?  And what about all those locations?  With over 400 retail sites, 18 assembly facilities, and hundreds of suppliers worldwide, how can Apple possibly manage to succeed in energy efficiency?

Those exact questions were fluttering through my head when I first discovered this list.  Now, I consider myself an Apple groupie (is it really so bad to own six different Apple products?), but I had my suspicions.  So I turned to the only place in the world that can ease everyone’s fears: the Internet.  (Specifically, Apple’s website.)  In a powerful frenzy of clicking, I quickly discovered the truth.  And it’s unfathomable.

“An energy-efficient facility is good, but a 100 percent renewable energy facility is better.”

Though Apple has not achieved this colossal goal, it is working toward it.  The company admits to burning fossil fuels and emitting carbon emissions, but recognizing the problem is always the first step to recovery, isn’t it?  Now, change is in the works.  So far this year, Apple has already converted 140 of its U.S. retail stores to rely on renewable energy alone.  Not only are the stores on the energy-efficient track, all of its data centers, which run services such as Siri and iTunes, obtain energy from 100 percent renewable sources.

Speaking of renewable resources, its new campus will rely on them completely.

Its new headquarters will contain over 7,000 trees, drought-tolerant plants, biofuel buses, more than 1,000 bicycles, and over 300 electric vehicle charging stations.  For an environmentalist, it’s pretty much a dream come true.

“Energy efficiency is built in.”

Apple has some pretty remarkable buildings, but what about its products?  How energy-efficient are they?

Just take a gander at this:

Image courtesy of Apple

Image courtesy of Apple

As the caption states, “Today’s iMac uses 0.9 watt of electricity in sleep mode.  That’s 97 percent less than the first iMac.”  If you weren’t impressed before, I bet you are now.  And the iMac isn’t the only product leaving its competitors in the dark.  The 11-inch MacBook Air consumes only 6.1 watts when the display is at full brightness; the Mac mini is the most energy-efficient desktop computer in the world, exceeding ENERGY STAR requirements by 4.2 times; and the iPhone 5s is so efficient that if you charged its battery every day for one year, it would only cost you a total of 51 cents.

 “Harmful toxins don’t belong in our products or our process.”

It’s time to get scientific.  Most tech companies…scratch that…most companies in general use some sort of hazardous material in their products.  I was pleased to discover that Apple has pledged to strive for creating the cleanest and safest products.  But a pledge is just a pledge until there are cold, hard facts to back it up.  Along with eliminating lead, arsenic, and phthalates from its line of products, Apple has made the following claims on its website:

  • We replaced PVC with nonchlorinated and nonbrominated thermoplastic elastomers in our power cords and headphone cables.
  • We replaced fluorescent lamps containing mercury to backlight our notebook and iMac displays with more energy-efficient, mercury-free LEDs.
  • Instead of brominated flame retardants, we use certain metal hydroxides and phosphorus compounds in our circuit boards, cases, and enclosures.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want mercury, lead, or arsenic in anything that I purchase.

On top of that, Apple has successfully reduced the amount of materials it needs to create these products that we love so much.  The iPad Air uses 31 percent fewer materials than the original; the iMac is made with 68 percent fewer materials than the first; and the Mac Pro requires 74 percent fewer materials than its predecessor.

 “Smaller packaging means smarter packing.”

Now on to the kicker.  How does Apple manage to sustainably ship products all across the globe?

While the company acknowledges the greenhouse gases emitted during transportation, it focuses on the progress it has made by creating thinner and lighter products.  Its website states, “By reducing iPhone packaging mass by 26 percent from 2007 to 2013, we now can pack up to 60 percent more iPhone 5s boxes in each airline shipping container.  That saves one 747 flight for every 416,667 units we ship.”

Now it just needs to invent an electric airplane and we can kiss those carbon emissions goodbye.

“If not recycled properly, electronic waste can be a serious health and environmental issue.”

Alright, we’ve covered the buildings, the products, the materials, and the shipping, but what happens when an Apple product takes its last breath?  Does it just get thrown in the trash with the rest of the world’s scraps?  Heck no!

Apple encourages its customers to properly recycle its products.  Every retail location has a free recycling program in place, so if your MacBook kicks the bucket (like that would ever happen), just drop it off at the nearest Apple store, and rest assured it won’t end up in a landfill.  To top it off, every piece of electronic waste Apple collects is processed locally, meaning nothing is sent overseas for recycling.  Ever.

Like I mentioned in the beginning, I may be a little biased toward Apple, but with its eco-friendly business approach, who wouldn’t be?  But if you were on the fence about the infamous tech company, I hope I have encouraged you to take the plunge and give these products a try.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an iPhone 6 to order.

 

 

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  • http://WhosGreenOnline.com WhosGreenOnline.com

    Great article………….I shared on WhosGreenOnline facebook page!