Success in any venture in modern-day America is a double-edge sword. Take the case of the company formerly known as Apple Computer, now known simply as Apple Inc. When you’re the media’s current darling, organizations and companies come “out of the woodwork” with gripes and complaints that didn’t seem to be a big deal back when you weren’t so popular or had shallower pockets (“were making less money” for the metaphor-challenged).
One such organization that has set its sights on Apple, coming more “out of the woods” than “out of the woodwork”, I guess, is Greenpeace. In a recent “report card” on computer hardware makers, Greenpeace gave Apple a 2.7 out of 10 rating, citing Apple’s failure to keep the company clean and green. Other computer makers scored higher, due in part to their announced plans to be cleaner and greener in the future (versus what they’re actually doing today).
Greenpeace has kept their own particular brand of pressure on Apple by protesting in the convention halls at MacWorld in January, and (this one I find particularly effective) by pointing green-colored lights at Apple Retail Stores. Apple’s penchant for not announcing future products or company directions in advance has not helped them in the eyes of Greenpeace, especially with environmental campaigner Al Gore a member of Apple’s Board of Directors.
So this week Apple CEO Steve Jobs published a missive on Apple’s web site entitled “A Greener Apple”. In it Jobs apologized for not being more forthcoming in the past, and promised increased candor in the future. He also cited several areas where Apple is actually cleaner and greener than its competitors today. Until reading Jobs’ message, I was blissfully unaware of how environmentally unfriendly your basic computer setup really is, at least when its perceived usefulness expires and it heads off (hopefully not) to the landfill.
Jobs also obliquely announced new Apple products scheduled for release later in 2007. We’ll get to that later.
Did you know that a CRT (cathode ray tube, basically a TV) computer monitor contains 3 pounds of toxic lead? In mid-1996, Apple stopped selling CRT monitors. Today’s iMac LCD screen contains less than one gram of lead. Dell, Hewlett Packard (HP) and Lenovo (which all got higher ratings in Greenpeace’s report card) are all still shipping CRTs today.
Other hazardous materials present in some computers include Cadmium, Hexavalent Chromium (of Erin Brockovich fame), and Decabromodiphenyl Ether (a flame retardant). Apple phased out these and other chemicals years ago. Some electronics companies still use these toxic chemicals in their products.
Jobs also claimed that Apple removed PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) from their packaging 12 years ago, while HP still uses it (but they promised to stop using it this year). Last year, Dell began phasing out brominated flame retardants in large plastic enclosure parts. Apple’s plastic enclosure parts have been bromine-free since 2002. Apple is also on par with other computer makers in its recycling program, recycling about 10% of the weight of Apple products sold seven years earlier (I know that sounds weird but that’s how the computer industry gauges recycling).
The new products Jobs announced were flat-panel LCDs (Liquid Crystal Displays). “Wait a minute!” (you seemed to say), “Apple already makes flat-panel LCDs”.
You’re absolutely correct. However, Apple’s LCDs currently use fluorescent lamps to backlight the screen to make it brighter. Fluorescent lamps contain mercury. Apple plans to release LCD displays later this year that use mercury-free light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to illuminate the screen. Apple is also changing the glass on its LCDs to one free of arsenic.
After Jobs’ open letter, Greenpeace raised Apple’s rating to 5 out of 10, applauding, but claiming they still had a long way to go.
|© 2007 Peter F. Zimowski|