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The Green Life: How Green Is Apple?

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July 11, 2012

How Green Is Apple?

Too in love to let them go

UPDATE: After receiving complaints from customers, Apple has rejoined EPEAT. Robert Mansfield, senior vice president of hardware engineering, said in a letter on Apple's website, "We’ve recently heard from many loyal Apple customers who were disappointed to learn that we had removed our products from the EPEAT rating system. I recognize that this was a mistake. Starting today, all eligible Apple products are back on EPEAT."

Too many times, we buy fancy, flashy electronics without properly figuring out what they're made of and how we'll dispose of them when we're finished. The most basic question we should ask is, "is it green?"

Apple products, the popular kids in the electronics world, used to have the green certification from the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool. Apple recently requested that their products be removed from EPEAT's green registry.

EPEAT has a comprehensive rating system that identifies some of the more eco-friendly products on the market. To date, there isn't a computer that gets a perfect score. At the bottom of its list of notebooks is the NCS Magnus RNM 102, which is essentially an indestructible, massive briefcase of a computer made for people working in the dangerous field. The home or the office are not exactly places of maximum utility for this notebook. The NCS Magnus RNM 102 scores 13/27, total. A closer look at the EPEAT registry shows that even the top-scoring products aren't doing as well as they could be. 

On the other hand, we have the MacBook Pro. It gets a gold rating, scoring 21/27. It's almost at the top of the list (beat by models like the Lenovo ThinkPad) and yet the product gets zero points in these categories: material selection and energy conservation. It's not EPEAT's fault that no product completely lives up to the standard as of yet. This is rather a sign that we consumers need to push the companies forward. 

Meanwhile, what to do with our beloved Apple products? Are you eligible for an upgrade? Don't take it unless you need it. If your phone still calls and texts, use it until it's beyond dead. Is your laptop's webcam broken? Think hard on whether that really matters (perhaps it does!) It's greener to keep your old gadgets than to buy new ones, even if they top the EPEAT registry.

Next, do your own research. Registries and lists are helpful guidelines, but can't be the end-all on what product is best for you. If you're looking for the perfect eco-friendly items, you'll end up doing your calculations and word-processing with a stick in the sand. Good luck sending that in an e-mail.

We're not all blessed with tech-knowledge, but we can read some labels and ask some questions. If your laptop is surely gone and you're not sure whether to go Apple, think about what eco-friendly characteristics matter to you and see if Apple products reflect them. The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple told EPEAT their design direction no longer aligns with EPEAT standards, but still Apple is open about their environmental priorities and commitments. You may read through their website and really identify with Apple's eco-cause, or decide that it's all smoke and mirrors and look into other companies. You may decide to simply share a computer with your housemates or co-workers instead of buying a new gadget at all.

There's nothing that encourages a company to keep doing what they've always done more than consumers who are satisfied with a certification stamped onto a product, especially if that product is rated 20/27. We have to go a step further. We have to keep asking questions. We have to make our priorities known. 

--Image by iStockphoto/tumpikuja

READ MORE: The Electronics Recycling Superguide

KrislynKrislyn Placide is an editorial intern at Sierra going into her fourth year of journalism school at Northwestern University. When she's not updating the blog, she likes running through parks and eating her weight in watermelon.

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