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Consumer Technology

Published on December 22nd, 2008 | by Nick Douglas

10

Apple vs. Dell: Which is Actually Greener?



If Dell’s VP of Communications is so critical of Apple’s green policies, a month after Apple bragged about their new recyclable, energy-efficient MacBooks, why didn’t he just say that Dell is greener? Is it because he’s humble, or becaus his job is to confuse people? Ha, sorry, that’s too mean. A PR man’s job is to lie. But sometimes he accidentally tells the truth.

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While Dell still beats Apple in Greenpeace’s annual electronics report, Apple will catch up if they meet their targets over the next few years. Here’s how the two computer makers compare (according to Greenpeace) on energy efficiency, packaging, materials, and recycling.

Energy efficiency: Apple’s new models beat Energy Star standards, so you can crank up the smug when you flick on a new MacBook (or feel even grosser about your outdated Powerbook). A little over half of Dell’s desktops meet Energy Star requirements, but Greenpeace says the company’s not explaining just how efficient those computers are. Winner: Apple

Packaging: Greenpeace says nothing about Dell and Apple’s packaging. After all, what’s one cardboard box compared to all the components in a $3000 laptop? But bloggers, blissfully logic-free as we are, pay a lot of attention to packaging. Dell impressed the green blog Treehugger with three goals for the next four years: cut packaging materials by 10%, use 40% more sustainable cushioning material, and make sure 75% of packaging is “curbside recyclable.” That’s one reason that the Ceres Report on corporate climate change strategies gave Dell 77 points to Apple’s 28. Winner: Dell

Materials: Apple’s new iPods are free of PVC plastic and BFRs, two materials that Greenpeace wants all electronics makers to eliminate. Their new MacBooks use very little of these substances, so Apple is on track to be PVC and BFR-free by next year. Dell reneged on its promise to eliminate PVC and BFRs by next year. At least Dell is more cautious than Apple about making sure new materials are safe. Winner: Apple

Greenhouse emissions: Greenpeace won’t be satisfied until Apple reports the carbon emissions of its plants and increases its use of renewable energy. Their report ignores Dell’s claim that the company went carbon neutral five months ahead of schedule. The Unofficial Apple Weblog couldn’t find any evidence that Dell was lying, but they implied so anyway by pretty much saying “nuh-uh!” (What PR people won’t lie about for hundreds of dollars an hour, bloggers will lie about for $10 a post.) Winner: Dell

Recycling: Greenpeace likes Dell’s recycling program a lot more than Apple’s. While Apple says it has recycling facilities in 95% of its markets worldwide and boasts a recycling rate of 18%, Greenpeace thinks the company’s numbers are too opaque to trust. The same goes for Dell’s reported numbers of 12.4%, but Greenpeace gives Dell extra points for supporting laws that would make manufacturers more responsible for the waste they produce. Both companies are terrible at reporting how much recycled plastic they use. Winner: Dell

Summary: An impressive carbon-neutral operation gives Dell the real edge in this contest, making the company greener than Apple. But Apple’s new promises mean it could soon catch up to Dell. As usual, Apple runs a better PR campaign, but steps like greener iPhone packaging show that Apple cares about going green, just in its own hyped-heavy way.

The bad news is that both Apple and Dell performed dismally compared to competitors like Nokia, Toshiba, Samsung, and Sony. Nokia’s phones are more efficient and more easily recyclable, and they’ve been free of PVC for three years. Toshiba reports its greenhouse gas use and is setting targets to lower it. But hey, at least Apple and Dell are kicking Microsoft’s ass.

Photo by Apple Inc.

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  • wb

    Has anyone used either product? Or bought one? As someone who worked in the IT department of advertising and web agencies for years, I think you must be high. I was often sickened at the amount of garbage I would have to deal with, after setting up one Dell workstation consisting of a desktop tower, two 17″ LCD’s, keyboard and mouse. One LCD box would contain three pieces of styrofoam that the monitor and stand were sandwiched between. The monitor and stand and cables would be covered in plastic bags and the monitor would also have a sheet of foam taped to it. And all of the cables had twist ties on them, even though they were in specific places and going no where. And there’d be one last plastic bag containing a manual (and quite a large one with every conceivable language) and a cd-rom with the manual in pdf form and drivers to install, which no one uses ’cause a damn monitor doesn’t need drivers with Windows XP! That’s just the one LCD! It was the same with everything. The tower had boxes for the computer and keyboard and all the cables and mouse were covered in ties and plastic.

    And I’m not even getting into how crappy and disposable Dell’s machines are. All designed to have parts that pop out when they break so Dell can mail you a new part. In more boxes and plastic wrap.

    Forget reports and plans for future yadda, yadda. Go to an office where this stuff is used.

  • wb

    Has anyone used either product? Or bought one? As someone who worked in the IT department of advertising and web agencies for years, I think you must be high. I was often sickened at the amount of garbage I would have to deal with, after setting up one Dell workstation consisting of a desktop tower, two 17″ LCD’s, keyboard and mouse. One LCD box would contain three pieces of styrofoam that the monitor and stand were sandwiched between. The monitor and stand and cables would be covered in plastic bags and the monitor would also have a sheet of foam taped to it. And all of the cables had twist ties on them, even though they were in specific places and going no where. And there’d be one last plastic bag containing a manual (and quite a large one with every conceivable language) and a cd-rom with the manual in pdf form and drivers to install, which no one uses ’cause a damn monitor doesn’t need drivers with Windows XP! That’s just the one LCD! It was the same with everything. The tower had boxes for the computer and keyboard and all the cables and mouse were covered in ties and plastic.

    And I’m not even getting into how crappy and disposable Dell’s machines are. All designed to have parts that pop out when they break so Dell can mail you a new part. In more boxes and plastic wrap.

    Forget reports and plans for future yadda, yadda. Go to an office where this stuff is used.

  • wb

    Has anyone used either product? Or bought one? As someone who worked in the IT department of advertising and web agencies for years, I think you must be high. I was often sickened at the amount of garbage I would have to deal with, after setting up one Dell workstation consisting of a desktop tower, two 17″ LCD’s, keyboard and mouse. One LCD box would contain three pieces of styrofoam that the monitor and stand were sandwiched between. The monitor and stand and cables would be covered in plastic bags and the monitor would also have a sheet of foam taped to it. And all of the cables had twist ties on them, even though they were in specific places and going no where. And there’d be one last plastic bag containing a manual (and quite a large one with every conceivable language) and a cd-rom with the manual in pdf form and drivers to install, which no one uses ’cause a damn monitor doesn’t need drivers with Windows XP! That’s just the one LCD! It was the same with everything. The tower had boxes for the computer and keyboard and all the cables and mouse were covered in ties and plastic.

    And I’m not even getting into how crappy and disposable Dell’s machines are. All designed to have parts that pop out when they break so Dell can mail you a new part. In more boxes and plastic wrap.

    Forget reports and plans for future yadda, yadda. Go to an office where this stuff is used.

  • http://www.therealtimsmith.com Tim Smith

    Just to clarify both Apple and Dell ship their computers from the overseas manufacturers by plane. The boat ride is just way to slow for the tech industry to handle.

  • http://www.therealtimsmith.com Tim Smith

    Just to clarify both Apple and Dell ship their computers from the overseas manufacturers by plane. The boat ride is just way to slow for the tech industry to handle.

  • http://www.koifishcommunications.com Dean

    One thing that is absent here (but seems vitally important) is shipping. How do the products get from where they are assembled to the customers? In the case of Dell, I’m pretty sure they are usually shipped via 747. The difference between flying a laptop vs. sending it in a container ship is significant and should also be considered.

    Also, you seem pretty interested in how much PR and marketing people are willling to bend the truth or flat out lie. While there are plenty of shady PR folks in the business, there are others — particularly those that cater to a green clientelle — that understand that honesty and transparency are vital. There will always be consumers dumb enough to buy off rediculous green product claims (like “green” bottled water). However, many consumers who are committed to living an Earth-friendly lifestyle are extremely educated and informed. Being deceptive to this audience isn’t effective (and it hurts the greater cause).

    I’ve blogged a lot about green PR and marketing issues recently. A post that covers the ethics of PR in today’s environment can be found here http://tinyurl.com/5zyul8.

    One that covers the short-sightedness of greenwashing can be found here http://tinyurl.com/6zwaeb

    There are a lot of positive ways to market green products. There was a recent post in one of your sister Green Option blogs that provided an overview of my agency as well as a few tips on green marketing. Here’s a link to that http://tinyurl.com/6qro9j

    Thanks.

    DR

  • http://www.koifishcommunications.com Dean

    One thing that is absent here (but seems vitally important) is shipping. How do the products get from where they are assembled to the customers? In the case of Dell, I’m pretty sure they are usually shipped via 747. The difference between flying a laptop vs. sending it in a container ship is significant and should also be considered.

    Also, you seem pretty interested in how much PR and marketing people are willling to bend the truth or flat out lie. While there are plenty of shady PR folks in the business, there are others — particularly those that cater to a green clientelle — that understand that honesty and transparency are vital. There will always be consumers dumb enough to buy off rediculous green product claims (like “green” bottled water). However, many consumers who are committed to living an Earth-friendly lifestyle are extremely educated and informed. Being deceptive to this audience isn’t effective (and it hurts the greater cause).

    I’ve blogged a lot about green PR and marketing issues recently. A post that covers the ethics of PR in today’s environment can be found here http://tinyurl.com/5zyul8.

    One that covers the short-sightedness of greenwashing can be found here http://tinyurl.com/6zwaeb

    There are a lot of positive ways to market green products. There was a recent post in one of your sister Green Option blogs that provided an overview of my agency as well as a few tips on green marketing. Here’s a link to that http://tinyurl.com/6qro9j

    Thanks.

    DR

  • http://www.koifishcommunications.com Dean

    One thing that is absent here (but seems vitally important) is shipping. How do the products get from where they are assembled to the customers? In the case of Dell, I’m pretty sure they are usually shipped via 747. The difference between flying a laptop vs. sending it in a container ship is significant and should also be considered.

    Also, you seem pretty interested in how much PR and marketing people are willling to bend the truth or flat out lie. While there are plenty of shady PR folks in the business, there are others — particularly those that cater to a green clientelle — that understand that honesty and transparency are vital. There will always be consumers dumb enough to buy off rediculous green product claims (like “green” bottled water). However, many consumers who are committed to living an Earth-friendly lifestyle are extremely educated and informed. Being deceptive to this audience isn’t effective (and it hurts the greater cause).

    I’ve blogged a lot about green PR and marketing issues recently. A post that covers the ethics of PR in today’s environment can be found here http://tinyurl.com/5zyul8.

    One that covers the short-sightedness of greenwashing can be found here http://tinyurl.com/6zwaeb

    There are a lot of positive ways to market green products. There was a recent post in one of your sister Green Option blogs that provided an overview of my agency as well as a few tips on green marketing. Here’s a link to that http://tinyurl.com/6qro9j

    Thanks.

    DR

  • http://www.krispijnbeek.nl krispijn beek

    Reading the whole article to find out if I should buy a Apple or a Dell from a green point of view, just to find out in the last part that some of their competitors are greener and at least more transparent about their emissions. Time to buy a Toshiba, Samsung or Sony notebook.

  • http://www.krispijnbeek.nl krispijn beek

    Reading the whole article to find out if I should buy a Apple or a Dell from a green point of view, just to find out in the last part that some of their competitors are greener and at least more transparent about their emissions. Time to buy a Toshiba, Samsung or Sony notebook.

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