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Consumer Technology

Published on September 23rd, 2015 | by Rogier van Rooij


Apple iPhones Get An Eco-Friendly Upgrade

September 23rd, 2015 by  

The iPhones 6s and 6s Plus have just been released and along with some specs upgrades — like a better camera and a more advanced touchscreen — Apple is also upgrading their best-selling products in an environmental sense.

According to the company’s own measurements, which look at how much CO2 is emitted during the production, distribution, consumer usage, and recycling of the devices, the two new models save 14% and 16% carbon output compared to last year’s iPhones.

Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, told the Associated Press that these numbers are for a big part the result of changes that have been made in the purchasing and manufacturing of the aluminium used in the iPhones. The carbon footprint here was cut in half from last year, she said.

Apple has made a lot of improvements with regard to its ecological footprint in recent years. The company boasts that all its data-centres, offices, and stores in the US are now powered by renewable energy. On a worldwide basis, there is still some work to be done, with around 13% of Apple’s energy still coming from fossil sources.

These efforts are of course not just for charity. They will improve Apples image, and thereby sales. Also, saving the environment saves money. As CEO Tim Cook pointed out at the Goldman Sachs’ Internet and Technology conference earlier this year about shifting to green power sources: “We expect to have a very significant savings because we have a fixed-price for the renewable energy, and there’s quite a difference between that price and the price of the brown energy.”

This is what you get if you combine Apples commitment to a better climate with its PR devision:

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About the Author

Optimistic, eager to learn and strongly committed to society's wellbeing, Rogier van Rooij wants to share with you the latest cleantech developments, focussing on Western Europe. After graduating cum laude from high school, Rogier is currently an honours student at University College Utrecht in the Netherlands.

  • Larmion

    Since Apple’s devices are manufactured by the same contractors used by everyone else in the industry (Hon Hai, Pegatron and others), the claim that it reduced carbon emissions needs to be nuanced: if Apple’s manufacturing emissions fell, those of all its rivals must have done so in equal measure.

    And as for the data center thingy: Apple has three main rivals in consumer cloud solutions. Google and Microsoft use about as much RE as Apple does and Amazon is belatedly starting to catch up.

    In short, a fairer headline would have been: “all smartphones become slightly more eco-friendly, Apple makes bigger song and dance about it than rivals”.

    Also, keep in mind that modern unibody smartphones like the iPhone are anything but eco friendly. As with all consumer electronics, their embodied energy hugely outweighs their lifetime energy use and so the eco-friendly thing to do to is to use them for as long as possible. The use of unibody designs with poor repairability scores (as per iFixit) combined with the absence of a user-replacable battery and SD card make that a lot harder.

    That last point is of course applicable to most high end smartphones, not just Apple’s offering.

    • JamesWimberley

      Don’t other smartphones have replaceable batteries? A minor point, as Apple’s can be changed by high street dealers.

      There is a thriving second-hand market for used smartphones in developing countries. The thing is to return the old one to the store, not drop it in the trash.

      I feel you are being a little unfair to Apple on the supply chain. Foxconn and the like are responding to pressure from their customers on carbon intensity, and Apple is a customer they really don’t want to lose. A pity there is much less pressure coming their way on workers’ rights.

      • Larmion

        Some others do, especially budget models. In the flagship models, thinner and better looking unibody designs with laminated batteries have largely taken over.

        Sending phones that are replaced simply because they are no longer fast enough to Africa is great. If the phone is fundamentally broken though, the poor repairability of modern smartphones makes it much harder for informal dealers to refurbish them.

        Of course the contract manufacturers are acting in part on pressure from higher up the chain (and of course they want to save on energy too). However, there is little to suggest that Apple exerts greater pressure than other tier one smartphone makers.

        Look at the (admittedly flawed) Greenpeace guide: it puts Lenovo (Motorola), Samsung and Sony in the same category as Apple and ranks Nokia and Acer one higher. And that is despite Apple having much greater leeway to clean up its act due to its much higher profit margin.

        Again, I’m not trying to dismiss what Apple is doing. However, I feel this article is unfair in giving Apple high praises while neglecting to mention that most of its rivals are just as active in cleaning up their energy and materials.

      • eveee

        I am sure they are willing to invest in a fence to keep them from jumping.

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