EcoMeme: Apple’s Greener Macbook, iMac – a Wash?


Is the greening of Apple skin deep, or does it run to the core? The mobile and computing device juggernaut released its fall 2009 Macbook laptop and iMac desktop computer recently, touting “environmental,” among other desirable features in each.

These include: a polycarbonate case, longer life battery and LED-backlit display in the laptop, and the use of mercury-free glass and other “highly recyclable” materials for the desktop.

The flurry of comments that follow every Apple release and product review, web-wide, included questions about how well the computer juggernaut is doing from an environmental point of view. Especially considering the company just reported that in a single quarter, it had raked in $1.67 billion in profits!

Is Apple taking a green enough approach to be lauded? Or should they be called out for green-washing?

The head of the department of Technology Management at New York University’s Polytechnic Institute, Prof. Bharat Rao, says of course, “Apple has a vested interest in making a connection with their customer and upholding their image as a responsible, friendly brand.”  But, “It is still a great thing that they are now sharing information about their environmental impact, and seem to be conscious of the waste footprint of their products, and energy used through the full lifecycle.”

Rao like others still wishes for more green leadership from Apple. It could use retail stores to accept and recycle computers and displays, for example, not just iPods, he says.

Tune in to other ideas and debates surrounding Apple’s green marketing. And weigh in on the matter here.

Basic reading:

“Dragged kicking and screaming into the [eco] movement, Apple”¦removed the vast majority of toxic chemicals from its desktops”¦While it looks similar to other vendors in terms of content, it doesn’t have much of a disposal program-and since it doesn’t have removable batteries for its laptops anymore, safely disposing of them would be relatively expensive.” – feature story

“The 13.3-inch display, at 1,280×800, is now LED backlit (making that a standard feature across the entire Apple laptop lineup), which is better for both power consumption and environmental concerns.” – @CNET Macbook Fall 2009 review

Battery Life and Wi-Fi…On our LAPTOP Battery Test, the MacBook lasted 5 hours and 10 minutes in Snow Leopard. That runtime is nearly two hours short of the Apple’s claim…” – @LAPTOP magazine Macbook Fall 2009 review

“Although it is a monster in size, [the fall 2009 iMac] has improved upon the previous iMac’s already stunning looks.”  – @Computerworld iMac Fall 2009 blog review

“Every new Mac is claimed to meet the strict low-power requirements of the Energy Star specification”¦.[But] how much does “˜green computing’ matter to consumers”¦and [does] corporate marketing of “˜green’ IT devices amount to more image-spinning than substance?” – opinion editorial

“[The] Clean Production Action and ChemSec have issued a report that highlights Apple as one of seven companies that lead the pack in terms of eliminating toxic substances from electronic products. The group said: “˜Apple established an innovative program that restricts the use of nearly all bromine and chlorine compounds across all their product lines”¦and offers computers that are free of BFRs and most uses of PVC.'” – @9to5mac feature story

Further resources:
iMac official press release @Apple via PRNewswire
Macbook Fall 2009 specs, Guide to Greener Electronics’ Apple listings,
Apple First to Eliminate Toxic PVC @Greenpeace blogs

Editor’s note: This is the first installment of EcoMeme, a column featuring eco news, tech and business highlights by new EcoSalon writer and columnist Lora Kolodny.

Image: Andrew