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While getting better, Greenpeace feels Apple has a long way to go

Apple Inc. founder and CEO Steve Jobs is a self-proclaimed environmentalist and experiencer of nature.  He has a warm relationship with famed Nobel-prize-winning environmental activist and former Vice President Al Gore, and has always been labeled as overly environmentally oriented by his critics.  Still, Apple Inc.'s processes rely on conventional cost-effective, but sometimes mildly toxic, solutions found in much of the rest of the industry. 

This has led to harsh words between Jobs and environmental activists, such as Greenpeace.  At last Macworld Expo Greenpeace protesters disrupted the Apple-loving festivities with a vocal rally against the company's production logistics.  This led to Jobs sardonically remarking that the activists should, "get out of the computer business [and] go save some whales."

Apple subsequently ejected Greenpeace from the Macworld Expo grounds.

Greenpeace lost no love with Apple when it late last year slammed them with a report claiming their iPhone and iPod lines were "toxic".  Apple predictably fired back, firmly denying that its products were harmful.

This year's Macworld Expo showcased a possible cooling of tensions between Apple and Greenpeace.  For a change, there were no Greenpeace demonstrators to be seen, and Jobs for the first time focused on environmental specs in his keynote address. 

The keynote's primary focus is in Apple's laptop market "killer-app," the Macbook Air, one of the world's thinnest laptop designs.  When presenting the Macbook, Jobs noted that the thin aluminum casing is not only good looking, but also fully recyclable, with aluminum being one of the most easy to recycle materials.

He went on to proudly announce that the Air will sport the company's first mercury and arsenic free display and all Apple circuit boards (which due to the form factor are the majority of components) will be free of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and poly-vinyl chloride (PVC). 

The use of BFRs and PVC are still relatively abundant in the consumer electronics industry, but their use was among the factors that Greenpeace ripped Apple's iPhone on.   PVC is a plastic used for casings and moldings, while BFRs are used as a flame retardant to protect circuit boards from fires upon overheating.  Several major manufacturers had already heeded environmental concerns and began removing these substances from their manufacturing processes.

Rick Hind, the legislative director of Greenpeace's toxics campaign, which recently ripped on video game console manufacturers, said that Apple was making some good steps, but was still performing rather poorly -- sort of like a B- student.  He said, "Apple is getting greener, but not green enough.  The Macbook Air has less toxic PVC plastic and less toxic BFRs, but it could have zero and that would make Apple an eco-leader."

Greenpeace also criticized Apple for Job's unfulfilled promise in 2007 in an open letter (PDF), in which he stated that Apple would eliminate all BFRs and PVC plastics from its product lines by the end of 2008.

Is Greenpeace picking on Apple?  Hind noted that Apple is often unhappy with Greenpeace's criticism, saying, "Apple sometimes gets really defensive.  They say: Why are you picking on us -- especially when we have such a small market share compared to the rest of the industry?"

Hind explains that the simple reason for targeting Apple is that it is seen as an innovator and tech leader, more so than traditional manufacturers like HP and Dell.  If they single Apple out, he feels, it will both raise awareness on the issue and get other companies to follow in suit.

Jobs made a promise at the Macworld Expo to continue to deliver environmental reports on new and updated Apple products in his keynote speeches and to focus more on green issues.  For now, he has earned a passing grade from Greenpeace, the kind that leaves a slightly sour taste in one's mouth -- above average, but still rather unsatisfactory.


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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By ImSpartacus on 1/18/2008 2:28:03 PM , Rating: 5
I'm starting to think that some people just like to bitch.




By Master Kenobi (blog) on 1/18/2008 2:30:48 PM , Rating: 1
Your just now figuring that out? Welcome to the party. Better late than never I guess.....


By ImSpartacus on 1/18/2008 2:36:17 PM , Rating: 3
I've always tried to be optimistic about such things, but its depressing how Apple is being singled out (or at least it sounds as much). I'm more of an MS fanboy, but I still strive for equality.

I'm sure there are more computer hardware companies that create environmental waste, why don't they get B-'s? Or better yet, why don't we hear about it?


By Jedi2155 on 1/18/2008 4:10:07 PM , Rating: 5
We hear about the big companies because they have more resources, and definitely more sales, because changing their production would have a far larger effect on pollution than the many numerous smaller ones.

Plus the larger one's can generally afford to do such changes which then trickle down the technology developed to the smaller companies as well.


By eye smite on 1/20/2008 6:06:54 AM , Rating: 3
I think what you're seeing here more than anything is childish antics. GP got kicked out of last years convention, it pissed them off, so they've abused their position as an environmental advocate to taunt and harrass Mac. Especially in light of the fact there are other companies and bigger challenges they should pursue, but no they've hassled Mac. Petty people and their petty egos.


By PB PM on 1/18/2008 2:33:30 PM , Rating: 3
No kidding. People will always find something wrong, with a product no matter what you do. Honestly, the MBA is a crappy machine (this coming from a Macbook Pro owner), but honestly Greenpeace is just annoying. Its kind of funny though since Steve Jobs is a former hippy, and so are those who started Greenpeace.


By ImSpartacus on 1/18/2008 2:38:08 PM , Rating: 3
I never thought about the hippy connection, that's ironic. I do like how Jobs is quoted as telling the activists to go save some whales.


By PandaBear on 1/21/2008 8:17:29 PM , Rating: 2
That just prove the concept that friendship is worthless when profitability and personality clash.


Damn
By Ammohunt on 1/18/2008 2:38:55 PM , Rating: 3
Who gives a rats ass what Greenpeace says? Besides Granolas who don't know what soap is for.




RE: Damn
By DEredita on 1/18/2008 2:56:22 PM , Rating: 5
I beat a dolphin to death with my Macbook.

j/k


RE: Damn
By ImSpartacus on 1/18/2008 7:13:11 PM , Rating: 2
Good times, good times...


RE: Damn
By littlebitstrouds on 1/18/2008 9:37:35 PM , Rating: 2
I don't believe you, could you take a picture of it with your iPhone?


RE: Damn
By ImSpartacus on 1/18/2008 9:45:56 PM , Rating: 2
Why not make a podcast of the beating with the Macbook's web cam and then edit it with the free built in software of Mac OS. Then release it on itunes.


RE: Damn
By bplewis24 on 1/18/2008 7:02:09 PM , Rating: 2
Whenever I think of GreenPeace I get visions of Cartman as the hall monitor running around giving people citations that care less about his "authoritah".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7DwMvv3grk

Brandon


The Translation
By masher2 (blog) on 1/18/2008 2:29:42 PM , Rating: 5
> "Hind explains that the simple reason for targeting Apple is that it is seen as an innovator and tech leader...If they single Apple out, it will raise awareness..."

Translation: we're not attacking Apple on any factual basis, but simply because they're the target most likely to gain us free publicity.

Refreshing to hear a comparitive level of truthfulness from Greenpeae.




RE: The Translation
By ImSpartacus on 1/18/2008 2:48:07 PM , Rating: 2
I find most environmental agencies just as politically despicable as gov't agencies. It's horrible, there's no one to trust.


RE: The Translation
By FITCamaro on 1/18/2008 3:12:52 PM , Rating: 2
Admitting the problem is the first step to recovery.

Personally, I wouldn't care if it gave you cancer as you typed since there's no way in hell I'd pay $1800 for a laptop without a removable battery, no optical drive, no network port, etc.

I carried around a 10 pound(12 with power brick) laptop for 3 years of college without issue. If you can't lift 5 pounds (standard laptops), go to the freaking gym. Hell, curl some beer bottles if nothing else.


RE: The Translation
By chrisld on 1/21/2008 10:19:12 PM , Rating: 2
You got that 100% right. I know of another company Greenpeace attacked just to get publicity. They had no evidence and said so when confronted. Don't they realise that people's jobs are at stake when they attack companies that employ people? They should be sued and put out of business or they should find some scientists who know something so they can do some good.


meh
By Verran on 1/18/2008 2:31:04 PM , Rating: 3
Who cares?

Nobody asked the MacBook how it felt about Greenpeace...




RE: meh
By rcc on 1/18/2008 2:42:01 PM , Rating: 5
I did, it said "syntax error".


RE: meh
By PB PM on 1/18/2008 2:44:19 PM , Rating: 2
Which was followed by some black grease being spurted out of the single USB port into Greenpeace's face.


The Words Say All
By kelmon on 1/19/2008 12:17:17 PM , Rating: 2
I finally watched the keynote this morning and picked up on Steve's very carefully chosen words when describing the green credentials for the MacBook Air that definitely suggested that it wasn't as green as they'd like to make out. This is what he said:

quote:
All of the Apple designed circuit boards, which are the vast majority of circuit boards in the unit, are Bromide Flame Retardent-free and PVC-free.


Anyone reading between the lines here will realise that while the Apple-designed components are going to be OK with Greenpeace (probably) the MacBook Air will still get a bad report because non-Apple components will still incorporate the bad stuff. Given this the statement from Greenpeace comes as no surprise. It's better than nothing, of course, but it's clear that work still needs to be done in the industry so that all components are BFR- and PCV-free.




RE: The Words Say All
By masher2 (blog) on 1/19/2008 2:09:32 PM , Rating: 2
> "it's clear that work still needs to be done in the industry so that all components are BFR- and PCV-free"

Why?


RE: The Words Say All
By kelmon on 1/21/2008 3:27:09 AM , Rating: 3
Because you don't want the toxins from this stuff ending up in your food when the MacBook Air is no longer cool and ends up in a landfill.


HA!, serves them right
By senbassador on 1/19/2008 2:10:33 PM , Rating: 5
Serves Apple right to be hassled by Greenpeace. Now Apple finally has to deal with someone more obnoxious than them.




By Pneumothorax on 1/19/2008 7:12:43 PM , Rating: 3
The Abacus!




By inighthawki on 1/20/2008 11:59:52 PM , Rating: 2
Don't be silly, the wood used to make it comes from none other than the tree and chopping down that tree is terrible despite the fact that we all know that more trees are planted for each one cut down...


Who Cares?
By Flunk on 1/18/2008 3:38:24 PM , Rating: 2
Since Greenpeace rates products on an undefined, arbitrary standard it means nothing.




RE: Who Cares?
By jskirwin on 1/18/2008 4:09:30 PM , Rating: 2
I don't even like Apple - but Greenpeace's comments makes me want to buy one.

Since when did Greenpeace become a technology reviewer anyway? I'll stick to Ars Technica.


"Unfulfilled promise"
By Anonymous Freak on 1/19/2008 4:23:57 AM , Rating: 3
It's only 19 days into 2008, and they're grousing about a promise that quoted "by the end of 2008" not being met yet? Holy unrealistic expectations, Batman!




Who cares what Greenpeace has to say?
By iFX on 1/19/2008 10:02:30 AM , Rating: 2
I sure as hell don't, and I doubt any tech companies do either.




ermmm
By MAIA on 1/21/2008 5:42:46 AM , Rating: 2
I don't know about you guys - and i don't even agree with most techniques and arguments GP uses - but there's got to be someone or some institution to rise awareness among apeople about env issues.

Of course if Apple gets a B- , Dell or HP would get a D- or even less. That's not the main issue at hand, the main issue is to make electronics manufactuers use non dangerous non toxic components on their products.

Someone has to make the call. The sad part is some "fundamentalist" orgnization had to do it. But they are no better or no worst than any economic fundamentalist manufacturer trying to gain the most by using cheao and toxic components.

Remember, air doesn't serve only to pass thru a fan and a heatsink. You breath it as well ...




Hmmm
By msheredy on 1/21/2008 2:47:55 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Greenpeace also criticized Apple for Job's unfulfilled promise in 2007 in an open letter (PDF), in which he stated that Apple would eliminate all BFRs and PVC plastics from its product lines by the end of 2008.


Uhhh Greenpeace, it's still January.




well i give it a F-
By XPguy on 1/19/08, Rating: -1
Come On
By bhieb on 1/18/08, Rating: -1
RE: Come On
By SectionEight on 1/18/2008 5:39:41 PM , Rating: 2
And it's no surprise that Jobs is friendly with Gore: Gore is a member of the board of directors of Apple. You'd think Greenpeace would have noticed this and therefore showered Apple with praise. Or perhaps because Al's a company man, they expected Apple to do better environmentally than their rivals, not be equal, hence all the low marks.


RE: Come On
By clnee55 on 1/20/2008 8:21:50 PM , Rating: 3
Gore is a big hypocrite when it comes to environment. See this link

http://www.snopes.com/politics/bush/house.asp

No doubt they are called politicians.

quote:
And it's no surprise that Jobs is friendly with Gore: Gore is a member of the board of directors of Apple. You'd think Greenpeace would have noticed this and therefore showered Apple with praise. Or perhaps because Al's a company man, they expected Apple to do better environmentally than their rivals, not be equal, hence all the low marks.


RE: Come On
By mmntech on 1/18/2008 8:40:56 PM , Rating: 2
I think we can safely say the 2000 election was a loose-loose situation for the American public. I shutter to think what Gore would have done as president.

As for Greenpeace, I think I already mentioned that they're a group that favours de-industrialization. Any modern technology to them is bad. They aren't qualified to judge these products but it does makes them money and gets them publicity.


“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads














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