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Green Apples

By on March 12th, 2012

Apple got slagged not too long ago for conditions in the Chinese factory that manufactures its iStuff, although it should be pointed out that Foxconn manufactures electronic devices for many other companies, too (like Amazon, Dell, Motorola, Nokia, and HP, and so on). This week, following Apple’s announcement of the new iPad, Greenpeace was quick to point out (via GreenBiz) that the iPad and the iCloud were not as green as they could have been. At issue is powering “the cloud” with green power.

Apple said last month that it is adding 20 megawatts of solar power – and 5 megawatts of biogas-powered fuel cells – to its new data center in North Carolina, which also has a platinum LEED designation. And it announced Tuesday that SunPower would be providing the solar panels.

That’s not enough to keep Greenpeace happy. These clean-energy investments “will at best supply less than 10 percent of the estimated total electricity demand” at the data center, the group claims.

How big is the cloud becoming? I love these sorts of analogies:

If the global cloud was a country, its aggregate electricity demand would make it among the top five in the world, according to Greenpeace.

Wait until the cloud asks for U.N. representation. Not that Apple’s iCloud is the entire cloud, of course. (And there is also Dennis Weaver’s McCloud. But I digress.)

Now, in some corners, Apple is held to be a fairly “green” company, and InfoWorld touted the iPad as a green device, and when the original iPad was unveiled way back in the dark ages of early 2010, Steve Jobs touted the tablet’s green credentials:

Among them, the device is free of toxic substances such as arsenic, BFR, and mercury, as well as PVC. The enclosure is made of recyclable aluminum and glass. Moreover, Jobs praised the device as being “highly recyclable,” which suggests it’s easy to dismantle and its parts can be handily reused or separated and disposed of in a safe manner.

There is certainly room for Apple to become more sustainable—not just environmentally, but across the board. However, it works both ways, and it’s also up to the consumer to be conscious of the impact electronic devices have on the environment. For example, if you are upgrading to the new iPad and have no use for the older model, Apple has its own recycling program for its electronic devices. Or, even better, you can donate an old iPad to Teach for America where it will be given to a teacher in a low-income community. A little searching can also turn up other places to donate old but still functional electronics. Just as long as they’re not sent to the landfill.