Commitment to Sustainability: Apple’s Carbon Neutral Plan

Apple’s Carbon Neutral Commitment

Loki, Kylo Ren, Voldemort, polluters. In this day and age, one of the most villainous things a company can do is harm the environment. Because it alienates huge sectors of the population, businesses do environmental audits and advertise lofty goals to diminish carbon footprints. 

It’s not just a PR move or the threat of a Twitter burn from Greta Thunberg. Sustainability is important for long-term survival, not just in the marketplace but on the literal globe. And Apple is stepping up to the plate.

Apple is committing to 100% carbon neutrality by 2030. This pledge applies to its supply chains and products, which is an incredible and ambitious goal. Their statement sent shockwaves through the industry and may be an attempt to combat its bad rap for non-recyclable products that can’t easily upgrade.

At the end of the day, even if Apple launched this initiative in an effort to reduce the negative press of its high-consumption culture, it’s setting a precedent. And the world better take notice and follow suit.

Digital Goods and Pollution

Picture it. Wastelands littered with flip phones, Wiis and iPods. Not an act of imagination, it’s true that technology rarely gets recycled correctly. Left to leak toxic chemicals and not biodegrade, old tech is a huge source of contamination and waste.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has something called a waste management hierarchy. They explain that the lifecycle of electronics follows this track:

  • Manufacturing
  • Sale/Purchase
  • Use
  • Collecting
  • Once collected:

1. Landfill

“Once in landfills, the precious metals and other materials in these products cannot be recovered.”

2. Reusing or refurbishing

“Reuse of used electronics extends product lifespans and contributes to the source reduction of raw materials.”

3. Recycling

“Recycling of used electronics can yield materials (e.g., gold, copper, glass, aluminum) that can be returned to the supply chain to be used again, reducing raw materials used and the overall need for disposal.”

The important takeaway is that each of the points in this process can either contribute to or reduce pollution.

Sustainable Electronics Management

The EPA and other organizations recommend electronics stewardship. This is not something that tech companies or consumers have even known about, much less done well. It includes moves like green manufacturing, proper end-of-life disposal, reuse/donating and recycling. Some companies, like Apple, are moving to the forefront of this discussion with large-scale changes.

Tech Companies and Environmental Activism

On September 20, 2019, Silicon Valley took to the streets as part of a worldwide strike for climate change (led by the aforementioned Thunberg). Employees from Twitter, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Square and Facebook participated in a huge walkout over environmental issues. Companies responded en masse with their plans to make a change. Many of these plans had already been in motion but were more widely publicized to protect corporate image and remind employees that the wheels were turning.

Amazon Invests in a Fleet of Electric Delivery Vans

Bezos announced a multi-billion dollar plan of investment into Rivian. This will initially send a fleet of 100,000 electrical delivery vehicles to send out those next-day Prime deliveries. Similar to (and predating) the Apple pronouncement, Amazon has a plan for 100% renewable energy by 2030 and net zero carbon commitment by 2040.

Google and Renewable Energy

Earlier than either Amazon or Apple, Google’s focus was on renewable energy for the good of the planet. In Amazon and Apple’s defense, Google was largely about digital products to begin with. They did significantly less manufacturing and didn’t need a comprehensive, country-wide delivery system on the scale that Amazon does. 

This was true early on. But now, with Google Home products and its own line of smartphones, Google matches a lot of the production and distribution metrics of similar companies. Even as these arms of the business have expanded, it has maintained its resolution to clean energy. Since 2007, they’ve been carbon-neutral. In both 2017 and 2018, they matched their electricity consumption with comparable renewable energy purchases. In 2019, they announced a $2B investment in infrastructure for new energy.

Apple: Environmental Impact

As Apple explains it, as a company they already are carbon neutral. Their pronouncement of the 2030 goal is about their products. Apple intends to shrink their carbon footprint in the following ways:

  • Low-carbon and recycled parts
  • Sourcing recycled and renewable materials
  • Using old and recycled technology to create new technology
  • Renewable energy sources
  • Powering all Apple stores, data centers and offices with renewable energy
  • Investing in environmental activism and research

Apple has an enormous pocketbook to make these strategic changes. But the reality is that any tech company can reduce their carbon footprint with a few strategic changes.

How Can Businesses Reduce Their Carbon Footprint?

Emissions and environmental damage occur from basic, everyday processes. The sum of these daily activities may amount to a considerable amount of waste. Changing small things can make a big difference. Businesses can work to reduce their carbon footprint by doing things like:

  • Purchasing carbon offsets
  • Switching out light bulbs
  • Upgrading to energy efficient appliances and systems
  • Monitor and change employee travel
  • Activate remote workers who don’t need to commute
  • Reduce energy in data centers
  • Recycle all technology and buy refurbished products when possible

Getting educated is priority number one. Promoting a culture that’s aware of environmental impact goes a long way to reducing damage.

How Can Tech Users Reduce Their Carbon Footprint?

The teetering towers of smartphones in landfills don’t come from companies: they come from us. If you’re grabbing a new iPhone every year, what are you doing with that old one? Don’t be in the dark about your options to recycle. That’s the first and foremost way you can not be part of the problem. 

You can seriously just Google, “how to recycle your technology” and get complete lists on the hows, ifs and wheres. Remember that electronics have heavy metals, toxic metals, carcinogenic chemicals and worse. It’s good for the earth and good for your conscience to get this right.

Gadget Genie: Go Green With Trade-In Services

At Gadget Genie in Federal Way, we have a good “where” for you: give your old technology to us! We are a green team. Our commitment to the environment is real and working with our trade-in services. We’ll even sweeten the deal: at Gadget Genie, you can recycle your device and use it as a credit toward a new phone. Let’s all do the right thing. Little by little, we’ll be a part of the solution.

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