The Silicon Valley's commitment to green technology is a source of pride, and Apple is a valley trend-setter. Its decision to withdraw its products from a prominent green product registry erodes its image as an environmental leader and raises a more disturbing possibility: That other tech competitors will take its departure as a free pass to also drop out of the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, or EPEAT, system.
Apple's response earlier this week to The Loop isn't good enough. Spokeswoman Kristin Huguet released this statement:
"Apple takes a comprehensive approach to measuring our environmental impact and all of our products meet the strictest energy efficiency standards backed by the U.S. government, Energy Star 5.2 We also lead the industry by reporting each product's greenhouse gas emissions on our website and Apple products are superior in other environmental areas not measured by EPEAT, such as removal of toxic materials."
That's all good. But EPEAT lists recycling of products as a key component of its standards, as well it should, and it appears Apple's new designs will make recycling batteries impossible. Apple's decision means that its 39 computers, many of which previously met EPEAT's highest gold certification, will no longer meet even the minimum green level.
EPEAT isn't some fringe organization. It's backed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and its ratings were established in
In an interview with the Bay Area News Group, EPEAT's CEO, Robert Frisbee, said, "I've had some conversations and Apple has said that their design direction is not compatible with EPEAT standards. It's kind of odd, because they helped design" the standards.
Speculation among Apple aficionados is that the recently released MacBook Pro is at the heart of the issue. Its batteries are glued into the case, making it virtually impossible to disassemble them for recycling. Apple has not explained why its MacPros cannot be constructed to meet the EPEAT criteria.
There's a broader concern. EPEAT is developing standards for tablets and smartphones, and Frisbee hinted that Apple's iPad may not meet the criteria because of the way its battery is cemented into the tablet. Apple expects to sell more than 115 million iPhones, 65 million iPads and 16 million MacPro computers in 2012.
Apple's reputation for environmental awareness, well deserved until now, has been part of its appeal for consumers. If it no longer is concerned with recycling standards, how can its competitors, playing catch-up in the market, be inspired to do more?
If Apple feels the standards should be updated, it should make its case. Neither Apple nor the valley will benefit if the company known as one of the greatest innovators in world history downgrades its commitment to the environment.
Think green, not greed.