Apple Shoots for 'Better'
Apple is celebrating Earth Day with a pat on its own back, pointing to the efforts it has made to reduce its carbon footprint and improve its sustainability practices. That's laudable, but Apple is not quite the leader of the pack when it comes to environmental issues, said sustainability scientist Harvey Bryan, who pointed to some of the efforts Google is making, particularly with Nest.
Apr 22, 2014 12:54 PM PT
In honor of this year's Earth Day, celebrated Tuesday, Apple is showcasing its efforts to lessen its carbon footprint and become more environmentally sustainable as part of its 'Better' Campaign.
The company released new promotional material, including a video narrated by Tim Cook, that outlines its commitment to increasing energy efficiency in an effort to reduce its impact on climate change.
Apple wants to leave the world "better than we found it," says Cook.
The campaign focuses on Apple's efforts to increase the energy efficiency of its devices, to ethically source materials, to recycle more of its products and to work toward the goal of powering its data centers and its campus with 100 percent renewable energy (right now it is at about 94 percent, a significant jump from 35 percent in 2010).
The company is especially reliant on solar energy, particularly at its new data center in Yerington, Nev., which features a massive solar farm.
Apple touts its position as a green leader in the tech space. One print ad includes a dig at Samsung: "There are some ideas we want everyone to copy."
Going forward, Apple Retail Stores will expand their recycling operations. In addition to accepting used Apple products, they will hold special events when consumers may bring in competitors' products for recycling.
Apple has made significant strides in environmental sustainability in its U.S. operations, and other companies should emulate its efforts, said Harvey Bryan, professor and senior sustainability scientist at Arizona State University's Global Institute of Sustainability.
"Apple is doing really good things with renewable energy, particularly with using solar energy on some of its new buildings," he told TechNewsWorld. "The company understands the problem and are doing things to mitigate that, which is more than you can say for some corporations of its size."
Always Room for Improvement
However, Apple still has a way to go before it can claim it's the most environmentally sustainable company in the industry, Bryan added.
"You could say now that Apple is one of the leaders in this space, but it's certainly not at the front of the pack. Google, for one, seems to understand that the demand for power is growing rapidly, and is beginning to assemble companies like Nest that could help it be a power provider," he observed.
"If Nest can help it power household appliances, Google can actually wield power and help offset the load on more traditional power facilities. The demand for a smart power model like that is growing, and Google is there investing in that," Bryan pointed out.
Further steps for Apple could include reducing the carbon footprint at its data centers and updating office heating and cooling systems, which are two of its largest energy guzzlers, according to A.Vaidyanathan, founder and principal consultant at Cleantech Consultants.
"For data centers, Apple could optimize its cooling load substantially by relocating data centers, redesigning the cooling systems -- for instance, with natural cooling or sea water cooling -- or exploring geothermal cooling options," he told TechNewsWorld.
Apple's current efforts with the Better campaign and its commitment to further change should be applauded, Bryan said. Still, with a stack of cash and significant global influence, the company has the power to invest in much more research and development that could have a huge influence worldwide.
"There are some dual standards in this industry, so while Apple is doing some wonderful things here, it could also expand those efforts in places like China," he suggested. ""With the resources that Apple has, it could actually be nurturing some investments internally ... and then expanding those efforts to its global operations."