Saturday, July 14, 2012

Apple returns to EPEAT, but what does that mean going forward?

It's not often that Apple admits a mistake, and it's even more rare to see them change directions so quickly. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company has reversed its recent decision to pull its products from the EPEAT green electronics registry. -Specializing in Cheap Flights
Although it was not publicized until last week, EPEAT said that Apple had told them of its decision at the end of June. Apple was criticized after the move was announced , and the City of San Francisco even said it would halt purchases of Apple products, since a policy mandated that city funds only be used to purchase EPEAT-certified desktops, laptops and monitors.

It wasn't an unexpected move by the city. It had been known that Apple's change would affect the ability of some governments, universities, and companies to purchase its products. The company perhaps had not been expected the firestorm of criticism, though.

While its current products may fail EPEAT certification due to an inability to be easily recycled, Apple has made strides in reducing the carbon footprint of its products, as well as other environmental changes. Still, even an Apple statement trumpeting that fact did not quell the criticism.

In an open letter, Bob Mansfield, Senior Vice President of Hardware Engineering (who is retiring soon), said the following:

"We’ve recently heard from many loyal Apple customers who were disappointed to learn that we had removed our products from the EPEAT rating system. I recognize that this was a mistake. Starting today, all eligible Apple products are back on EPEAT."

Mansfield went on to allude to other environmental benefits of its products, many of which are not measured by EPEAT.

That is, of course, true. As we noted in our earlier coverage, EPEAT focuses specifically on hardware recycling - which means that products such as Apple's latest MacBook Pro with its new retina display cannot be certified. Apple, though, has stated that its designs reduce toxins and the carbon footprint of the products themselves.

Even if they are "back" in the database, it's unclear how many Apple products will be certified going forward. Apple's design moves to squeeze every millimeter out of a case or product puts it squarely at odds with easy, efficient recycling such as called for by EPEAT.

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