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Apple updates environmental progress, focuses on climate change, finite resources

Dan Moren | April 22, 2014
Just in time for Earth Day, Apple has updated its environmental site with the latest information about the many green initiatives it has put in place. Most prominently, the company has assembled a video, narrated by CEO Tim Cook, speaking about how Apple applies its overriding philosophy--striving to make better products--to its commitment to the environment.

Just in time for Earth Day, Apple has updated its environmental site with the latest information about the many green initiatives it has put in place. Most prominently, the company has assembled a video, narrated by CEO Tim Cook, speaking about how Apple applies its overriding philosophy — striving to make better products — to its commitment to the environment.

A letter from the company's vice president of environmental initiatives, former Environmental Protection Agency director Lisa Jackson, echoes Cook's sentiments: "We aim to create not just the best products in the world, but the best products for the world," writes Jackson.

Apple's focused on a few particular areas with this latest update, specifically how it prepares for and helps combat climate change and its plans for dealing with the planet's finite resources.

Climate change

In terms of climate change, the company has been more diligent over the last few years about measuring its carbon footprint, which for 2013 came in at 33,800,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases. In 2012, the company reported 30.9 million metric tons.

However, it's not strictly an apples-to-apples comparison — if you'll pardon the expression. The company points out that while it had been using industry-standard methods to determine how much emissions were generated by its use of aluminum — one of the most prevalent materials in its products — it decided to conduct its own study on the impact of the metal's use.

The results of that study showed that the emissions from the construction of aluminum exteriors of its products were actually four times higher than the conventional method reported. That information was factored into the company's carbon footprint for 2013, yielding a net increase of 9 percent — had the company stuck to the conventional reporting method, its emissions numbers actually would have decreased by 10 percent.

While small contributions came from facilities, recycling, transportation, and product usage, the overriding bulk of those emissions — 23.6 million tons — result from the company's manufacturing processes. That's about 69 percent of emissions, is higher than in 2012, when manufacturing accounted for 61 percent.

As with last year, the company also touted its focus on environmentally-friendly power, noting that all of its data centers are completely powered by renewable energy sources, including its newest installation in Reno, Nevada, where the company is building a brand new solar array that will generate 43 million kWh of clean power.

One weak spot in Apple's line-up is the third-party colocation facilities that the company uses to supplement its own data centers. Currently, just 70 percent of the power for those installations are provided by renewable sources, but it's aiming to bring that number up to the same 100 percent as its own data centers.

 

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