Southern California environment news and trends

Apple reinstates green certification after public outcry

A view of the main entrance to Apple Inc.

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

A view of the main entrance to Apple Inc. in Cupertino, California on March 11, 2011. AFP PHOTO/Ryan Anson/AFP/Getty Images

Sometimes, the people really do have the power.

It was just two days ago when we reported that computer company Apple had yanked 39 products from EPEAT, a government regulated global registry of environmentally friendlier products that Apple helped establish.

Fallout from the move was swift, with a public outcry that included Greenpeace and the city of San Francisco, which announced it would no longer purchase Apple products due to the voluntary decertification.

As reported by Yahoo News, the backlash was loud enough that Apple has done an about-face, announcing today that as many products as possible would be returned to the EPEAT registry.

“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,” said Bob Mansfield, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware engineering in a public statement.

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Apple drops green standard, loses business in San Francisco

Courtesy of Apple

Apple's newest MacBook Pro with Retina Display.

In a somewhat surprising move, digital giant Apple last week pulled 39 of the company’s desktop computers, laptops and monitors from EPEAT, a global registry of environmentally-friendlier products regulated by the government and in part created by Apple.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, EPEAT is federally funded by the EPA and a group of manufacturers, and “awards products a seal to certify they are recyclable and designed to maximize energy efficiency and minimize environmental harm.”

“They said their design direction was no longer consistent with the EPEAT requirements,” said Rob Frisbee, CEO of EPEAT to the Journal. “They were important supporters and we are disappointed that they don’t want their products measured by this standard anymore.”

The move comes close on the recent announcement of Apple’s most recent MacBook Pro with retina display, which comes with the battery pack glued to the machine among other features that make the model extremely difficult to repair.

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Apple to work with critics on pollution audits

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Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

It was announced this week that the same environmental organization that charged Apple’s Chinese production partners with poor pollution practices is going to be working with the digital hardware maker to audit operations at one of the company’s suppliers.

Historically, Apple was not been forthcoming with their manufacturing partners. This new agreement will mark the first time the company has ever revealed the names of those partners, making it easier for environmental organizations to track the sustainability (or lack thereof) in the process. In this case, an unnamed maker of printed circuit boards will be the focus of an environmental review slated to start in “the next few weeks,” according to CNET.

“We are happy Apple is now opening its door,” said Shen Xunan, a project officer at the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs in Beijing to Business Week. After the organization criticized Apple last fall for working with suppliers who endangered public health through pollution, the company has made a very public effort to remedy the situation. Apple has yet to comment on the any of their environmental efforts outside of information provided on the company’s website.

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Is your Xbox a vampire? Energy efficiency in consumer electronics is an epic, gothic fight

shadybird/Flickr

All the vampire metaphors in the world aren't making vampire power consumption less of a problem.

The answer, probably, is yes. Good magazine made an awesome graphic about this a while ago, showing what it might be costing you. According to one Cornell University study, you might have as many as 20 vampires lurking in your house, and your PlayStation or your plasma TV or your computer--they're only the start. That same study found that "your TV with remote control likely uses more energy during the 20 hours a day that it’s turned off and in a 'standby power' state than it does during the hours you watch the tube."  

What to do about that is in dispute, between the California Energy Commission and consumer electronics companies, and their fight just got a little bit bigger. 

If you're worried about vampire power sucking consumer electronics, you don't have a lot of options. You can religiously unplug everything and turn it off, but that won't work for your TiVo, which goes through a lengthy re-boot after being powered down. Investor-owned utilities like PG&E make a moderate-sized deal of recommending Energy Star appliances. But the Federal EnergyStar and EnergyGuide labels aren't required on consumer electronics. So all that useful information EnergyGuide requires, "an estimate of the product's energy consumption or energy efficiency...the highest and lowest energy consumption or efficiency estimates of similar appliance models." Optional for consumer electronics

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Apple turns up the sun with new solar-powered plant

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Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Apple, the company that makes a large number of your (um, our) cell phones and computers, is in need of a little good news. The digital giant has taken a big PR hit of late, with reports of questionable employee conditions in their Chinese factories resulting in this week’s ABC “Nightline” expose.

Yesterday, Apple took to the company website to announce something decidedly more upbeat: details of their massive new data center in Maiden, North Carolina that will be primarily powered with renewable energy. CNET reports that the 500,000-square-foot facility will cost a cool $1 billion, and has already earned LEED's highest award – a Platinum certification – for what Apple has planned.

“We know of no other data center of comparable size that has achieved this level of LEED certification,” says Apple’s website. “Apple’s goal is to run the Maiden facility with high percentage renewable energy mix, and we have major projects under way to achieve this — including building the nation’s largest end user-owned solar array and building the largest nonutility fuel cell installation in the United States.” 

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