Apple Gets Green Thumbs Up From Greenpeace For Renewable Energy Usage

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Greenpeace has released a report about renewable energy and the internet titled "Clicking Clean" covering increasing demands of electricity to power the internet and the cleanliness of that power. Since this is about internet usage, this is a data center/iCloud-focused report and doesn't get into hardware or retail concerns. For those who do not wish to wade through an 84 page PDF, there are some Apple-related tidbits I'll summarize for you below.

From the "Key Findings" section:

(1) Six major cloud brands – Apple, Box, Facebook, Google, Rackspace, and Salesforce – have committed to a goal of powering data centers with 100 % renewable energy and are providing the early signs of the promise and potential impact of a renewably powered internet.

(2) A number of leading brands, most notably Apple and Facebook, have made significant improvements in their energy transparency, discarding the previous dogma within the sector of withholding energy data due to competitiveness concerns. Transparency still remains weak overall among many brands, particularly colocation providers.

One other thing Greenpeace is happy about is that Apple is building their own solar installations to alleviate some pressure on the local power grids, the latest being in Prineville, Oregon (about three hours southwest of Portland). Facebook's Prineville data center also has a solar array, handy since there's something like 300 days of sunshine a year in central Oregon, and those remaining 65 aren't generally horrible days either.

 Apple's scorecard with Greenpeace.

However all is not well in my great state of Oregon. It would appear Amazon's AWS data center has a giant target on the roof instead of a solar panel. According to the report, the AWS data center in Boardman, Oregon (hey, I can see my old house from that data center!) has caused local power supplier Umatilla Electric Co-Op to "work to gut the state renewable energy law". Since a significant portion of local power (estimates range from 35%-45%) comes from hydroelectric, and therefore renewable, resources, UEC worked to modify the law.

Greenpeace of course, sees it thusly: "In early 2014, Umatilla successfully bullied its way into attaining a legislative loophole that would allow it to comply with the law without investing in wind and solar energy." This renewable energy page since the transparency is more than some other companies are capable of (Greenpeace is TOTALLY looking at you, Amazon).

It's nice change to see Apple recognized for something they're doing that puts them out in front on anything, be it labor abuses or their environmental footprint. Particularly after having Greenpeace folks outside Macworld for years, handing out cards listing the egregious offenses Apple committed on a regular basis.

It was also interesting they included Amazon in the report since Amazon hasn't released any of this type of data, so Greenpeace had to completely guess on what those numbers might be. Comparing the actual numbers between companies is an interesting excercise, and the report brings attention to an issue that certainly isn't going away, so good on Greenpeace for compiling all this data.

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Oh Greenpeace. I am glad you do this sort of work, but then you start using words like "bullied" and including AWS even though Amazon has released no information, and I have a hard time taking you seriously. I'm glad you're calling out those who aren't doing all they could, though. So I guess you come out ahead overall, but really if you just let the numbers speak for themselves, and not insert yourself into rural Oregon's politics (trust a native, it's a losing proposition for an outsider), you'd be so much better off. 

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Just because it’s not Apple being on the receiving end this time doesn’t mean Greenpeace has improved in any way. They _still_ judge companies by what they say and promise, not what they do. I’m just glad that Apple didn’t switch from “being green” to “talking green” but to “being green _and_ talking green”. And Amazon, I’m sure, will learn to talk the talk…


So Greenpeace likes Apple now. Big fat hairy deal. They’re still a multinational corporation mostly interested in press and cash for Greenpeace.



Kudos to Apple for their sustainability efforts. As for Greenpeace, I have to question any survey that lumps nuclear power in with coal and natural gas-fired power plants. Nuclear has risks, but it does not produce greenhouse gases of any kind. And no, we are not going to meet all of our energy needs with wind and solar.

Kelly Guimont

Like I said, Greenpeace is still Greenpeace. I keep holding out hope that age might mellow them, but so far they keep doing their best to disappoint me. smile

They are bringing up important issues, they just don’t go about it in the best way so they get dismissed. I did think it was nice to see them give Apple credit for what they are doing though, think of all the times Apple gets called out when they’re the same as others, or even in some cases doing better.

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