Apple Environmental Report Highlights Improved Carbon Footprint

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Apple has published a report called “The Story Behind Apple’s Environmental Footprint,” a report that offers a closer look at where the company generates its carbon footprint and what the company has done and is doing to reduce that footprint.

Apple Charts

Apple Environmental Footprint Charts
Source: Apple

According to Apple’s report, two percent of its total environmental footprint comes from its facilities. This would include the company’s offices and other buildings that house is engineers, sales staff, support centers, and other Apple-owned and operated facilities.

Another 30 percent of its footprint comes from customers actually using Apple products, while five percent comes from transporting those goods from manufacturing to retail. Two percent relates to its recycling program.

The biggest chunk, of course, comes from manufacturing all those iPads, iPhones, Macs, Apple TVs and other Apple devices that have turned the company into the world’s most valuable corporation. The company said that 60 percent of its environmental footprint comes from this aspect of its business, and that includes the process of extracting the raw materials that go into those products as well as the manufacturing and assembly process.

“For the past three years,” the company wrote in its report, “Apple has used a comprehensive life cycle analysis to determine where our greenhouse gas emissions come from. That means adding up the emissions generated from the manufacturing, transportation, use, and recycling of our products, as well as the emissions generated by our facilities. We’ve learned that about 98 percent of Apple’s carbon footprint is directly related to our products. The remaining 2 percent is related to our facilities.”

As part of its report, Apple offered the following chart of emissions per hour of product use, all of which show dramatically better results than a 60-watt incandescent light bulb.

Apple Chart

*Calculated while system is idle and has completed loading its operating system; for products with displays, the display is set to its full brightness. Assumes CO2e emissions generated from an average mix of power grids in the U.S. See our Product Environmental Reports for detailed power consumption information by product.
Source: Apple

The report also includes a section on energy efficiency, and the company claimed that its desktop (Mac mini), notebooks, and all-in-ones all exceed ENERGY STAR specifications, as shown in the image below.

Apple Chart

Source: Apple

Another concept touted by the report is the impact of Apple’s continued efforts to reduce how much packaging the firm uses for its products. Apple was a pioneer in drastically reducing the amount of packaging used for its computers going back to the original Bondi Blue iMac.

To show off the impact of those efforts, Apple offered the following chart which shows how much smaller the box for the iPhone 4S is compared to the original iPhone. That not only results in fewer materials used in that packaging, it means that Apple can transport more iPhones per airplane, both of which reduce the carbon footprint of the device.

Apple Chart

Source: Apple

Other highlights from the report include the claim the company’s Maiden, North Carolina data center will have the largest end-user-owned solar array in the U.S.

“We know of no other data center of comparable size that has achieved this level of LEED certification,” the company wrote. “Our 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.”

The report comes in the wake of increased scrutiny of working conditions in China, and just ahead of the company’s annual shareholder meeting, which takes place on February 23rd.



A comment about the transportation footprint. Looking back on shipment tracking info from fall 2007, my Apple MacBook Pro laptop flew from Shanghai to Anchorage to Oakland to Memphis to Denver - something like 9000 air miles! (Once upon a time, Apple had a factory right here in Colorado - 0 air miles away.) I wonder how long it’ll be before the carbon footprint of the huge number of jet miles travelled by products from China catches up with the tech industry.


I am curious as to how Greenpeace will react to this report. If true, it may deprive them of an attractive, sensitive and responsive industry pressure point.

On the other hand, they may come back with a verdict that, as good as these improvements are, they still lag behind the likes of Dell…


The chart labeled “Kilograms of CO2e Emissions per Dollar of Revenue” is absurd. The graphic implies about a 70% drop, but the numbers show it’s only about a 10-15% drop. Imagine several more inches of green added to the bottom.

And is that even a useful measurement? Kg per dollar? What does revenue have to do with it? (Besides the fact that Apple’s revenue is quickly increasing, which makes this an advantageous comparison for them.)

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