Posted by: Christian Verstraete | February 24, 2010

Product Development, how green is my Apple?

This morning I got an interesting article in my in tray. It was by and titled “How Green is my Apple?”. It goes in length and depth to explain how GreenPeace forced Apple to improve its focus on sustainability. According to the article Apple now gets good marks from GreenPeace and scores 5th amongst electronic manufacturers. It also points out Apple markets its products as amongst the greenest in the industry.

And that’s where I felt the need to react and react strongly. I have seen Apple pointing out its sustainability focus, but frankly I am not impressed. Let me explain you why. A little over one year ago, Apple introduced its new MacBook, and used an interesting video to demonstrate how wonderful the product actually was. Thanks to YouTube, I found the video back. It is titled “MacBook Manufacturing Process”. Take a look at it and tell me how “green” the manufacturing process is.

If you really want to create a sustainable product, it is not enough to remove toxic material or to make your packaging smaller… and brown instead of white. You really need to look at all the energy used during the manufacturing, distribution, usage and recycling of the product. Now, tell me, starting from a single slap of aluminium, extrude this one, then remove about 90% of the material using 13 milling operations, how much energy does that consumes? I am not even speaking of the recycling of the 90% of the aluminium removed. No, frankly, this is not green. And the arguments used, a better look and a somewhat lighter body don’t cut it for me. Sorry, Apple and GreenPeace, if you cannot find anything better, you should not be considered making sustainable products.

Sustainability starts at the design of the product and has to take the complete lifecycle into account. It’s by scrupulously identifying the energy, water and material consumption at each step in the process that one really creates a sustainable product. When will we get these measures identified, so that we can make the right choices  for the planet. Unfortunately NGO’s such as GreenPeace do not look at it that way. Although they have their reason for existence, they only take a very partial view of sustainability. You have to be aware of that.

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