Talking ‘green’: on Apple and EPEAT withdrawal

Earlier this week, news that Apple had last week withdrawn from a “green” certification registry run by non-profit rating group EPEAT came as a surprise to environmental groups and those who buy Apple products. As the Mercury News has reported, the city of San Francisco can no longer buy Apple computers because its rules require EPEAT approval. The fallout may spread among other government agencies and other businesses, with Bloomberg reporting that the University of California is weighing whether to stop buying Macs as well.

Apple, which has been praised in the past for being green, is now speaking out and defending its decision to drop out of a standards registry it helped create. “Apple products are superior in other important environmental areas not measured by EPEAT,” a spokeswoman told Bloomberg, saying the Cupertino company still meets environmental standards required by the U.S. government.

EPEAT approval depends on computer products’ energy efficiency, use of toxic materials and disposal. EPEAT does not cover smartphones such as the iPhone or tablets such as the iPad, thought EPEAT CEO Robert Frisbee told the Mercury News those standards are being worked on — probably a good idea as the rise of those devices eats into sales of PCs. Frisbee hinted that the iPad’s design, which cements the battery into the device and makes it tough to “separate the toxics from the recyclables,” would probably not pass muster. Several reports about Apple’s withdrawal speculate that the move is probably tied to the design of the new MacBook Pros, whose batteries are glued into their cases.

PCWorld reports that while many environmental groups have criticized some of EPEAT’s processes and standards, they still value the guidelines it provides for manufacturing green PCs. Among other backers of EPEAT are Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Samsung.

What about the other kind of “green”? Will Apple’s move make a significant dent in the company’s massive bottom line? Analysts and others think not, because Apple’s sweet spot is consumers who don’t rely on EPEAT to make their buying decisions.


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