EPEAT and Apple

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Earlier this week, the media in general erupted with news that Apple was no longer going to register their company or products with the Environmental Product Evaluation and Assessment Tool (EPEAT). On the surface, this might sound like Apple is taking another step to say “screw you” to the environment, but it’s really not.

Now, before people start flaming me to death, I’ll be the first to admit that Apple has some non-eco-friendly policies. Their sourcing and manufacturing leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to that point, however this particular announcement does not add to that score at all.

EPEAT – for those who’ve never heard of them – is a non-governmental-organization that was started with funding from the US Environmental Protection Agency. The goal of the organization is to allow buyers, sellers, resellers, and consumers of electronics some way to register and track the ecological impact of the products they make and use. That’s great, and a wonderful way to show the community that your company has an eye on their eco-bottom-line as well as their monetary bottom line.

Apple, however, has policies which exceed those required by EPEAT, and in some cases do so in ways that don’t fit into the certification. I’ll let you read up on EPEAT as much as you want at their website, but wanted to point out a few things Apple is already doing which impact electronics recycling and the environment in general:

1 – Apple has taken many steps in recent years to make their business more eco-friendly. Smaller packaging, more efficient manufacturing and better energy efficiency are just the tip of the iceberg. Read more about that here. They’re still far from a stellar player in environment-friendly manufacturing, but they’re working on it.

2 – Any Apple Store will take in Apple computers for recycling – free of charge. As a matter of fact, if you bring an Apple computer (no matter how old) into a store that still has some monetary value, they’ll give you a gift certificate to use toward the purchase of new gear. The same goes for iPhones, iPods and iPads – and with phones they’re promising at least a 10% discount on new gear, even if the device is too old to be resold.

3 – Apple also allows you to bring in ANY PC or mobile phone and get at least a 10% discount, with them recycling the old gear for you. So they’ll recycle your old gear even if they didn’t sell it to you originally.

4 – All of these offers also work by mail. For larger gear (PC’s, Mac desktops and Mac Laptops) you’ll have to pay postage. For smaller items like phones and iPod’s, Apple will pay the postage.

You can get details on all of these recycling programs from the Apple Recycling Program page.

So, while Apple still has a way to go before anyone starts calling them an “eco-friendly” corporation; this particular issue is not something they should be faulted on. They already offer manufacturing and recycling options in excess of the EPEAT guidelines, so it didn’t make a lot of sense to spend a large amount of money for the re-certifications. They can, and do, make the information freely available on their website.

This was just one case where the perceived benefit of renewing the certifications far outweighed the expense in time and money that Apple would need to put out to do so. As long as they keep publicly and freely showing how they exceed the requirements, I can’t find fault here.

FYI: You can read Apple’s statement to TheLoop about the EPEAT issue here.

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