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Apple Watch: Green leaf investment

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I'm a big fan of recycling. I bicycled a route for exercise a few years back and I've recycled it four or five times a week ever since. Ha ha. But seriously, it annoys me that you can use a device up and then goodness knows what happens to it. I remember when our washing machine died: Fisher and Paykell said they had no recycle program (this was a few years back) so we looked for an appliance replacement that did have one - with no luck.

But no longer - at least in the case of Apple. From this week, every Apple Store around the world has pledged to take back and recycle any unwanted Apple products for free. We don't have any Apple Stores here, of course (they're all third-party 'resellers' in New Zealand) but we do, thankfully, now get the free recycling too - see Apple's site on the subject.

It looks like you ship your products via DHL to Li Tong Recycle in Hong Kong: you contact them and they send you a prepaid shipping label for your stuff. There's a list of what you can recycle here.

For Earth Day 2014 (April 22nd) Apple changed its environmental responsibility website, and posted a video on the subject narrated by CEO Tim Cook.

It's good timing - Apple's aim to power all its facilities 100 per cent by renewable energy has resulted in its corporate campuses and data centres hitting 94 percent renewable globally, up from 35 per cent four years ago. Apple does not include the manufacturing, transport and use of its actual products, which adds up to 98 per cent of its carbon footprint, but its accomplishment on facilities, particularly data centres, deserves note. These data centres run Apple's internet-accessed services - in other words the iTunes Store, the Mac App Store, Maps, Siri, iMessage ... Every song downloaded from iTunes, or app installed from the Mac App Store or book downloaded in iBooks has been delivered to you using energy provided by nature. Then, of course, we might be receiving it in an office powered by a tower belching coal smoke or worse, but hey.

Last year I looked at swapping my home to solar - I will, sooner or later. There was a deal, though, in which a NZ power company came and fitted them for you and our roof was perfect, but you paid a fixed amount every month no matter how much power you used for several years, on contract. That's when I baulked - there was no incentive to use less power (and yes, my house is full of those NZ-designed Eco bulbs). The average power consumption of Apple products, meanwhile, has dropped by 57 percent since 2008, which I applaud. Today's iMac uses just 0.9 watts of electricity in sleep mode -the first iMac used 97 percent more than that.

That Apple has taken this renewable initiative to heart is no secret (and hardly exclusive to Apple - Google, for one, also has large solar arrays). Cook lambasted investors who spoke out against greener energy, and good for him. Apple recently hired Lisa Jackson, a former chemical engineer who oversaw the cleanup of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, pushed for stronger air quality standards and jousted in hearings with Republican climate-crisis deniers. The longtime government official was Obama's environmental czar, but since last June she has been working at Apple as Vice President of Environmental Initiatives reporting directly to Cook.

When I reported that Cook had reacted angrily to investors who denied climate change here, I got a strong reaction too. It always surprises me what pushes people's buttons. It shocked me, right at the beginning of this blog, that some people actually liked using Windows PCs. Or at least, that some people said they did. Then again, I was surprised that Samsung had any loyalty at all. But even if you 'deny' climate change - ie, that you believe the climate is changing, but that's just what it does and has little to do with us human meddlers - you must be a strange fish if you can't see the beauty of getting energy from a non-destructive and infinitely renewable source (although I hate to imagine landfills full of expired solar panels). And if you don't see the beauty in renewable energy, well, you probably have trouble walking and chewing at the same time so I shouldn't be critical.

In early 2012, Greenpeace used Apple as a very public target, staging demonstrations including releasing balloons in the shape of coal briquettes inside Apple's Fifth Ave (New York) retail store. Soon after, Apple proclaimed its intent to power all its operations via renewables like wind, biogas, hydro,and solar. Greenpeace was sceptical at first, but issued another report card last month and lo and behold, Apple was top, with 100 per cent of its total data centre power consumption coming from renewables.

Of course, you shouldn't have to be a cynic to see that if Apple can guarantee its own energy requirements, considering it can easily afford the investment, it means the company is no longer at the mercy of power suppliers who seem to keep raising their rates. Or is that just here?

There is still work for Apple to do, especially in China, which seems to be at the forefront of polluting these days. After all, that's where most Apple stuff (and most other tech stuff, of course) is made. Amazon and Twitter, by the way, received 'abysmal' dirty-power grades from Greenpeace. (And no, I'm not the biggest fan of Greenpeace by any means, before you GE-free tar me with that brush.)

Wired has a long and detailed story on Lisa Jackson and her work at Apple.

Apple, of course, is making publicity out of all this and even had a sly dig at Samsung in the UK (although not by name): the Cupertino Inc took out some green-oriented ads detailing Apple's concern with the environment saying "There are some ideas we want every company to copy."

If you're not in New Zealand, you may notice that the large lit Apple logos on (or in) key Apple Stores now sport a green leaf rather than the signature white one. I wonder how long the green leaves will last.

I'm happy at all this. You should be, too.

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