Submitted: The Two Sides Team November 6, 2012
We buy a lot of gadgets, and increasingly they’re glued-together tablets and locked-down ultra-thin laptops – bad news given that the greenest tech is the hardware that can be cracked open, stripped down and fitted with new components.
September 25 2012
by Nicole Kobie – PC Pro
We buy a lot of gadgets, and increasingly they’re glued-together
tablets and locked-down ultra-thin laptops bad news given that the
greenest tech is the hardware that can be cracked open, stripped down
and fitted with new components.
Looking at the sales figures, this isn’t foremost in most consumers’
minds when buying a new laptop. Who thinks about how green a gadget is
when there are specifications, price and how incredibly sexy it looks to
focus on? And for those who do have the future of the planet weighing
heavily on their mind, theres always a handful of green logos and
obscure certification details to assuage their guilt. But do they mean
anything and do customers even care if its all only greenwash?
The perfect case in point is Apples MacBook Pro with Retina display.
Its a lovely laptop, and while it made our A-List, it fell off another
list. Without explanation, Apple yanked its products from EPEAT the
Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, a US registry of
green-certified technology, used for government procurement. While
Apples products previously received top marks, EPEATs CEO, the
wonderfully named Robert Frisbee, suggested the MacBook Pro wouldnt
have been certified, and that Apples “design direction” didnt fit its
standards a damning statement about a firm that likes to chirp about
its environmental ideals.
Apple, as usual, went quiet on the issue but its fans and
detractors didnt. The co-founder of repair forum iFixit, Kyle Wiens,
claimed the new MacBook Pro is too difficult to recycle, saying his own
team was washing “hazardous goo” off their hands after attempting to
remove the laptops battery. Others pointed out that Apples products
arent meant to be fiddled with you dont buy a MacBook Pro, the
reasoning goes, and attack it with a screwdriver.
Days later, Apple did something unheard of: it publicly changed its
mind. “Weve recently heard from many loyal Apple customers who were
disappointed to learn that we had removed our products from the EPEAT
rating system,” wrote Bob Mansfield, senior vice president of hardware
engineering, in an open letter. “I recognise that this was a mistake.”
So, it would seem customers do care! Complaining does work! All it
took was a few days of pressure for Apple to back down and go green.
Except… this isnt what happened. Nothing has changed with the new
MacBook Pro. Apple hasnt altered the battery design or made any other
improvements; if you werent happy with its green credentials before,
then theres no new reason to make you alter that opinion now.
That might come as a surprise, as since Apple rejoined EPEAT, its new
MacBook Pro landed Gold certification. However, it turns out the
registry is self-certified the laptop scores top marks because Apple
says it does.
EPEAT tests such claims with spot-checks its placed the MacBook
Pro on its “priority” list for one and says it publicly names and
shames firms that fail verification, but it takes some digging to find
the data; its buried in thickly worded reports and jargon-filled
In the last round of tests, 52 products from thousands around the
world were tested, and 17 were found to not match the companies claims.
If that small sample was representative, just under a third of the
products with EPEAT certification arent as green as they make out.
EPEAT says it doesnt pre-certify because components and sourcing can
change in a products lifetime, meaning “a one-time investigation
before a product is released is fundamentally inadequate”. Testing after
release is hardly an adequate alternative thousands of laptops may
already be in use in a government agency by the time EPEAT has
discovered it doesnt meet the criteria.
EPEAT certification is little better than taking a company on its own
word; a standard is supposed to take trust out of the equation, handing
it to an independent third party.
Explaining EPEATs own apparent U-turn allowing the MacBook Pro to
take the top ranking despite telling The Wall Street Journal that the
structure of that laptop made it ineligible for certification Frisbee
said standards must evolve with innovation. Thats true: they should get
tougher, not weaker. As PC makers push thinner laptops and tablets,
they should be forced to innovate in green design, too.