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Apple's environmental VP defends company's growing carbon footprint

updated 11:43 am EDT, Thu May 22, 2014

Jackson takes stance against degrowth

The head of Apple's environmental efforts, Lisa Jackson, was asked to defend the company's carbon footprint at a Fortune environmental conference on Tuesday, new video (below) shows. Former mountaineer Rick Ridgeway -- now himself an environmental VP, at Patagonia -- asked how Apple could brag about reducing the carbon footprint of individual products while the company's overall footprint is continually increasing. By definition, a successful capitalist business will continue expanding and/or manufacturing more products, increasing pollution or at least resource consumption. Ridgeway admitted that this is a problem at his own company.

"Listen, if all of us sustainability professionals have to resort to 'make and sell less stuff' as the answer to the problem, then we are suffering from an extraordinary lack of imagination," Jackson responded. "And innovation. One of the things that your company -- certainly I think Apple -- is about is trying to understand where the technology innovations and other innovations are that help us to reduce carbon intensity. We're not advocating for less people to have access to our products. That's not the answer we're looking for."

Partly in response to criticism from groups like Greenpeace, Apple has tried to mitigate its environmental impact. All of its datacenters are now entirely powered by renewable energy, and the upcoming "spaceship" campus in Cupertino will rely heavily on it. The company has also tried to minimize its packaging, and eliminate toxins from its electronics.

by MacNN Staff



  1. aristotles

    Grizzled Veteran

    Joined: 07-16-04

    All of this "carbon footprint" and "carbon credits" is all about bunch of nonsense. If you want to help the environment, plant a tree. Do not buy "carbon credits". If you can, try using transit to commute to work or move closer to where you work. Carbon credits are a form of "green washing" and do nothing to reduce your actual impact on the environment.

  1. Flying Meat

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 01-25-07

    Well, carbon footprint is a real measure of a problem. Carbon credits on the other hand, I agree, are just hocusy-pokusy shenanigans and do verrrry little/nothing to resolve the problem.

  1. Inkling

    Senior User

    Joined: 07-25-06

    If Apple really wanted to 'save the earth and all that' it could take a quite easy step. It'd make it easy for its mobile devices to stay in service as long as possible. That means simple unlocking. That means reuse as mobile devices rather than recycling into pop cans.

  1. DiabloConQueso

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-11-08

    Unlocking is not Apple's deal, it's the carrier's deal.

    If you want simple, unlocked phones (which Apple does sell, by the way), complain to your carrier. They're the ones that created and control the locking and unlocking of phones.

    That's why it's commonly known as a "carrier lock," not a "manufacturer lock."

  1. hayesk

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 09-17-99

    Inkling, Apple sells unlocked mobile devices on their web site. Buy from them instead of your carrier. Then negotiate with your carrier for a plan that doesn't include paying a subsidy that you don't take advantage of.

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    Obviously any growing business has an issue with an expanding carbon footprint, but let's remember that today's businesses already -- by only complying with the law -- do a lot less harm than businesses of say the 70s and 80s. On top of that, if more businesses followed Apple's lead, we would be very far from the pollution levels we've seen in the last 30 years.

    As George Carlin said (paraphrasing), "if we destroy ourselves, the earth will heal. The earth will be JUST FINE. 'Save the Earth' is wrong -- save the Human!"

  1. jpellino

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 10-29-99

    Love Rick, but he has to realize that the increases in numbers (amount) of Apple products means people aren't buying the competing stuff from people who have a larger per-unit (rate) carbon intensity.

  1. Grendelmon

    Senior User

    Joined: 12-26-07

    Obsolescence... "First off, it's not true..."

    *cough* bullshit *cough*

  1. JEB

    Junior Member

    Joined: 05-06-01

    grendelmon, perhaps what you're coughing about is that -- by nature -- all electronics / technology will become obsolete? I think by virtue of the discussion of actually "minding" what is going on w/ the environment, including calculating "products people really desire (and like to keep for a long time)" has been a plus -- it's been long-accepted that people keep their Macs longer vs. them crapping-out or getting replaced on a more "obsolescence-esque" cycle that typical PC's are (were) known for . . .

    Yes, to be human is to be a waster; not to dismiss, the discussion they're having (on the positive side) with our modern ability to calculate (and combat) wastefulness is a good one (vs say, the past 20-50 years ago when "recycling" only meant taking a vehicle thru a car-crusher, right? ha)

    There's a difference between "obsolesce" and "planned obsolescence" . . . by its virtue, all manufacturing processes cause some form of wastefulness. So, yes a challenge is . . . with the buzz of new devices every year, people wanting newer + better replacements -- i.e. iPhones keep getting cooler!

    But guess what?

    -- When I got to a new city for a family trip, I didn't drive in circles burning extra gas getting lost all day -- spoken maps w/ turn-by-turn directions got me there

    -- USPS has lost a lot of businesses and other carriers have reduced services and / or tightened up efficiencies (i.e. natural gas delivery trucks) . . . with more electronic communications = less fuels burned . . . old, dirtier methods replaced by cleaner ones

    -- hot, inefficient TV's / CRT's / lightbulbs -vs- modern LCD / LED's . . . thank you, innovators!

    I don't really think she, our former EPA head, came off at all trying to hide anything . . . wonderful to actually hear this shared knowledge, that the conversation about keeping things reasonably monitored is happening. (Oh, yeah -- thanks Internet streaming video crazymaking whirlygig prpellerhead-driven stuff for THAT!)

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