The 21st Century has been called the information age, the new millennium and much more, but really, it is the age of technology and electronic gadgets. Certainly most of us cannot go five minutes without touching a cell phone, computer or some type of technology. Sadly, most of these electronics are not really made that well and last only months or a year. In addition, technology is changing so rapidly that even those technological toys that do last two or three years become outdated in less time. A laptop today is at least five times as fast as a computer made just two years ago.
Certainly, technology today seems to be disposable; few of these young antiques make their way into a recycling program, usually ending up as landfill trash, and this is not a good sign for our environment. Fortunately, some of the larger electronics corporations are taking some steps towards green.
Apple is certainly a company with an eye on the future. If you visit the environmental part of the Apple website you will see that this corporation has given a lot of thought to green apples. In fact, Apple has a huge section of their site dedicated to telling people about the impact of their products and how they are working to make it better. Apple admits, via their website, that manufacture of their products releases almost 15 million metric tons of C02 into the air a year. However, they are working to do something about it.
Only about 2% of Apple’s emissions are related to their facilities – the running of their offices and stores. The rest – the bulk of 98% – is directly related to manufacturing, shipping, use and recycling of their products. As part of their efforts to be more green, every Apple device is Energy Star rated. Furthermore, in 2008 Apple managed to increase their revenue by 78% while only increasing their emissions by 57%. While this still shows a problem, the fact is that they are working on it seriously and making significant strides. Apple spends much of its time trying to reduce the materials it uses and minimize the hazardous materials in their products.
Dell is also looking at how it can change manufacturing and shipping in a way that has less of an impact on the environment. One focus of Dell is packaging. Dell recognizes that most computers ship with cardboard, plastic and Styrofoam, the last two being of the not recyclable kind. Thus, Dell set out to find a new way to protect and ship their electronics without filling landfills with non-biodegradable foam. They answer for Dell – bamboo.
Dell has begun packaging some of its equipment in wrapping made of bamboo. They have been careful to choose bamboo due to its quick growth and thus renewable nature. But they have also carefully chosen a responsible supplier, a place in China far from endangered Panda habitats, as Panda live almost exclusively on bamboo. This new bamboo packaging is not only sustainable, it can also be composted.
The joke has sometimes been made the while Apple uses a trash can Microsoft offers a recycle bin. But Microsoft’s commitment to the environment goes beyond their choice of icon for deleting unwanted information. Microsoft has been working a variety of green fronts in their efforts towards sustainability. One way is through software design, that’s right, software. Microsoft’s latest web browser, Internet Explorer 9, has been proven in tests to use less energy during web surfing than its competitors, extending the life of a laptop battery charge. In another software based attempt at going green, Microsoft has dedicated themselves to working with PC refurbishing companies, helping provide them with software to refurbish computers for use, keeping them out of landfills. Microsoft has also worked on reducing the plastic used in their packaging. In other news, Microsoft has actually been dipping its electronic toes in the auto market, working EcoMotors to develop a high efficiency gasoline powered engine.
From recycling to reduced packaging waste, three of the biggest names in modern electronics and information systems are working to reduce the negative impact that their products have on the environment. Imagine if every manufacturer took going green so seriously how much less waste would find its way into landfills.