San Francisco says no EPEAT certification, no Apple purchases

Apple had withdrawn all its products from EPEAT “green electronics certification,” adding that it could put the Cupertino, Calif.-based company into hot water with some entities, including universities, corporations, and state and local governments. The first publicized problem is now here, as the city of San Francisco is moving to cease purchases of Apple desktops and laptops – by all municipal agencies – after Apple’s move.

Apple not only withdrew older, already certified products from the EPEAT certification list, it also said it would no longer submit new products for analysis. At issue would seem to be Apple’s new “design philosophy;” anyone examining the company’s latest products can see that Apple is trying to use every millimeter of space in each product, making them difficult or impossible to recycle, which means they would fail EPEAT certification.

Examples of these sorts of design choices include the new MacBook Pro with its retina display, which teardown / repair site iFixit said was virtually impossible to completely disassemble, meaning it could not be properly recycled.

The EPEAT standard was created jointly by manufacturers (including Apple), government agencies, and environmental activist groups. It mandates that electronics products be designed for ease in recycling and higher energy efficiency in order to be EPEAT certified.

Melanie Nutter, director of San Francisco’s Department of Environment, issued the following statement: “We are disappointed that Apple chose to withdraw from EPEAT, and we hope that the city saying it will not buy Apple products will make Apple reconsider its participation.”

To be clear, SF agencies can apply for waivers. However, the process was termed “long” and “onerous.”

Apple has responded to the criticisms, saying:

“Apple takes a comprehensive approach to measuring our environmental impact and all of our products meet the strictest energy efficiency standards backed by the US government, Energy Star 5.2. We also lead the industry by reporting each product’s greenhouse gas emissions on our website, and Apple products are superior in other important environmental areas not measured by EPEAT, such as removal of toxic materials.”

That’s Apple’s point, and something that should be considered. EPEAT focuses on hardware recycling rather than measuring toxins and carbon footprint. That said, the ideal situation is, of course, to cover both aspects of “green electronics.”

Although other companies and many universities focus on procuring EPEAT-certified products, those worried about their Apple stock probably shouldn’t be too concerned. Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Gartner, said, “Is there some significance? Yes. Major significance? No. Given the relatively small percentage [of organizations] that require 100% EPEAT-compliance, it’s not going to make a whole lot of difference to Apple.”


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