Yesterday, we reported on Apple’s sudden and mystifying decision to withdraw all of its products from the EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) registry. For those who haven’t been following the story, EPEAT is a non-profit organization that assesses and certifies the overall impact of an electronic device thoughout its entire lifecycle. Although EPEAT began with a limited focus on computers, it has since expanded to include many other types of electronics.
Like many in the clean tech world, we found Apple’s decision to be confusing, and while supporters claimed it had everything to do with design, we couldn’t help noting that it most likely had a lot more to do with profit. Now, the technology giant has responded to the criticism by basically saying that because EPEAT wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t worth the effort. Apple spokesperson Kristin Huguet today released the following statement to The Loop:
“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.”
So, yes, Apple products are efficient enough by the government’s standards. No, EPEAT does not yet include a measurement of greenhouse gas emissions created by single products, nor does it yet include certification for smart phones or tablets, which are arguably Apple’s bread and butter. Contrary to Huguet’s claims, EPEAT does in fact require the reduction and/or elimination of hazardous materials such as mercury and lead [PDF].
Personally, I find Apple’s statement to be a lackluster comeback. It sounds like justification and blame-shifting, rather than an admission that it made a design change to reduce cost. By gluing-in many of the components of its new computers, Apple products would have lost their gold status at EPEAT, so the company simply decided to dump the registry instead of getting dumped. No “green certification” system is infallible, but from a consumer’s standpoint, they have one important advantage: objectivity. I’ll take that over self-regulation any day.