It's not easy being green, but for Apple, it's imperative

Apple Park AR
Apple Park AR (Image credit: Rene Ritchie/iMore)

Over the last few years, Apple has gone from the top of Green Peace's hit list to one of the environmental organization's biggest hits. It hasn't been easy, but it's been possible thanks to Apple applying the same focus to its clean energy initiatives that it's applied to products like the iPhone.

And where once Apple was chided that environmental responsibility didn't pad profits, the company is now showing that not only can you have both, you can lead the way in both.

Here's what Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, had to say:

We're committed to leaving the world better than we found it. After years of hard work we're proud to have reached this significant milestone. We're going to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the materials in our products, the way we recycle them, our facilities and our work with suppliers to establish new creative and forward looking sources of renewable energy because we know the future depends on it.

And here's just a short list of what some of those projects look like:

  • Apple Park, Apple's new headquarters in Cupertino, is now the largest LEED Platinum-certified office building in North America. It's powered by 100% renewable energy from multiple sources, including a 17-megawatt onsite rooftop solar installation and 4 megawatts of biogas fuel cells, and controlled by a microgrid with battery storage. It even gives clean energy back to the public grid during periods of low occupancy.
  • Over 485 megawatts of wind and solar projects have been developed across six provinces of China to address upstream manufacturing emissions.
  • Apple recently announced plans to build a 400,000-square foot, state-of-the-art data center in Waukee, Iowa, that will run entirely on renewable energy from day one.
  • In Prineville, Oregon, the company signed a 200-megawatt power purchase agreement for an Oregon wind farm, the Montague Wind Power Project, set to come online by the end of 2019.
  • In Reno, Nevada, Apple created a partnership with the local utility, NV Energy, and over the last four years developed four new projects totaling 320 megawatts of solar PV generation.
  • In Japan, Apple is partnering with Daini Denryoku, a local solar company, to install over 300 rooftop solar systems that will generate 18,000 megawatt-hours of clean energy every year—enough to power more than 3,000 Japanese homes.
  • Apple's data center in Maiden, North Carolina, is supported by projects that generate 244 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy a year, which is equivalent to the energy used by 17,906 North Carolina homes.
  • In Singapore, where land is scarce, Apple adapted and built its renewable energy on 800 rooftops.
  • Apple is currently constructing two new data centers in Denmark that will run on 100 percent renewable energy from day one.

Some people laugh when Apple executives like Phil Schiller take the time to read off every product's energy report card during keynotes. But like with accessibility, it's critical to how Apple operates.

When you buy a phone or tablet or watch or laptop, you're not just buying the product; you're buying the company that makes it. If that company is going out of its way to make sure those products are usable by everyone and will help ensure the planet is viable for generations, that's just as important — if not more — than whether it's the color you want or has this or that trendy gimmick.

Here's what Apple's suppliers are doing:

  • Arkema, a designer of high-performance bio-based polymers, which manufactures for Apple at its facilities in France, the United States, and China.
  • DSM Engineering Plastics, which manufactures polymers and compounds in the Netherlands, Taiwan, and China that are used in many Apple products, including connectors and cables.
  • ECCO Leather, the first soft goods supplier to commit to 100 percent clean energy for its Apple production. The leather that ECCO produces for Apple is of European origin, with tanning and cutting occurring at facilities in the Netherlands and China.
  • Finisar, an U.S. industry-leading producer of optical communication components and vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs), which power some of Apple's most popular new features like Face ID, Portrait mode selfies, and Animoji.
  • Luxshare-ICT, a supplier of accessories for Apple products. Luxshare-ICT's production for Apple is predominantly located in Eastern China.
  • Pegatron, which assembles a number of products, including iPhone, at its two factories in Shanghai and Kunshan, China.
  • Quadrant, a supplier of magnets and magnetic components in a number of Apple's products.
  • Quanta Computer, one of the first Mac suppliers to commit to 100 percent renewable energy for Apple production.
  • Taiyo Ink Mfg. Co, which produces solder masks for printed circuit boards in Japan.

For those who think there's no issue consuming limited fuel resources because the technology of the future will just figure that stuff out — this is the technology of the future beginning to figure that stuff out.

That Tim Cook, Lisa Jackson, and everyone at Apple is busting ass over this stuff, while also shipping hundreds of millions of the most innovative, popular devices in the world just shows that you can have your environmental high ground and eat it to. In fact, being responsible can drive innovation.

I wish Apple every success with the next steps and the steps after that. Moreso — I wish every other tech company would emulate Apple if not overtake them. This should be one of the most hotly contested leadership roles in the industry.

Everyone should want to win at the check-out and at the score-card. And Apple is showing them all how.

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Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.