Apple has a commitment to reduce its environmental impact and has an incredible number of procedures in place to protect the environment. All of its facilities worldwide are run by 100% renewable energy, 100% of paper used in packaging is from sustainable sources, and Apple are protecting over 116,000 acres of sustainable forest in the USA and China.
See how Apple are reducing their environmental impact in each of the following sections. Click a header to jump to that section:
- Renewable Energy for Buildings
- Renewable Energy Production
- Apple Park in Cupertino
- Increasing Device Energy Efficiency
- Recycling Old Devices
- Improving Durability
- Sustainable Forests
- Water Conservation
Renewable Energy for Buildings
In 2018, Apple met its target to power all of its facilities worldwide using renewable energies, but they are not stopping there. By developing their own solar, water, wind and biogas fuel cell projects, Apple are producing their own renewable energy supplies; enough to run every Apple office, retail store and data centre across the globe. Therefore, the emissions from these sites has been lowered to 1% of their comprehensive carbon footprint, and these sources of renewable energy have reduced the global worldwide carbon emissions of the company by 54% since 2011. This is equivalent to 2.1 million tonnes of emissions being prevented from releasing into the atmosphere.
Renewable Energy Production
Across the world, Apple manage a variety of renewable energy production sources. In Singapore, they have worked with local firm Sunseap to develop a revolutionary solution to overcome the issues of building an expansive solar farm in a densely populated city. As well as producing 1.1 megawatts from solar panels on their own Yio Chu Kang office at peak capacity, Apple have installed panels on more than 800 Housing Board buildings across Singapore in partnership with Sunseap. These installations supply up to 40 gigawatt hours of energy, which allows for all of Apple’s Singaporean operations to be powered by solar energy.
Solar panels, also known as photovoltaic systems, convert visible light energy to electricity. As the light hits the semiconducting materials in the panel, the light energy is converted to electrical energy, which can be stored in batteries or distributed immediately to where it is needed.
In addition to this, Apple’s Chinese solar panels produce enough energy to power all of their retail stores and offices in the country. The expanse of solar farms can reduce the amount of land available for agriculture and livestock farming, which is becoming more valuable as the world’s population grows. Therefore, the panels in Apple’s solar farms are mounted high above the ground to allow grass to grow below. Local farmers allow their Yaks to graze on this grass, making the area more efficient and sustainable.
Apple currently has 25 operational renewable energy projects around the world, with 15 more under construction. Once complete, Apple’s renewable energy portfolio will span 11 countries. These projects include wind and solar farms in China and renewable-powered data centres in Denmark.
Apple Park in Cupertino
Apple park is the company’s new worldwide headquarters in Cupertino, California, and is powered completely by multiple renewable sources. These include a 17-megawatt solar installation spanning the roof of the ring-shaped building – one of the largest on-site solar installations in the world – and four megawatts of biogas fuel cells. The sources are controlled by an on-site microgrid with battery storage, and clean energy is fed back into the local public energy grid during times of when production is higher than demand.
The five million square foot site features an orchard, meadow and pond, as well as two miles of walking and running paths for employees. The building itself is surrounded by the world’s largest panels of curved glass, reducing the need for artificial lighting. It is also the world’s largest naturally ventilated building, needing no heating or air conditioning for nine months of the year.
All of Apple’s data centres are also powered by renewable energy. Therefore, every time you send an iMessage, ask Siri a question or make a FaceTime call, the energy used by the data centre is being drawn from a renewable source. All of the data centres currently under construction are being built to be 100% renewable from day one. A new data centre is currently being erected in Waukee, Iowa, and Apple are working with the local community and authorities to improve the sustainability in the whole area. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said: “Apple’s commitment to innovation and renewable energy leadership mirrors our own. This investment in our state is vital as we continue to develop as a technology hub and grow our workforce”. The data centre is scheduled to be brought online in 2020.
Increasing Device Energy Efficiency
Apple are not only conscious about their environmental impact in global corporate sites, they also take in to consideration the amount of energy used to run their devices. The iPhone X can be fully charged once per day for a year for just 75 US cents (according to the
US Energy Information Administration average electricity cost in the US for January 2018). A number of apple devices have been made more energy efficient as their models progress. As an example, the current version of the iMac now consumes up to 96% less energy in sleep mode than the first generation. These changes mean that customers are consuming less energy to power their Apple devices, and in turn fewer fossil fuels are consumed in the production of this electricity.
Recycling Old Devices
Recycling is also a focus for Apple. Daisy is Apple’s deconstruction robot, capable of disassembling nine versions of the iPhone and sorting the different components for recycling. Daisy, and its predecessor Liam, can take apart devices much more efficiently than any other method, meaning that more parts of the devices can be recycled and less is wasted. Apple are constantly looking at new ways to reuse old materials rather than extracting them from the earth and have an ambition to one day extract no more materials from the earth, and instead just re-use resources from old devices.
“Our ambition is that one day we’ll extract nothing from the earth”Apple
Daisy has been constructed out of many of Liam’s old units, so even the recycling robot is made of recycled parts. Daisy can take apart 200 iPhones per hour and can recover ten different metals from the devices for recycling.
Durability and life expectancy are areas in which Apple are constantly testing their products. If devices are protected more against the strain of general use, they will be in use for longer and replacements will be brought less frequently. iPhones and Apple Watches are assessed in the Reliability Testing Lab, where they are exposed to extreme heat and cold, water and everyday chemicals. Scratch tests from materials like denim and metal coins are carried out, as well as the devices being places in rotating drums to simulate many months of use in a much shorter time.
The amount of plastic in packaging has been greatly reduced in recent years, in favour of sustainably sourced paper and other alternatives. 100% of the paper used in Apple packaging is from responsibly managed sources, controlled wood or recycled sources. Some plastic elements have been replaced with renewable materials, such as bamboo fibre and bagasse, a by-product of the production of sugar cane.
The size and weight of packaging has also been decreased. This allows for more devices to be carried in the same amount of space, reducing the amount of fuel required to carry these products over land, air or sea.
In both the United States and China, Apple are helping charities to conserve forests for sustainable timber production. 36,000 acres of sustainable forest are being protected in the Eastern US in partnership with The Conservation Fund. Similarly, Apple has helped to improve the management of over 75,000 acres of forest in China by working alongside the World Wildlife Fund.
“To truly secure forests, companies must also proactively conserve the acreage of working forests around the world… Apple is doing so… through this and other initiatives”World Wildlife Fund
Apple are conscious of the amount of water is used, and wasted, every day in their facilities worldwide. Therefore, in their datacentres they have a specially designed solution to allow them to prevent water wastage and detect leaks in their cooling systems. Sensors and control devices have been installed in Apple Park’s landscaping, which saves 59.8 million litres each year by only releasing the amount of water needed. The process of collecting rainwater is becoming more common, and Apple are now using this non-potable water for purposes such as flushing toilets and watering plants.
By working with suppliers to reduce their water waste, Apple have promoted innovation to allow the suppliers to help to reduce other company’s water footprint and not just their own. They helped to conserve 18.9 billion litres of water in 2017 alone, with the average water reuse increasing to 37% over 106 sites.