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Promoting ‘green tech’: Apple takes the lead

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Adnan Adams Mohammed
The fight towards ‘Green world’ seems to be yielding results as advocacy, policy refocusing and attitudinal changes indicate progressive milestone.
Consequently, the field of “green technology” which encompasses a continuously evolving group of methods and materials, from techniques for generating energy to non-toxic cleaning products.
The present expectation is that this field will bring innovation and changes in daily life of similar magnitude to the “information technology” explosion over the last two decades.
In line with the effort being pursued towards “green technology”, Apple, a giant in the IT industry, on Monday said it had achieved a goal of “100 percent clean energy” for its facilities around the world.

Apple noted that, its retail stores, offices, data centers and co-located facilities in 43 countries were operating with nonpolluting or renewable energy. It added that, nine additional manufacturing partners have committed to power all of their Apple production with clean energy, bringing the total number of supplier commitments to 23.

Apple chief executive, Tim Cook said in a statement; “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”, Cook assured.

The news follows a similar announcement from Google, which claimed in December it had attained a goal of 100 percent renewable energy.

The California tech giant, Apple, said the company and its partners are building renewable energy projects around the world, including solar arrays and wind farms, as well as emerging technologies like biogas fuel cells, micro-hydro generation systems and energy storage technologies.

The company said it has 25 operational renewable energy projects around the world, totaling 626 megawatts of generation capacity.

It also has 15 more projects in construction. Once built, over 1.4 gigawatts of renewable energy generation will be spread across 11 countries.

This news comes as a welcoming news to environmentalists and ‘Green conscious’ individuals and organisations.  
“Green technology” is a wide field which need a broad and concerted effort to help achieve the set goals. The goals that inform developments in this rapidly growing field include: Sustainability, which is, meeting the needs of society in ways that can continue indefinitely into the future without damaging or depleting natural resources. In short, meeting present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs; “Cradle to cradle” design – ending the “cradle to grave” cycle of manufactured products, by creating products that can be fully reclaimed or re-used; Source reduction – reducing waste and pollution by changing patterns of production and consumption.
Others are: Innovation – developing alternatives to technologies – whether fossil fuel or chemical intensive agriculture – that have been demonstrated to damage health and the environment; Viability – creating a center of economic activity around technologies and products that benefit the environment, speeding their implementation and creating new careers that truly protect the planet.
“Green technology” subject areas comprises: Energy, perhaps the most urgent issue for “green technology”, this includes the development of alternative fuels, new means of generating energy and energy efficiency; Green building, green building encompasses everything from the choice of building materials to where a building is located; Environmentally preferred purchasing, this is mostly influenced by government policies. It is an innovation which involves the search for products whose contents and methods of production have the smallest possible impact on the environment, and mandates that these be the preferred products for government or individual purchasing.
Green chemistry, the invention, design and application of chemical products and processes to reduce or to eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances; Green nanotechnology, this involves the manipulation of materials at the scale of the nanometer, one billionth of a meter. Some scientists believe that mastery of this subject is forthcoming that will transform the way that everything in the world is manufactured. “Green nanotechnology” is the application of green chemistry and green engineering principles to this field. These are the few to talk of for in this article.
Guide to Greener Electronics
In this regard, global electronics companies have been encouraged by Greenpeace International to do more to end the use of climate-changing dirty energy in their manufacturing and supply chains.
Greenpeace International’s released the 18th version of the Guide to Greener Electronics some years ago. It ranked 16 electronics companies, including 7 mobile phone makers, based on their commitment and progress in three environmental areas: Energy and Climate, Greener Products and Sustainable Operations.
The Guide’s criteria reflect Greenpeace’s demands of electronics companies to: reduce emissions of greenhouse gases; clean up their products by eliminating hazardous substances;      take-back and recycle their products responsibly once they become obsolete, and; stop the use of unsustainable materials in their products and packaging.
It is said that, the bulk of the carbon footprint associated with many electronic devices is buried in the manufacturing chain, where the electronic devices are assembled. More carbon is used in the manufacture of smartphones than consumers ever use after buying them.
“Companies should work with their suppliers to implement more efficient manufacturing processes and to power the supply chain with renewable energy, not fossil fuels, just as they have successfully done to reduce the toxic materials in electronics,” said Greenpeace International IT analyst Casey Harrell.
Carbon footprint of a mobile phone
According to IT analyst, manufacturing an ordinary mobile phone is estimated to cause 16 kg of CO2 equivalent emissions, nearly the same as 1 kg of beef. Adding the power it consumes over two years (average phone use length) and that figure rises to 22 kg. But the footprint of the energy used to transmit your calls across the network is about three times all this put together taking us to 94 kg CO2 equivalent over the life of the phone.
Apple publishes environmental impact reports for all its smartphones which cover: greenhouse gas emissions during production, transport, use and recycling; energy efficiency; amount of materials used; and use of restricted substances. The carbon footprint for the manufacture and use of their smartphones (not including the transmission of calls) is 55 kg CO2e for the iPhone 4s, 60 kg for the 5C and 70 kg for the 5s.
To reduce the impact of mobile phone on environment, texting is a much lower carbon option than calling. But for calls, landlines take only a third of the power to transmit a call than it does when both callers are on a mobile.
Steps to producing a smarter phones
Tim Cooper, Professor of Sustainable Design and Consumption at Nottingham Trent University, proposes some of the ways phone manufacturers could reduce the impact of their products on the environment – from design innovation and technological advances to improved production processes.
These are: Energy-saving batteries, the organic radical battery (ORB) uses no heavy metals that can be harmful to humans, and charges in just 30 seconds; Change contract length, a UK mobile phone’s typical lifetime is just 18 months. Instead of offering contracts that encourage us to keep upgrading when our phones are still usable, the industry could offer customers savings if we take on longer contracts, or explore options like fixing or leasing, helping phones live longer. One Swiss study concluded that extending service life from one to four years would decrease environmental impacts by about 40%; Design for disassembly and repair, many phones are deliberately glued shut or have special screws that stop users from opening them. Designing phones so they are easier to take apart, to repair or replace parts would make a big difference. And it would make it more cost-effective to extract and reuse components and metals.
The rest are: Choose greener materials, such as polylactic acid plastic (PLA), which is made entirely from corn starch or glucose and is renewable and biodegradable; recycled plastic, and natural materials like bamboo. Or use fewer materials; and, Cut down on packaging and accessories, are all those manuals, chargers and packaging materials really needed? 70% of buyers already have compatible chargers for the 30 million new phones sold annually. HTC, Nokia an
d Sony now sell some models with just USB leads instead of unnecessary chargers, as part of O2’s Chargers out of the Box campaign.

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