‘Greening my Apple’

My research at the University of Surrey found that, of all its academic departments, academics based in electrical engineering were by far the least concerned by environmental issues, no doubt something to do with being on the crests of economic waves. (And possibly also something to do with the incredible gains in micro-processing efficiencies that have changed all our lives; although I suspect those electrical engineers probably tended to ignore how, as the explosion of cars and roads indicates, efficiency-gains don’t necessarily counteract cumulative increases in emissions.)

So it’s good to see that Apple’s Steve Jobs has finally responded to campaigning by the likes of Greenpeace. Jobs conveys how Apple has, in fact, been doing a lot more than some of their competitors, but has been slow to communicate its activities given a tradition of keeping innovation hushed up – not unusual, again in my research experience; see my ‘Awakening Giants’ in this online resource library.

One thing Jobs’ statement doesn’t cover is the energy consumption of Apple products. I recently explored the prospect of buying an iPod, and was dismayed by the tele-salesman’s perspective. In so many words, I was told not to worry about the fact that it’s difficult to replace the iPod’s battery. (Replacing the battery means sending the whole device to Apple’s technical wizards, and paying handsomely for it.) The salesman said that in three years time, when the battery comes to the end of its useful life, I would likely want to upgrade the device anyway. The implication was that, despite all the design’s sex-appeal, there’s little thought at Apple about designing products to be cherished. So still lots to do, Steve…

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