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Apple unveils its first carbon neutral products

by Kyle Meranda

Apple has made a significant stride in its efforts to combat climate change with the unveiling of its first-ever carbon neutral products. The new Apple Watch lineup, released on September 12, 2023, boasts innovations in design and clean energy that have resulted in emissions reductions of over 75 percent for each carbon neutral Apple Watch. This achievement is a major step toward Apple’s ambitious goal of making every product carbon neutral by 2030, including its global supply chain and the lifetime use of every device it produces.

As part of its broader environmental efforts and the Apple 2030 initiative, Apple has made several other key announcements. The company has eliminated the use of leather across all of its product lines and introduced fiber-based packaging for the new Apple Watch lineup, marking a significant shift toward sustainability. Apple has also continued to expand the use of recycled materials in its iPhone products.

In addition to these product-related measures, Apple has introduced a new tool called Grid Forecast in the Home app. This tool helps users make informed decisions about when to use electricity by providing information about the availability of cleaner energy on their local power grid.

Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives, emphasized the company’s commitment to leading the fight against climate change. She stated, “At Apple, we have a longstanding and proven commitment to leading the fight against climate change. Our focus on renewable energy and low-carbon design has already driven industry-leading emissions reductions, and we’re not slowing down.”

Apple’s approach to product decarbonization is centered around reducing greenhouse gas emissions from three key sources: electricity, materials, and transportation. The company prioritizes steep emissions cuts before applying high-quality carbon credits from nature-based projects to address remaining emissions that cannot be avoided or reduced with existing solutions.

Every carbon neutral Apple Watch model meets strict criteria, including the use of 100 percent clean electricity for manufacturing and product use, a minimum of 30 percent recycled or renewable material by weight, and 50 percent of shipping without the use of air transportation. These efforts result in at least a 75 percent reduction in product emissions for each model, and the company will employ carbon credits to offset the small amount of remaining emissions, ensuring a carbon neutral product footprint.

Apple’s journey toward carbon neutrality began over a decade ago and has ramped up significantly in recent years. In 2020, the company achieved carbon neutrality for its global corporate operations and announced the Apple 2030 strategy to be carbon neutral across its entire value chain by 2030. Apple’s plan aims for a 75 percent reduction in overall carbon emissions from 2015 levels.

To achieve its goals, Apple focuses on expanding renewable energy across its operations and supply chain, designing with recycled and renewable materials, and avoiding carbon-generating activities. The company has reduced total emissions by over 45 percent since 2015 while simultaneously achieving significant revenue growth.

Apple’s commitment to clean energy extends to its suppliers, who have committed to using 100 percent renewable electricity for all Apple production by the end of the decade. Over 300 global suppliers, representing more than 90 percent of Apple’s direct manufacturing spend, have joined the Supplier Clean Energy Program. As a result, Apple and its suppliers now support over 15 gigawatts of clean energy, equivalent to powering over 5 million American homes.

In terms of design, Apple has made groundbreaking progress in the use of recycled materials and is actively phasing out the use of leather across its product lines. The company has introduced FineWoven, a textile made from 68 percent post-consumer recycled content, as a replacement for leather. It is available on iPhone MagSafe cases and wallets, as well as Apple Watch bands. Apple’s commitment to recyclable and renewable materials extends to the use of 100 percent recycled rare earth magnets and 100 percent recycled cobalt in the batteries of certain products.

Reducing transportation emissions is another focus for Apple, as it accounts for about 9 percent of the company’s carbon footprint. Apple is shifting more product volume to less carbon-intensive shipping modes such as ocean or rail. For the carbon neutral Apple Watch models, at least 50 percent of the combined weight will be shipped using non-air modes, resulting in nearly a 50 percent reduction in transportation emissions.

Apple’s dedication to combatting climate change goes beyond its own operations. The company supports broader efforts to decarbonize shipping industries and is a member of the First Movers Coalition. Apple also conducts analysis to identify pathways for developing sustainable aviation fuels.

Overall, the release of Apple’s first carbon neutral products represents a significant achievement in the company’s ongoing fight against climate change. It demonstrates Apple’s commitment to sustainability and its determination to make a positive impact on the environment. With its clear roadmap and rigorous approach to decarbonization, Apple is setting a strong example for other companies and industries to follow.

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