EPEAT Repeat

A few days after Apple’s exodus from EPEAT, the tech giant reversed its decision, once again joining the environmental tech registry. Apple just can’t get a break. They are getting as much bad press from this flakey maneuver as they did from exiting EPEAT in the first place.

It looks like Apple’s move did have some impact on EPEAT. Robert Frisbee, chief executive of EPEAT, posted that they are reconsidering ratings for ultrabooks. Unfortunately, this post is now 404 — taken down within a day. It looks like Apple is not the only organization flip-flopping on this issue.

Bob Mansfield, Senior Vice President of Hardware Engineering at Apple, reiterated Apple’s concern for the environment. This post is still up, demonstrating that Apple may be more decisive on this issue than EPEAT. Apple received numerous consumer complaints regarding the EPEAT fiasco. Mansfield points out that Apple exceeds the industry when it comes to the environment. They removed harmful toxins (BFRs and PVCs) from their products. Apple is peerless in reporting greenhouse gas emissions for every product they make. Apple has moved away from plastics, preferring materials that are highly recyclable. The most energy-efficient computers in the world are made by Apple. Mansfield concludes the post by advocating a stronger IEEE 1680.1┬ástandard — the basis of EPEAT’s rating system.

The blogosphere is on fire about this issue. Every tech pundit is weighing in on the impact this will have on Apple. In my opinion, Apple seems to have handled this better than EPEAT. In my original post on Apple’s exit from EPEAT, I mentioned that the Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics considers Apple, particularly their products, to be environmentally friendly. Apple can make improvements in process, policy, and operations, but their products are about as “green” as the come. It just depends on the criteria.

There may be good reason why Robert Frisbee’s post is no longer on the EPEAT home page. There are other ultrabooks that do make the registry. HP’s Envy Spectre XT gets the EPEAT Gold rating. It is an ultrabook comparable to Apple’s offerings. Even the price is competitive. Although, with HP, I do have some concerns about quality. This is a new product. The verdict is not out… My HP all-in-one printer/scanner/fax is so frustrating, it has made me scream on several occasions. I think that HP really stands for “Huge Problem”. HP has made numerous organizational changes. Perhaps their quality has improved. I don’t know if I would bet $1000 on it, though.

I still have to wonder, when push comes to shove, will a consumer buy an HP instead of a Macbook out of environmental concerns? I would still get the Mac. I like OS X, and I need it for software development. But this is a Windows world. EPEAT’s preference for HP and others’ ultrabooks may sway the consumer considering the switch to a Mac. Beyond the environment, many people just want a battery that is easily replaced. The new Macbook Pro’s battery is glued to the case. That said, the quality of the battery is such that replacement is unlikely. I have found this to be true of all Apple products I own.

Bob Mansfield does make some compelling points. EPEAT is just one registry with their set of criteria. These are not the only measures of environmental standards. EPEAT is, however, the most officially recognized registry of environmental ratings. Governments and other organizations use this guide to make purchases. I don’t think this is a huge blow to Apple’s bottom line, but it has generated a lot of bad PR. Apple should have never left EPEAT. No matter how hard they try, they cannot put that genie back in the bottle.

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