Apple Is Tackling Climate Change by Using Renewables, Increasing Recycling, Limiting Waste

by | Aug 30, 2022

AppleApple Inc. is a multinational technology computer maker and software developer. Based in Cupertino, Calif., Apple is the largest tech company measured by revenues: $366 billion in 2021. It was founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne. 

Apple has connected the world through its electronics, and it also trying to better the planet through its sustainability efforts. As such, its goal is carbon neutrality by 2030 and to create products that are also net zero by the same time. Finally, it hopes to ensure its product supply chain only uses renewable electricity by 2030. 

Furthermore, it only uses recycled and renewable materials in its products and packaging. It aims to eliminate plastics in its packaging by 2025 and reduce its water impact while making its products and operating its facilities. And it wants to eliminate waste sent to landfills from its corporate facilities and suppliers. 

“Across all of these efforts, we never lose sight of our primary mission — working to address the climate crisis,” says Lisa Jackson, vice president of environment and policy for Apple. “It’s an urgent challenge no one company, entity, or individual can tackle alone, and this year, we’re addressing it with more ambition than ever before. In fact, we’ve begun to decouple business growth from emissions as we drive towards our goal of bringing our entire carbon footprint to be net zero by 2030 — including our supply chain and the use of our products.” 

Jackson, whose comments appeared in the company’s sustainability statement and who previously served as EPA administrator in the Obama administration, said that Apple’s revenues grew by 33%. At the same time, its net emissions remained flat in 2021. She adds that 213 of its top suppliers are committed to using 100% green energy, and in the last year, Apple doubled its use of renewable power. Additionally, last year, 18% of the materials in Apple products came from recycled sources. 

What is Apple doing to fight climate change?

Carbon neutrality is an aggressive goal, especially for a multinational company with operations all over the world. But Apple wants to achieve this by 2030. It also intends to reduce related emissions by 75% using a baseline of 2015. In 2021, it avoided more than 23 million metric tons of emissions and reduced its carbon footprint by 40%. This reduction comports with the goals set by the Paris agreement — to limit warming to 1.5°C. 

It attributes this success to efforts and initiatives that had long been underway — things like sourcing all of its renewable electricity for its facilities and using low-carbon materials in products. In 2018, Apple set out to fuel all of its retail stores, offices, and data centers using green energy. In 2020, it expanded its efforts to include business travel and employee commute.

Here’s what else Apple is doing:

— designing products and manufacturing processes to be less carbon-intensive by increasing material and product energy efficiency. 

— increasing energy efficiency at its facilities and supply chain by, in part, reducing energy use. This has avoided 0.06 million metric tons of CO2. 

— using 100% renewable energy at its facilities. This has avoided 1 million metric tons of CO2. 

— scaling up investments in nature-based solutions and restoring ecosystems worldwide.

“Since April 2020, we have been carbon neutral for our corporate emissions, including direct emissions (scope 1), electricity-related emissions (scope 2), as well as emissions from business travel and employee commute (scope 3), the company says. “To reach neutrality, we focused on driving energy efficiency improvements and transitioning our facilities to 100% renewable electricity, which we achieved in 2018. These programs have reduced our scope 1 and scope 2 emissions by 67 percent, even as our business grew.” 

Tell us more about your recycling efforts. 

The company makes dozens of products and ships tens of millions of products worldwide. Its strategy is to use low-carbon energy and recycled content. For example, by switching to recycled and low-carbon aluminum, its CO2 emissions tied to aluminum have fallen by 68% since 2015. The Ipad now uses 100% recycled aluminum in its enclosure. So does the Apple Watch. 

In 2021, Apple released eight products with 20% or more recycled content. It also doubled its use of recycled tungsten, rare earth elements, and cobalt while using for the first time certified recycled gold. 

It is using 75% fewer plastics in its packaging compared to 2015. However, the goal is to eliminate plastics in its packaging by 2025. Further, it will banish waste sent to landfill from its corporate offices, data centers, and retail stores.

“We aim to have our products be part of thriving, responsible, circular supply chains — where finite material extraction is replaced by continual recycling and reuse. We’re increasingly sourcing more of the materials we use from circular supply chains drawn from recycled content and renewable resources,” says the sustainability paper. 

In the last year:

— 18% of product material came from recycled and renewable sources. “This milestone is part of our broader strategy focusing on 14 materials that account for more than 90 percent of the total product mass shipped to our customers.” 

— plastics made up only 4% of packaging. 

— 59% of the aluminum came from recycled sources. 

— 13% of the cobalt in current products came from certified recycled sources, including end-of-life batteries.

— At least 100 facilities are ‘zero-waste’ while recycling and composting efforts diverted 68% of the company’s waste to landfills. 

And water use?

Apple tracks water use at its corporate offices, retail stores, and data centers, which have water management systems. Data centers make up 30% of the company’s water use. It says its supply chain accounts for 99% of its water footprint.

It uses recycled water for irrigation, cooling systems, and toilet flushing. The recycled water comes primarily from municipal treatment plants; less than 5% comes from onsite treatment. It also captures rainwater. 

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