Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Apple reduced the iPad 2 carbon footprint by 20 percent

Last week the environmental report of the iPad 2, where we learned that its carbon footprint is 105 kg CO2e, a reduction of 19.2% comparing to the footprint of the first model.

This is the first out of two posts where we'll analyze the differences between the iPad and iPad 2 from a green point of view. Today we'll focus on the carbon footprint.

So, here's the carbon footprint of the iPad 2:

And here's the carbon footprint of the iPad:

Now let's look at figures instead of percentages as part of the total footprint:

iPad iPad 2 Change
Production 75.4 63 -16.4%
Transport 14.3 10.5 -26.6%
Customer use 39 30.45 -21.9%
Recycling 1.3 1.05 -19.2%
Carbon footprint: 130 105 -19.2%

As you can see, we have a reduction in the footprint of each one of the 4 components in the life cycle of the device. The greatest reduction is in transport, followed by customer use, recycling and production.

What's the reason for these changes and does this 20% reduction in the carbon footprint means that the iPad 2 is green? We'll try to answer in these questions on Thursday, on the second part of this analysis.

Comparing the iPad 2 it to paper books:

For this comparison, I'll use the figure of 7.46 kg of CO2 to represent the lifecycle carbon emissions of an average book. This is also the figure I used for the comparison made for the first model of the iPad.

This figure was presented on the Cleantech report (The Environmental Impact of Amazon's Kindle) and according to the report based on three independent studies that used life cycle analysis calculators to assess the impact of raw materials (I know it's much higher from the figure of 4.01 kg presented on the 2008 Environmental Trends and Climate Impacts: Findings from the U.S. Book Industry report, but I believe it helps to make the comparison more balanced).

So, comparing between the two gives us the following breakeven point: iPad 2 = 14.1 paper books.

It means that if you put aside all the other uses of the iPad, then from a carbon footprint point of view, it becomes a more environmental friendly alternative option for book reading once you finished reading your 14th book on your iPad (or 15th book if you want to be more accurate).

If you make the comparison based on the
4.01 kg CO2 per book (provided by the Environmental Trends and Climate Impacts: Findings from the U.S. Book Industry report), the breakeven point is 26.2 books (comparing to 32.4 books for the first iPad).

This is of course a conservative estimate since the iPad, as a tablet computer, has many other users and actually reading ebooks is not the most popular use of these devices. If you take other uses in consideration, the breakeven point may be lower.

Last but not least, although I criticized Apple many times here and in other places, I think they deserve kudos for publishing this report and making it available just within a week of the release of the iPad 2. Right now they're the only ones doing it - Amazon or B&N don't disclose any sort of environmental reports on the Kindle or the Nook, so thank you Apple and I truly wish Amazon and others will try to imitate you not just in technological innovation but also in the level of transparency you're presenting.

More resources on how green is the iPad can be found on our website at www.ecolibris.net/ipad.asp

More resources on the ebooks vs. physical books environmental debate can be found on our website at www.ecolibris.net/ebooks.asp.

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Promoting sustainable reading!


plumbing said...

I didnt know that ipad have much more to offer than great features and applications. It is also a friendly electronic device.

Ben Benjabutr said...

Ipad 2 is much lighter than Ipad 1. Reduction in weight decreases material requirement, energy consumption in manufacturing process and lower carbon emission in transportation activities.