Thursday, July 5, 2012

How Green is the New iPad - part 1: comparing materials and production footprint to iPad 2

The new iPad has been with us almost 4 months (time goes by so fast..) and we figured it's about time to make a comparative analysis of its carbon footprint. In the next week or so we're going to explore the carbon footprint of the new iPad, compare it to the carbon footprint of iPad 2 and try to figure out if Apple has made any progress from environmental perspective with its new iPad and what's the new breakeven point between books and ebooks on the iPad. Every day we'll look into another part of the carbon footprint of the new iPad, starting today with production.

First, I have to say Apple should get kudos for the fact that it is releasing the carbon footprint of every new iPad it is releasing. No matter how their CSR is far from perfection or how they're behind most of the companies when it comes to sustainability or CDP reporting, when it comes to disclosing the environmental footprint of its products Apple is leading the way. e-reader and tablet sellers like Amazon or B&N are not even close to Apple, making basically every comparison between the environmental of books and ebooks on their products impossible. Therefore we should definitely appreciate the fact that Apple provide us with this detailed information.

Second, I want to mention that Apple revised the environmental report on the carbon footprint of iPad 2 (here's a link to the original report and here's the updated one). Apple of course excels in updates but this is still interesting given the fact that the revisions are quite substantial. We'll talk about it specifically in later on this week.

And after this long introduction we can finally start the first part of our analysis, which will be focused on production. We included not just information on the the new iPad and iPad 2, but also on the first iPad to give us a better understanding of the changes we see in the latest version of the iPad.

Carbon footprint of the new iPad - 120.6 kg CO2e
Carbon footprint of the iPad 2 - 85.8 kg CO2e
(Carbon footprint of the iPad - 75.4 kg CO2e)

Change: +40.6%

The new iPad continues a trend (at least according to the figures of the revised environmental footprint of the iPad 2) of growing carbon footprint when it comes to production. As you can see this is a significant increase of 40 percent and it's not clear what's the reason for it, as Apple claims that the materials have a reduced carbon footprint, which also helps to maximize shipping efficiency.

Here you can see the materials used for the new iPad (source: Apple's report):

And here are the materials used for the iPad2 (source: Apple's report - revised version)

Here's a comparison of the data presented in these graphs (weight, in grams):

New iPad iPad 2 Change
Display 132 142 - 7.0%
Plastics 10 19 -47.4%
Other metals 28 26 +7.7%
Circuit boards 40 40 0.0%
Glass 112 115 -2.6%
Battery 205 131 +56.5%
135 140 -3.6%

Let's see first what Apple says on the materials of the new iPad:

Apple’s ultracompact product and packaging designs lead the industry in material
efficiency. Reducing the material footprint of a product helps maximize shipping
efficiency. It also helps reduce energy consumed during production and material waste
generated at the end of the product’s life. iPad is made of aluminum and other materials
highly desired by recyclers.

Here's our take: First, it's interesting to see that Apple talks about reduction of the material footprint. If Apple refers to weight then the weight of the materials on the new iPad
(662 grams) is actually greater than the weight of iPad 2 (613 grams) in total. If Apple refers to the carbon footprint of the materials then we have no way to know whether it's true or not, as Apple doesn't provide the figures - only weight and the carbon footprint of the production, which probably includes more elements (any in any case is higher in the new iPad).

Also, other than the battery which is heavier on the new iPad, it seems that Apple has managed to achieve in general incremental reductions. Only the change that was made in plastic is rather substantial with a reduction of almost 50 percent.

Bottom line: When it comes to production the new iPad is actually going backwards, generating a significant higher carbon footprint. While Apple claims that the materials have lower footprint, we have no way to know it due to lack of data and we can see that in total the weight of materials used to build the iPad has gone up in the new iPad. In all, the big picture is quite disappointing to those who were looking to see improvement and progress with regards to the production and materials efficiency of the iPad.

Next part on our series: comparing energy efficiency.

More resources on how green is the iPad can be found on our website at

More resources on the ebooks vs. physical books environmental debate can be found on our website at

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Promoting sustainable reading!