Apple Sustainability Report: GHGs up 34%, Down Per Dollar
Apple’s lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions rose 34 percent last year – a fact omitted by the company’s recently updated environmental report. But sales far outpaced emissions, rising 45 percent from $108.2 billion in 2011 to $156.5 billion in 2012.
The report, which is only available as a website, with separate PDF-based reports on facilities and individual product footprints, lacks many of the year-on-year comparisons common to corporate sustainability reports. It says the company’s greenhouse gas emissions per dollar of revenue has fallen 21.5 percent since 2008, but doesn’t show how this metric has changed since 2011.
The report does say that in 2012, Apple was responsible for 30.9 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, including GHGs from production, transport, product use and product recycling, as well as from Apple facilities and employee travel. The company doesn’t present total emissions for 2011, and Apple’s 2011 environmental report is no longer publicly available – whenever Apple publishes a new report, it simply replaces the information on its environmental reporting webpage.
A company spokesperson, however, told Environmental Leader that emissions in 2011 came to 23.1 million metric tons. This means lifecycle emissions rose by 34 percent over FY 2012. The spokesman said GHGs are up because Apple is selling significantly more products.
According to the environmental report, the majority of the company’s carbon footprint – 61 percent – comes from manufacturing. Another 30 percent comes from product use, 5 percent from transportation, 2 percent from facilities (including data centers) and 2 percent from recycling.
Facilities: GHGs and energy
A separate 2012 facilities report, published alongside the environmental website, shows that scope 1 and 2 emissions from the company’s facilities rose from 216,628 to 271,746 metric tons over FY 2012.
Facility electricity use increased from 493 million to 608 million kWh, staying roughly steady at corporate offices but rising substantially at data centers and retail stores. Both electricity and natural gas use fell on a per-employee basis.
Last year the company achieved 100 percent renewable energy use at its corporate facilities in Austin, Elk Grove, Cork and Munich, and at many sites in Australia, as well as at the Infinite Loop campus in Cupertino (where it last year installed a biogas-powered fuel cell and rooftop PV system) and data centers in Newark, Maiden and Prineville. Apple says it is on track to power its facilities entirely with renewable energy.
Across all the company’s facilities, it uses 75 percent renewable energy, a 114 percent increase since 2010. The company says use of renewable energy for its facilities saved 93 million kg of CO2e last year.
To get to 100 percent, it’s installing onsite solar arrays and fuel cells, and establishing long-term contracts with energy suppliers. Last year Apple completed construction of its largest end user-owned solar array, and the largest non-utility fuel cell in the US – both at its Maiden, NC data center.
The company is also constructing more energy-efficient buildings and updating existing ones. The Maiden data center is certified LEED Platinum, and Apple says it knows of no other data center of comparable size that has achieved the same status.
In 2012 at its Cupertino location, Apple says it cut energy use by over 30 percent while occupancy increased by more than 12 percent. The facilities report says this was achieved through equipment upgrades and control system improvements, including:
- New high-efficiency air-conditioning chillers with frictionless magnetic bearings, able to operate more efficiently in the Bay Area’s mild climate, cutting the number of chillers in half;
- New “state-of-the-art” hot-water boilers that can operate efficiently down to 5 percent of rated output;
- “Smart” garage exhaust fans that change speed based on carbon monoxide levels – expected on their own to reduce energy consumption by 548,000 kWh a year;
- Greater use of outside air to cool equipment, up to 80 percent of the time;
- Refined scheduling to distinguish labs and critical 24/7 loads from other facility areas.
The equipment upgrades and control system improvements at the Infinite Loop campus cut annual electricity use by 5.3 million kWh and annual gas consumption by 261,000 therms. The company says it expanded these practices across all its Cupertino facilities, and over two years found 12 million kWh in energy savings and 500,000 therms in natural gas savings.
It also says detailed energy modeling and lifecycle cost analysis on newly acquired buildings resulted in annual energy savings of 3.7 million kWh and 28,000 therms, compared to minimal California energy code compliance.
Manufacturing, product use and transportation
One manufacturing innovation that has helped cut energy use is friction-stir welding. Apple says this led to iMac production generating 67 percent fewer carbon emissions and using 68 percent less material than earlier generations. The company also reduced manufacturing emissions by 90 percent for the Apple TV, and by 49 percent for the Mac Mini, both between 2007 and 2012.
In 2012, it conducted 393 factory audits – a 72 percent increase over 2011 – including 44 specialized environmental audits.
Apple says it’s the only company in its industry whose entire product line exceeds Energy Star guidelines. Since 2008, it has cut the average power consumption of Apple products by 40 percent, and the portion of GHGs caused by product usage has fallen by 43 percent. It has cut power consumption on the 21.5-inch iMac by half, through in-plane switching display panel technology and more efficient power supplies, and today’s Apple TV uses a tenth the power of the original.
Apple bases its product-use emissions on products sold in the previous fiscal year, calculating power consumed over three years for handheld products, and four years for Mac computers and other products.
The company says packaging for the iPhone 5 is 28 percent smaller than for the original iPhone in 2007. This means up to 60 percent more iPhone boxes fit on each shipping pallet, saving one 747 flight for every 416,667 units Apple ships.
Water and waste
Water use per employee rose last year, although exact figures cannot be determined from the chart Apple provides. In 2012, the company used 1.4 million cubic meters of water, mainly for office building cooling, landscaping and sanitation. The Maiden data center has a cooling system that reuses water 35 times, cutting consumption by 20 percent. The data center also uses rainwater-supplied irrigation, a system Apple is evaluating for other sites.
Last year the company made bathroom faucet and fixture modifications that cut water per employee by 5 percent at its Cupertino facilities.
Hazardous waste output per employee more than doubled in FY 2012, from more than 0.2 to about 0.7 metric tons per employee (the report does not supply exact figures). But the company says its hazardous waste total, at 56 metric tons, is a small amount mostly resulting from research and development. Total solid waste from Apple facilities fell year-on-year by 9 percent, to 2,200 metric tons.
Chemicals and materials
Apple says it has eliminated BFRs from thousands of components, putting the company years ahead of its competitors, and uses mercury-free LED backlights and arsenic-free glass in all its displays. In 2012, Apple introduced its redesigned AirPort Express with an enclosure containing bio-based polymers derived from industrial-grade rapeseed and post-consumer recycled PC-ABS plastic. In most of its markets, it now offers PVC-free power cords.
It has found ways to re-use materials – for example, repolymerized plastic bottles feed into advanced materials for Mac Pro fan assemblies, and the aluminum stand on the iMac is made from 30 percent recycled content.
In 2012, the company again met its 2010 goal of a 70 percent worldwide recycling rate. The metric compares the weight of the materials Apple recycles each year to the total weight of products it sold seven years before.
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