Apple gets a greenwash from Greenpeace's anti-greenwashing guide

Guide to Greener ElectronicsOne of the stories coming out of Las Vegas this week cought my eye: Greenpeace has issued its 14th quarterly report on "greener electronics," and Apple is prominently and repeatedly mentioned as one of the three most responsible companies.  One problem: that's not what the report actually says.

Both the report, which is a 3 MB PDF file, and the graphic above show that Apple is in a 5-way tie for a distant fifth place along with such smartphone competitors as Motorola (manufacturer of the DROID).  And that's also what the press release of the report says... 13 paragraphs down.  By the time it gets reprinted (I saw it on Yahoo! Green), Apple gets nicely polished, while third-place winners Toshiba and Philips don't even get mentioned.  Major smartphone players HTC (manufacturer of many Android and Windows Mobile phones) and Research in Motion (manufacturer of Blackberry devices) are not mentioned in the full report, making an Apples-to-(non-)Apples comparison difficult if you're shopping for a smartphone.  (The guide is more helpful if you're shopping for a green computer or game machine: Sony is the clear leader in these fields.)

So why does this purportedly anti-greenwashing guide greenwash Apple?  Did Apple gain a lot of points in the ratings this quarter?  Actually no, it only picked up 0.2 points.  But it did gain a lot of popularity.  Not only is the iPhone now the most popular cell phone on the market, but Apple's desktops and laptops are outselling PC models for the first time ever.  And Greenpeace credits consumer pressure for the environmental gains Apple has made in recent years.  So perhaps the spin on this article is intended to get Apple's name on the report in order to keep the pressure on... shape up, Apple!  The world is watching!  Good work, but you can do better!

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If I worked for Nokia or Sony Ericsson, I'd be very disppointed to have the thunder of our environmental achievement stolen by a competitor who ranks a distant 5th-place.  Not to mention Toshiba or Philips.  And low-scorers Nintendo, Microsoft, and Lenovo have dodged a serious bullet by avoiding mention in the articles based on this press release.  (I'm ashamed to say that although I have a MacBook and an iPod Touch, my household also includes three Nintendo machines.)  So thanks for the report, Greenpeace, but no thanks for the cynical spin!

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<p>Ben Stallings is a Web Developer for <em>Smartphone Magazine</em> and <em>iPhone Life</em>. He also does freelance Web development, specializing in the Drupal content-management system, under the name Interdependent Web. He lives in Emporia, Kansas.</p>