The laptop is an indispensible tech product for most of us. But here’s the thing. For an environment-conscious person, there is an urge to select the best product in terms of capabilities, performance, quality, durability, and ensure that it doesn’t harm nature and its resources. Inevitably we have to select a product where we don’t have any control.
If we look at a laptop, there are 5 broad areas that we need to consider from an environmental conservation perspective (as such it is true for most products).
- Transport and Logistics – moving the raw materials to the manufactring & assembling facilities, taking it back to storage centers & retail stores, delivery to the consumer.
- Manufacturing & assembling – electricity consumed while manufacturing & assembling, materials & components used for making the laptop
- Packaging – All the materials used to keep the laptop safe, and to get it delivered to the consumer.
- Usage – One of the most important aspects, is the energy that is consumed in day-to-day usage.
- After usage – Afterlife of the laptop, the possibility of recovering materials
Carbon emissions are generated in each of the above activities. We have intentionally not considered the administration, retail, office building aspects, as they are generally common across multiple product lines of the company.
When I started exploring laptops, those were the 5 areas that required reflection from the environmental perspective. Based on my requirements, the manufacturers which I deliberated were Microsoft, HP, Dell, and Apple.
Apple is one such company that I found that has made serious commitments to the environment including its goal to become carbon neutral by 2030. Some of their plans as published in their Environmental Progress Report 2020 are –
- Leverage 100 percent renewable electricity for their retail stores, data centers, manufacturing facilities, and offices.
- Invest in projects that protect and restore forests & bio-diversity.
- Use 100% recycled materials for their products
- Eliminate plastics in their product packaging by 2025
- Stop the waste that goes to the landfill from all their facilities
As we’re examining the choices, on November 10th Apple made the annoucement to launch its M1 chip. While going through the launch event, John Ternus,VP of Apple’s Engineering team spent additional few seconds explaining their take on the environment-friendly laptop.
(whether it was a marketing stunt or their genuine concern, but that was a clincher and I decided to go ahead and become the initial few buyers of Apple Macbook Air on its own M1 chip)
If you want to understand the technicalities of the M1 chip, here is one review that you can refer to.
In case you don’t want to go through that, in brief, the latest chip is an amalgamation of multiple components in a laptop processing (like CPU, Memory, Controller, I/O, Security) in one single chip. Therefore, this single M1 chip provides seamless integration between the hardware (those multiple components) and the software (the applications like photos, browser, movie player, etc).
Along with other hardware alterations, the devices launched on the M1 chip are supposedly a powerful lot – Apple Macbook Air, Apple Macbook Pro, and Mac Mini.
Coming back to the environment angle, for most of the below points I don’t have any evidence to vouch for their claims, but these are reasons that made me buy the Apple Macbook Air device.
Transport & storage – Cannot really comment on the transport, which I think would be different in each country, depending on the demand. Most of the big cities of the world have their own retail store or authorized dealership.
Packaging – I ordered the product online from their website, the product was delivered in a cardboard box. Once that is opened, the outer cover of their standard white box had a layer of thin plastic, which I feel is quite unnecessary. The laptop as well had a thick layer of plastic wrapped around it. The safe box of the device was not plastic and as per their claims, overall the packaging is 94% fiber-based.
Materials and manufacturing – As per the details mentioned, Apple Macbook Air is made with 100% recycled aluminum enclosure and completely recycled tin in the solder of the main logic board. The laptop is devoid of harmful chemicals like arsenic in the display glass, mercury, PVC, and Beryllium.
Again as per claims, “the 13-inch MacBook Air final assembly supplier sites are transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy for Apple production”.
Usage – Here I don’t have to look at their claims. This is something, which as a user we will know. The performance is absolutely great, it can perform some real hard tasks like video making, photo editing with utmost ease, and the magic keyboard makes typing extremely smooth. The best aspect of the M1-powered Apple Macbook Air is its energy efficiency. This is my observance in my last 2 weeks of usage, in single full charge
- Normal Usage – Browsing, watching YouTube videos, Emails – I can use my laptop for 12-14 hours.
- Medium to High Usage – Zoom calls, browsing, video editing – It is giving about 8-10 hours.
This makes this laptop extremely unique, firstly I don’t have to sit near a charging point every few hours, secondly less charging means less electricity consumption, eventually lesser impact on the planet.
“The 13-inch MacBook Air uses 71 percent less energy than the requirement for ENERGY STAR.”
After Life – Apple has a facility for the customers to return their old devices to Apple in exchange for credit or a company gift card.
Conclusion – Apple Macbook Air is an eco-friendly laptop
In conclusion, we cannot really corroborate the claims being made by Apple, but coming from an industry giant, we have to go with what is specified and kind of conclude that this looks to be one of the best eco-friendly laptops out there in the market.
Again as mentioned in their report, the 13-inch Apple MacBook Air (with 256GB storage) carbon footprint is 161 kg CO2e which is approximately 5 percent lower compared with the previous generation.
The global laptop market is more than $100 bn annually, with almost 160 million laptops sold worldwide. The online classes, freelancing jobs, work from home – the sale of laptops is definitely going to increase in this digital era.
In case, your requirements and budget align with the Macbook series of laptops, Apple is a good option to buy for someone who cares for the environment.