Does Apple's abandonment of EPEAT mean it's going less green?

New MacBook is difficult to disassemble for upgrades, repairs, and recycling -- and could force the green-minded to rethink Apple loyalties

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All this leads to some key questions: First, why did Apple, which has taken pains to defend and promote its environmental record, roll out a machine that would not meet EPEAT standards? In years past, the company has demonstrated an arguably unrivaled panache for engineering magic; even its ultralight, ultrathin MacBook Air achieved EPEAT gold. Could it be that Apple's engineering magic has faded and it couldn't devise a way to cram all the functionality it wanted into this new model while adhering to best green practices?

A more cynical perspective (voiced by at least one Level 4 user on the Apple forums): Apple is intentionally moving toward a closed-box model, where consumers can't customize or upgrade their Macs and are forced to replace machines entirely when the old ones no longer work.

If that is Apple's game, it marks a blow to the green movement, even if Apple continues to adhere to other EPEAT criteria, such as high power efficiency, little to no toxic materials, and so on. It means a lot more waste as organizations and consumers are forced to ship products back and forth or call in an expert when repairs are necessary, then to send them off for recycling when they no long meet a user's needs.

The fallout for this should prove interesting, especially given Apple's history of defending its eco-sensitivity against the likes of Greenpeace. The company is effectively forcing organizations and consumers to choose between using Apple and being green. In time, the company may find that, for some customers, green is more important, both from an environmental perspective and a cost-saving perspective. The company has its work cut out in convincing people who care that it's still fully committed to green, not just committed so long as it's convenient.

If there's a positive side to Apple's bold move -- again, the company went so far as to have 39 previous listed items remove from the registry -- it's that it may force the minds behind EPEAT to rethink the registry's scoring criteria. The group has taken pains to involve manufacturers, customers, and third-party experts in crafting criteria that are fair, relevant, and meaningful, but some changes could be necessary to reflect how computer hardware has evolved. However, it's tough to imagine the dropping ease of disassembly as a key criterion, given its impact on how easily a product can be repaired, upgraded, and recycled.

This story, "Does Apple's abandonment of EPEAT mean it's going less green?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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