Earth Day ’14: New Apple Ad, Video, and Promise

Amends for a Dirty Past

In 2011, Greenpeace released a report called “How Dirty is Your Data?” It graded each internet firm on the filthiness of its cloud operations. Apple earned the dubious distinction of being the among the worst climate offenders, with the most reliance on coal and the lowest score in clean energy. In early 2012, Greenpeace singled out Apple as a target for staged demonstrations. It released balloons in the shape of coal briquettes inside Apple’s Fifth Ave retail store, and inflated a giant iPod outside the firm’s Cupertino headquarters. Not long afterwards—though Apple says the announcement was long in the making—the company proclaimed its intent to power all its operations via renewables like wind, biogas, hydro, and solar. “We had a fairly high degree of skepticism,” says David Pomerantz, a Greenpeace media officer.

But that promise wasn’t just hot air. Last month Greenpeace issued another report card. Apple was at the head of the class, with 100 percent of its total data center power consumption coming from renewables. “They’ve really followed through,” says Greenpeace senior policy analyst Gary Cook. (No relation to Tim, one assumes.) “The facts on the ground have changed.” Cook emphasizes that there is still work for Apple to do, especially in China, where the company should be working harder to reform the globe-busting activities of some of its suppliers. (After multiple reports of Apple suppliers dumping toxic wastes into the water supply, the company has been working with environmental groups to improve its record.) And in addition to its own data centers Apple has servers in “co-location” facilities, some of which snarf up dirty energy: Greenpeace wants Apple to be more aggressive to get these co-lo’s to change their ways. But overall, Greenpeace is pleased. “They saw they had responsibility and they’ve been acting on that responsibility,” says Cook. (Meanwhile Greenpeace’s new punching bags are Amazon and Twitter, whose dirty-power grades were abysmal. Amazon has objected to the rating.)

In a new ad released Monday…

Apple CEO Tim Cook can be heard extolling Apple’s highly human intentions to be ever greener, ever more conscious of the environment and its perilous future.

“We have a long way to go and a lot to learn,” says Cook. But he’s convinced that Apple will “leave the world better than we found it.”  Cook claims that making the world better is “in our DNA.” But “better can’t be better if it doesn’t consider everything.”

This new Apple ad coincides with Earth Day, April 22. It’s accompanied by a revamped environment page on the Apple Web site. This reveals that today’s iMacs use 97 percent less electricity in sleep mode than the original versions.

It also features the definitive statement: “We believe climate change is real.”

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