iPhone: Greener Gadget Yes or No?
With its unique touchscreen and potentially hazardous materials lurking behind it, is the iPhone a small green leap forward?This post goes out to Alan, the intrepid community moderator over at Planet Green and here at TreeHugger, who's expertise and deft touch I admire.
Recently I wrote a post entitled NYC Bicycle Shelter Parking iPhone Photos: How Street It Is wherein I put up some snaps I grabbed on the fly using said technology. The comments, excerpted below, found my mention of the iPhone by turns "ridiculous," "pretentious," and "lame." So why on (protect the) earth would I even include the word iPhone? Could it be because it is a greener gadget?Around the time leading up to the release of the iPhone, about a year ago, Greenpeace was turning up the heat on Steve Jobs and Apple Computer to not only innovate by bringing elegantly designed and user-friendly products to market, but also to shape its products and business practices with the environment in mind. At the time, I called the retort of record from Jobs, A Greener Apple, "a tad defensive." I'm hoping not to find myself aping Jobs' tone here when I say concurrent with all of those goings on, I myself had no designs or burning interest whatsoever in participating in iPhone fever, rather I simply wanted to deal with the personal tech crisis of my seven-year-old Titanium PowerBook having been smashed.
In my post on that topic, I used the (to me) amusing and colorful event to plug a key distinction between the new Apple laptops, that the 15-inch models had LED screens, and therefore are mercury and arsenic free, while it was little known that the 17-inch models were not. Furthermore, it seemed a fine opportunity to tell folks about an awesome electronic waste disposal event coming up (which by the way just happened again this year). All of this is by way of pointing out that I make a modest attempt in my everyday life to lesson my ecological footprint due to manufacture and shipping of tech by metaphorically driving into the ground and using to death, call it what you will, any computer or gadget I purchase; and then I attempt to lessen my hazardous chemical footprint with proper disposal and recycling habits.
So a few months later when the streaming video of Live Earth from Australia rolled around the globe midnight my time, I immediately snarked at the band Eskimo Joe who's lead singer was proclaiming in so many words that dealing with the environmental crisis before us had "nothing to do with the iPhone coming out." To clarify, while the computer and electronic industries may not be leading drivers of climate change beyond the above mentioned manufacturing and shipping impacts common to most industries, climate change the symptom is but itself the tip of the melting iceberg as it were (now that simile is in fact incredibly lame!) of the environmental crisis facing life on earth for we humans as we know it. As I told Jacob Gordan on TreeHugger Radio in the context of discussing the release of the film The Eleventh Hour, the collapse of ecosystems, species loss, pollution, the water crisis etc. were then beginning to integrate into the discussion and hopefully the consciousness of more and more people. By Earth Day this year, colleagues such as Simran Sethi, Sarah Rich, and Ben Jervey began to dig in their heals behind the issue-oriented Enviro New Wave; and well they should as should we all because moving beyond eco-tips hinged to the notion of mitigating atmospheric CO2, methane and other GHGs, notwithstanding the importance of doing so, is critical toward achieving the type of deep systemic change necessary for preserving life as we know it. In short, we are interdependent with other forms of life on this planet which must be preserved, sustained and celebrated for our continued (and hopefully for the most part joyous) interdependence with one-another to continue.
Such are the stakes behind conversations like those of the Greener Gadgets Conference in February. The Electronics Materials and Lifecycle panel discussion raised the importance of the iPhone as a step in the right direction: it is a greener gadget simply for the reason that its interface is infinitely upgradable in that it has no physical keyboard. Easy to apply software updates provided via the internet further extend the life of the product. Is the iPhone a groundbreaking Cradle To Cradle design? Certainly not as one will clearly see when they WATCH>> this two-minute video. [Scientist Guts iPhone Snooping For Hazardous Materials] Greenpeace ripped apart an iPhone to isolate which hazardous materials and toxic chemicals were present and in what amounts. Verdict: brominated flame retardants (BFRs), chlorine, pthalate-rich PVC. Remember, as Dr. Michael Braungardt points out in the book Cradle to Cradle, substances which are toxic to humans exist in nature, indeed corporal damage and death await us around each turn, so the pie-in-the-sky notion of eliminating all such materials in our technologies would not only be naïve but certainly ridiculous. However the larger point is for the makers of products to take responsibility for the end-of-life of their goods, which Apple like so many others have yet to work out. Which is why, given the life-extending features of the interface in contradistinction to the current hazards presented by its end of use, the iPhone can be categorized as a greener gadget while not necessarily a green one.
In pretentious conclusion, given my consideration that the iPhone represents a positive green step, I chose to plug the iPhone not once but twice in my post about the bicycle shelter.
Here is a sampling of the comments from that post NYC Bicycle Shelter Parking iPhone Photos: How Street It Is:
First I want to comment on how ridiculous it is that you mentioned your iPhone, not just once, but twice...in the tile of the post even! Can we say pretentious?surfcam
I was also totally confused by the mention of the iPhone! What does that have to do with the bike rack?? Poor journalism if you ask me.Christina
Does it matter the iPhone took it? Quality isn't even that good.Maybe I should name my photos from my camera."NYC Bicycle Shelter Parking Sony PHotos : How Street it is"Not to mention neither Apple or Sony have anything to do with the story.Gregory
lame that the iphone was mentioned twice BUT...god knows what's in the laptop you're commenting from.A computer is a big choice, lots of hazmats and the likes. the impact of which should be one that EVERYONE is looking towards more as e-waste piles up at horrific levelsI've got a clunky old desktop and an iPhone because i'm on a bicycle all the time.this is a professionally put together blog, bite your thumbs and note that he is blogging on the go using a device that's smaller and has less of an impact than the battery in your macbook