The workplace of the inventor's technique. The hands of the worker are bound by a chain as a symbol of the prohibition on repair. Andrey Bukreev / iStock / Getty Images Plus
When our smartphones, televisions or other gadgets stop working, it seems like the only choice we have is to get rid of it. This never-ending stream of electronic waste has created mountains of toxic trash that's hazardous to people and the planet.
That's why consumers and lawmakers in the U.S. and Europe are fighting back under the burgeoning "Right to Repair" movement that demands manufacturers make products that last longer and are easier to fix, BBC News reported.
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If you ever felt like your iPhone is getting slower over time, Apple has admitted that it deliberately slows down the processing speeds of phones with older batteries to stop them shutting down without warning.
The tech giant is ultimately doing a good thing—even if it's in a sneaky, backhanded way. Smartphone batteries certainly have a limited lifespan.
For better or worse, corporations have a major influence on climate change policy. Just look at Koch Industries, a multinational conglomerate owned by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch that has contributed hundreds of millions to federal candidates and lobbying over the last 25 years.
The "Corporate Carbon Policy Footprint," a new analysis from U.K. nonprofit InfluenceMap, now ranks Koch Industries as the company with the strongest opposition to the Paris climate agreement and most intensely lobbies against policies in line with the landmark global accord.
Apple Inc. issued a $1 billion "green bond" on Tuesday, the first U.S. corporation to make such an offer in response to President Donald Trump's withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement.
Proceeds from bond sales will finance renewable energy projects and other environmental initiatives at Apple facilities and in its supply chain.
By Greg Alvarez
Over the past few months, we've seen big wind energy investments from the likes of GM, Facebook, Home Depot and others. But one of the world's largest companies and leading proponents of doing business using 100 percent renewable energy, has been conspicuously absent: Apple.
U.S. companies are taking a stand in these politically chaotic times.
So far, 127 technology firms are firing back at President Donald Trump's travel ban affecting immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Facebook, Apple and Google are leading the fight against Trump's immigration ban https://t.co/6lcwkRfP2a https://t.co/MoNxOmRmLP— Forbes (@Forbes)1486394161.0
The movement was led by nearly 100 Silicon Valley companies who filed a legal brief on Sunday to oppose the highly controversial executive order, arguing that it is unconstitutional and "inflicts significant harm on American business, innovation, and growth." Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Uber, Reddit, Netflix and Dropbox were among the 97 companies that initially signed on to support Washington state's lawsuit against Trump's order.
That list got substantially larger late Monday afternoon, when Tesla, SpaceX and 29 other tech firms joined the brief.
Tesla and SpaceX were notably absent on the original list of signatories. CEO Elon Musk, who happens to sit on Trump's business advisory council, previously said he would use his position to "express our objections to the recent executive order on immigration."
Regarding the meeting at the White House: https://t.co/8b1XH4oW6h— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk)1486085958.0
But as a Tesla spokesperson told the Verge, "as soon as we saw the brief this morning, we insisted on being added."
The suit is being heard in the ninth circuit federal court in San Francisco, California and has already succeeded in temporarily halting the enforcement of the executive order.
Many other companies are making real efforts to be socially responsible. The outdoor industry as a whole has taken a stand against Utah state's and the federal government's proposals to shed public lands.
In an open letter to Trump and Congress, more than 100 outdoor industry leaders led by REI have called upon elected officials to protect public lands and the integrity of the outdoor recreation industry, which powers $646 billion in gross national product.
Outdoor clothing big-hitter Patagonia also announced on Tuesday it will not participate in Utah's Outdoor Retailer shows after Gov. Gary Herbert signed a resolution on Friday urging the Trump administration to repeal the newly named Bears Ears National Monument.
A new Greenpeace report, Clicking Clean: Who is Winning the Race to Build a Green Internet?, finds that Apple, Google, Facebook and newcomer Switch are leading the charge to build a renewably powered internet. These companies are coupling transitions of their data centers to clean energy with strong advocacy for access to renewable options.
A classic example of a negotiation with a notoriously tough corporation that was quite heated (but ended up with a positive change) took place leading up to May 2, 2007, when Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, made the public statement on the Apple website, "Today is the first time we have openly discussed our plans to become a greener Apple. It will not be the last. We apologize for leaving you in the dark for so long."
Apple, Bank of America and Amalgamated Bank have pledged to go 100 percent renewable, joining the RE100 group.
This new solar project will supply Apple's data center in Arizona with renewable energy.Apple
Bank of America also announced it will be "carbon neutral" by 2020, while Apple announced new commitments to power its supply chain with renewable energy.
"Apple is committed to running on 100 percent renewable energy, and we're happy to stand beside other companies that are working toward the same effort," said Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president for Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives.
The announcements at Climate Week come on the heels of GM's pledge last week to power its worldwide operations with 100 percent clean energy by 2050.
.@GM Commits to Run on 100% #Renewables by 2050 https://t.co/x9dhx4uXCH #RenewableEnergy @BusinessGreen @VanJones68 @edbegleyjr @mzjacobson— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1474032839.0
"Apple has taken another important step to deliver on its commitment to powering its corner of the internet with 100 percent renewable energy," said Gary Cook, Greenpeace senior IT analyst. "This deal once again shows that renewables are not just good for the environment, but good for business."
For a deeper dive:
According to a new Greenpeace report, the Web would rank sixth in energy demand if it were a country. The amount of Internet data out there is expected to have tripled from 2012 to 2017. In that time, the Web population is expected to grow from 2.3 billion in 2012 to 3.6 billion people by 2017, or half of the world's population.
With that sort of virtual volume on deck, Web companies have to become greener.
In Clicking Clean: How Companies Are Creating the Green Internet, Greenpeace researchers make it clear which companies are leading the movement and which ones are still relying on fossil fuels.
Greenpeace evaluated the energy choices of 19 familiar Internet companies and more than 300 of their data centers. Five of those firms have announced a goal of powering their operations with 100-perecent renewable energy.
“Apple, Facebook and Google are powering our online lives with clean energy, and building a greener offline world for everyone in the process,” Gary Cook, a Greenpeace senior IT analyst, said in a statement. “These companies have proven over the past 24 months that wind and solar energy are ready and waiting to power the internet, and the rest of our economy, with clean electricity."
While all three companies are known for the renewable energy investments of recent years, Greenpeace particularly singled out Apple, the only company to earn a 100-percent score on its four-category Clean Energy Index. The company powers facilities like its Reno, NV data center with all clean energy, despite the local utility's resource mix being more than half comprised of natural gas. The same goes Apple's facility in Maiden, N.C., where 57 percent of the local mix is made up of nuclear energy.
Apple's North Carolina data center, which is home to the iCloud service, is powered by the largest privately owned solar installation in the country. Amazon and eBay, on the other hand, received 15 and 6 percent, respectively, on their indexes.
“Apple’s rapid shift to renewable energy over the past 24 months has made it clear why it’s one of the world’s most innovative and popular companies,” Cook said. “By continuing to buy dirty energy, Amazon Web Services not only can’t seem to keep up with Apple, but is dragging much of the internet down with it.”
In the organization's own words, here is what Greenpeace wants all "major" Internet companies to do:
- Make a long-term commitment to become 100-percent renewably powered.
- Commit to transparency on IT performance and consumption of resources, including the source of electricity, to enable customers, investors, and stakeholders to measure progress toward that goal.
- Develop a strategy for increasing their supply of renewable energy, through a mixture of procurement, investment, and corporate advocacy to both electricity suppliers and government decision-makers.
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It takes a lot of energy to enable web users to stream videos, downloads books and other online activities—about the same amount it would take to power 30 nuclear power plants.
Data centers around the world use about 30 gigawatts, or 30 billion watts of electricity, according to Green House Data. U.S. data centers account for nearly one-third of that amount, according to estimates compiled by The New York Times.
Stanford University research fellow Jonathan G. Koomey told the publication that U.S. data centers used about 76 billion kilowatt-hours in 2010, which equates to about 2 percent of the electricity used by the entire country that year.
Powering data centers with renewable energy sources like wind or solar is an obvious solution to global energy problems. Here are three companies who have announced plans to power their data centers with renewable energy:
The software corporation announced Monday that it would buy 110 megawatts (MW) of energy from a wind farm 70 miles northwest of Fort Worth, Texas to power its San Antonio data center. The 20-year agreement marks the first time the company will power a data center with clean energy.
"For Microsoft, signing a long-term [power purchase agreement] for wind energy is a significant milestone in our commitment to carbon neutrality," Robert Bernard wrote on the company's Green Blog. "It also underscores how the carbon fee is changing the way Microsoft does business globally. By placing a dollar value on a metric ton of carbon, Microsoft is building environmental sustainability into our long term business planning and creating a blueprint for more purchases of renewable energy like this one."
- An increase in the percentage of renewable energy, from 35 percent to 75 percent, over the last three years at corporate facilities.
- Apple opted out of default grid mix program in Prineville, OR in order to power its under-construction data center with wind, hydroelectric and solar.
- Like existing data centers in Maiden, NC and Newark, CA, a new Reno, NV site will be completely powered by renewable energy
Google purchased 48 MW of wind energy in 2012 to power a data center in Oklahoma that helps store Gmail, Google Docs and search engine results, Greenpeace reported. The company was faced with using a 50-percent coal mix before striking a power purchase agreement with the local utility.
Google also has a habit of investing millions in renewable facilities. The company Google announced its 13th renewable energy investment in three years last month by helping to fund a 265.7 MW solar project in California. The company pledged $103 million to Silver Ridge Power’s Mount Signal Solar project, which will power 80,000 homes and create 900 construction jobs. Google's clean energy investment portfolio—which has eclipsed $1 billion—also includes projects in Germany and South Africa.
“We invest in these projects because they make business sense, because they help put more renewable energy on the grid and because they have a positive impact on the local economies where they operate,” Google corporate finance head Kojo Ako-Asare said.
According to several news items from reliable sources, Apple is teaming up with Nevada utility NV Energy to build a solar farm to support its data center in Reno, NV. This would be Apple’s third solar farm, following the two currently in construction next to its North Carolina data center.
Photo credit: Apple.
The farm, called "Ft. Churchill Solar Array,” will be capable of providing between 18 and 20 megawatts to the data center.
Apple is justifiably proud of their environmental push, especially given some of the negative coverage they were subject to based around some old-fashioned product management issues. Their environmental progress is a key part of their website, which states the following:
From reporting our entire carbon footprint to finding ways to reduce that footprint, Apple takes a comprehensive approach to environmental responsibility. Product by product, facility by facility, we report on our progress every year. So you can see what we’re doing—and what we’ve done—to make a difference.
In fact, Apple also note that they are “currently on track toward achieving an ambitions goal: to power every Apple facility entirely with energy from renewable sources.” According to Apple, they’ve already reached this milestone for every data center that provides online services to their customers, including at Maiden, NC, and they’ve also reached 100 percent at facilities in Austin, TX; Cork, Ireland; and Munich, Germany, as well as at their infinite Loop campus in Cupertino, CA. Overall, they’re at 75 percent, a 114 percent increase since 2010, and the latest installation in Reno, NV, is surely only going to push that number higher.
The Ft. Churchill Solar Array is going to be using concentrated solar power (CVP) technology, and is set to create 100 jobs during the construction period.
Said Apple in a statement:
All of Apple’s data centers use 100 percent renewable energy, and we are on track to meet that goal in our new Reno data center using the latest in high-efficiency concentrating solar panels. This project will not only supply renewable energy for our data center but also provide clean energy to the local power grid, through a first-of-its-kind partnership with NV Energy. When completed, the 137 acre solar array will generate approximately 43.5 million kilowatt hours of clean energy, equivalent to taking 6,400 passenger vehicles off the road per year.
NV Energy CEO Michael Yackira added:
We’re excited to be in partnership with Apple on a new solar energy project, the first project under our new Green Energy Program. This program allows customers such as Apple to choose to have a greater proportion of their energy coming from renewables than the law requires, without having a cost impact on our other customers.
Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.