Logos Turning Green For Earth Day

April 21, 2014

Apple is turning its world-wide retail store logos green—at least partially—to observe April 22nd as Earth Day, one day before the company is expected to announce that over 120 of its U.S. stores are now using only renewable energy, and on the same day the company announced retail stores will now recycle all Apple products. The initiatives are part of the company’s overall environmental strategy intended to reduce greenhouse gases and leave a smaller carbon footprint on the earth. The first green retail store logos were spotted in China, but tinted logo leaves soon began to appear as stores closed for the day in countries further west. In addition to the logo change, Apple retail store employees will wear green shirts and ID cards to observe the day. On a new Web page posted today, Apple’s VP of Environmental Initiatives Lisa Jackson announced the recycling change at the stores, adding, “We believe we must be accountable for every Apple product at every stage of its use.” In an earlier interview with Wired, Jackson explained that the company’s corporate offices and data centers are using 94 percent renewable energy, and the retail stores are the next energy target. Details of that initiative are expected to be released within days.

Despite extensive news coverage of Apple’s “new” product recycling program, it’s not clear how the existing recycling program has changed since it began in October 2011. Apple has been offering a gift card at its retail stores for any iPhone, iPad, Mac or PC if it “qualifies for reuse.” Products that don’t qualify for a gift card can still be recycled at the stores, but without any compensation. Perhaps the new program extends recycling to Apple TV, Time Capsule and other products, or widens the program to stores beyond the U.S. Apple’s recycling Web page hasn’t been updated to reflect any new policy. [Here’s the archive if it has changed.]

As for energy, almost two-thirds of Apple’s stores are inside shopping malls, making them difficult to provide with renewable energy. The remaining one-third of stores are located outdoors at malls or in independent, street-level buildings, which allows Apple more control of the stores’ power source.

Renewable energy is available from two basic sources: directly from wind, solar or water generation, or by buying power from a utility that obtained it from renewable sources.

The first, direct method requires installation of the appropriate equipment to generate the power, along with methods to transmit and store it. The second, indirect method of obtaining green power relies on state utilities regulations that allow such sales, but not all states do.

Lastly, power users can purchase renewable energy credits (REC), which are a tradable commodity that provides proof that 1 megawatt-hour of electricity was generated from renewable resources and distributed into a power grid. Businesses or individuals can buy RECs, and use them to claim the use of renewable energy, even though the green power may have be distributed into a distant and not-linked power grid.

Apple has not released information about how its 120 U.S. retail stores are obtaining their renewable power—directly, indirectly or via REC—or in which states they are located. The Wired story did say that the Palo Alto, North Michigan Avenue and Fifth Avenue stores were among those now using green energy.

According to the company’s 2012 facilities environmental report (pdf), data centers, retail stores and other facilities contribute just two percent of Apple’s total carbon footprint. Nevertheless, the company is attempting to reduce its facilities’ impact.

According to the 2012 report, worldwide the stores used 159 million kWh of electricity, compared to 217 by data centers and 232 by corporate offices (see chart below).

Greenhouse gases are categorized as Scope 1, direct company equipment and facilities, Scope 2, purchased electricity, and Scope 3, the effect of so-called “downstream” operations such as transportation by third-parties, waste disposal and other outsourced activities.

Apple reports that its retail stores generated 2,812 tonnes of CO2 for Scope 1 activities, and 68,369 for Scope 2. According to the report, the combined Scope 1/2 greenhouse gas generation for the retail stores is nearly the same as for the company’s data centers, and 92 percent of that generated by the corporate offices.

The end of Apple store Earth Day was signaled at midnight when the green film was peeled off the back-lit logo at the Fifth Avenue (NYC) retail store.

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