In December 2006 I wrote a feature for MacUser UK on the environmental
impact of computers, and in particular Macs. MacUser doesn’t put its
features online, so I’ve decided to put this one up. This is the full,
unedited version, so any mistakes are mine rather than MacUser’s.Some of the rights for this article belong to Dennis Publishing: please do not republish this article anywhere else.
Everything that we do has some kind of impact on the environment,
from breathing through to burning millions of tonnes of crude oil.
However, one of the cultural trends of humankind during the 21st
Century is a striving to reduce this impact, and preserve our natural
environment as much as possible.
Although the detrimental effects of large scale industry like cars
has been known and closely followed for decades, a more recent centre
of attention has been that icon of the last twenty years, the personal
computer. Computer makes have come under attach from environmental
campaigners for their manufacturing processes, while computer users
have started to wonder whether using a computer – particularly one
that’s on 24 hours a day, seven days a week – is worth the undoubted
effects on the environment.
Apple in particular has been the subject of some dedicated
campaigning, in particular from Greenpeace. Over the past year, the
veteran environmental group has attacked Apple, claiming it uses
hazardous substances in Macs – substances that other manufacturers have
But what’s the truth about the impact that our addiction to
computers has on the environment? Is computing sustainable, or will
there one day be a crunch, when we’re forced to either slow down our
pace of technological change or just abandon computers completely? And
where does the responsibility lie: with manufacturers who churn out
ever-faster machines that must be replaced every three years, or with
consumers greedy for the latest and greatest PC? And, should the
environmentally-conscious consumer be choosing something other than
Apple if they’re looking for the greenest PC?