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How green are the new MacBooks?

Having eliminated many toxic chemicals, boosted energy efficiency, and improved recyclability, Apple says that its new MacBooks are the greenest ever.

By Blogger for The Christian Science Monitor / October 14, 2008

Steve Jobs introduces the new MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops at a news conference in Cupertino, California, October 14.

REUTERS/Kimberly White

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Having eliminated many toxic chemicals, boosted energy efficiency, and improved recyclability, Apple says that its new MacBooks are the greenest ever.

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Apple's new line of laptops, which made their debut at Tuesday morning's press conference at the company's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters, are "designed with the environment in mind," according to their website.

Unlike earlier models, the displays of the new MacBooks and MacBook Pros contain no arsenic or mercury. The computers innards – the circuit boards, cables, and connectors –  contain no brominated flame retardants. And the cables contain no PVCs. (They don't say anything about beryllium, cadmium, and antimony – poisonous metals that are common in many electronics.)

What's more, Apple claims that the new laptops – being mostly glass and aluminum – are "almost entirely recyclable." Apple claims to offer recycling services in "nearly all countries" where it does business.

Apple says that their laptops' LED displays consume 30 percent less power than conventional LCD screens, enough to earn them EnergyStar certification.

The company has also cut back on the laptops' packaging, now using about 40 percent less than the previous generation. This cuts down on paper and "means Apple can use fewer planes to transport the same number of products" (of course it would be greener to ship them via boat and rail, but then we wouldn't be seeing them in stores this week.)

All this is enough to earn the new computers a gold rating from EPEAT, or the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, a rating system developed by the Green Electronics Council in Portland, Ore., to help institutional buyers choose computers.

For the first time (as far as I can tell) Apple has disclosed the carbon footprint of its MacBooks. In their Environmental Status Report [PDF] Apple says that the laptops' greenhouse gas emissions – including customer use – add up to 460 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent for the MacBook, and 560 kg for the MacBook Prop, roughly the same amount produced by burning 50 gallons and 62 gallons of gasoline, respectively.

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