Inconvinient little truths

Inconvinient little truths

Here are some things that make me angry/sad all at the same time:

1. Apple going green with aluminum cases.  This has nothing to do with being more ‘green’.  Exactly how is aluminum more ‘green’ than pot-metal (which can much more easily be recovered and remelted) they used before?  Aluminum refining and production requires terribly large amounts of electricity to produce.  But even more sad is that the *real* reason is to make your lap the heatsink.  That’s right.  Apple’s laptops have notoriously been running hot/overheating for years.  Numerous failures on various models – and complaints of people actually getting their laps burned.  I’ve experienced how hot they get.  Now they’ve thrown nVidia video cards in them.  They’re much faster than the integrated ones they had before (which were cr*p), but the nVidia cards run even hotter.  So, if you already have heat problems – how do you solve them?  You either add a fan (which Apple refuses to do) or make a bigger heatsink.  But if you want the same form factor and fanless design – you have one option – you turn the body of the laptop into the heat sink.  Problem solved – and you greenwash it and say it’s to be more ‘green’.

2. Online bill paying  – everyone is apparently concerned about the environment these days – but most of what they’re doing is complete bull.  I’ve noticed many different companies going paperless to ‘save the environment’.  Somewhat true as it does cut down on a LOT of paper and delivery impact; but mostly its a huge cost savings to them not to mail paper bills.  They save a fortune when you get your bill and pay online.  You can lay off all that staff to mail out all the letters, no paying for the paper/postage/etc, and nobody having to open those envelopes and enter check information either.  This is all good and fine, but the twist of the knife comes when they claim they’ll pass the savings on to you.  I don’t see any ‘discount because you paid online’ anywhere in my bill online.  It’s the same amount as the one that comes in the mail. Give me a tangable discount – or I’m just assuming you’re ripping me off and I’ll keep making you send the paper bill.

An additional benefit is if you set up automatic bill pay (ever wonder why they push it so hard?).  Reason is, if there is a billing error, or in the case of credit cards someone steals your account and runs up a huge bill, the money automatically gets pulled from your personal bank account.  What’s even better is that many cards have stipulations that if you pay the bill – you are agreeing all the charges are correct and you lose any right to dispute the charges.  You just waived all your dispute charges, and they could have just emptied your bank account.  Aren’t you glad you signed up?

Got any you want to add?

2 thoughts on “Inconvinient little truths

  1. The aluminum laptops are green because they have no waste in the manufacturing process and the final product is 100% recyclable (the case, that is). I don’t see many laptops being made out of “pot-metal” 🙂 Even Greenpeace has given their approval to the aluminum MacBook — so I think it’s safe to say it’s green!

  2. Don’t get me wrong – these are good steps in the right direction. But I just felt they sort of….overstated the greenness of their efforts – and I particularly hate companies that engage in the ‘greenwashing’ that seems rampant these days. Reminds me very much of the ‘low fat’ crazes a few years ago. Apple claim is valid in saying it is the ‘greenest macbook ever made’. But then again – since they’re the only ones who ever made them – I don’t find it a really competitive statement. It’s green-er than they used to be (which is good), they do tout no mercury, no BFRs, no lead, and the LCD screens are backlit by highly efficient LEDs. All very good steps for environmental and power concerns – but it’s not revolutionary – it just puts them in the pack of about 100 of the better laptops that do this already.

    http://greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/17/the-new-macbooks-green-credentials/

    Well, as green gadgets go, the machine performs well. It achieves both Energy Star 4.0 compliance, as well as a gold rating from the Green Electronics Council. (Of course, 103 other notebooks have received gold status, too.)

    I actually had to do a double-take on my research. You’re right – most laptop bodies are made of just plastics anymore. Guess it’s been a few years since they had the metal internal structures of yesteryear. While aluminum is very recyclable, it comes at a high energy cost. I lived just down the road from Alcoa in Indiana – the largest aluminum producer in the US. Amazing factory – but even more amazing electric grid going into the place. The biggest gripe I have is how they do their original manufacturing:

    The Apple Web site touts that the body of the laptop is made of “a single piece of solid, recyclable aluminum that replaces dozens of extraneous pieces once destined for landfill.” That may be true, but writing at EcoGeek last month, (http://www.ecogeek.org/content/view/2208/71/) Mr. Green highlighted unnecessary energy expenditures:

    The new process slices the computer case out of a 2.5 lb. brick of highly processed aluminum. At the end of the process, there’s a 0.5 lb. case. So, right off the bat, Apple is creating a block of metal with a huge amount of embodied energy (from the mine through the final milling process) and the vast majority of it is just going into the recycling bin to be re-melted and re-processed.

    “The one revolutionary change is a step backward,” Mr. Green said.

    But as a graphics person who knows how hot these nVidia chips get – and I sit/have lunch with the guys that worked with Apple’s design teams for a few years (and how rabid Apple was to avoid any fans – even after heat problems of the first gen) – I feel I still can argue the design had as much to do with heat dissipation as anything else…

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