Green

Apple gets greener, lighting more stores and data centers with renewable power

Apple Store Pasu Au Yeung Flickr
Image Credit: Pasu Au Yeung/Flickr

Apple continued its march down the path of sustainability today, boasting that it has switched to renewable energy for more than 120 of its retail stores in America, with an eye toward continuing that transition.

The company also highlighted in a story from Wired today that it has now moved its monolithic data centers off of coal and powers them exclusively with renewable sources.

The device manufacturer now relies on “new data centers powered by the sun and wind,” chief executive Tim Cook says in a new video, entitled “Better,” on the company’s website.

The video explains how Apple is striving to reduce its impact on climate change by finding ways to use greener materials in its products and find additional ways to limit its impact on the environment. Apple said the video was shot on location at Apple facilities.

For years Apple has worked to make the company eco-friendly, meaning that the negative impact its products have on the environment is minimal. Under Cook, that initiative seems to be growing. And the video shows Cook continuing to preach about the importance of companies to do more to halt climate change.

The transformation at Apple data centers has been gradual — a solar array and fuel cell farm here, some hydroelectric projects there, and some geothermal power elsewhere — but it adds up to a considerable shift, considering where Apple was at just a couple of years ago.

A few years ago, Greenpeace was calling Apple out for a lack of transparency and its decision-making about where to locate its data centers.

But given the progress in recent years, it’s not surprising to learn that Apple’s upcoming Cupertino, Calif., headquarters will run on completely renewable energy. And it seems only natural for Apple to have hired Lisa Jackson, formerly an administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as its vice president for environmental initiatives.

More headaches lie ahead for Jackson, Cook, and other Apple executives. When Apple says its facilities run exclusively on renewable energy, that figure doesn’t cover the supply chain for iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and other gadgets. It’s unclear how long it could take to switch all of its suppliers to renewable power, if such a feat is even possible.

Nevertheless, running big server farms without consuming coal helps make Apple stand out among other giants of computing from a sustainability perspective, leaving major cloud providers like Amazon to catch up.