Nothing sets tech blogs a-buzzing like the latest bit of juicy Apple news, and the company's recent decision to voluntarily withdraw all of its Mac desktops and MacBook laptops from consideration for an eco-friendly certification sent pundits into a veritable frenzy of knee-jerk opinion. In fact, the scrutiny got so intense that Apple eventually reversed course and reregistered its products. But really, was Apple's short-lived dumping of EPEAT all that big a deal? Let's set aside the hype and examine what Apple's decision to withdraw its products would have meant to you, the average user.
First, a quick primer on EPEAT
EPEAT -- that's short for the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool -- is the leading consumer standard for green electronics. Basically, devices that earn EPEAT certification as being environmentally safe do so according to specific standards. Many of the top electronics manufacturers in the world participate in EPEAT, including Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony and more.
Why did Apple quit EPEAT in the first place?
The ability to disassemble a device is a major factor towards EPEAT certification, as you need to pull components out in order to recycle them. Most analysts speculated that Apple's increased focus on making ultraportable notebooks that also happen to be ultra-difficult to repair -- such as the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display -- prompted its decision to withdraw from the voluntary EPEAT program. That would leave Apple room to shrink things down further without having to worry about meeting disassembly criteria. Now that the company is enrolled in the program once again, however, even the MacBook Pro with Retina Display's environmental page shows that it has a top-of-the-line EPEAT Gold certification.
Did withdrawing from EPEAT mean Apple hates the environment?
Not at all. The design of the formerly EPEAT Gold-certified Macs and MacBooks didn't magically change overnight just because Apple withdrew from a voluntary program, as the fact that they're still certified after the EPEAT resubmission shows. And even though users can't pry their MacBook Air laptops apart at home, they can still send the notebooks -- or any Apple product, desktop PC or cellphone, for that matter -- in for recycling through a free Apple program.
Still not convinced? Read through Apple's environmental initiatives to get an idea of the myriad ways Apple's working to make its products and manufacturing process more eco-friendly.
Reading Apple's announcement of its decision to return to EPEAT gives a further hint of its environmental focus: the message suggests that the company originally withdrew because the EPEAT standards are outdated and don't cover some of the more stringent eco-friendly solutions that Apple already adheres to, such as removing certain toxins from its products and reporting its greenhouse emissions in detail.
So does any of this matter to me?
All in all, if you were fine with buying an Apple product before, the company's choice to temporarily yank its products' EPEAT certifications shouldn't bother you now -- especially after Apple rejoined the green certification fold. And now you know!