SAN FRANCISCO >> Apple is offering free recycling of all its used products and vowing to power all of its stores, offices and data centers with renewable energy to reduce the pollution caused by its devices and online services.
The iPhone and iPad maker is detailing its efforts to cultivate a greener Apple Inc. in an environmental section on the company’s website that debuted Monday. The site highlights the ways that the Cupertino, Calif., company is increasing its reliance on alternative power sources and sending less electronic junk to landfills.
Apple had already been distributing gift cards at some of its 420 worldwide stores in exchange for iPhones and iPods still in good enough condition to be resold. Now, all of the company’s stores will recycle any Apple product at no charge. Gift cards won’t be handed out for recycled products deemed to have little or no resale value.
The offer covers a wide array of electronics that aren’t supposed to be dumped in landfills because of the toxins in them. In the past seven years alone, Apple has sold more than 1 billion iPhones, iPods, iPads and Mac computers.
The new initiative, timed to coincide with Tuesday’s annual celebration of Earth Day, strives to position Apple as an environmental steward amid the technological whirlwind of gadgets and Internet services that have been drawing more electricity from power plants that primarily run on natural gas and coal.
Technology products and services accounted for about 2 percent of worldwide emissions in 2012, roughly the same as the airline industry, according to statistics cited by environmental protection group Greenpeace in a report released earlier this month. Some of biggest electricity demands come from huge data centers that house the stacks of computers that process search requests, store photos and email and stream video.
These online services, often dubbed "cloud computing," collectively consume more electricity than all but five countries — China, the U.S., Japan, India and Russia.
As the world’s largest technology company, Apple is trying to hatch more environmental solutions than problems.
"What the company wants to do is use all our innovation and all of our expertise to make the planet more secure and make the environment better," Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environmental initiatives, said in a Monday interview. Jackson ran the Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama before joining Apple last June.
Apple CEO Tim Cook underscored the commitment by narrating a 1 minute, 44 second video about the company’s efforts to protect the environment. "To us, better is a force of nature," Cook says in the video.
The campaign appears to be more than just public relations stunt, based on Greenpeace’s high praise for Apple in its recent review of the technology industry’s environmental responsibility.
Among the 19 companies covered in the report, Greenpeace described Apple as "the most innovative and most aggressive in pursuing its commitment to be 100 percent renewably powered." Greenpeace also gave high marks to Apple rival, Google Inc., and Facebook Inc., which makes one of the most popular apps on the iPhone and iPad.
All four of Apple’s data centers, which are located in North Carolina, Oregon, Nevada and California, already rely entirely on renewable energy, the company said. The electricity comes from a variety of alternative sources, including biogas, as well as wind, solar and hydro power.
That means whenever people are interacting with Apple’s iTunes store, sending messages or engaging in video chats, they "can feel comfortable that they are not adding any carbon pollution to the atmosphere," Jackson said.
About 94 percent of the power in Apple’s offices in the world is now supplied by renewable energy sources, up from 35 percent in 2010, according to the company. Apple is building a new 2.8-million-square-foot headquarters in Cupertino that will be powered solely by renewable energy when it’s completed in 2016.
About 120 of Apple’s U.S. stores, or nearly half of the outlets in the country, run entirely on renewable energy. The company isn’t specifying a timetable for meeting its goal to convert its other 300 stores in the world to renewable energy.