Apple Scores Last In Greenpeace Report On Green-Friendly Data Centers

Apple Scores Last In Greenpeace Report On Green-Friendly Data Centers

Apple’s done much to improve its ranking in Greenpeace’s rankings of the most green-friendly tech companies in the world thanks to radical design decisions (like switching from plastic to aluminum for its Macs) and embracing smart, minimalistic packaging. In fact, after a few years, they’d managed to crawl pretty high on the list.

Apple’s physical products remain pretty green friendly, but in a new report presented by Greenpeace, Apple ranks at the very bottom of a list of ten Internet companies whose data facilities are dirtiest. And it’s all because of their new North Carolina data super-center.

Why so low? North Carolina is a state where most of the electricity is produced by the burning off fossil fuel. On the grid in which the data center rests, less than five percent of the electricity generated is what Greenpeace would call “clean” energy. The rest of the energy is produced by coal-driven electricity plants (which are bad) and nuclear-driven plants (which are much, much maligned, especially post Fukushima).

These numbers spurred Greenpeace to rank Apple’s data center choices as the least green-friendly in their ten tech company list.They ranked the lowest clean energy index of all the companies rated, getting just a 6.7 rating compared to Yahoo’s list-topping index of 55.9%, and Google and Amazon’s rank of 36.4% and 26.8%.

To be fair, Greenpeace is advising not to make too much of these rankings, since determining the green-friendliness of IT is difficult, and ultimately, a leap into the cloud should promote — and not set-back — green-friendliness. Still, it seems at first blush as if Apple’s North Carolina data center’s dependence upon nuclear power set it back quite a bit in the rankings.

How do you feel about that? Nuclear power is a bit scary right now, for understandable reasons, but it seems strange to ding Apple for using “dirty energy” when nuclear’s actually very clean. Let us know in the comments.

  • ErinsDad

    Or… they could go back to the good old days and power the data center with whale oil-fueled turbine generators…

  • Steve_Celt

    Thanks john, I like your article, except for the last statement “nuclear’s actually very clean”. A few minutes research while snacking on Fukushima sushi on will show this is a myth. Start by googling “uranium mining CO2″ or here:
    http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/

  • ctt1wbw

    Greenpiece rates right up there with Consumer Reports for me. Which is in the basement.

  • trrosen

    Maybe you should read stuff before you link to it. There is nothing about nuclear power being unclean there. Mostly because its not true. Dirty hippie.

  • Steve_Celt

    Radioactive waste is not unclean? Are you serious? Maybe you should do a little research instead of insulting people you know knowing about.

  • vopat

    I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that Cult of Mac declares nuclear energy “very clean.” After all, Apple is using it so it must be good.

  • Steve_Celt

    typo above, should be ..you know nothing about. You will notice I thanked the author and stated I liked his article, while disagreeing with one small part, which is what debate should be, not resorting to insults. OK, the sushi comment was a bit ‘snarky’ , I apologize for that.

  • Figurín

    define “clean”. If clean means that it doesn’t contribute to global warming, nuclear energy is clean. If it means that it doesn’t pollute the environment it’s clean. It clean means whatever Greenpeace wants depending on the context we should ask greenpeace

  • Figurín

    You’re also using nuclear energy. Bad boy

  • JDWages

    I’m an American who has lived in Japan for more than 16 years, and I was in Japan during the 9.0 quake and am still here with my family now (Nagoya area) — far closer to the Fukushima plant than most of you US-based folk commenting here. With that in mind, I have a few words for those who trumpet a cause without any intestinal fortitude whatsoever to defend their cause with actions. Anyone who is verbally critical of coal or nuclear power plants are nothing but loudmouthed hypocrites UNLESS they consistently practice what they preach by refraining from using any coal-generated or nuclear-generated power whenever and wherever possible. If one wishes to retort “that is next to impossible” then I suggest that person move to a location where it is possible (even if that location is outside your home country). Either that or stop preaching what you cannot physically practice.

    So please first put into practice what you wish to preach about electrical power generation. Harsh words alone are little more than meaningless, unproductive negativity.

  • prof_peabody

    This is rank BS, as is typical for Greenpeace nowadays.

    They don’t even know where the Apple data centre gets it’s power and didn’t investigate that at all. They just say that because Apple is in a state where most of the power is “dirty” therefore they must be using dirty power. It might not even be true, yet they have no problem blaming Apple for it.

    Greenpeace of old would be protesting outside the coal plants, (which is the real source of the problem) whereas today’s Greenpeace is content to just throw random accusations out on the web at other companies (because said companies are popular), and think they have done something.

  • prof_peabody

    This is rank BS, as is typical for Greenpeace nowadays.

    They don’t even know where the Apple data centre gets it’s power and didn’t investigate that at all. They just say that because Apple is in a state where most of the power is “dirty” therefore they must be using dirty power. It might not even be true, yet they have no problem blaming Apple for it.

    Greenpeace of old would be protesting outside the coal plants, (which is the real source of the problem) whereas today’s Greenpeace is content to just throw random accusations out on the web at other companies (because said companies are popular), and think they have done something.

  • Bob Forsberg

    Greenpeace rankings of productive business entities are irrelevant to the quality of a product. Until Greenpeace actually produces something they themselves are irrelevant.

  • ctt1wbw

    Ah, Greenpiece says that the flow of electrons through a closed circuit is bad for the environment?

  • lacefront
  • Drstein2004

    Nuclear energy DOES contribute to global warming. The very basic idea is to transform water into steam and use the movement of steam to move a turbine. Water is transformed into steam by heating it up…hence contributing to the global warming.

    Recall that any nuclear factory needs a large pool of water to cool down (and this water is being constantly heated to cool down the reactors).

    Moreover, this is not the single source of pollution. As other said, radiation is the main problem. Every year, simple things (ranging from instruments to tanks) have to be thrown due to radiation. Currently our best method of coping with this “nuclear trash” is to make huge bunkers, leave the objects there…and wait 80 years. Most of this radioactive trash is stored by third world countries for a fee.

    Do you still think that nuclear energy is “clean”?

    P.s: I agree that we cannot flip a switch and change to clean energies in a day. But we must clearly spend much more money in trying (i.e. research) , while start introducing the ones we have (I do not mind paying more for electricity, provided it comes from clean sources)

  • Kepurhc

    Apple against “green terrorism” ! At least one of the big companies not scared by CO2 “bullshit”.
    Only for this one I will buy your products :)

  • trrosen

    Well by your definition all energy is dirty. Which is somewhat a valid point but not really the issue here. Here were talking about pollution of the particulate and CO2 variety. In that area Nuclear is nearly spotless.

    Note 90% of nuclear waste is stored on site.

    By the way hydro and wind generate nuclear trash too.

  • Chris

    Moreover, all of nuclear’s waste is self contained and easy to transport and store (and even re-use some of it like in France). While with coal and NG, you first have to collect the dispersed waste, compress it, and sequester it somehow. People seem to forget the numbers in this situation.
    ~9% of our total energy comes from Nuclear
    ~0.5% comes from Wind
    ~0.07% comes from Solar
    If you get rid of more nuclear, it’s not easily replaced by wind and solar and will instead be replaced by cheap coal or NG pollute a lot more than nuclear.

  • Kyle

    how do you figure that it doesn’t pollute the environment?

  • Kyle

    all energy comes from the sun if you trace it back to it’s source. why not put the money into research on how to utilize this more cleanly and efficiently, which would cause the % of solar energy used to grow. your argument makes has no basis in reality when you say that solar and wind only make up 1% of energy production. this may be true, ut the reason behind it is not that thats the max we can produce with these technologies, just that we are not nearly using them to their full potential.

  • Kyle

    let’s not let the coal, oil, and natural gas producers dictate our politics and what the research money is spent and what is promoted to the public, then we’ll be getting somewhere

  • Kyle

    the sun is contributing to global warming and emitting radiation, maybe we should just blow it up and be done with all the idiocy

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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