Carbon Offset for iPhones, iPods: Hot Air or New Leaf? | Cult of Mac

Carbon Offset for iPhones, iPods: Hot Air or New Leaf?


New Zealand Carbon Offset Farm, courtesy AcornHQ

Help plant a tree to offset carbon emissions from your iPhone or iPod is the green idea behind AcornHq, a London-based company.

The brainchild of a couple of New Zealand transplants, John and Sarah Lewis, the company asks 20 Apple device owners to give $3.50 per device — iPhone or current and older iPods — to plant a tree to counteract the effects on the environment from manufacture and use.

Those oak trees take root on a New Zealand planting farm, where Lewis hopes Acorn donors willing to trek that far will be able to visit soon.

After the jump, details on how it works from John Lewis.

Interview by Leander Kahney.

CoM: Is planting a tree really a good offset for your iPhone?

John Lewis: Trees are a great choice to offset the carbon emitted by your iPhone or iPod. There are three natural carbon sinks: forests, oceans and soil.

The easiest one for humans to increase the capacity of almost immediately are forests. As the trees mature they suck carbon out of the atmosphere and store it as wood.  We estimate that our trees can absorb between 2,500-3,000 kilograms of carbon per year.

For every 20 donations, a tree is planted. Photo courtesy AcorhHq.
For every 20 donations, a tree is planted. Photo courtesy AcorhHq.

CoM: Have you got any data?

John Lewis: The original idea we had was to find out exactly how much carbon was involved to make, manufacture and transport your tech gadget to you. Whether that was your mobile phone, MP3 player, satnav system or whatever.

We learned quite early on that the data needed to exactly support that idea doesn’t exist quite yet. It forced us to simplify the idea and focus solely on the niche of iPod and iPhone owners where there is some good data.

The key piece of data that we based our assumptions on is Apple’s 2008 Environmental Performance reports.

Using the iPhone as an example, Apple estimates that it will emit 55 kgs of life-cycle carbon emissions. That is the highest amount from the iPod/iPhone range and contrasts with the iPod shuffle which Apple estimates 10kgs for.

It means we are offsetting a maximum of 1,100 kgs of life-cycle carbon emission (based on Apple’s estimates) per tree while our trees are capable of absorbing 2500-3000 kgs of carbon per year until they mature. We decided early on to deliberately over compensate in this regard.

CoM: Why are the trees planted in New Zealand?

John Lewis: Ultimately it doesn’t matter where the trees are planted. We are from New Zealand which is the main reason we chose to plant trees there, forming a partnership with the Blockhill carbon sink project. Olmec Sinclair (who runs the project and planting farm) and I worked together in the same IT consultancy firm several years ago.

We turn the question over to you — is this indulgence granting for gadgets or a worthy way to make amends?

Let us know in the comments.