Poison Apple
September 26, 2006 10:14 AM   Subscribe

Following the results of a report into the foul constituents of many laptop computers, Greenpeace have decided that the sincerest form of flattery may get results. Imitating the main brand, they call on image-conscious Apple and its dedicated fanbase to push for a better product and a better world: "I love my Mac. I just wish it came in green."
posted by NinjaTadpole (21 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
o rly?
posted by keswick at 10:20 AM on September 26, 2006

ooh, busted!
posted by Vindaloo at 11:54 AM on September 26, 2006

Does in ammuse anyone else that they're worried about lead, but not all the other nasty metals/metaloids found in modern electronics and batteries?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:08 PM on September 26, 2006

Can anyone point me to a non-Greenpeace, non-profiteering, non-kooky website which discusses the toxicity of PVC?

Every link I can find is either from Greenpeace itself, or from some company hoping to make money from convincing people that plastic toys are killing their kids, or from the sort of fringy environmentalist sites that have no credibility with me because of their tendancy to conflate, for instance, global warming and veganism.

The best I can find is a carefully worded statement from the BBC that phthalates used in PVC production (not the PVC itself) are theoretically toxic in some circumstances.

Anyone got anything better?
posted by thparkth at 12:10 PM on September 26, 2006

Mmmm... The smell of corporate sycophancy in the mornin'
posted by delmoi at 12:43 PM on September 26, 2006

Unless you're going to be eating your computer components or huffing your ipod, what's the big deal about OMG CHEMICALS INSIDE??!?!11 Fire retardant is important in prone-to-explodey laptops nowadays, after all...

I'd think that they would get more 'green' mileage out of a campaign to encourage people to use computer/electronics recycling and environmentally safe disposal services, instead of just tossing such stuff in the trash.
posted by SenshiNeko at 12:45 PM on September 26, 2006

According to the "o rly" link at the top, the greener guide actually only measures companies PR efforts. So if five years ago, a company said they would clean up, and then did, they'd score low because they're not announcing any new plans.

Anyway, the whole thing is a bit silly. They measure "toxic chemicals" in your laptop, but what difference does it make if the chemicals never leave the computer? As long as there is a safe way to dispose of or recycle the device it's not a problem.

The manufacturing process is where you really need to look.
posted by delmoi at 12:50 PM on September 26, 2006

Computers are horrible polluters, whether it's desktops or laptops. The etching process that makes the microchips in your processor uses all kinds of nasty cancer-causing chemicals, including arsenic. You don't want to even think about all the CRTs that are going into landfills. I think Greenpeace is a great organization, but they need to address the bigger picture if they want to make a difference on this issue.
posted by lekvar at 1:17 PM on September 26, 2006

I think Greenpeace's campaign is a straightforward attempt to force Apple to take the lead on this issue. Apple's image is everything, so it looks like a reasonable strategy to me. Apple would probably clean up if they managed to come up with the world's first toxin free laptop.
posted by MrMustard at 2:37 PM on September 26, 2006

...what difference does it make if the chemicals never leave the computer?

Right. There is no environmental problem here. Because nothing leaks out of landfills or nuclear power plants, either.

It is not the same scale at all, but the idea that we can contain noxious pollutants indefinitely is still too common.
posted by anotherbrick at 2:49 PM on September 26, 2006

I seriously doubt that Greenpeace's disingenous media shenanigans have more sway at Apple than Apple board member Al Gore does. This Gore fellow is apparently some kind of environmentalist, from what I hear.
posted by eustacescrubb at 2:56 PM on September 26, 2006

Shame on Greepeace. SHAME!
posted by tkchrist at 3:05 PM on September 26, 2006

Right. There is no environmental problem here. Because nothing leaks out of landfills or nuclear power plants, either.

If you're worried about the environment, just recycle your laptop. If you're not worried, it won't make any difference. And also, the greenpeace study was based mostly on how much the companies talked about the environment, not about what they actually did, or how much they polluted.
posted by delmoi at 3:44 PM on September 26, 2006

This will teach me to leave the computer: no flame outs, no turf war, no nothing.

I think MrMustard best caught what I was trying to point out: there is a reason why Apple have been targeted, and in this way. It's not because they're evil, and it's not because they're the worst, I think it's because they're the best way of disseminating the Greenpeace message.

Greenpeace is engaging in social engineering on a subtler scale than their usual Headline manner. They're enaging in dark marketing, turning a recognised and saluted brand (almost a lifestyle) to an alternative end. How many Mac fans will see the site and be swayed by "their" Apple-y wig, suckered in at whatever level and injected with a different dose?

You see it makes no sense, following this logic (and probably this logic alone), to press HP, or Acer on this matter and in this way. They produce more, they waste more, they pollute more, but they're generics - how do you twist Acer's own brand into a cleverly liveried criticism when there's no brand recognition? Who is really going to give a toss what a two-bit printer maker (HP) does with its laptops? No one important is going to pay attention, there's no community, no following, no one's interests are being put in question.
... but with firms like Apple there are troops to rally.

Apple's capacity for imprinting their logos, their name, their identity is an ideal carrier for a different message. Using the recognisable brand to bypass the very upper layers of the subconscious, to sugar the pill, means that the message is easier to take. If Greenpeace can get Mac users to swallow the pill then they have swayed a lot of important people on their side. The Mac faithful demand a feature, they get it; something's wrong, there's a repair; things are stale, there's an innovation. Apple has a terrifying expectation hanging over it, but fulfillment of that expectation keeps all the shiny dollars hundred dollar bills rolling in.

The electronics industry and its consumers need to start paying serious attention to what is required of them to ensure that their business/resource is viable for the future. There is no infinite lake of materials, there is no black hole to remove the stains of by-product pollution. If Apple can be coerced by it's fans into addressing problems like this and can turn the inconvenience of being a costly overachiever into a virtue then other firms will follow. Every other electronics firm will want part of the "virtue economy", just as they wanted the flavours of the iMac mystique, just as they wanted a share of the Pink Pound/Dollar.

Greenpeace are being ever so immoral in this, I believe. They're being salesmen (and hardly a worse thing could be said about anyone), they're deliberately pointing fingers at the wrong people and cunjuring support through misdirection, they're stooping to wearing someone else's makeup!
So does the end justify the means?
posted by NinjaTadpole at 4:29 PM on September 26, 2006 [2 favorites]

Can anyone point me to a non-Greenpeace, non-profiteering, non-kooky website which discusses the toxicity of PVC?

This site has some good information, and I don't think it's too 'kooky' (despite the slightly alarmist title).

Also here's a nice post from Treehugger that gives both sides of the issue and provides some further links.

Basically the stuff has nasty components, and when it burns it releases dioxins, which are bad bad things.
posted by statolith at 5:29 PM on September 26, 2006

Can I just say that totally aside from the content of that Greenpeace Apple site, the site itself is a fantastic piece of online issue campaign work. My kudos to whoever developed that. Excellent job.
posted by rusty at 6:53 PM on September 26, 2006

Wow. Am I living in an alternate universe? Sorry, but this is going to be a long comment.

1. The criticisms in that "o rly" link at the top are focused on a different report, not this one.

2. delmoi wrote: the greenpeace study was based mostly on how much the companies talked about the environment
Kid Charlemagne wrote: Does in ammuse anyone else that they're worried about lead, but not all the other nasty metals/metaloids?
The report states: For each laptop, approximately 40 individual materials and components were analysed using X-ray microanalysis (EDAX) to determine the amounts of the metals, as well as the element bromine...
3. Ninja Tadpole writes: "it's not because they're the worst... Greenpeace are being ever so immoral in this"

It's true that Apple is not the worst. They're the second worst. So, yeah, lobby HP, too. But, wow, harsh criticism given that the report finds:
For PBDEs: HP [is the worst]>>Apple>Acer>>Dell & Sony [none detected at all]
For PCBs: HP [is again the worst]>Apple & Acer [tied]> all others tested [none]
4. Senshineko writes: Unless you're going to be eating your computer components or huffing your ipod, what's the big deal about OMG CHEMICALS INSIDE??!?!11

Yeah, I prefer not to eat computer components. That's why I can't eat any fish I might catch near my house. PBDEs (a fire retardant used in computers) are building up in fish in the San Francisco Bay. Oh, and PBDEs are present in mother's breast milk. And even in newborns. So, yeah, don't go eating any placentas, either. Someone tell Tom Cruise. ;)

5. Also, here are two links on PVC: 1, 2. I'm not sure but I think you might like those sources better. I don't think people worry about PVC pipes just sitting there poisoning anyone, but during manufacture whole communities got polluted. You might also check out the documentary Blue Vinyl.
posted by salvia at 8:29 PM on September 26, 2006

I think what Greenpeace did was tacky. I also think it will be highly effective in comparison to their other tactics. And I think it'd be great if Apple led the way again.

In fact, if Apple were to become a long-term-thinker company, one that understands the importance of our global and local environments, the importance of human rights and dignity, the importance of doing things the right way because that's the way things should be done, the importance of doing more good in this world than bad...

Well, I'd probably have to buy stock and many, many more Apple products. :-)
posted by five fresh fish at 8:46 PM on September 26, 2006

Nyc mefites: Electronics Recycling event in Brooklyn this Sunday 8am-2pm at Prospect Park. Bronx and Queens the following two Sundays.
posted by eddydamascene at 8:28 AM on September 27, 2006

disgustipated: For me, it's just about being personally responsible. Nothing else. I hate the idea that someone, who has the opportunity to (insert action here) chooses not to, but wants to blame (Democrats, Republicans, Girlfriend, etc.) for that choice. It's garbage.

I'm with you, but when I was buying a new computer, there was not really a non-toxic option. What's the good of "personal choice" when dealing with that situation? I could get some tin cans, some wires... It's not like I could pay extra for the non-mercury solder or whatever. At the time, Dell had the best take-back / recycling program, so I chose them.

I suppose the best option at that time would've been for me import one of the less-toxic computers being sold at that time in Europe by the same computer companies not offering those same low-toxic computers in the US.
posted by salvia at 11:31 AM on September 27, 2006

All of us laptop lovers don't want to think we could be part of the problem, but lets not attack greenpeace for trying to raise a little awareness - maybe the next generation will be a little greener because of this. PBDEs have been in home furnishings for many years so we can't just focus on one product.
posted by whatstoxic at 10:33 PM on October 5, 2006

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