In 2007, the electronics industry emitted about 1.4 billion tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere – only slightly less than that of the entire airline industry. Manufacturing is far more to blame than usage, accounting for around 80% of the carbon footprint in mobile phones and computers.
In 2009, carbon dioxide comprised 76.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions and without an imminent reduction irreversible climate change could occur. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is around 400 parts per million (ppm), and continues to increase – many scientists, including the chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimate that in order to have a reasonable chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change, carbon dioxide concentration should be limited to 350 ppm within 30 years.
While device efficiency continues to improve, it remains to be seen whether that will ever be enough to keep up with the enormous number of new users coming online every day. A Guardian article claims that the carbon footprint of cloud computing will double between 2007 and 2020.
BlackBerry Limited, developer of the BlackBerry range of mobile phones and tablets, is a constant recipient of criticism for its failure to introduce policies to reduce its climate footprint. It currently has no renewable energy target, in stark contrast to other mobile phone suppliers like Nokia, Apple and Samsung, and while the company claims to have a target for cutting its carbon emissions, it refuses to detail what that figure is. Its products are also energy inefficient and the company has previously criticised the introduction of tougher energy standards for electronic devices.
- Greenpeace – Guide to Greener Electronics
- RankABrand – Sustainable Electronics
- Network World article – April 2011
Key Standards and Certifications
- ISO 14040, ISO 14044 and ISO 14067 are international standards that work in conjunction with each other to assist businesses in calculating the carbon footprint of products over their life.
- TUV SUD’s Carbon Footprint Certification Scheme is an international program that measures the carbon emissions of both companies and their supply chains, as well as the estimated emissions over the life of a product, and verifies they are meeting the relevant ISO standards.
- SGS Australia’s Carbon Footprint Assessment and Verification assists companies in developing carbon footprint criteria and verifies they are meeting the relevant ISO standards.
- The Carbon Neutral Program, operating under the Australian Government’s National Carbon Offset Standard, is a voluntary scheme that certifies Australian products, businesses or events as carbon neutral.
Existing Campaigns and Advocacy Work
- Greenpeace Greener Electronics campaign – including Green Gadgets: Designing the Future – The path to greener electronics – September 2014
- Greenpeace reports Make IT Green: Cloud computing and its contribution to climate change, 2010 and How dirty is your data? 2011
Opportunities for Action
Choose companies that measure their climate footprint and are taking measures to reduce it:
- Climate Counts has assessed major electronics companies’ commitment to fighting global warming
- Greenpeace has ranked electronic companies’ progress in producing greener products and promoting sustainable operations
- RankABrand has analysed the behaviour of 20 global electronics brands and their attitude towards climate policy
Contact electronics companies and urge them to seek less carbon-intensive manufacturing processes and lobby for clean energy policies in the countries they operate in.
Take action in a Greenpeace Greener Electronics campaign:
- Tell Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon.com to Clean up our Cloud
- Sign Greenpeace’s thank you card to Google! Google just invested $103 million in a solar farm in California, its 13th large investment in clean energy in the last three years and enough to power 500,000 homes!
- Tell Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos to come clean about Amazon’s electricity footprint. Petition to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to come clean about Amazon.com’s energy use and environmental impact
- Help green the Internet! Petition to the CEOs of Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin and Tumblr encouraging them to move to 100% clean energy data centers, not coal and nuclear energy.