Responses to criticisms about the Greenpeace campaign for a greener electronics sector

Page - March 9, 2007
We love a good argument. We love a fair fight where real science is pitted against spin. Here are some responses from Greenpeace campaigners and the Greenpeace Science Unit to questions and critiques that have been raised about the Guide to Greener Electronics and the Green my Apple website. You decide who's right. First we take a look at several blog critics and then how Apple is responding.

Roughly Drafted

One site that's been hyperactive in skepticism about our data is Roughly Drafted, penned by a blogger in San Francisco. We sent him a response to his first critique of our Guide to Greener Electronics. He subsequently buried our response at the end of another article misleadingly entitled "Greenpeace Apologises," despite the fact that we neither apologised nor retracted anything. For the record; here are our responses to his main points.

Subsequently he published a couple of other articles sensationally accusing us and others of a "conspiracy of greed, blackmail, protection money, and other mob tactics." No substantiation, even though we were tempted to send him a dead fish wrapped in newspaper and a decapitated horse's head with a request that he revealed his sources.

Before taking Roughly Drafted comments seriously a few facts should be pointed out; the author seems to make a living writing puff-pieces about Apple products, appears to support his site with Apple advertising, and has already been exposed making misleading pro-Apple claims in the past. His site has been memorably called "the lunatic fringe of Mac fandom."

Stephen Russell

Often quoted as an "independent IT consultant" in subsequent RoughlyDrafted articles attacking Greenpeace, Stephen Russell appears twice on Greenpeace sites raising seemingly scientific questions. Here is our response to his points about our laptop testing report 'Toxic Chemicalsin Computers Exposed'.

The mysterious Stephen Russell, if he does exist, has left no trail online, which is very unusual for a supposed "IT consultant". In fact his posting to our weblog came from a computer having an IP address belonging to none other than Apple Computers at their Cupertino headquarters. Someone posting as 'Stephen Russell' here also claims to have been to China, found the kids we photographed in e-waste dump sites, and got them to spill the beans about how the "westerners with cameras" had paid them money to hold up Apple components and pretend they had found them in the waste piles. Sadly, he failed to take any photos himself or otherwise document his claim. We, on the other hand, can produce the photographer who took the original images. He's our former Programme Director, Bruno Rebelle. 

Keith Ripley

Writing in as a guest blogger, Keith criticised both the Guide to Greener Electronics and the laptop testing report 'Toxic Chemicals in Computers Exposed'. Our response can be found here in the article comments.


Apple has not responded directly, but we check our mailbox every day for some sign from Steve that he's listening. We don't actually mind if he *never* answers us, just as long as he does the right thing and greens Apple.

Apple has made a few reactive comments in the media when questioned about the campaign. Often it refers to the environmental section of its website which our ranking already highlighted the lack of timelines and transparency in that section. Also it has made pretty lame references to its ranking from the US EPEAT tool.

US Environmental Protection Agency's new electronic product environmental assessment tool (EPEAT):

But Apple is patting itself on the back with a kid glove. The EPEAT criteria are less stringent than the Greenpeace criteria. EPEAT does not require elimination of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) or Brominated Fire Retardants  -- two types of toxic chemicals that other manufacturers have already agreed to phase out.

In January many stories with headlines like "EPA proves Greenpeacewrong" were published after the popular Apple Journal Infinite Loop published this article on the EPEAT ranking. It seems only one journalist actually called EPEAT and published the resulting EPEAT comments on the supposed scandal. Now you don't need to just take our word on the rankings being different:

However, Scot Case, marketing director at EPEAT, insisted there was no contradiction between the two ranking systems' findings and that neither could be used to prove the inaccuracy of the other. "My initial reaction was that comparing the two systems was like comparing apples and oranges, but on closer inspection it is more like comparing apples and cows," he said. "EPEAT focuses on ranking the products, Greenpeace is looking at the whole company."

From Green Business News

The respected Environmental Data Services ( ENDS) Report reviewed our ranking and points out that no company meets the EPEAT gold standard. Many companies share silver standard with Apple products. And when ENDS tried to contact Apple with questions, they were given the brush off and a statement citing Apple's phase out of cathode-ray-tube monitors as an example of its environmental leadership.

More on our green electronics campaign.