We launched our campaign to reduce electronic waste in 2004,
with the aim to remove the worst toxic substances from electronic
products, improve recycling policies, and to catalyze a fundamental
change in the way our electronic gadgets are designed, produced,
In 2006, we published a ranking guide to put pressure on
individual companies to improve policies and practices.
Companies like Dell and Lenovo responded to the pressure,
commiting to phase outs of the worst toxic substances from their
product ranges, and in the case of Dell, challenging the entire
computer industry to adopt a worldwide free take-back policy, as
Dell had done.
In late 2006, it became clear that the company which had been
least responsive and falling further and further back in the
rankings was, surprisingly, Apple.
In considering how we might win improved policies from Apple, we
knew one thing for certain: Apple might tune out Greenpeace, but
they would never tune out their customers. Apple's famously loyal
fan base was the one force on the planet that was guaranteed to get
the attention of Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
So we decided this was to be a very different Greenpeace
campaign, one in which we would turn over the reigns to Apple's
customers. We would stand in the shoes of Apple fans, we would
speak as fellow believers in the wizards of Cupertino, and we'd try
to channel waves of Apple Love at corporate headquarters.
The result was the launch of the Green
my Apple website in September 2006, the first words of which
were, "We love Apple."
The site was designed to look like Apple's own site, with
in-jokes that only Apple fans would get, and a single unifying
"We love our Macs. We just wish they came in green."
It was designed, written and promoted as a place where Apple
fans interested in a greener Apple could learn about the call for
Apple to be a green leader and, crucially, show their support in many different
If you only had a minute you could email Steve (Just "Steve."
Apple fans are all on a first name basis with Apple's CEO) and you
could recommend the Green my Apple site to social networking
services like Digg, Hugg, and del.icio.us with a single
If you had more time, you could blog about the campaign, and
your blog entry, whether positive or negative, would become part of the
content of the site itself due to the magic of Technorati and RSS feeds.
And for those with creative talent there were "ProCreation"
challenges for people to create poster and t-shirt designs.
In the begining
This is virtuoso activism - with the
best usage of online and digital media I have ever seen. From a
digital communications perspective, I think that Greenpeace have
really upped the ante with this one.
Rather than responding to Greenpeace,
Apple should respond directly to their users and fans. The message
could be about how they realise this issue is important to their
stakeholders, which is why they are reacting. Apple can then
clarify their green strategy and future plans to improvement. --International
Association of Business Communicators Blog, 3 November 2006
At the start of the Green my Apple campaign, we made it clear
what we wanted:
We want you to run this campaign. We want you to create the
campaign T-shirt, pen the speech in which Steve Jobs announces the
Greening of Apple, shoot the Apple Ad that sets Cupertino talking
about clean production and take-back schemes.
The Green my Apple website has all the information and the raw
materials you need to get you started. If you're creative, create.
If you're networked, network. There's plenty to do, and many hands
make light work.
In a first for Greenpeace, we gave away some of our images and
videos under creative commons licenses for people to remix and mash
up and post on the sites 'ProCreations' page. What came back was
high quality, amusing and wonderful work.
Bloggers made and shared their own blog buttons quicker than we
could respond to a request for them. Some people made online
merchandise to promote the campaign before we'd even thought of
In fact from the day of the launch, interest in the site was
massive (the resilience of our servers had never been so thoroughly
tested!) and soon the ProCreations where flowing in. Apple chose
not to comment; perhaps hoping their fans would come to their
But the difference this time was that Apple wasn't being
attacked, Apple fans were asking their favourite company to be
greener. In fact we were getting so many designs in the first few
weeks we had to make the process to put them up much faster.
These are some of the best ones submitted:
Not content to remain online we took the green my apple message
to MacExpo in London to talk to Mac fans in person.
The majority of people we talked to were supportive of a greener
Unfortunately the MacExpo organisers and Apple were not so
keen on a greener Apple message and closed our stall at the
Online many Mac users were writing and blogging about the
campaign from magazine writers to marketing and advertising
executives; even Mac media encouraged people to support a
It's a campaign we should all
support, as it will only make for an even better Apple.
Rawlinson, Editor MacUser UK.
If Steve Jobs gets up there and talks
about reducing toxic chemicals in their products, people will
applaud him for it. Make us proud, Steve.
The green my apple team also visited Apple stores in London,
Amsterdam, Austin (Texas), and New York to spread the Green my
Apple work and have a bit of fun by sending a message to Steve
direct from the Apple store.
Default wallpapers and homepages on showroom computers were
subverted with Green my Apple messages. People where making their
own videos for the campaign and even creating and selling their own
Green my Apple t-shirts online.
But we still needed an easy way for Apple fans to do more to
show their support. So in November we launched the hug your Mac
action, in which Mac users could download a desktop picture and
declare their love of their Mac, and their wish that it came in
Soon all sorts of images of green Mac love were being posted on
photo-sharing site, Flickr. On the
global map a spread of pictures appeared with photos spanning
the globe from the Domincan Republic to London, Dubai to New York,
Paris to Hong Kong.
The next big Apple event was Macworld in San Francisco. We
created an alternative keynote speech (using Quicktime) in which
Steve announced the phase out of dangerous chemicals, a worldwide
take-back policy, and a green iPod.
It was an instant hit on YouTube and by the day of Steve's real
keynote speech, the spoof video had been viewed over 100,000
In February we heard the first gossip that Steve was considering
a response, and that he might be thinking of
sending a little green love back, appropriately enough on
Valentines Day. Despite the fact that more designs and hug pictures
where appearing online, Apple continued to publicly deny it planned
We knew that Apple usually makes policy announcements just
before its annual general meeting in May. Our US office organised
student campus groups to hold Green my Apple days on campus which
resulted in over 1000
green Apple photo messages for Steve.
Students from three continents contacted us about running Green
my Apple projects. Meanwhile there were
increasing questions about how Apple would responds to two
shareholder resolutions calling for Apple to phase out toxic
chemicals and improve its recycling policy.
Despite the arguments, let's hope
Apple can come to terms with stronger and more effective policies
in this delicate day and age of increasing environmental
- The Unofficial Apple Weblog
The great work being posted on the website, which had already
generated many blog comments, started to get more formal
recognition. The site was
nominated for best non-profit site at the SXSW web awards.
It then won a Webby award as
best activist site of the year.
Before we'd finished the champagne, though, that same week we
saw something we'd really been waiting for:
A familiar-looking green apple appeared on the Apple website
with a very familiar heading "A Greener Apple," linking to an open
letter from Steve Jobs declaring a change in policy.
While it was not everything that we had hoped for from Apple, it
Steve stepped up to be clearer about Apple's environmental
policies. He declared a phase out of the worst chemicals in its
product range, Brominated Fire Retardants (BFRs) and Polyvinyl
Chloride (PVC) by 2008. He promised more transparency.
While falling short of announcing a global take back policy,
Apple did pledge to increase its recycling rate in the future.
But apart from the details, it was clear that Steve had got the
green Apple message loud and clear:
"Apple is already a leader in innovation and engineering, and
we are applying these same talents to become an environmental
Given Steve's reputation for secrecy and single mindedness it's
a massive achievement to see him echoing what so many people called
for - Apple as a green leader.
But that statement is just the first step being a green leader -
to help ensure Steve doesn't forget who asked him for a green Apple
we've made him a nice reminder (just in case he hasn't had time to
check all the ProCreations!) Using Apple software we
created and delivered this book of the best of Green my Apple
direct to Steve. View the book:
This how we delivered it direct to Steve with the help of Apple
The next challenge
Clearly Steve got the message, so we have archived our Green my
Apple website and issued a challenge to all the major computer
makers to see who will be the first to match their promises by
putting a less toxic computer on the market.
Send your message to ask which company will rise to this challenge.
We'll continue to monitor company commitments and actions on our
Greener Electronics Guide every 3 months to ensure phase out
schedules and actions are kept. But we're also confident that Apple
will keep its promise -- because it made that promise not to
Greenpeace, but to its customers.
Hopefully Steve will make a start by announcing green features of the iPhone when it is launched soon?
Harnessing the power of customers
This campaign was a lesson in people power. It's not every day
that the CEO of a Fortune 500 company responds to a campaign demand
on the front page of his website.
Yet over the past few years, we've found that campaigns which
harness the power of customers are becoming increasingly effective
in moving corporate policy toward better green policies.
Online activism has turned
Coca Cola from a climate-killer to an
innovator in refrigeration technologies. McDonald's went from a
destroyer of the rainforest to the
champion of a moratorium on new soy plantations in the
As new web tools enable more creative online activism, more
social networking, more global campaigns, and more collaboration
from audiences made up of customers and consumers, the global
online community is becoming an increasingly powerful force for
all a part of the "Second Superpower" of public opinion, and the Green
my Apple campaign is but one example of how solutions to planetary
problems can be won. All it takes, sometimes, is people speaking up.