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Apple retail keeps it green during fire sale [updated]

In its latest effort to positively impact the environment, Apple's retail stores have initiated a new "no plastic bags" policy to cut back on the amount of unnecessary packaging it dumps in the hands of shoppers. [Updated 3/9 with image of poster card]

Apple store visitors who make more than handful of purchases in the store are offered assistance to their car or the option of leaving their items at the store while they continue shopping, in the case of retail outlets located in a mall.

The cat is back in the bag

The move reflects the company's efforts to push the envelope in going green, a central feature of both its advertising and product design. The company was among the first to reduce the size of its software packaging and has developed some of the slimmest boxes of any consumer electronics maker. It has also shunned plastic optical media in favor of electronic distribution from iTunes sales to web-based video distribution in iLife and MobileMe.

Getting rid of plastic bags is the next step. The city and county of San Francisco banned plastic shopping bags in grocery stores a year ago, and a variety of US cities have expressed interest in following suit including Austin, Texas; Boston, Massachusetts; Portland, Oregon; and Phoenix, Arizona.

San Francisco now has 5 million fewer of the difficult to recycle plastic bags per month hitting its landfills. Internationally, Paris and London have since enacted similar bans. In Ireland and Germany, shoppers pay a recycling fee for plastic bags, prompting many shoppers to bring their own baskets or carts.

Green despite an inventory fire sale

Apple started its bag-free program this week near the release of a wide range of new Mac models. Inventory checks indicate that the company's retail stores still have a significant supply of previous models; the company usually aims to clear remaining inventory out of the channel before new product launches, but the retail slump has made that difficult to do.

A paper card advertising availability of previous-gen Macs at Apple retail stores this month.

As a result, many Apple retail stores are offering special "end of life" deals on remaining stock until its inventory is depleted. The company isn't advertising the deals publicly, but users interested in new Macs are given the option of buying the new improved Macs that were just released, or purchasing from the remaining inventory of older models at, as one Apple store employee said, "super cheapy prices."

A variety of mail order companies are also offering special discounts on both new models and their existing inventory of previous Macs. In particular, some resellers are offering discounts of $300 to $500 off the original sticker price of previous generation iMacs, who performance was recently shown to be on par with just-released models when strictly talking CPU performance. A comparison of deals is presented in our Mac Price Guide.