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EPEAT finds MacBook Air conforms to 'green' standard after review

EPEAT on Friday released the results of an investigation regarding the environmental friendliness of "ultra-thin" laptops initiated shortly after Apple announced it was pulling out of the ratings system, finding that the tested devices conformed to so-called "green" standards, including the MacBook Air.

MacBook Air EPEAT

Apple's MacBook Air webpage shows an EPEAT Gold rating. | Source: Apple

The government-backed EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) announced that five "ultra-thin" notebooks made by Apple, Lenovo,Samsung and Toshiba, met the assessment's criteria and were subsequently deemed to be in conformance with the "green rating" system's standards.

“EPEAT is committed to foster greener electronics and to give purchasers the tools to evaluate green claims,” said EPEAT CEO Robert Frisbee. “The system’s rigorous environmental assessment processes result from a powerful stakeholder collaboration that includes purchasers, environmental advocates, government, manufacturer, recycler and academic participants. This latest series of stringent investigations demonstrates the power of that approach.”

According to the group, specific areas of concern were product upgradability, use of components that don't require exotic tools to upgrade, and "materials of concern" like batteries that can be easily removed from a computer's housing.

To ensure the integrity of the registry, EPEAT undertook a number of fundamental inquiries. These included:
  • A request for formal clarification of the standard requirements from the independent Product Verification Committee (PVC) – a group of experts on electronics and environmental issues who provide interpretation of conformity requirements and rule on verification findings.
  • A comprehensive review of publicly available technical information for notebook products in the EPEAT registry.
  • An independent verification investigation for those products where public information did not resolve questions of potential nonconformance.
For the verification investigation, EPEAT contracted with a technical test lab to independently purchase these devices on the open market, and disassemble them according to the instructions provided.

First started in July, EPEAT's test came directly after Apple requested 39 of its computers be removed from the standard-setting group's registry of environmentally friendly products. The company quickly reversed its decision following an outpouring of criticism, but failed to offer an explanation as to why it pulled the products in the first place.

At the time, it was speculated that the move was tied to Apple's newly-released MacBook Pro with Retina display, the design of which was inconsistent with EPEAT's requirements regarding recyclability.

“[Apple] said their design direction was no longer consistent with the EPEAT requirements,” Frisbee said of Apple's decision to pull its products. “They were important supporters and we are disappointed that they don’t want their products measured by this standard anymore.”

Apple, along with advocacy groups and government agencies, helped create EPEAT's standards.


It should be noted that while the Retina-toting MacBook Pro was never submitted for EPEAT approval and was not part of the most recent assessment, the device still holds an EPEAT Gold rating according to Apple's website.

Although controversy may still surround the top-of-the-line MacBook Pro, it appears that changes made to the newest MacBook Air's design, including the move away from glued-in batteries, fall within the guidelines of EPEAT's standards.