By now, you probably will have read about Apple's abrupt return to EPEAT, the green technology certification initiative that many government agencies and some corporate accounts use as a procurement guideline for energy-efficient, environmentally compliant hardware.
Apple pulled out of the Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool in late June. Although it didn't say much publicly about why it had made this surprise move (considering that it helped design the program in the first place), published comments by EPEAT CEO Robert Frisbee led many to speculate that it was over Apple's design approach. The elegance of the new MacBooks, for example, makes them really hard to take apart for recycling, which is kind of a no-no.
What fascinated me most about the latest exchange of statements about the whole matter wasn't the fact that Apple was returning. Although I was surprised, I was happy to hear about it. What really is intriguing, were statements made by Apple that its return is a potential harbinger of changes to the EPEAT rating criteria.
Frisbee wrote in a statement on the EPEAT Web site:
"An interesting question for EPEAT is how to reward innovations that are not yet envisioned with standards that are fixed at a point in time. Diverse goals, optional points awarded for innovations not yet described, and flexibility within specified parameters to make this happen are all on the table in EPEAT stakeholder discussions."
A letter on Apple's environmental site from Bob Mansfield, senior vice president of hardware engineering for the computer maker, gets even more detailed. It seems that one point of contention was EPEAT's use of the IEEE 1680.1 standard and Energy Star as its benchmark for energy efficiency. Mansfield wrote:
"We make the most energy-efficient computers in the world and our entire product line exceeds the stringent ENERGY STAR 5.2 government standard. No one else in our industry can make that claim. We think the standard could be a much stronger force for protecting the environment if it were upgraded to include advancements like these."
If you read between the lines, the implications are that EPEAT may use this experience to refresh some of the criteria it uses. Ultimately, that could be a really good thing for the cause of green technology certifications.