Apple’s Environmental Commitment to Create More Low End Mac & iOS Device Users

We users of low-end Macs know how long Apple computers last and how durable they are thanks to the high-end materials and components used in the creation of Apple hardware. Due to this longevity, short of being on a budget, we enjoy using, keeping, and buying older Macs along with the other Apple products that fit the bill, such as iOS devices like iPhones and iPads.

In addition to lasting for many years, if not decades (the oldest computer I own that is in use today is a 2.53 GHz MacBook Pro 15-inch Late 2008 notebook computer, the very first aluminum unibody model released by Apple in October 2008, and it is coming on its tenth anniversary in a couple of months, having been purchased in December 2008), another reason users of low-end Macs enjoy longevity is the fact that Apple supports a good number of older models when releasing a new version of macOS, allowing owners of vintage or obsolete computers by Apple standards to benefit and reap the rewards of a “new” computer with the updated software.

As Environmentally Friendly as Possible

At the Apple special event earlier this month on September 12 — where the Apple Watch Series 4 and iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max were unveiled — one of the characteristics given about the new iPhones was that, according to Apple Senior Vice President of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller, “The team works really hard to make these iPhones in the most environmentally friendly manner possible.” Schiller then brought up onstage, Apple Vice President of Environment Policy and Social Initiatives, Lisa Jackson, to speak about the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech company’s commitment to the environment — and something she specifically said in particular regarding its hardware and devices caught my attention.

The following quotes from Jackson, along with all other quoted and attributed material from the Apple special event, come courtesy of a full transcript transcribed by the staff at The Singju Post website.

“You know, we never stop thinking what’s best for the planet,” said Jackson.

“This starts with our products but it extends to everything we do at Apple. We hope to one day eliminate our need to mine new materials from the Earth. Now as you can imagine, this is a massive effort. So to reach that goal, we have to do three things.”

“First, we’ll have to find new ways to make our products with recycled or renewable materials that are sourced responsibly. Then we’ll have to ensure that our products last as long as possible. And then finally after a long life of use, we have to ensure that they’re recycled properly.”

She went on and talked about the material innovations used in the new iPhone models they had just announced, from recycled tin used in the phone’s logic board, which will prevent the mining of 10,000 tons of tin each year, to the reduction in use of traditional plastics and instead transitioning to the use of recycled and bio-based materials. Jackson gave the example of the speaker enclosure on the new iPhone XS being made with 35% post-consumer recycled plastic and its cover glass frame being made with 32% bio-based plastic and all of those examples she said were better for the planet.

Lisa Jackson discusses Apple's recycling and renewable energy initiatives.

Lisa Jackson discusses Apple’s recycling and renewable energy initiatives. (Photo: Courtesy of Apple)

“Second, we also make sure to design and build durable products that last as long as possible. That means long-lasting hardware coupled with our amazing software. All of these devices, including the iPhone 5S (from 2013), run iOS 12 . . . and because they last longer, you can keep using them, and keeping using them is the best thing for the planet.”

This commitment to the environment by Apple will create more users of low-end Macs — and other hardware such as their iOS devices as Jackson used as her primary examples in her address — because unless someone wants the latest and greatest model each year, whether for want or need, Apple is encouraging its customers to hold on to their Macs (and iPhones and iPads) for a long time. And as I already pointed out earlier, forthcoming versions of macOS that are released will be supported on that new machine purchased today for a good deal down the road.

We only need to look no further than at the example used by Jackson of the five-year-old iPhone 5S, which was released in 2013, still being supported by Apple today with the current version of its mobile operating system, iOS 12, that was released on September 17. As old as that phone is, with the average use of a phone being two years before a user upgrades, it’s quite remarkable — if not phenomenal — that such an antiquated device by conventional standards can support the latest version of iOS and, as she said, iOS 12 is designed to make your iPhone and iPad experience even better, even more responsive, and faster than before.

Heck, if you didn’t already know, something which many of the members of the Low End Mac Facebook group do, there is a way to install newer versions of macOS on unsupported machines thanks to a patch, created by a fellow who is a member of the group, helping to further extend the life of older Macs. (If you haven’t joined our Facebook group already — or its sister group Low End iPod, iPhone, and iPad —  there’s your impetus to join so that you can meet that person and ask for a link to the patches they have created for a number of versions of macOS including the newly released version of its operating system, macOS Mojave version 10.14, which debuted on September 24).

Finding a New Home for Recycled Macs

One particular member of the Low End Mac Facebook group who I recently met online, I myself being a member of the group, is Scott Flanagan, 38, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, a freelance graphic designer and owner of BDrive Studios, LLC who is doing his part to help the environment by rescuing Macs that have accumulated at an electronics recycling center in the downtown area near his home. Flanagan has embarked on a personal project (crusade?) to salvage the large and vast collection of Apple computers that range from the oldest, a 1987 Macintosh SE (which he personally took possession of), to the much newer Mid 2010 MacBook, the white plastic unibody model.

At the time of publication, he had already secured permission from the owner of the electronics recycling center to obtain the pre-owned Macs to give them a second life in a new home. The computers have been purchased (they are not free even though most end up being scrapped for parts) and are currently in the process of all data on the hard drives from the previous owners being securely deleted.

“Well, I have been frequenting my local electronics recycling center for the past 3 years, and ever since that point up until now, they have had a large number of older Macs in their possession,” said Flanagan.

“I’ve bought a few, a Mac SE, iMac G4, and a PowerBook 540c to name some of the better finds, and no one has shown interest in these older Macs during that time, most likely much longer. Because it takes up a considerable amount of room, the newly appointed head of this particular branch wanted to scrap and recycle them. To that end, when I found out that the recycling plant was going to scrap all of these old and mostly working Macs, I couldn’t in good conscience let them do so, knowing how many people would be interested in owning and taking care of them.”

Flanagan posted his project on the Facebook group to tell members what he was doing, and the response was so overwhelming — he initially received approximately 50 requests from more than 30 members — that he had to turn down many people and limit requests to those living in the United States only. In addition, some computers have been discovered to be non-functional, while others became unavailable, so some members’ requests have been put on hold. He is not profiting in any way from his philanthropic venture, which he considers a noble cause and is only looking to charge whatever expenses he incurs such as he cost of the item, packaging, shipping, and nominal transportation costs, though donations are welcome.

And while embarking on a large and time-consuming project such as this one has no personal benefit or profit in return, it is certainly a huge boon to the environment. Not to mention the benefit to Low End Mac readers looking for a new low-end machine to upgrade or add to their collection.

“I definitely feel that keeping these older Macs in the hands of LEM members will keep some of the more harmful chemicals out of the environment for a while longer. I own an electric car, recycle, and try to produce as little waste as possible. I even use metal straws, ha ha! So, being environmentally conscious is very important to me and has been for a long time. If this venture can help make my community a bit cleaner, even a little bit, then I’m all for it!”

Three aluminum iMacs await their fate of either being resold and reused or recycled at an electronics recycling center in downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana near the home of a member of the Low End Mac Facebook group.

Three aluminum iMacs await their fate of either being resold and reused or recycled at an electronics recycling center in downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana near the home of a member of the Low End Mac Facebook group. (Photo: Scott Flanagan)

A Huge Win for the Planet

Also at the Apple special event, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced at the beginning of his keynote address that the company had sold its two billionth iOS device. That’s a lot of iOS devices floating around worldwide that include the iPhone, iPad, and fading out in the wind iPod touch which, if not recycled by Apple (or a third party), will end up in landfills and polluting our environment! We can only hope that many of those devices find new life in the hands of Apple users looking to save some cash and purchase them being resold on the aftermarket in places like eBay, Craigslist, or one of our many own regional LEM Swap Facebook groups.

Apple itself has an in-house recycling program which Jackson ended her address and shared with those in attendance at the Apple special event.

“And finally, when it comes time to reuse and recycle, we have ‘Apple Giveback.’ … With Apple Giveback, it doesn’t matter what device you have or what condition it’s in, bring it in or mail it in to us. We’ll assess it, and if it can be used by someone else, we’ll give you the value. If not, we’ll recycle it properly for free. … So that iPhone 5S, with Apple Giveback, it can go on to another user when you’re ready to switch to a new iPhone. … Either way, it’s good for you, but it is a huge win for the planet!”

Of course, I’d be remiss not to mention that aside from its products, its own new headquarters, Apple Park, as Jackson pointed out at the start of her address, is run on 100% renewable energy — as are all of its facilities worldwide such as data centers running on clean energy — with the campus powered by its own solar panels and biogas fuel cells.

All of this is great news and bodes well not only for our environment but for the mantra of what this website was designed and stands for: Making the most of your Apple gear and squeezing the most life out of it. The buyers of a brand new Mac or iOS device today (or in recent years) will eventually join the ranks of low-end Mac and iOS device users with their long-lasting and highly recyclable hardware and devices becoming low-end before they know it.

And, should they decide after a year or two, five, or ten years down the road, that an upgrade is in order, their Mac or iOS device hopefully will be resold and reused before it’s eventually recycled, finding its way into the hands of a new owner — which may just be you — ensuring that it will get even more years of use for a very long time.


From the Publisher: The Low End Mac Swap List, one of our busiest email lists back in the day, has been pretty much replaced by four geographic Facebook groups for buying and selling used Apple gear, both macOS and iOS:

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