Apple Watch: Nothing like the Amazon

ONCE upon a time, not so long ago, Apple and Greenpeace weren't exactly best mates. Greenpeace criticised Apple for having an unacceptable ecological profile in 2007.

The criticism must have stung, as Apple moved pretty quickly to get rid of almost all polycarbonate cases and changed manufacturing processes to cut down or eliminate poisons and carcinogens like mercury and arsenic, PVC and brominated flame retardants through everything. The new approach extended even to the glass used in Macs and iDevices.

A few years on, the latest Greenpeace look at ecological performance finds Apple, Facebook and Google are doing the most to lead the charge towards a sustainably powered internet, while Amazon, and specifically AWS (one of the leading distributed hosting providers) are holding things back.

At the 'good' end of the spectrum, Google, Facebook and Apple get much more of their energy from clean sources, rather than those considered 'bad' like coal and nuclear.

Greenpeace doesn't like coal and nuclear, needless to say. But Apple uses 100 percent clean energy sources, according to Greenpeace, to power both iTunes and iCloud. Some of that comes from Apple's purpose-built solar station.

The new Mac Pro showcases Apple's focus on energy consumption: the upgraded model consumes 68 per cent less power in idle mode than its predecessor, according to Apple.

Earlier this year, Apple released its Supplier Responsibility Progress Report. This announced Apple was increasing the number of environmental audits it conducted on its supply chain by 50 per cent while upgrading several issues from less serious breaches to unacceptable violations.This is Apple's eighth report.

Greenpeace also praised Apple for hiring former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson to lead its environmental efforts. Partly, Jackson is working on Apple's new site in Cupertino. The plan is for the campus, in the early stages of construction, to run entirely on renewable energy thanks to on-site fuel cell plants and rooftop photovoltaic arrays. Natural ventilation and radiant cooling mean the spaceship won't need traditional air conditioning for 70 per cent of the year.

The huge 24166.73 square metre four-story donut of a building is on a 71 hectare site that will house up to 13,000 employees. The spaceship campus architect, Norman Foster, compares it to a university in scale. Foster was also responsible for London's so-called 'Gherkin' building and the restored Berlin Reichstag. Other architects, by way of criticism, have pointed out it won't be very easy to have flexible working spaces within, as per the current corporate vogue, but the inner and outer rims of each floor will be left open as walkways so employees can, ahem, circulate.

Wired has a lot more info, plans and pictures.

Cars will be parked underneath, so you won't have to stare at featureless car parks from your office window. A glass pavilion will serve as the entryway to an underground auditorium. Apple has always had a thing about glass - Steve Jobs in particular, and his hand will be evident everywhere. "There isn't a straight piece of glass in the whole building," Jobs boasted in his initial presentation on it. Jobs decided the industry-standard 1/8 inch breaks between surfaces was too unseemly and demanded the gaps in his new headquarters be no greater than 1/32 inch across. Not sure what that means in an earthquake zone, but I guess that's one of the many compliances to be worked through. To aid transit across the hub, over one thousand bikes will be made available, and hard-to-believe four-storey sliding glass doors are promised to open out onto the park.

By 2016, when the new Apple campus is complete, it will be 80 per cent landscape. Currently there are 4500 trees on the plot, but when Apple is done there will be 7000.

Apparently, Jobs wanted the campus to evoke the California of his childhood, one he "still the fruit bowl of America." Get it?

Apple's proposals describe the future landscape as 'an ecologically rich oak savanna reminiscent of the early Santa Clara Valley'. It definitely will not look like the Amazon. David Muffly, Apple's Senior Arborist - and that is a real person and his real job title - will have his hands full: he and his landscape designers on the job have plotted the site down to the very last tree ... and don't worry, not far from a fountain workers can take their pick from a cluster of apple trees. By the entrance to the cafeteria there will be rows of cherry, plum and apricot trees, and persimmons will be sprinkled beyond those.

The huge circular building encloses a round park, and will also house a wellness centre which will serve all Apple employees in the greater Cupertino area (that's 20,000 people), plus a presentation centre so Apple won't have to rent out theatres in San Francisco for product events anymore.

Speaking of events, Apple's Annual Worldwide Developers' Conference just got announced. Once again it will be at the Moscone West conference centre in San Francisco - maybe the last, or second to last. Apple announced WWDC 2014 will take place June 2-6, with tickets available from April 25 at 10am US Pacific Time.

For the past few years, the 5000 tickets have sold out super-fast (last year in under two minutes). Demand is so strong, this year Apple will employ a random selection system: "Developers will know their status by Monday, April 7 at 5pm PDT. There will also be 200 Student Scholarships available, giving students around the world the chance to earn a free ticket." So you sign up to go into a lottery to 'win' the chance to pay US$1600 for a ticket. OK, I might be wrong, but can you imagine this happening for a Samsung event? Coz I can't.

Although many developers simply won't get in, apparently many are travelling to San Francisco anyway since so much happens around WWDC these days. Third party conferences, displays and 'landing zones', to which almost anyone can have access. (Not sure how would will work if WWDC transfers to the spaceship.)

Apple's State of the Union session and the Apple Design Awards will be live-streamed via the WWDC website this year. Full steam ahead, then.

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