'Tis the Season to Offset Your MacBook's Carbon Footprint

Apple is, to put it mildly, on a roll. The company has been a non-stop powerhouse for most of this century, starting the world-changing iPod, the resuscitation of its desktop and laptop computers, and culminating with the iPad.

That growth has of course had a huge environmental impact, not just in terms of a surge of e-waste from now-unwanted gadgets, but also in terms of the resources needed to build all those new gadgets.

Apple has put green issues front and center since 2007, when the company was goaded into disclosing some of its environmental impacts by environmental groups, and Apple has even earned some recognition from Greenpeace, the same group that led the charge against Apple's green secrecy in 2007, in part for the energy efficiency of its products and for removing toxic chemicals from its products.

Those green features notwithstanding, Apple's laptops are no different from any others when it comes to the carbon impacts from their manufacture and use. And they may actually be more resource-intensive than others, because of the shiny aluminum body of its MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models, which could boost the carbon footprint of the Mac product line.

New York-based carbon offset company Belgrave Trust seeks to both spotlight and offset the carbon footprint of Apple's ubiquitous MacBooks this holiday season. The company has calculated the carbon footprint of a single MacBook Pro and, for $10, will offset the .63 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) for its entire lifecycle.

Bryan Walsh at Time's EcoCentric blog has more details about the LaptopNeutral program: 

[Belgrave Trust] estimates that aluminum-cased laptops like MacBook Air can cause 42% more greenhouse gas emissions in their manufacture than identical plastic-cased versions. In fact, Belgrave estimates that if Apple sells 10 million aluminum-cased items as expected this holiday season, the company would have a bigger carbon footprint from those products alone than a major airline like British Airways or Air France. "It's a lot more energy-intensive than you imagine," says Nick Baily, Belgrave Trust's founder. "The emissions really add up over time. People don't realize that computers are responsible for around 5% of the world's carbon emissions."

As it happens, Belgrave Trust has a solution. For $10, you can buy carbon credits from Belgrave that will offset the footprint of your new laptop. (Belgrave will give you a sticker so everyone will know that not only did you get a new laptop this holiday seasons, you even made it green.) The $10 credits offset 0.69 tons of CO2e [Belgrave Trust's site says .63 tons CO2e - Ed.] -- Belgrave based the figures on the lifecycle of a new laptop, plus about four years of use. The money goes to fund Belgrave's portfolio of carbon offset projects, including a massive but energy-efficient zinc plant in India.

It will, however, take roughly $100 million to offset the number of MacBook Pros and Airs that Apple is expected to sell this year. That's a whole lot of trees that will need to be planted...

MacBook photo CC-licensed by FHKE.