In its annual product advertisement-disguised-as-news-event today, Apple executives went out of their way to highlight the environmentally friendly techniques they now employ to make hardware. The iPhone 13’s antenna lines will use recycled material from water bottles, for instance, while Apple has eliminated the outer plastic wrap on iPhone boxes to save 600 metric tons of plastic. Of course, what Apple executives couldn’t say is that the most environmentally friendly thing to do is to hold onto your iPhone for as long as humanly possible.
Therein lies the contradiction facing Apple, like other companies nowadays. How do you keep consumers spending money when they’re more conscious than ever of the impact of their shopping on climate change and the environment? If you’re Apple, you give a nod to the environment and then keep moving, hoping the allure of gleaming new devices overcomes whatever environmental conscience people have. That might work for some consumers. But given the steadily diminishing gap between each new iPhone’s capabilities and the previous year’s, this environmental issue is likely to loom larger over time.