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A Not-So-Green Apple


iPhone users are receiving bills hundreds of pages long - a massive waste of paper, ink, and fuel, which seems to go against everything that Apple says it stands for as a "green" company.


Think of a big corporation with a positive environmental stance, and one of the first that comes to mind would likely be Apple (AAPL).

From a section of its website titled "Apple and the Environment":

Apple recognizes its responsibility as a global citizen and is continually striving to reduce the environmental impact of the work we do and the products we create.

It continues:

How we impact the environment is also important to us, and environmental considerations are an integral part of Apple's business practices.

It points out that "Packaging for the current-generation iMac uses 59% less plastic and 20% less paper than the iMac G4 flat panel, while taking up 40% less space.

And that it "recently reduced packaging for the iPod and many software titles by more than 50%-eliminating hundreds of thousands of pounds of packaging waste."

Why then, did the Greenpeace rank Apple #10 (behind Nokia (NOK), Dell (DELL), Lenovo (LNVGY), Sony Ericsson (SNE), Samsung (SSNGY), Motorola (MOT), Toshiba (TOSBF), Fujitsu-Siemens (SI), and Acer) in its June, 2007 "Guide to Greener Electronics"?

The latest news to emerge about iPhone bills sure won't move Apple up that list.

In his blog last month, New York Times technology writer David Pogue said that his first iPhone bill was "a staggeringly, hatefully complex document, designed by some Monty Pythoneseque committee in charge of consumer confusion."

But, it's more than confusing. Apple's service provider for the iPhone, AT&T (T), decided to, for some unknown reason, itemize every bit of data the iPhone downloads (upcoming emphasis Pogue's) KILOBYTE BY KILOBYTE!

These breakdowns are resulting in bills hundreds of pages long-a massive waste of paper, ink, and fuel, which seems to go against everything that Apple says it stands for as a "green" company. Apple made a decision to partner with AT&T as its sole service provider. Want an iPhone but don't like AT&T? Sorry, you have no choice. Now, Apple is suffering the consequences of that partner's blunder. Simply put, Apple should have kept their eye on the ball-in this case, AT&T's billing practices.

Each data transmission is recorded but no actual detail about the usage is given except dates and times-with a charge of $0.00 if you are within your usage limits.

Click here to enlarge.

In today's Times, I ran across an article about 23 year-old Justine Ezarik of Pittsburgh who received a box from AT&T containing "a 300-page, double-sided, excruciatingly well-itemized bill," which, she noted, cost AT&T $7.10 in postage to send.

In the March, 2007 issue of Waste News, Elizabeth McGowan wrote that "paperless billing saved the telecommunications company 409 tons of paper in 2006, which is the equivalent of 6,371 trees."

Perfect toilet reading, if I've ever seen it…

That's a lot of lumber-something that other telecoms like Verizon (VZ) and Sprint Nextel (S) acknowledge by promoting web-based paperless billing.

But, wait-what's this? AT&T and The National Arbor Day Foundation received the Silver Cause Marketing Halo Award for Best Environmental/Wildlife Program in 2006?

The honor was awarded in recognition of AT&T's successful eBill Paperless Program campaign with The National Arbor Day Foundation to encourage residential and small business customers to sign up for AT&T eBill service and promote tree planting.

According to, one tree yields about 80,500 sheets of paper. With 10 million iPhones expected to be sold by the end of 2008, recent University of Chicago graduate Muhammad Saleem estimates that, at an average of 50 pages per bill, sent to customers 12 times a year, AT&T will go through 6 bln sheets of paper, or 74,535 trees.

This picture brought to you by "AT&T's successful eBill Paperless Program campaign with The National Arbor Day Foundation."

Finally, yesterday afternoon, AT&T sent text messages to iPhone users around the U.S. were displaying this message:

"We are simplifying your paper bill, removing itemized detail. To view all detail go to Still need full paper bills? Call 611."

And, as of September 28, all of AT&T's new wireless customers will be sent summarized bills.

All the controversy might have been avoided in the first place if AT&T had just taken a cue from the Japanese.

According to government data, each of Japan's 127 million people uses an average of 200 sets of chopsticks a year, which translates into 90,000 tons of wood.

Now, Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will be setting up boxes to collect used chopsticks and burn them for fuel.

AT&T could have encouraged customers to burn their bills-which they surely would have been thrilled to do.

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