To meet laudable climate-neutral goal, Apple must rethink repair

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BOSTON — Apple, Inc. announced a bold new vision on Tuesday for getting its total corporate emissions to be carbon neutral by 2030. This follows Microsoft’s own commitment in January to an ambitious climate goal — to become carbon negative by 2030 — as well as a commitment from Amazon to be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2030.  

Apple has come under criticism over the last few years for its opposition to the Right to Repair, as well as the design of certain products, including its AirPods, which can’t be repaired and therefore increase electronic waste, a contributor to environmental degradation. 

In response to Apple’s announcement, U.S. PIRG Right to Repair Campaign Director Nathan Proctor issued the following statement: 

Apple deserves to be celebrated for pledging to make dramatic shifts to renewable energy and more sustainable products. It’s the right thing for the planet, and will serve Apple and its customers well. Instead of waiting to be forced to change by climate-saving legislation, Apple is showing that a climate-friendly model is possible while adapting to thrive in a more renewable system. 

But if Apple is going to meet these goals, it’s time to rethink its approach to repair. Right now, the company is one of the leading opponents of “Right to Repair” legislation, which would empower consumers to repair and reuse products. Repair and reuse are both conspicuously absent from the plan Apple released today. This needs to change. 

It doesn’t do the climate much good if we keep replacing our phones and other electronics at the same rate, even with products made with recycled materials. The vast majority of the waste and climate impact of our phones comes from making them. In a report we released earlier this year, we found that if Americans held on to our phones one year longer on average, the emissions reductions would be equivalent to taking 636,000 cars off the road. We hope this can convince Apple of the need to remove barriers to repair. 

The biggest sustainability problem with our relationship with tech is how many items we buy and how quickly we dispose of them. If Apple is going to hit its laudable, lofty climate goals, it will have to improve the durability of its designs, stop locking its devices to thwart independent repair, and embrace that when people buy an Apple product, they should have the right to repair it on their own terms.