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Apple is advertising its environmental efforts with a video narrated by CEO Tim Cook. The company also provided Wired’s Steven Levy with access to its facilities to brag about operating its data centers and corporate offices on 94 percent renewable energy.

The public relations push follows shareholders’ efforts to get Apple to focus more on making a profit and less on sustainable energy. Cook dismissed those efforts, saying that shareholders who are interested only in returns should get out of the company’s stock. Now he’s rubbing some sustainably-mined salt in those wounds with this advertisement and the Wired report.

Pando’s Tim Worstall wrote about the extent of Apple’s sustainable energy efforts after this conflict between Apple and its shareholders became public, and argued that Cook is actually more capitalistic than he’s given credit for:

A closer examination thus seems to show us that Apple does indulge peoples’ green fantasies when it doesn’t cost them much if any money and entirely ignores such greenwashing when it might indeed affect that profit line.

And that, really, is Cook’s dilemma. He knows this, he’s a sharp enough cookie, but he cannot actually stand up and say so. The golden glow that the company gets when Greenpeace lauds its commitment to renewables is worth money in the bank. For there’s a large enough portion of us mug punters who will decide how to spend our money based upon such considerations. But Cook cannot actually say that Apple only does the easy stuff that doesn’t cost anything for this will  shatter that carefully created illusion that they’re not a rapaciously capitalist company focused purely on that bottom line.

Apple is touting its new commitment to “green” with this marketing push, but that desire is based as much in its commitment to another kind of “green” as it is social responsibility. But that’s okay: the Earth doesn’t care about Apple’s coffers, but it could reap the benefits anyway.

Reactions from around the Web

Gigaom explains why touting its environmental prowess is good business for Apple:

It’s important that Apple is finally willing to highlight its clean power projects and tell this story of transforming energy infrastructure. Other internet companies that haven’t invested in similar moves — like Twitter and Amazon, according to the latest report from Greenpeace — will be watching and taking notes on how to respond.

The next-generation of consumers will care more about the carbon footprint and sustainability of their brands than the last, and implementing these moves now will help internet brands gain customers and remain relevant.

The Los Angeles Times notes that Apple’s commitment to sustainability won’t end with energy:

The company also disclosed that it’s in the process of expanding its product take-back program. Instead of just throwing out old gadgets, Apple users can currently return any product by printing out a label from the Apple website and shipping it back to the company.

Soon, users will simply be able to take any product back to an Apple store for disposal.

The New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo writes about the need for longer-lived smartphones:

‘There are 5.6 billion adults in the world, and one day they all should have a cellphone,’ said Kyle Wiens, the co-founder of iFixit, a site that publishes repair manuals for electronics. ‘To make that happen, we’re going to have to make sure that any phone manufactured today lasts for 10 years.’

Despite their small size, smartphones are expensive, resource-hungry goods, and they deserve a better life cycle than two years of use followed by an eternity in a forgotten desk drawer. It is possible to buy smartphones with an eye to longevity — a strategy that will save money and global resources and give you the snooty self-satisfaction of knowing you’re shunning gadget consumerism.

[Photo via span112 on Flickr]