Are laptops sustainable?
During the pandemic, there is one device in particular that has become even more popular if possible: the laptop. At the beginning of the first state of alarm, demand grew so high that supply chains struggled to meet it.
Laptops have become indispensable for working and studying from home, and they are also excellent devices for communicating with loved ones, for online shopping, and for general entertainment.
However, this demand comes at the cost of an equally worrisome global problem: climate change. Many companies have factories throughout the planet and the manufacturing process of these products is so complicated that future recycling is impossible.
Is it possible that notebook production and sustainability exist at the same time? Can a laptop really be considered sustainable? Which companies put the well-being of the environment first? We find out below.
What is sustainability?
In general terms, sustainability is considered that which allows us to satisfy our needs without compromising the possibility of future generations to satisfy their own needs.
In the context of the technology sector, it basically refers to two areas: manufacturing and distribution. Some companies are already taking the first steps to produce at a high level using the least possible resources.
Others are dedicating their efforts to investing in projects that help remove polluting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, making them carbon neutral.
The most sustainable laptops you can buy are made, at least partially, from responsibly mined materials, while the companies that make them often promise they will be carbon neutral in the near future.
Which companies are the most sustainable?
Many manufacturers dedicate part of their web pages to explain their commitment to sustainability. But that does not necessarily mean that they are carrying out what they have promised.
HP is strongly committed to reducing its impact on the environment. The company assures that it already manufactures 80% of its mechanical parts from recycled materials, while they have also used 1.7 million tons of plastic found in the sea in their products.
The company also claims that the Elite Dragonfly is the first notebook in the world to use this plastic recovered from the ocean, while its recently announced range of HP Pavilion notebooks has also been manufactured in a similar way.
Microsoft has arguably been the most ambitious company in its long-term goals, engaging in both the carbon, water, waste and ecosystems departments.
The technology giant assures that, in 2030, it will be carbon neutral, will use hydraulic energy and will have a production without waste. It has also pledged to protect and restore more territory than it uses by 2025.
If it achieves these goals, Microsoft will be among the most sustainable companies in the world in a decade. Although it hasn’t gotten there yet, you can buy the Surface Pro 7 or Surface Book 3 knowing that the company has produced them with the environment in mind.
Like Microsoft, Apple has committed to being carbon neutral from its supply chain to its manufacturing process starting in 2030. It has not hesitated to repeat this at its latest product launch events.
In fact, the company announced at the September event that it would stop including a power adapter in the box of its iPhones to reduce environmental impact. Although not everyone has a USB-C adapter at home, it is a step in the right direction.
Something similar will surely happen with the next MacBooks. No Apple notebook is compatible with a charge greater than 30W, so it is likely that most people who buy a new MacBook have a compatible charger from an older model.
As they claim from MacRumors , the latest Mac 30W charger is also compatible with the latest iPhone and iPad Pro models, making it less necessary to have one more cable at home.
It seems that Dell is leading the way when it comes to sustainability, as there are reports that the company has been carbon neutral since 2019. The same Industry Week article also points out that its headquarters in Texas use 100% renewable energy.
Dell has not set any specific goals for the future, but its current progress is very promising. Aside from potential electronic waste, devices like the XPS 13 are appealing both because they will last you for many years and because they are made by a company that takes the planet very seriously.
On its website , Acer lists several ways to reduce the impact its products have on the environment. Here are some of them:
- Extend the life of products to reduce the need to constantly buy new ones.
- Design devices in such a way that they are easier to repair or recondition.
- Commit to using recycled plastics in products (currently that’s 8.9% of all laptops made).
- Restrict the use of chemicals, particularly those that can harm the environment.
- Ban any relationship with suppliers guilty of deforestation and illegal logging.
- Minimize the consumption of paper and use ecological alternatives when necessary.
- Reduce the size of product boxes and make them recyclable.
- Make products energy efficient by design (many with US Energy Star certification).
- Design products so that they can be recycled as easily as possible and work with other organizations that manage e-waste.
Although these are commitments as a company, it is clear that laptops like the Acer Swift 5 or the Acer Swift 3 have been produced responsibly.
Like many companies, Lenovo produces an annual sustainability report. It highlights the key areas in which you are committed to caring for the environment, such as those highlighted below:
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Use renewable energy sources where possible.
- Save water.
- Use environmentally friendly products during manufacturing, packaging, and the recycling process.
Lenovo also wants to be more transparent about the impact it has on the environment and climate change. Unlike other manufacturers, the company only claims that it is “committed to reducing (its) global carbon footprint”, without specifying any objective.
However, arguably this could indicate that your path to sustainability will come earlier. Products in the Yoga and ThinkPad ranges are built to last, and combined with the points above, that makes them a sustainable option.
It is practically impossible to talk about all the laptop manufacturers in the world in a single article. It’s clear that most major brands have sustainability goals, but it remains to be seen how many will meet.
If you are looking for a specific list of laptop models, we recommend that you visit the website for TCO Certification , an internationally recognized sustainability standard.
After all, laptops are more sustainable than other products such as smartphones , as they have a longer life. People usually use the same laptop for about five years, while it is common to change mobile every two years.
While the 100% sustainable laptop does not arrive from a brand that is also 100% sustainable, we suggest you visit our best laptops article to see which laptops have a longer life expectancy. We also recommend the best sustainable and solidarity gift ideas .