Big tech firms are going all-in on green

Earth Day is a national holiday that was inaugurated in 1969 at a UNESCO conference held in San Francisco. Every year since, earthlings worldwide have dedicated April 22 as a day for environmental renewal, through local initiatives like planting trees and cleaning parks. While that intention has not changed over the past 50 years, the technology that is relied upon to get the job done has — dramatically. Let’s look at a few examples of how tech is keeping Mother Earth greener today.

Apple increases iPhone recycling in an effort to lower carbon emissions

Apple’s dream is to produce consumer products from 100% recycled materials. With this lofty goal in mind, attention is being drawn to Apple with the opening of a new e-recycling plant in Austin, TX.

In an Apple press release, the company boasts of their environmental plan to create all new products from recycled materials. The first step in that plan was revealed last year with the release of Daisy. The 33-foot robot has five arms with the sole purpose of dissecting 15 different kinds of iPhones. Everything from the 2012 iPhone 5 to the 2018 iPhone XS can be disassembled after a consumer gives the phone back to an Apple Store or a Best Buy as part of the Apple Trade-In program.

Their newest announcement by Apple was the 9,000 sq. ft. e-recycling facility in Austin, TX. Dubbed the Material Recovery Lab, the facility is built entirely around a Daisy. This facility is where academia and scientists are welcome to help Apple redesign the way we recycle electronics.

To date, Apple has received 1 million products through its network of trade in programs. Each Daisy is capable of disposing of approximately 200 iPhones an hour; that’s 1.2 million phones a year. In 2018, Apple refurbished 7.8 million devices, saving close to 48,000 metric tons of electronic waste from the dumps.

Because of this significant change in the way Apple does business, they have been able to lower the carbon footprint of several products still in production. The latest Macbook Air and Macbook Mini have half the footprint of their predecessors. This result comes from innovation and engineering of 100% recycled aluminum alloy. This alloy is recycled with the help of Daisy, and used in the manufacturing of the latest Macbook models.

It is because of these triumphs, that the Materials Recovery lab has been born. Apple hopes to continue to expand their electronic recovery procedures into the future resulting in a 100% recycled new product.

Microsoft empowers environmental scientists with AI for Earth

AI for Earth is Microsoft’s way of giving back to the environment. The grant program is designed to give computing resources to environmental scientists and organizations working on earth friendly programs.

Scientists and organizations are offered two main grant categories: Data Labeling Services and Azure Compute Credits. In addition, the applicants can specialize in four environmental sub-categories: agriculture, biodiversity, climate change, and water.

Data Labeling Services allow organizations to create key data sets in one of the four environmental sub-categories. All data sets that are labeled through the grant program are hosted on Azure and made publicly available to other organizations and individuals for training models.

Azure Compute Credits are available if you have access to a labeled dataset and are ready to start computing in the cloud and accessing Azure AI tools. The participant will get a denomination of Azure compute credits to be used for the cataloging and computing data in Azure software.

Examples of projects funded by Microsoft’s AI for Earth include using artificial intelligence for forest mapping, fighting extinction, increasing crop production, using insects and drones to track emerging diseases and even to help fight poaching. When human ingenuity and technology converge, great things are bound to happen.

Technology can save the world

With advances in technology and AI, humans can do what was once unimaginable. The research being accomplished by both, Microsoft and Apple, is a testament to human ingenuity. For veterans, an opportunity to contribute represents the next frontier in the battle against humanity’s existential threats. We look forward to seeing the new and wonderful things that can be produced by these organizations and the people who are empowered by them.

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