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San Francisco Bans Apple Computers After Company Rejects Green Scheme

San Francisco city officials say they are moving to block purchases of Apple desktops and laptops, by all municipal agencies, after the company removed a green electronics certification from its products.

Officials with the San Francisco Department of Environment told CIO Journal on Monday they would send out letters over the next two weeks,informing all 50 of the city’s agencies that Apple laptops and desktops “will no longer qualify” for purchase with city funds. The move comes after CIO Journal reported that Apple had removed its laptops and notebooks from a voluntary registry of green electronics, called EPEAT. The standard, created jointly by manufacturers, including Apple, government agencies, and activist groups, requires that electronics products be designed for ease in recycling and higher energy efficiency.

Apple requested that all 39 of its certified MacBooks and desktops be removed from the registry late last month, according to EPEAT staffers. A spokeswoman for Apple declined to comment, referring inquiries to the environment section of the company’s website.

“We are disappointed that Apple chose to withdraw from EPEAT,” said Melanie Nutter, director of San Francisco’s Department of Environment, “and we hope that the city saying it will not buy Apple products will make Apple reconsider its participation.”

The letter to municipal agencies will cite a 2007 policy that mandates that city funds only be used to purchase EPEAT-certified desktops, laptops and monitors, Nutter said. The Department of Environment has an advisory role over the purchasing of other agencies–not final say.

But San Francisco’s chief information officer, Jon Walton, who has authority over city computer procurement, told CIO Journal he would back the policy, and no longer allow the purchase of Apple computers, though agencies could apply for waivers through a “long” and “onerous” process.

“It’s going to be very problematic to procure Apple products,” Walton said.

Other CIOs in government and educational institutions, where Apple has a strong presence, could find themselves asked to drop MacBooks and iMacs. The federal government, for example requires 95% of its laptops and desktops be EPEAT-certified.

And dozens of top universities require their IT teams to purchase only EPEAT-certified computers. Administrators at Cornell University and University of California, Berkeley, told CIO Journal they are reviewing their Apple purchases in light of Apple’s withdrawal from EPEAT. The U.S. General Service Administration, which sets procurement policy for the government, did not respond to requests for comment before publication.

“Is there some significance? Yes. Major significance? No,” said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Gartner, of Apple’s rejection of the standard. “Given the relatively small percentage [of organizations] that require 100% EPEAT-compliance, it’s not going to make a whole lot of difference to Apple.”

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