nside a US vinyl pressing plant – its owners have asked that I do not give its location – dozens of hydraulic machines run all day and night. These contraptions fill the building, as long as a city block, with hissing and clanking as well as the sweet-and-sour notes of warm grease and melted plastic. They look like relics, because they are. The basic technological principles of record pressing have not changed for a century, and the machines themselves are decades old.
It is impossible to know the proportion of the effluent in the Chao Phraya or how much of the pollution is directly linked to the production of LPs. One thing, though, is certain. Vinyl records, as well as cassettes and CDs, are oil products that have been made and destroyed by the billion since the mid-20th century. During the US sales peaks of the LP, cassette and CD, the US recording industry was using almost 60m kilos of plastic a year. Using contemporary averages on greenhouse gas equivalent releases per pound of plastic production, as well as standard weight figures for each of the formats, that is equivalent to more than 140m kilos of greenhouse gas emissions each year, in the US alone. Music, like pretty much everything else, is caught up in petro-capitalism.
Vinyl isn’t green. It should be obvious, of course, but unless someone draws our attention to these things, we probably don’t think about them.
The overall music industry isn’t very green, from plastics in records and CDs, to the carbon footprints of bands traveling around the world, with their equipment, to the electricity used to run streaming services.
I’m a fan of Dyson’s products. I own two of their vacuum cleaners (a floor model and a stick), and two of their fans. I reviewed the first one back in 2015, the Air Multiplier. That fan worked fine for a while, then just after the guarantee ran out, started making a humming noise, even at the lowest setting. I called Dyson and they replaced it.
Last year I bought the Pure Cool Link Air Purifier (Amazon.com, Amazon UK), which is similar to the basic fan but includes air purification via a HEPA filter and an activated carbon filter. I’ve been using it in my home office since last spring, but it’s really been useful in the past month. Pollen levels have been stratospheric here in the UK, most likely because of warm weather in February that caused trees and plants to bloom early. Since I have pollen allergies, the air has been terrible for me, but using this fan in my office has made my life a lot better.
You control the device using a remote control, or an app for iOS or Android. The app shows you the air quality in your location, and lets you see the current air quality in the room where it is located.
If you tap the little graph near the bottom, you can see the history of your air quality, by day and by week.
In the above, you can see several peaks of poor air quality. These correspond to periods where I aired out opened the windows in my office on a day when I was doing a lot of dusting and vacuuming. The quality improves fairly quickly with the windows closed and the fan at the highest speed. (My office is about 150 sq. ft.)
In most cases, I leave it on the Auto setting, and the fan slowly pulls air through the device to check its quality, then turns on when it deems necessary. I don’t hear the fan when it’s in this mode, but there is an audible sound, even at the lowest setting, which isn’t the case with the basic Air Purifier fan. At speed number 2, it blows enough air to cool me from about ten feet away. and makes a bit of noise, but it is quiet enough to not bother me. When there’s a lot of pollen – because I’ve opened windows, or opened the door to my office, and the rest of the house has poor air quality – I sometimes run it at the 4th speed. Again, the sound is noticeable, but as it’s simple white noise – there’s no hum of the fan – it’s easy to ignore; and music masks it quite well.
This device is effective as both a fan and an air purifier, so if you do have allergies, it can be very helpful. It’s worth noting that you need to replace the filters after about two years; the app will warn you when it’s time, and you can check in the settings if you want to see how much filtering ability they have left. This is shown as a percentage; mine currently shows 42% after just over a year; a month ago, I seem to recall it being around 50%, so the current pollen season has put a strain on it. This said, I only use it from spring to fall, so if you do use it in an environment with, say, smoke, they might not last as long.
Note that there are two models. I have the floor-standing model, and there is also a desktop version. The bases look to be the same size, so the only difference is probably in the amount of air that they send out; the amount of cooling you’ll feel. But if you put the desktop model near enough to you, then it will probably feel the same. I’d say the choice is whether you want to have a fan on the floor – it’s about 40 in. or 100 cm. tall – or want to put it on a desk, shelf, or credenza.
This, like other Dyson products, is a bit pricey, but it’s well worth the cost if you want to have clean air in a room where you work or sleep.
Apple has one of the most aggressive sustainability and recycling programs in tech, but it still pulls plenty of metals and toxic rare-earth materials out of the ground to make iPhones, iPads, Macbooks and other products.
That’s about to change. The company is set to announce a new, unprecedented goal for the tech industry, “to stop mining the earth altogether.”
The announcement, part of Apple’s 2017 Environment Responsibility Report released Wednesday, will commit the company to making devices entirely from recycled materials such as aluminum, copper, tin, and tungsten. But there’s one hiccup: Apple doesn’t know exactly how it’s going to make that happen.
“We’re actually doing something we rarely do, which is announce a goal before we’ve completely figured out how to do it,” Apple’s Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives and a former head of the EPA, Lisa Jackson, told VICE News during an exclusive visit to Apple’s environmental testing lab on Monday. “So we’re a little nervous, but we also think it’s really important, because as a sector we believe it’s where technology should be going.”
Now this is the Apple I like to see. Leveraging their cash and resources to do something good. This is a moon-shot project; one that they don’t know how to accomplish yet, but if they put their minds – and their money – to it, they might just be able to.
Don’t think there isn’t business sense here as well. There are probably new recycling technologies that need to be developed, and patented, and Apple could eventually turn this into big business. But it’s be great to see this happen.
To be honest, I’d also like see Apple’s products designed to last longer. I’d like computers than are upgradeable, and phones that are designed to be used for several years instead of just one or two. That would cut down on the environmental impact of these devices.