Carbon Footprint of iPhone by Type (Footprint of Charging vs Making Phone)

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Carbon Offsets Credits | July 10, 2023

Man using an iphone notices a co2 cloud emitting from it and wonders what is the carbon footprint of iphone and what's the Carbon Footprint of Making a Phone and Are Cell Phones Bad for the Environment?

The carbon footprint of iPhone forms part of the total global smartphone carbon footprint.

But did you know that up to 95% of emissions are produced during the production and manufacturing phases? It’s true.

It is estimated that the global carbon footprint of smartphone manufacturing is equal to the annual CO2 emissions of the entire country of the Philippines.21

To put that into perspective, the Philippines is home to more than 100 million residents.1

Where Do iPhone’s CO2 Emissions Come From?

So, exactly where do iPhone’s CO2 emissions come from and what is the total carbon footprint of iPhone?

Percentage of EmissionsActivity Related to iPhone Production
81%Production, which includes source materials, extraction, and transportation. Packaging also forms part of this percentage.
16%Energy usage (application usage and battery charging).
2%Package and ship (transportation) the finished product. This includes air and marine shipping.
Less than 1%End-of-lifespan transportation to landfills and recycling depots, and the energy usage relating to separating the different elements that exist within the phone.

It should be noted that the above percentages are based on the average lifespan of an iPhone which is estimated to be around 4 years.

CO2 emissions generated by smartphone streaming bar chart.

The different feeds of power grids must also be taken into account when collecting data similar to the above.

Are Cell Phones Bad for the Environment?

When considering the impact of smartphone manufacturing on a global scale, the question follows, are cell phones bad for the environment?

The answer is Cell phones, and in particular cell phone manufacturing, are far worse for the environment than initially believed.

More than 3.5 billion people around the world own a smartphone, and this number continues to increase.

The ongoing manufacturing and use of smartphones are causing a possibly irreversible environmental disaster because of the mining processes that are required to extract the metals used for phone manufacturing, as well as the toxic waste generated by not recycling old phones.

Almost all brands of phones, including iPhones, require the extraction of 16 out of the 17 known rare-earth metals.

Bar chart showing carbon emissions from streaming in tablet.

Furthermore, smartphones are responsible for the most GHG emissions when compared to all other electronic products and devices.28 When a smartphone reaches the end of its lifespan and eventually ends up in a landfill, it proceeds to pollute water and soil.2

Carbon Footprint of iPhone

The carbon footprint of iPhone also depends on the model of the iPhone.

Carbon footprint of iphone chart by model of iphone.

The below figures are the estimated CO2 emissions associated with different iPhone models:

  • iPhone 13 Pro: 69 kg of CO2 emissions
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max: 80 kg of CO2 emissions
  • iPhone 13 Mini: 61 kg of CO2 emissions
  • iPhone 12 Mini: 62 kg of CO2 emissions
  • iPhone 8: 57 kg of CO2 emissions
  • iPhone X: 79 kg of CO2 emissions
  • iPhone XS: 70 kg of CO2 emissions
  • iPhone XR: 62 kg of CO2 emissions
  • iPhone SE 2020: 57 kg of CO2 emissions
  • iPhone 11: 70 kg of CO2 emissions
  • iPhone 12: 68 kg of CO2 emissions
  • iPhone 13: 64 kg of CO2 emissions
  • iPhone 14: 61 kg of CO2 emissions8

Why Is the Carbon Footprint Announced in the iPhone 13 “Product Environmental Report” Underestimated?

There has been a lot of talk about the iPhone 13 Product Environmental Report and how much the carbon footprint described in it is being underestimated.

This is because the report states that only 10kg of the 64kg of carbon emissions related to iPhones are attributed to usage.24 Considering that mobile data should factor into the equation, it is estimated that around 50 kg of carbon emissions need to be added to the report for the figures to be accurate.

This means that usage alone would emit 60 kg of CO2 per iPhone.

What About the iPhone 14?

The carbon footprint of iPhone 14 is estimated to be:

  • 79%: Source materials and production
  • 2%: Package and ship
  • 18%: Phone usage
  • Less than 1%: End of lifespan process

But yet again, it seems that these figures have been underestimated and that the real figure is closer to an estimated 313kg of 4 years of usage.3

Looking at the above figures, it is clear that taking responsibility for our products at every stage is essential if we hope to recover some of the damage that cell phone production is causing to the global environment.

Apple iPhone Carbon Emissions Comparison

The Apple iPhone carbon emissions comparison is as follows:

Bar graph representation of carbon emissions of iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro according to storage size.

Storage SizeiPhone 14 ProiPhone 13 Pro
128 GB65 kg of CO2 emissions69 kg of CO2 emissions
256 GB71 kg of CO2 emissions76 kg of CO2 emissions
512 GB84 kg of CO2 emissions88 kg of CO2 emissions
1 TB116 kg of CO2 emissions112 kg of CO2 emissions4

The below table compares the eco-friendly efforts made by Apple and one of its biggest competitors, Samsung:

ComponentsAppleSamsung
Recycled metals/materialsPlastic, tungsten, tin, rare-earth, goldPlastic
% of recycled metals/materials100% of recycled tin, rare-earth, tungsten, gold, and around 35% of recycled plastic20% of the inner shell of the S-Pen and the key bracket is recycled.
In-house recyclingThe in-house recycling program provides most of the tungsten and rare-earth materials required.In-house recycling as well as an upcycling program intended to recover and reuse smartphones that are at the end of their lifespan.
PackagingThe packaging used is estimated to be 95% fiber and 5% plastic. It is stated that 70% of the fiber used, has been recycled.100% recycling in both paper and plastic packing.
The efficiency of the charging systemThe iPhone 13 is stated to have a power draw that is nearly 55% lower than required.Most up-to-date information shows that Samsung chargers have a 0.02 W of power draw on standby.
Carbon neutral year goal2030Not known5

Read More About: Carbon Footprint Calculator: Find YOUR Eco Footprint in Real Time

Carbon Footprint of Making a Phone

The carbon footprint of making a phone includes an estimated 80 kg of CO2 emitted by a single device during manufacturing and production.

Extra CO2 is emitted during the transportation of newly manufactured phones and during the end-of-life processes.

The technology that accompanies the manufacturing of smartphones comes with massive energy requirements. For instance, using cloud storage and computing alone requires around 30 billion watts of electricity every year.

Fortunately, you can erase these emissions by using an earth friendly web usage carbon offset program.

Carbon Footprint of Charging Phone

The carbon footprint of charging phone is around 6 watts of energy while the phone is charging.26 Leaving the phone on charge overnight or leaving the charger in the electrical outlet increases the carbon footprint of the charging process.6

Data released in 2021 revealed that global smartphone charging is responsible for 8,088,324 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent every year. This figure is also the equivalent of providing a barbeque for around 1 and a half billion people.

Furthermore, global smartphone charging is also the equivalent of:

  • A bullet train carrying 2 billion passengers.
  • 1,758,311 gasoline vehicles on the road in America.27
  • The energy required to power the lights on the Eiffel Tower times 23,597,630.
  • The energy required to produce 242,165,389 pairs of denim jeans.
  • The energy required to cook 1,394,538,620 barbecue meals in the United Kingdom.
  • The energy is released by 2,888,687 Australian cows.7

Carbon Footprint of an iPad

The carbon footprint of an iPad Pro is 119 kg of CO2 emissions, which is the equivalent of driving nearly 605 kilometers in a gasoline car.

Back in 2018, the iPad was still a highly sought-after Apple device, and the company sold around 120 000 devices every day that year.

The iPad’s lifecycle is much the same as that of an iPhone:

The life cycle of iPad from sourcing materials to recovering recyclable materials from existing iPads.

Source MaterialsMining and obtaining required raw materials.
MakeManufacturing of iPad in factories.
Package and ShipPackaging and transportation of manufactured iPad.
UseThe lifetime usage of the iPad.
RecoverDisposing of old iPad after the end of their lifespan, preferably by means of recycling.

The carbon footprint calculation and environmental impact calculation include the consideration of fossil fuel usage compared to renewable energy usage, as well as the CO2 footprint of each individual activity that goes into the manufacturing and transport of an iPad.25

Based on a calculation done in 2020 the iPad Pro model of that year was responsible for 113 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent over its entire lifespan. This figure is the equivalent of the production of around 94 books (the manufacturing of a single book emits 500 grams of CO2).

The iPad’s carbon emissions breakdown is indicated as follows:9

Pie graph representation of percentage of iPad carbon emissions from manufacturing to usage.

The pie chart shows that the majority of the carbon emissions produced by the iPhone are generated in production.

Carbon Footprint of a MacBook

The carbon footprint of a MacBook Pro 16 is 394 kg of CO2 emissions, which is equal to driving just over 2000 kilometers in a gasoline car.23

According to Apple, the 14” MacBook Pro’s lifecycle CO2 emissions is 271 kg of CO2.

The lifecycle is explained as follows:

  • Source materials: The 14” MacBook Pro is the first Mac notebook that is manufactured with 100% recycled elements (rare-earth) for magnet purposes.
  • Make: During production, greener chemicals are used, an effort is made to produce zero waste, and suppliers are all in the process of changing to renewable energy when it comes to producing MacBooks and other Apple products.
  • Package and Ship: 100% Recycled wood fiber (95% of all packaging is made of fiber, 51% of the fiber packaging is recycled, and 100% of the virgin wood fiber used for packaging has been sourced in a sustainable manner.)
  • Use: The 14” MacBook Pro is said to require 66% less energy.
  • Recover: Old Apple products including iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks can be traded in under the Apple Trade-In program after which they will be recycled.10

Carbon Footprint of a Laptop

The carbon footprint of a laptop, on average, is estimated to be 422.5 kg of CO2. This figure includes the manufacturing, transport/shipping, and 4 years of use.

However, it must be noted that CO2 emissions can vary greatly because of factors such as different manufacturers, the actual size of the laptop, and the number of times the laptop is used.

The carbon footprint of an average laptop is up to 85% established during the manufacturing phase, because of the emissions produced by the different materials required.

Carbon emissions generated by streaming one hour on a laptop bar chart.

More emissions are released during transportation and usage. The average overall carbon footprint of laptop usage is around 61.5 kg of carbon emissions equivalent.11

Carbon Footprint of the Internet

When comparing the carbon footprint of iPhone, iPad, MacBook, and other devices and technologies, the internet should form part of the equation.

The carbon footprint of the internet includes CO2 emissions produced by email sending/receiving, online searches, and cloud storage.19

Also, the carbon footprint of the internet is the equivalent of global air traffic emissions, which is 3.7% of global emissions. It is estimated that the GHG emissions related to internet usage are around the 1 billion ton mark.

The breakdown of the internet carbon footprint is:

  • Data centers: 86%
  • Data network: 10%
  • Network Equipment: 4%

Included in the impact of data center CO2 emissions are fans, UPS devices, networking equipment, data storage, and servers.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Data Stream?

Streaming and downloading data (video) have replaced DVDs, conventional videotapes, and even the big screen. But whether data is streamed or downloaded, the process comes with CO2 emissions.

So, what is the carbon footprint of the data stream (Netflix)?

An example of Netflix video streaming emissions is the estimated 66 kt CO2 emitted by 80 million views of the movie Birdbox.

The below table indicated CO2 emissions associated with viewing Netflix for 30 minutes (based on calculations done in 2019).22

Carbon Emissions from streaming netflix bar chart.

The IEA in the above table refers to the International Energy Agency.

In December 2022, more calculations revealed that streaming a movie that is two hours long, emits the equivalent CO2 emissions of driving a gasoline car for 45 minutes.

Picture this then: Back in 2002, internet usage around the world stood at a mere 156 gigabytes. In 2022, internet traffic is reaching 150,000 GB every second. This is an increase of nearly 1000%.

Furthermore, data streaming, which includes platforms such as Skype and Zoom, comes with excessive energy requirements which currently stand at 5% of global energy use. This figure is projected to double by 2030.12

What Is the Carbon Footprint of an iPhone?

The carbon footprint of iPhone includes the following emissions for the following models:

  • iPhone 12 Pro Max: 86 Kilograms of carbon emissions
  • iPhone 12 Pro: 82 Kilograms of carbon emissions
  • iPhone 12: 70 Kilograms of carbon emissions
  • iPhone 12 mini: 64 Kilograms of carbon emissions
  • iPhone XR: 62 Kilograms of carbon emissions
  • iPhone SE: 57 Kilograms of carbon emissions

In addition to the above, Apple has stated that the iPhone 14’s carbon footprint is 61 kg CO2e, although this claim is also being debated online.

Also, according to Apple, 79% of the iPhone 14’s carbon footprint is created during the production phase.

Carbon Footprint of Data Centers

Then, of course, there are the data centers.18 Data centers make up 86% of the global internet carbon footprint and are facilities that provide a central ‘hub’ for different organizations’ data and applications.

Data centers now use multi-cloud operations, and are essential to businesses for the following reasons:

  • Effective email and file uploading and sharing
  • Applications relating to productivity
  • CRM systems
  • ERP systems and databases
  • AI and big data
  • Virtual workspaces

The different types of data centers include:

  • Enterprise: Typically owned by companies for the purpose of usage by employees or customers.
  • Colocation: Space is rented within a data center by an organization. This data center is not located on the organization’s premises.
  • Managed Services: Third-party managed data center.
  • Cloud: Data and apps are hosted via cloud technology and the data center is not on the organization’s premises.13

So, what is the carbon footprint of data centers?

Carbon footprint of streaming television services bar chart.

Data centers are responsible for an estimated 2% of global CO2 emissions.

3 Tips To Reduce the Carbon Footprint of Your iPhone

Getting back to the iPhone and its carbon footprint, the following are 3 tips to reduce the carbon footprint of your iPhone (usage):

  • Don’t use bright background images or screensavers. Colorful images rely on OLED screens which are common in smartphones.
    By using a black screensaver or background image, the OLED functionality is switched off and energy is saved. This will also save battery energy.
  • Use the dimmer function to dim the brightness of the phone, which will save energy.
  • Use the airplane mode function when the phone is not in use, to save energy.14

It is also useful to incorporate a calculator into daily business or individual activities to cut down on overall emissions, including device emissions (energy required for usage).17

Business Carbon Footprint Calculator

A business carbon footprint calculator requires the following inputs:15

Electric:

  • Annual electricity usage in kWh
  • This will calculate the cost and CO2 emissions in tons

Heat:

  • Annual heating fuel (office) in gallons or ccf
  • This will calculate the cost and CO2 emissions in tons

Vehicle:

  • Vehicle fleet fuel (diesel or gasoline)
  • MPG (average)
  • Miles traveled annually
  • This will calculate the cost and CO2 emissions in tons

Air:

  • Total miles air travel
  • This will calculate the cost and CO2 emissions in tons

Rail:

  • Total miles of rail travel
  • This will calculate the cost and CO2 emissions in tons

Shipping:

  • Shipping method (air/road/water)
  • Number of shipments
  • The average weight of shipments in pounds
  • The average distance of shipments in miles
  • This will calculate the cost and CO2 emissions in tons

Combining these inputs will determine an overall cost, CO2 emissions, and the possibility of offsetting the emissions.16

Individual Carbon Footprint Calculator

An individual carbon footprint calculator requires several inputs including:

  • Size of living space
  • Number of people in the household
  • Type of electricity used
  • Electricity consumption
  • Type of heating
  • Energy consumption of the heating system
  • Presence of dishwasher
  • Amount of laundry loads
  • Amount of showers and baths taken
  • Number of times appliances such as hair dryers are used
  • Using hot or cold water

These types of calculators can be used to cut down on energy consumption which will affect the carbon footprint of iPhone as well.16,20

Additional ways to reduce the carbon footprint of iPhone include smartphone offset, carbon offset shipping, and carbon footprint recycling processes (methods to reduce the carbon footprint of recycling).

Frequently Asked Questions About Carbon Footprint of iPhone

What Is a Carbon Footprint?

Individuals wondering what is a carbon footprint should know that a carbon footprint refers to the natural and human activities that result in greenhouse gas emissions. A carbon footprint measures and estimates the volume of GHG gasses, as well as their impact on the environment and climate change.

What Is the Calculation of the Carbon Footprint of an iPhone?

The carbon footprint of iPhone is something of a debated topic. This is because, while Apple claims that an iPhone 13 for example will emit around 64 kg of CO2, the calculations don’t make provision for mobile data usage, which according to calculation should add around 50 extra kg of CO2 emissions for a single phone.

Where Do iPhone Emissions Come From?

The iPhone’s emissions are attributed as follows:

  • Production (including material extraction and transportation): 81%
  • Energy usage (including data streaming, various applications and battery charging): 16%
  • Transportation of manufactured product (both air and ocean shipping from the factory to distribution centers): 2%
  • End-of-lifespan processes (transport to landfills and recycling efforts): less than 1%

What Do I Need To Know How To Calculate the Carbon Footprint of a Product?

Learning how to calculate the carbon footprint of a product can be achieved by using a carbon footprint calculator which would require the following inputs:

  • Materials required
  • Amount of each material required
  • The origin of the material
  • The fossil fuels used for the transportation of the finished product

By adding up the figures of each input, the complete CO2 emissions (carbon footprint) can be calculated.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of iPhone?

The carbon footprint of iPhone is estimated to be 64 kg of CO2e per iPhone. This figure is based on an iPhone 13 with onboard storage of 128GB.


References

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