When you're the wealthiest company in the world with a giant cash pile, you can do a lot of interesting things. Apple is spending some of its $180 billion cash reserves on a forest which will be used to sustainably produce packaging.
In partnership with nonprofit The Conservation Fund, Apple is buying 36,000 acres of forest - that's roughly 2.5 times the size of Manhattan - on two separate tracts of land in North Carolina and Maine.
The forests will be sustainably harvested to produce part of the packages that house shiny new Apple products. Any extra pulp produced will be sold to other companies. The land is part of an estimated 45 million acres of private forest in the U.S. that are in danger of being lost to development. The Conservation Fund will manage the land under the "working forests" model, in which trees are harvested with an eye to keeping the forests economically healthy. The Working Forest Fund, a part of the Conservation Fund, describes the model as developing sustainable forest management plans, then putting conservation safeguards in place so the land remains a protected working forest.
Most of the land (32,400 acres) is made up of the Reed Forest in Aroostook County, Maine, and the remaining 3,600 acres are pine and hardwood forest in Brunswick County, along the southern coast of North Carolina.
Apple told BuzzFeed that the company's move to produce its own packaging rather than buy from third-party vendors was an important move to protect the environment.
"If we take the approach of just buying sustainably sourced paper, we're not making the world a better place - we're zeroing out," said Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of environmental initiatives. "Apple has been really clear that we want to leave the world better than we found it; that's one of our values."
Jackson said that the forests could supply nearly half the paper for virgin, meaning nonrecycled, fiber that went into Phone, iPad, iPod, Mac and Apple TV packaging last year.
Jackson was the director of the EPA under the Obama administration before she joined Apple in 2013. Apple has been trying to lessen its impact on the environment and all the company's stores, data centers and offices in the U.S. are powered by renewable energy.
"We believe that we have a responsibility to lead in this area," said Jackson. "There are some ideas that we don't mind people copying."