Apple ships hundreds of millions of iPhones every year. Taken at that kind of scale, every inch of extra packaging and every gram of extra weight has a huge environmental impact.
Firstly there’s the packaging itself, which of course requires materials like paper and cardboard and plastics. Even when Apple is using 100% renewable resources, it’s better not to have to use those resources in the first place.
However, it goes beyond the simple packaging materials into shipping and warehousing and storage costs. The current Apple 5W charger weighs in at 23 grams, and when you add the EarPods, that’s another 12 grams, so that’s 35 grams just for the physical accessories — without the additional packaging required for them.
This means that by eliminating these two accessories, Apple reduces the weight of each iPhone by at least 35 grams, which doesn’t sound like a lot by itself, but for 100 million iPhones? That’s 3.5 billion grams, or almost 4,000 tons in weight savings per year.
In other words, in one year Apple could save the equivalent weight of ten Boeing 747’s or about half the displacement of an Arleigh Burke class destroyer — all just by removing two accessories from the box of each iPhone.
Since it takes non-renewable resources like fossil fuels to ship all of these around the world, the less that Apple has to move around, the better it is for the environment.
That’s also just factoring in weight, but smaller packaging also means more product can be moved around in fewer shipments — what might have taken four trucks might now require only two, which again results in a tangible reduction in environmental impact at this kind of scale.