When it comes to modern PCs, there is one trend I'm glad to see the environment playing a more critical role. For a few years now, companies have been removing plastic and Styrofoam from laptop packaging and using more recycled materials to improve sustainability.
Lenovo is taking the lead on this topic with its new ThinkPad Z13 (and Z16) laptops. First announced at CES 2022, the laptops are built exclusively around the AMD platform, have haptic trackpads, and have a slick, modern design. But it's the heavy use of recycled aluminum, the bamboo-sugar cane packaging, and optional vegan leather accents that make it one of the most environmentally-friendly laptops available when it starts shipping later in May.
We recently sat down with Tom Butler, executive director, ThinkPad for Lenovo, to talk about the ThinkPad Z13, its design goals, and its focus on sustainability, including using flaxseed and banana husk. We also talk about the new Qualcomm-based ThinkPad X13s, and why Lenovo thinks now is the time for Windows-on ARM.
Eco-friendly and Eco-fashion for your ThinkPad?
The idea of using natural materials like flaxseed and banana husk is an exciting move for Lenovo. Even though the all-metal ThinkPad Z13 uses many recycled materials, you wouldn't know it by looking at it, which is kind of the point for many.
But what if you wanted to signify environmental friendliness without explaining it to everyone? After all, vegan leather looks like genuine leather, often requiring the person to clarify if someone was to inquire.
One way to do that is by using flaxseed or banana husk, two all-natural, quickly grown, and sustainable materials that also look classic.
|Category||ThinkPad Z13||ThinkPad Z16|
|OS||Windows 11||Windows 11|
|Processor||Next-gen AMD Ryzen Pro U-series||Next-gen AMD Ryzen Pro H-series|
|RAM||Up to 32GB LPDDR5||Up to 32GB LPDDR5|
|Storage||Up to 1TB M.2 PCIe 4.0 SSD||Up to 2TB M.2 PCIe 4.0 SSD|
16:10 aspect ratio
400 nits, Low power
400 nits, touch
OLED, Low blue light
16:10 aspect ratio
400 nits, Low power
OLED, 400 nits
Touch, Low blue light
|Ports||Two USB-C (USB4)
|Three USB-C (USB4)
SD card reader
|Touchpad||120mm Haptic ForcePad||120mm Haptic ForcePad|
|Security||Fingerprint reader||Fingerprint reader|
|Dimensions||11.59 x 7.85 x 0.55 inches
(294.4mm x 199.6mm x 13.99m)
|13.95 x 9.34 x 0.62 inches
(354.4mm x 237.4mm x 15.8mm)
|Weight||2.76 pounds (1.25kg)||4.3 pounds (1.97kg)|
|Color||Black recycled vegan leather / Bronze AL
Arctic Grey Recycled AL
Black Recycled AL
|Arctic Grey Recycled AL|
|Availability||May 2022||May 2022|
|Price||From $1,549||From $2,099 (Z16)|
Lenovo is considering such an option for the ThinkPad Z13 in addition to the current all-metal design and optional vegan leather choices. Giving a "wood" look is certainly not for everyone. Still, it could be an exciting choice when offered as an option, especially for younger people who prefer a more outward demonstration of social values. Eco-fashion is not a new trend, either. Many clothing companies have been going down this route, and the idea of looking to nature to influence technology (often called biomimetics), is an increasingly popular avenue for companies to differentiate themselves from others.
There's also something fun about juxtaposing cutting-edge silicon with something as familiar as flaxseed. Lenovo has pursued this before, like with the cork-based Go Wireless Vertical mouse, which for $32, is one of my favorite PC accessories.
The whole steampunk movement is similar in combining the new with retro-futuristic designs, often based-on Victorian-era aesthetics. Indeed, the company Toast has been offering wood paneling for laptops, tablets, and phones for years to combine these two genres. The success of Toast indicates that there is a market for this stuff, even if niche.
It should be noted, however, that Lenovo's solution is not an extra layer over the ThinkPad Z13, unlike Toast's authentic wood "stickers." Instead, the lid of the ThinkPad Z13 is flaxseed or banana husk. However, the rest of the laptop is still recycled aluminum. As to how Lenovo ensures durability, that's part of the challenge along with attempting to mass-produce such a design. The ThinkPad brand meets rigorous MIL-SPEC standards to ensure that the laptop does not damage easily under extreme circumstances. How you achieve that with banana husk is not trivial.
As to whether Lenovo actually goes through with this series of laptops, it remains to be seen. This is where you come in, as the company is interested in user feedback on going down this path. So, let us know in the comments if you think these materials have a future in PCs or how you would improve it.
And if you don't like it, how would you make a more environmentally-friendly laptop that also lets you express that sustainability?