Apple steps up environmental efforts in China

Apple (AAPL) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on Monday unveiled a project to help China -- the world's largest producer and consumer of paper products -- protect as much as 1 million acres of forests.

The five-year project involves increasing China's responsibility managed forests, which provide fiber for pulp, paper and wood products.

"Apple's goal is to achieve a net-zero impact on the world's supply of sustainable virgin fiber and power all its operations worldwide on 100 percent renewable energy," the consumer technology company said in a news release.

"This project is an unprecedented opportunity to drive responsible forestry in China and highlight an exciting new model of environmental leadership in addressing forest footprints," said Kerry Cesareo, senior director of forests for WWF's U.S. office, in a statement.

The world needs to "nearly double tree plantation areas by 2050 to meet the demand for wood products and nearly zero out the loss of forests," according to the WWF's Living Forests Report.

The announcement comes three weeks after Apple launched its first major solar project in China, with solar installations in Sichuan Province designed to produce more energy than needed to power all of Apple's 19 corporate offices and 22 retail stores in the country, including Hong Kong.

Apple already runs 87 percent of its global operations on renewable energy, and the solar project in China will bring it closer to its commitment of reaching 100 percent.

Much of the company's manufacturing is done in China, where Apple directly employs 8,000 people.

In an Environmental Responsibility Report released last month, Apple wrote: "We don't want to debate climate change. We want to stop it."