Apple today debuted its new très trim MacBook Air that is not only thin enough to slip inside a manila envelope but was made without many of the environmentally harmful chemical compounds used in older PCs.

Environmental activist organization Greenpeace just months ago criticized Apple for using bromine—whose vapors are toxic when inhaled—in its hugely popular iPhone. But the company now appears to be making good on its earlier promise that all new products would be free from brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a chlorinated plastic, by the end of this year. Apple says the new MacBook Air is made from "brominated flame retardant–free material for the majority of circuit boards as well as PVC-free internal cables."

The three-pound (1.36-kilogram) laptop, which Apple calls "the world's thinnest" and expects to sell starting at $1,799, also has a recyclable aluminum enclosure and Apple's first mercury-free LCD display with arsenic-free glass. MacBook Air measures 0.16 inch (0.41 centimeter) at its slimmest point and 0.76 inch (1.93 centimeters) at its thickest.

Greenpeace is generally satisfied with the message that the new MacBook sends about cutting back on the environmentally unfriendly materials used to build PCs, but the conservation activists believe Apple can do even better. "We can say that Apple is getting greener, but it's still not green enough," says Zeina Alhajj, coordinator of the organization's international e-waste campaign. Although the new laptop contains less PVC and BFRs, "it could have been made without them entirely, and that would have made Apple an ecological leader." Still, she acknowledges, Apple CEO Steve Jobs emphasized the environment during his Macworld keynote today, "and that's a good start."

The company's bid to eliminate or reduce its use of environmentally harmful chemicals is an encouraging sign that they are trying to keep last year's promise. "I think Apple's extremely serious about improving their environmental footprint, but it takes time to find the new materials to replace what they're currently using," says Shannon Cross, an analyst with technology research firm Cross Research based in Livingston, N.J.

Apple says the 13.3-inch (33.8-centimeter) MacBook Air, which begins shipping at the end of the month, consumes the least amount of power of any Mac, and its retail box, made primarily from post-consumer recycled material, is 56 percent smaller by volume than the previously smallest MacBook packaging. Users will be able to get up to five hours of uninterrupted computing time from a fully charged battery. The laptop is available with either a 1.6 gigahertz or 1.8 gigahertz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with four megabytes of L2 cache. Standard features include two gigabytes of memory and an 80-gigabyte, 1.8-inch (4.6-centimeter) hard drive as well as 802.11n Wi-Fi technology and Bluetooth 2.1.

The company today also introduced a number of complementary features, including a compact external storage drive, the ability to wirelessly rent movies from its iTunes store and a wireless file backup called Time Capsule.