I was in New York City on Friday for the first Greener Gadgets Conference which was put on by the good folks at Inhabitat and Mark Alt + Partners. They were kind enough to give me and EcoGeek a free press pass and I made the trek down to the Big Apple with my friends Brian from Green Daily and the Eco-Chick herself Starre Vartan.
The day started off with opening remarks by event organizers Jill Fehrenbacher, founder and publisher of Inhabitat, and Mark Alt, the Principle at Marc Alt + Partners. They welcomed the 400 or so attendees and laid out the schedule for the day as well as the three main themes for the day- Materials & Lifecycle, Energy, and Social Sustainability.
The first keynote speaker of the day was Chris Jordan, someone I've been a big fan of ever since seeing him and his work bounce around the blogosphere. Chris is a well known photographer and artist who has made a name for himself in the green world with his work Running the Numbers, an amazing collections of photographs showing the realities of American consumption. Some of his photos show what 1,410,000 brown paper bags we use ever hour look like, how high the 410,000 paper cups we drink through every 15 minutes stack up, and what the 60,000 plastic shopping bags we use every FIVE SECONDS piles up like. His message was simple: Americans consume a crap load of stuff and we need to figure out how to stop throwing it all away.
One thing that Chris said that really struck me was how proud the Aluminum can industry is over the fact that we recycle 50% of the aluminum cans we use in this country. It sounds good on the surface, until you consider that we use 106,000 cans every 30 seconds. That's 111,427,200,000 every year (yes, billion). If you could stack up the number of cans we use in a single day you'd have a pile a mile wide and a mile high. The amount of cans that get buried in a landfill would be just a half mile wide and a mile mile high every day. Chris feels that in order for the green movement to achieve true mainstream status it has to get itself a Michael Jordan- someone cool enough to bring the green message to the masses and who can create drastic change in a short period of time. Swing over to his site to read more about him to to view more of his striking body of work. It's damn scary how many cell phones we burn through every year.
The second keynote speaker was Mary Lou Jepsen, the former CTO of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) and current founder and CEO of month old startup Pixel Qi. Holding a OLPC in her hand during her speech she laid out some of the green credentials of the laptop that she largely invented. The OLPC is arguably the greenest laptop in existence- it sips energy, using less than 10% the energy used by traditional laptops; is built without lead, mercury, and many other toxic materials found in conventional computers; is built to be modular and easily repairable; and can be powered with a hand crank or small solar panel. You can even drop the battery into the compost pile where it will break down along side the banana peels and worms.
Mary Lou's broader point was that the adoption of green technology shouldn't be limited to the highest end of the market. By inventing things for the dirt cheap OLPC like motherboards that shut down when the screen is not moving we will drive innovation on the whole scale of the market. Building cheap green laptops will eventually make our MacBook Pros and Blackberrys run better, longer, better, and greener.
The conference's panel discussions were filled with green corporate types from Intel, Nokia, HP, and Sony and talented designers, material scientists, and even gadget blogger god Ryan Block from Engadget. They talked about electronics materials & lifecycle, energy efficiency, and mobile forms of energy generation. On the corporate front it seems that giants like Sony, Nokia, and Intel are starting to come around the to the fact that their products are a big part of The Problem. One of the recurring ideas that kept coming up is the responsibility to ensure that consumer electronics are actually recycled at the end of their life and done so in a responsible manner instead of being dumped in third world recycle farms with little to no environmental and safety standards.
Sony is setting up a program that will allow anyone to drop off Sony products for free recycling that they expect to be up and running in March with a drop off spot within a 20 mile drive of 95% of Americans. HP is actively working on using bioplastics in their products and strangely, at least from a traditional stockholders POV, encouraging their customers to cut down on the amount of printing they do.
The last event of the conference was one of the most fun with designer Allan Chochinov leading the crowd in judging the green design competition which had already been running online for a few weeks. There were some funky entries like the one that came with a design for... nothing. It's hard to get greener then building nothing. My favorite entry was the Gravia, a tall light powered by a lifted weight that generates ambient light as it slowly (over the course of four hours) falls to the ground. The judging panel and crowd got behind a DIY energy meter that shows you the energy drain of anything you plug into it and awarded it first place and $2,500.
The night ended on a boozy networking note with an open bar full of organic vodka and wine and a big conference room of tired but energized people. The first Greener Gadgets Conference was undoubtably a success but reminded us all of of how much work there is to be done. I'll be interested to see what kind of progress we've made at next years conference. For the sake of all of us I hope it's good news.
written by Matthew J, February 04, 2008
written by Shea Gunther, February 04, 2008
written by Jill Fehrenbacher, February 05, 2008
|< Prev||Next >|