There are reasons to both love and hate the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas — it showcases practically every gadget due to come out in the year ahead (nice!), it has a football stadium’s worth of corporate And booths (yuck), and media events are held every hour for five days straight (fun but tiring). This year, CES is also adding a “green component” that could make it a little more lovable for friends of the environment.
Granted, a lot of it is just green marketing, like Fujitsu’s corn laptop or the show’s own Mygreenelectronics.org site. We like our buddy Dean Takahashi’s (of the San Jose Mercury News) take on the green angle: “Some products marketed as green are not green at all, and the offset programs make you wonder if that’s the only solution for an enterprise that is fundamentally wasteful.” Ah, snap! Still, CES is making a green effort, so here’s our guide to the massive gadget convention “going green”:
Solar-connected Gadgets: Companies that make solar power consumer electronic will be all over the place, including:
Voltaic Systems, makers of solar-powered backpacks (we have 2 Voltaic backpacks among the GigaOM crew);
Meraki Networks, makers of solar-powered Wi-Fi gear; and
Freeplay Energy, which makes solar-powered radios. And according to GoodCleanTech,
Better Energy Systems will be at the show as well, showing off Solio Magnesium, its next-gen solar charger model.
Carbon Offsets: CES is working with Carbonfund.org to offset around 20,000 tons of carbon and investing in a combination of certified renewable energy, reforestation and energy efficiency projects. The conference organizers also say they will enable attendees to obtain offsets ($2.35 roundtrip from SFO to Las Vegas) for their airline travel via the Carbonfund’s CES web site or kiosks on the show floor. The conference is reportedly spending about $100,000 on environmental offsets.
Green Section of CES Floor: The conference has dedicated a small section of the show floor to energy-efficient and sustainable technologies. It’s called the Sustainable Technologies TechZone and is located in in LVCC South Hall 1. Check it out and let us know if it’s as small as it looks — so far there’s about a dozen companies on the floor plan. Companies scheduled to display there include Dell, Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies, Voltaic Systems, Mygreenelectronics.org, Bits Limited, Myboneyard.com, Freeplay Energy and Meraki Networks.
Alternative Batteries: One of the TechZone vendors, Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies, says it will show off its first fuel-cell power charger concept for cell phones, PDA’s and gaming devices. Silver-zinc rechargeable battery maker Z-Power will display its batteries as well, which it hopes can replace lithium-ion batteries.
Energy-efficient Gadgets: Expect to see laptops and other gizmos that meet the EPA’s latest Energy Star 4.0 energy efficiency requirements. A startup called GreenPlug will display its technology, which let’s gizmos talk to their power sources. Marvell Technology will show off energy-efficient chips for power adapters, and Samsung will have big TVs made of organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs).
Corn Laptop?: Fujitsu is reportedly going to be showing a laptop with a plastic case made from corn (mixed with petroleum). The AP says the company has been selling the product in Japan since 2006. Given that the laptop case doesn’t degrade any faster than a normal plastic case — because, again, it’s mixed with petroleum products — makes it completely ridiculous, in our opinion.
E-cycling and Recycling: The EPA is supposed to announce a campaign to help consumers e-cycle cell phones. The Consumer Electronics Association (the trade group behind CES) has made a green gadget web site that features a searchable database of places to recycle electronics. It looks pretty tired, if you ask us, as there are many other web sites that offer similar services. Other e-cycling web sites, like Myboneyard.com, will have booths in the Greentech section, too.
The conference itself says it will have recycling bins across the show floor; that it plans on using recycled show materials, carpet and paper products; and that it will recycle light bulbs and batteries. The conference will also host a one-hour panel discussion called “Keeping CE off the Curb” on Tuesday starting at noon, with execs like Tod Arbogast, director of sustainable business for Dell; Douglas Smith, director of corporate environmental Affairs at Sony; and Renee St. Denis, director of product take-back and recycling for H-P.
Green Chiefs: It seems every consumer electronics and tech company these days has the equivalent of a Chief Environmental Officer. CES has a few panels, like this one, to give these guys a platform.
Home Automation for Greener Consumption: The AP makes note of several companies building home automation systems that will use CES as a platform to get across their green messages. That includes automation software maker Exceptional Innovation, smart meter company Control4, and as members of the wireless standard trade group the ZigBee Alliance.