While politicians grapple and stop-start over the growing concern for the welfare of our planet, more of us are wondering what we can do to reduce the size of our carbon footprint at home. This sort of thinking has given rise to the Greener Gadgets 2010 Conference recently hosted in New York City by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). The event celebrated a wide range of exciting prospects in household innovation and design from a variety of leaders at the forefront of green technology and sustainability.
Fuseproject founder, Yves Behar’s challenge to designers to “put the sexy back into green,” is as appealing to the consumer as it is to the industry. CEA Senior Vice President Jason Oxman’s stated that, “three out of four US consumers expressed concern for the rising cost of home energy usage,” a statistic which will continue to influence innovation and design in the electronics industry.
Jeff Omelchuck, founder of the Green Electronics Council and EPEAT, spoke of the power that consumers have to change the electronics design process by speaking to manufacturers with one voice: “ What can we do to increase the greenness of electronics products? Buy them…Manufacturers are good at listening to the market.”
ThemesThe conference’s key themes centered on sustainable product design, green technology in the home and environmental issues affecting the industry. In a discussion on “Green Living Begins at Home,” panelists agreed that challenges and opportunities to create a sustainable lifestyle within the home require responsible energy consumption by the consumer as well as access to the right information.
Jay MacLellan, president and CEO of Home Automation Inc., explained the benefits of home automation systems as using, “something that knows what you are doing and provides information to help you react to it.” Other issues for designers in this discussion included the challenge to make alternative energies such as wind power economically viable options for sustainable living in the long-term.
The gadgetsAmid the discussion topics were a multitude of green-inspired gadgets that did not disappoint. Tom Hadfield, COO of LaboGroup, demonstrated the award-winning Andrea air filter purifier, a device highlighting the important role of plants in the environment as its functionality depends on plants to rid household and office air of toxic substances.
Leo Bonnani spoke about Sourcemap, a collective online tool to help consumers understand where the elements within their devices come from and what they are made of, allowing users to build life-cycle maps of different products.
Product demonstrations in sustainable designs included the “modlet” by ThinkEco Inc., a smart outlet that transforms a typical home outlet and helps users manage their energy consumption and eliminate wasted power; the PICOwatt, by Tenrehte Technologies, a smart plug that gives users remote access to home appliances and electronics from any browser anywhere in the world; and the unveiling of Ecovative Design’s 100 percent compostable and biodegradable packaging solution, called “EcoCradle.”
The big boysThe large-scale impact of the electronics industry on the environment was also addressed by spokespersons from multi-nationals Panasonic and Hewlett-Packard. Sustainability strategies for HP included their innovative closed loop eCartridge recycling process, as well as their holistic approach to product design, operational management and recycling and reuse, while Panasonic reduced its CO2 emissions one year ahead of schedule and incentivized its employees to develop and meet environment targets.
The not so big boys punching above their weightYet Green solutions from smaller companies best captured the audience’s attention in the third annual Greener Gadgets Design Competition, with first prize awarded to the Living Goods Program, a mobile application that provides consumers with pertinent food information from local growers. The design for Empower, a rocking chair for public places that allows people to charge their devices through motion won second prize, while third prize went to the Illumi-Charger, a USB device charger powered by interior light. The fourth finalist was the Corky, a mouse made from recycled cork that generates its own power due to usage and does not require batteries.
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