Consumer Electronics Show 2010 - A Steaming Pile of Hypocrisy? Does it Really Matter?


Photo via Robert Nelson via Flickr CC

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2010 is, as in years past, working to be greener than ever. They're crowing about all the green things they're doing, such as purchasing carbon offsets in the form of renewable energy certificates, donating $50k to the Las Vegas police force for purchasing electric vehicles (does that buy more than maybe two?), enlarging the Sustainable Planet zone by 40% (did they have a choice considering all the new "green" gadgets streaming out of manufacturers this past year?), and choosing "eco-friendly" exhibit locations like the Las Vegas Convention Center (again, was there a choice - is there another venue even close to big enough to host this event?). And yet the Consumer Electronics Association, which hosts the event, has made major un-eco missteps like suing New York City over an e-waste recycling regulation and wagging fingers at California after the state implemented energy efficient TV regulations. Does this make CES's green side all greenwash? And the bigger question - does it really matter?As much as we love to point out the glaring greenwashing of so many aspects of the event, and the environmental mixed messages from the association itself, there are two significant facts that make it just not all that bad.

First, for a tradeshow the size of CES - the largest tradeshow in the world - which revolves around an industry that is in so many ways the cause of environmental woes - from conflict mineral mining to energy consumption to toxic e-waste dumps - to be so focused on showing off a green side and taking what measures it is currently taking to be environmentally friendly is a big deal. Ideally, it could be doing a whole lot more walking and less talking, but we don't live in an ideal world. We live in one where the world's largest tradeshow is held in Las Vegas, a city with a massive water footprint yet is planted in the middle of a desert, a city that revolves around consumption and guilt-free indulgence. In other words, the fact that CES is doing anything is a good thing.

Secondly, for all the empty crowing, there's crowing happening from a giant tradeshow, and that has influence no matter how you look at it. As gadget geeks flock to the tradeshow floor, they're not going to be able to miss all the green talk from the show itself and so many of the exhibitors in it. No matter how cynical most may be right now about eco-friendly electronics, eventually everyone attending will have green ingrained in their heads. In other words, CES's greenwashing is actually helping to make green thinking status quo. Radical coming to center, so that heightened sustainable living - you know, all that hippy stuff - becomes normal. That is worth its weight in CO2 offsets.

One final point - the more CEA pushes CES's green side and encourages eco-friendly products, services and events, the more glaring its other moves that put the environment second will become. That kind of double-speak doesn't fly in the logic-based geek community that the organization depends upon. So, it just might be pushing itself to become more environmentally minded without realizing it.

So, when I take off for Las Vegas later today to bring you all the green gadgety goodness going on in the electronics industry this year, I'm going to try hard to focus on what CES and its exhibitors are doing right. If a little elbowing happens, well, it's only to help CES reach their goal of being "the greenest tradeshow" next year.

So much more to come on CES this week. Stay tuned!

More on CES
Gearing Up for Consumer Electronics Show 2010 - Green Products We Can't Wait to See
Consumer Electronics Show Dedicating More Space for Green Gadgets This Year
CES 2009: It's a Wrap! A Review of TreeHugger's Trip to CES

Tags: Corporate Responsibility | Electronics | Gadgets

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