WIRED NextFest: What's Next?
Even though I think green every day for a living, I was shocked by how much of NextFest, Wired Magazine's annual showcase for promising new technologies that was held in New York's main convention center last week, was focused on green living. Not only did this year's program include an entire exhibit focused on the "Future of Green" for the first time, but new environmentally innovative technologies seemed to be everywhere. For starters, both GE and GM had heavily green-themed exhibitions (disclaimer: both GE and GM are clients of my firm, GreenOrder), that promoted, among their other green technologies, GE's hybrid locomotive and fuel efficient aircraft engines and GM's fuel cell concept car and the new Saturn VUE Greenline hybrid. But wherever I looked there was more. These ranged from the futuristic (a solar car straight out of the Jetsons) to the frustratingly effective (a radio that untunes itself when energy usage in the house runs high) to the fabulous and frivolous (a solar purse that powers a pleasing LED light inside the bag to help a lady find her things in the dark).
With people and personalities from around the world touring the festival (both Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos showed up when I was there), this kind of exposure for green cements the impression that Green is the New Black. While this wave of mainstream popularity is fantastic and a welcome change from just a year or two ago, there are some people I have met who worry that this won't last. They ask, is this just a bubble that will soon burst just as surely as the last revolution sponsored by Wired Magazine? And it may be. But I say it's just the beginning
Just like anything else, it's true that green can hold its place as the "new new thing" for only so long. But when that passes, I predict that something much more powerful and enduring will happen. Green will become more and more embedded in everything we do and make. While it may not be as noticeable or fashionable, it will become essential. People will just come to expect that their office lights turn off when they leave the room, that their home produces its own power, their power company offers renewable sources of electricity and their home goods store sells furniture made of sustainably forested wood.
While this won't happen overnight, it's not a utopian vision. It's merely the natural arc of technology. Successive waves of innovation have dramatically reduced the amount of stuff needed to make the things we need and want since the Iron Age. With 6 billion-plus people on the planet today, the urgency of accelerating this trend is great. To do so, we each need to do our part by recognizing our impact and choosing greener alternatives. This will create more demand for more green, and incentivize the market to deliver yet more. Eventually, green won't be new anymore; it will be merely normal. And that will truly signify the success of the green revolution. So when people worry that the novelty of green can't last, I say, great what's next?
Photo Credit: First by Nabeel H., second by Ryan Kaisoglus.