Photos via Jaymi Heimbuch
The Consumer Electronics Tradeshow wanted to be greener than ever this year. Was it? Here are our impressions of not only how CES did on green, but what position green seems to have in the electronics industry.
Let's put aside the fact that CES is a massive tradeshow held in the middle of a desert, attracting a majority of people who could care less about the environment. We could go on about bottled water, plane flights, and organic food options all day long. Instead, we're focusing on the bigger picture of the environmental mindset of CES, the exhibitors and the industry in general.
1) Green Is Definitely Spreading
As was the case last year, a little bit of green is mixed in at the booths of the major manufacturers. Panasonic had their Eco-Ideas section like last year, and Toshiba had the same set-up this year as last year, too. You could go to most of the big booths, hunt around, and see some lip-service to green. The Sustainable Planet section was purportedly 40% bigger, but it felt like there were fewer booths and there was next to no green innovation. YoGen was the most exciting booth...and if a hand-pull charger is getting the most attention in an area dedicated to sustainability in electronics, that's telling. And that brings us to our next point...
2) Sustainable Planet Section Has to Make a Shift
While it's a cool idea and a handy product line, YoGen isn't going to be a replacement for wall charging, so I'm not sure why (like most of the products in the paltry three rows of "green" products) it was placed in the Sustainable Planet section. It shows how fast and loose the consumer electronics industry plays it with the word "sustainable."
There were some booths that truly fit in, such as Greenpeace (where else would their booth go?), EarthEra and their push for alternative energy, the Greener Gadgets presentation area... But despite the fact that CEA said the Sustainable Planet section was 40% larger than last year's, it still felt painfully small and to be honest, not as packed with things as before. Rather, it seemed "green" products were scattered throughout the tradeshow, but incorporated into booths with other products. One only had to keep an eye out, and they'd find the booths of the greener products talked about in eco-centric blogs. Also, most booths had their eco-corner, or a solar product mixed in with their other devices, and so on,
So it seems like while we need the Sustainable Planet section to exist just to show that this is something to care about, it would be good to see only the booths that are indisputably centered around sustainability located here, such as Greenpeace or an EPEAT booth and so on, and allow the rest of the products to be integrated into the rest of the show so that "green" feels seamless in gadgetry.
3) Buying Renewable Energy Certificates = Good; Not Cutting Power Consumption = Bad
CEA partnered up with EarthEra to buy renewable energy certificates, offsetting the entire electricity use of the conference and the hotel rooms of all the attendees. That's awesome, and we love it. But, that doesn't do anything to address the actual energy consumption of the tradeshow itself. CES uses a spectacular amount of energy (we'll have actual numbers in about 2 weeks when EarthEra provides them). Just at a glance, you have these MASSIVE television displays at hundreds of booths, and the lighting for the tradeshow floors, and the power going to sound systems, gaming systems, and all the power going to booths to demo products and so on. It's mind boggling how much electricity this show uses over the course of CES. It feels like a big task with a lot of industry politics and opinion attached to it, but the fact is if CEA wants to green up CES, it needs to figure out more ways to cut down on electricity consumption. Period.
4) e-Cycling and the Impact of Electronics Is Not Apparent Enough
ReCellular's booth showing the high quality of refurbished devices and the importance of e-cycling, Nokia's cardboard box for used cell phone collection, and CWG's booth emphasizing zero landfill policy for recycling mobiles are among the very few mentions of the massive impact electronics have on our environment. At a tradeshow like this, it is vital to bring this into the discussion and increase awareness. It can be done in a non-Debbie-Downer way -- having robust discussion around e-cycling, products that have long lifespans and so forth is important, and at CES this year more booths did provide some information but you had to look for it and ask for it. We hope more manufacturers will address these issues next year, and we hope CEA encourages them to do so.
5) The Talk Is There, and the Walk is Stumbling Along
Talk about green gadgets went beyond the usual press conference by Greenpeace. CES hosted more discussion about green tech this year, with Steve Ballmer bringing green into his keynote (just a little bit...), and the panel hosted by Martin LaMonica. It shows that CEA is moving forward with its increasing emphasis on eco-friendly technology. However, the organization still needs to be pushed along by groups like Greenpeace, the Electronics Take-Back Coalition, and others who recognize how much more quickly the consumer electronics industry needs to be moving towards sustainable business practices.
More on CES 2010 and Sustainability
CES 2010 - CEA Backs Stance on NYC e-Cycling Lawsuit and California TV Efficiency Regulations (Video)
CES 2010 - eReaders Go Bonkers At CES, Sales Expected to Double...Should We Be Scared?
CES 2010 - CEA Takes A Stab At California Television Efficiency Regulations
CES 2010 - Greenpeace Ranks Nokia As Top Green Gadget Company