In Search of Greener (Electronic) Pastures

This past Friday I attended the first Greener Gadgets conference, presented by Inhabitat and Marc Alt + Partners, in New York City. It was a timely event that explored sustainability issues as these relate to our addiction to hi-tech toys. A day’s worth of knowledgeable speakers and a trade show of the newest and greenest in gadgetry covered such topics as waste, energy efficiency, and combating gadgets with gadgets.

The closing keynote was delivered by Natalie Jeremijenko. She first came to our attention in 2005 as a member of that year’s runner up team in Metropolis’s Next Generation® Design Competition; their project was based on student research wiki, She spoke about this work and others like Feral Robots (retrofitted toy robotic dogs that sniff out toxins) and Robotic Geese (yes, that’s just it, robotic geese) as “socio-technical gadgets that suggest how things can be different.”

Jeremijenko’s gadgets are more specialized than the standard cell phone/camera/mp3 player/internet browser/etc and offer design that attempts to show us what technology actually does, rather than our current attitude of merging technology effortlessly into the easy stream of cultural consciousness.

The Greener Gadgets conference managed to zoom in on our electronic lifestyle to find useful solutions for being eco-conscious in a world where we love our quickly proliferating, and often eco-distructive, tools. For a more detailed play by play on the day’s events,visit Inhabitat‘s site.

A few other highlights of the day’s speakers and topics:

– Check out Photographer Chris Jordan’s website, for some jaw-dropping images of consumer waste.

– The design keynote by Mary Lou Jepsen, former Chief Technology Officer of The One Laptop Per Child Project,, got people talking. Subsequent panel discussions often referred to her inspiring speech.

– Allyson Klein from Intel was on the showroom floor talking about the astronomical amount of power loss from poorly optimized computer settings which the initiatives at are trying to combat. She was also part of the Electronics & Energy Efficiency Panel.

– Lots of fun gadgets to power your gadgets came out to play in the New Forms of Mobile Renewable Energy panel. Arthur Huang from MINIWIZ Sustainable Energy Development LTD showed us the HYmini (see 25 Tools for Greener Living in our October 2007 issue). Who wouldn’t want to charge a cell phone with wind power collected with a hand-held devise through, say, downhill skiing or bike riding?

– At the end of the day, finalists from the Greener Gadgets and Core77 design competition were judged through the less than technological, but no less accurate clap-for-the-one-you-like method. Participants had one month to come up with sketches for a design that “should seek to minimize the environmental impact of consumer electronic devices at any stage in the product lifecycle.” The winner was the EnerJar, a DIY devise that measures energy consumption.

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