EcoMeme: Media Missing the Green Point at CES 2010


The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is a gadget geek’s dream date and the source of many tech news “leaks,” debuts and reviews. So why were green issues apparently under wraps as the world’s biggest tech executives made early keynote speeches there, on the mainstage of the trendsetting tradeshow, Wednesday?

Nobody was asking – or so it seemed – green questions, discussing environmental issues or highlighting eco-friendly features of the technologies on display. Not live, on blogs or in broadcasts. And certainly not in detail.

Microsoft executives, for example, hyped their gaming projects for 2010 including the release of a “prequel” game Halo: Reach, part of the wildly popular Halo franchise. But they didn’t say how many physical copies of the game they expected to manufacture, and if these included recyclable components.

Earlier, CNN syndicated a feature story by Ben Parr of Mashable predicting TV on computers, 3-D in your home, a range of increasingly smart mobile phones and e-book readers would be among the technology concepts out of CES 2010 to effect consumers worldwide, for years to come.

Great insights! But where are the eco-details? Like: how greenly manufactured (or not) were those 3-D TVs by Sony, or the super thin ones by LG? How enduring are those armies of new e-book readers, and are they lower impact than used books or books from recycled paper?

It’s frustrating that “green” aspects of new products don’t appear to be as important as gigabytes and screen size by now in general and tech trade media. Consumers care. As EcoSalon previously reported, consumer demand for green gadgets is strong in the U.S.

At least NBC Universal, the official broadcast partner of CES 2010, assigned morning news man Al Roker to a segment on national television where he discussed, with Fast Company’s Paul Hochman, several items from exhibitors including the Regen Renu, a 9×9, sweetly designed solar panel that when fully charged can power an iPod for six hours.

To be fair, there was a reference to nature reported by Gizmodo’s live-blog summing up the Sony keynote speech when executives promised a 3-D version of Shark Week – brought to us by Discovery and IMAX (for viewing on a Sony set).

Even with lackluster discussion early on at CES concerning the environmental impact of mainstream gadgets, the executive director of the Green Electronics Council, and the Electronic Products Environmental Asessment Tool (EPEAT, pronounced like “repeat”) Jeff Omelchuck has high hopes of CES and the people who pay attention to it.

EPEAT is a green standards and ratings organization for the computer, laptop and display industries, that could do for electronics what LEED did for buildings, or the Motion Picture Association did by rating movies, namely to make them easier to understand before buying (or selling).

Omelchuck explained Wednesday afternoon, upon arriving to Las Vegas, that he expected to see more discussion – and marketing – of green aspects of the technology on display by this year’s conference end.

“Consumers are getting smarter,” Omelchuck said, “Brands can no longer say things like “˜we’re energy efficient compared to ourselves last year,’ or “˜this is made from some recyclable materials,’ and convince a consumer their product is green. The manufacturers are recognizing they have to meet stronger criteria. Before there was really no historical market data to prove demand for greener electronics existed. Each year our understanding gets better.”

We hope it gets so much better that a separate Greener Gadgets show held by the same conference organizers, the Consumer Electronics Association, won’t even be necessary someday. Though, this year’s takes place in Manhattan, Feb. 25th.

Love gadgets but hate e-waste and greenwash, too? Read up on CES, and e-waste issues below. Then, let manufacturers and bloggers know “green” should be a priority as high or higher than any other cool factor when it comes to new tech toys.

Basic Reading:

“No matter how cynical most may be right now about eco-friendly electronics, eventually everyone attending will have green ingrained in their heads.”- A blog post via Treehugger entitled “CES 2010 A Steaming Pile of Hypocrisy? Does it really matter?”

“Computing will play a role in protecting our planet from climate change and other environmental issues”¦There are over 250 million cars in the U.S. alone and the latest ones have more computing power on them than our first manned rocket ships providing opportunities to help drivers avoid traffic jams, [and] offering real-time tips for efficient driving”¦We also need to ensure that we improve the efficiency of PCs.” -A blog post by Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer for Huffington Post, ahead of his CES 2010 keynote speech

“EPEAT, an eco-label for consumer electronics, has”¦existed behind the scenes as a business-to-business eco-rating system helping giants like the U.S. Federal government purchase low impact computers. Now, EPEAT is going business-to-consumer, making their bronze, silver and gold ratings publicly available as a reference point for shoppers”¦” – A Core77 feature story on EPEAT and eco-ratings of computers and other electronics

Further Resources:

The home page of EPEAT, which stands for Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool

An news feature about Greenpeace’s efforts to stop the illegal shipping of ewaste to developing nations

Gizmodo’s “The Best of CES 2010” special section

Live, streaming video of CES 2010 events via Crunchgear

Engadget’s coverage of CES 2010 news, events and products


This is the latest installment of EcoMeme, a column featuring eco news, tech and business highlights by columnist Lora Kolodny.