Last week’s Greener Gadgets Conference was a smashing success, and if you missed it, you missed out. Inventor Saul Griffith gave a provocative and rousing keynote presentation, with a call-to-action to consumers to start measuring their energy use and designers to start changing the way they make things. The panel discussions were lively and interesting, and as always, the Greener Gadgets Design Competition live-judging was the hit of the conference with spirited debate between audience and judges, and hilarious commentary by Core77’s Allan Chochinov. But if you weren’t able to be in attendance at our fabulous conference – fear not – you can catch up on all the important highlights here on Inhabitat. We live-blogged the whole thing on Friday, and we’ll be posting videos soon. The live-blog is pretty detailed, so if you are looking for a short synposis of the event, read on for highlights >
The big theme this year at Greener Gadgets 2009 seemed to be the need to create longer-lasting, higher quality, more durable products. During Greener Gadgets 2008 we talked a lot about the recycling of electronics, but recycling is energy and resource intensive, and doesn’t really address the fundamental problem of relentless consumption based on cheap throwaway goods and planned obsolescence. The nature of consumer electronics is that there is always a new and better gadget every year: fueling the cycle of constant consumption and disposal. If we can change the throwaway culture of cheap disposable gadgets, we can go a long way towards making this industry greener.
Keynote speaker Saul Griffith spoke of a need to create ‘Heirloom Gadgets’, and foster a culture of maintenance and repair of existing electronics, rather than constantly upgrading and replacing cheap electronics every year. Hearkening back to a time when there were watch repair shops everywhere, people held on to their watches for years and even passed them down to their grandchildren, Saul Griffith suggested we change the name of the conference to ‘Greener Electronic Objet D’Art’, and focus our efforts on creating BETTER, longer-lasting products that people will form emotional attachments to and will want to keep for years.
VISUALIZING ENERGY USE
The other major theme of the Greener Gadgets Conference this year was the need to visualize energy use: to make visible what is currently invisible, in order to change people’s behavior. People use much more energy than they need to, because their energy use invisible to them. If we all purchased energy measuring devices such as the Kill A Watt, and proceeded to measure our energy use, energy consumption would drop dramatically. It is no coincidence that the winning designs in the Greener Gadgets Design Competition were all connected to the idea of visualizing energy usage.
The grand prize winner of the 2nd Annual Greener Gadgets Design Competition, the ‘Tweet-A-Watt’, is a device that broadcasts your energy usage to all of your friends and family through Twitter. The idea is that if you are publicly broadcasting how much energy you use, you are likely to be more cognizant of your energy use and cut back. Designers Phillip Torrone and Limor Fried hacked an existing device called the Kill A Watt to create their DIY ‘Tweet-a-Watt‘. While the Kill A Watt is a device already in production to help consumers visualize energy use, the added social pressure of having all your Twitter friends and followers know how much energy you use was a stroke of brilliance on the part of Greener Gadgets design Competition winners Phillip Torrone and Limor Fried. Shame is a powerful motivator to change behavior!