Gallery: GREENER GADGETS TODAY!! LIVE BLOG from the Conference



The groundbreaking Greener Gadgets Gadgets conference opened up this morning in New York City and of course we are on the scene first hand to cover it for you. Many of you have asked about videos and webcasts for those of you who aren’t in the area — and we are happy to announce that we are doing a LIVE WEBCAST of the event today, and you can catch it here >

Live Inhabitat coverage of Greener Gadgets Conference after the break >


Inhabitat’s own Jill Fehrenbacher and Marc Alt kicked off the day with their introductory remarks, setting the tone for the day by highlighting the three themes of the conference: Materials and Life-Cycle, Energy, and Social Sustainability.

*Stick around until the end of the day when we present the Greener Gadgets Competition, and we’ll announce the winners here live!


“CELL PHONES” Depicts 426,000 cell phones, equal to the number of cell phones retired in the US every day

Chris Jordan gave the first keynote speech of the conference. He showed many of his beautiful yet haunting digital images of waste, both e-waste and plastic trash. Chris said that he’s attempting to “show the scale of mass consumption” through his artwork. His images visualize the statistics we constantly read about, and in many ways, they pack more of an emotional punch than statistics ever can.

He also talked about how the electronics industry has a great potential to bring “coolness” to the green movement. He said that Michael Jordan transformed basketball into something cool, and we need a similar champion. Can gadgets do for sustainability what Michael Jordan did for basketball? Chris Jordan started the day with both an inspiring talk and a challenge to those at the conference: to make green gadgets cool.

Chris Jordan website


Mary Lou Jepsen, the former Chief Technology Officer of OLPC, talked about a lot of the technologies that are in the XO laptop. The XO has received a lot of attention for being a groundbreaking educational tool, so it was great to hear Mary Lou Jepsen talk about all of the green technologies that went into the laptop. A lot of these green technologies were developed out of necessity, mostly the innovations in power consumption.

Jepsen got a little provocative when she said, “If we rely on industrial designers to lead the green revolution in electronics and gadgets…we will fail.” Basically, Jepsen thinks technology needs to be the real driver. She said that she started working on the XO after many people told her that it couldn’t be done. She thought, “If people say it’s impossible, that must be an interesting project, I’ll do that.”

Jepsen is now working on PixelQi, a spinoff of OLPC. PixelQi is working on applying technology from the XO to other laptops and devices. The more that these components are produced, the less expensive those components will be for the XO. Mary Lou Jepsen’s smart approach to business, technology, and sustainability is a great model for development.



The panel was an interesting mix, with three people from industry, Andrew Dent from Material ConneXion, and Jeff Omelchuk from the nonprofit EPEAT. The main topic of the discussion was electronic recycling and reverse logistics, specifically how we should go about both receiving used electronics from consumers and then dismantling, disposing, and reusing materials from electronics.

Andrew raised an interesting question when he suggested that electronics manufacturers pursue a rental model, rather and an ownership model, so that the product’s return is built into the process. Rene responded that HP does this with enterprise customers, but it’s more difficult with personal computing consumers. Grant proposed a hybrid model, comparable to Netflix: you own the product and keep it as long as you want, and when you return it, you get a replacement.

Everyone seemed to agree that we need to provide more education to consumers, which would in turn lead to a shift in values and priorities. Rene aptly noted that the two groups that weren’t represented in the panel: consumers and the government, both of whom are crucial to enacting the kind of change we need.

During the Q&A period, one audience member asked about why there isn’t more standardization and modularization of components, which could allow end-users to upgrade their devices themselves. David Conrad admitted that this hasn’t traditionally been the approach to development, but we at Inhabitat certainly think such flexibility is a great approach for consumer electronics manufacturers to pursue.


The main point of John’s talk was that responsible design is smart business. He talked about how HP’s approach to sustainable products can create a competitive advantage, bring in new customers, reduce costs, and build up a brand.

He also noted two commitments that HP has made in 2008: 1) All PCs will use 25% less energy by 2010, and 2) Change manufacturing process to use recycled content in new inkjet cartridges. We certainly appreciate HPs public declarations of their sustainability goals, and hope they keep pushing them.

John also talked about power use, which is emerging as a big theme today, and the topic of the Next panel…


Valerie Casey of IDEO moderated this discussion with Ryan Block (Editor-in-Chief, Engadget), Gregg Chason (VP Industry Affairs & Relations, Philips Consumer Lifestyle North America), Douglas Johnson (Senior Director, Tech Policy & International Affairs, CEA) and Allyson Klein (Manager, Server Tech and Software Strategy, Server Platform Group, Intel Corp).

This panel primarily focused on how electronics companies can better communicate their product’s sustainability, especially energy efficiency, so that consumers can make informed decisions. Ryan proposed a standardized labeling system, similar to the FDA’s Nutrition Facts labels on food packaging.

Valerie referred to EnergyStar products as being in a “bucket,” where consumers both know neither how EnergyStar compliance is defined, nor how to distinguish extremely efficient products from less efficient ones.

Valerie also mentioned an Eco-Patents Commons between IBM, Sony, Nokia and others, where these companies share patents related to environmental responsibility, and such collaboration is crucial to greener gadget efforts.

During the Q&A session, Mary Lou Jepsen questioned Allyson about the power consumption of Intel’s chips, since the team at OLPC has made some significant innovations in that arena. Mary Lou offered to work with Intel on such work, and Allyson said she’d love to talk with Mary Lou after the panel. It was a fun moment, and it’s exactly what this conference is about!

*Stick around until the end of the day when we present the Greener Gadgets Competition, and we’ll announce the winners here live!

Up next we are moving (in many ways) with…


In this last panel of the day, we got a real look into the future. From MTI’s micro fuel cell to Solio’s portable solar charger, from the HYmini wind generator to M2E’s kinetic energy charger that uses power generated by the movement of people walking around, the technology shown was really exciting.

Katie Fehrenbacher (Earth2Tech) asked what some barriers to mass adoption were, and a couple panelists mentioned battery efficiency. It was valuable that Christina from Boston Power was on the panel, as her company’s efficient and environmentally responsible battery might provide some answers.

Regan from M2E also talked about the high degree of skepticism about kinetic energy-powered devices, but M2E uses magnets, and it works. We can’t wait to see this in our cell phones!

Stay tuned for Natalie Jeremijenko, artist and director of the xDesign Environmental Health Clinic at NYU. And, coming up soon, we will present the Greener Gadgets Competition, and we’ll announce the winners here live!


We started the day with two keynotes: one with an artist and one with an innovator in education. This last keynote was given by Natalie Jeremijenko, who is an artist, an educator, an activist, and quite a bit more. It’s hard to confine Natalie to any labels, because her work spans many disciplines.

Natalie talked about how she’s looking for new ways to restructure manufacturing practices, which she calls “the most toxic of human activity.” With her students, she developed How Stuff Is Made, a collection of visual essays on how different products are made.

Like Chris Jordan, Natalie is looking to make invisible data visible. She works with students to modify consumer-grade robotic toys to sniff out toxic waste. All of Natalie’s work was really inspiring, and she’s redefining how we use technology and interact with devices.

Stay tuned for the results of the Greener Gadgets Design Competition!


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  1. Nutsy Daisy February 2, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    This live blog is so informative and interesting!

  2. oakling February 2, 2008 at 12:08 am

    Is it wrong that I look at the cell phone picture and think “Ooo, pretty”?

  3. M Schneider February 1, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Are there any plans to put up digital archives of the panel discussions or keynotes? There has been some wonderful discussion thus far, and it would be a shame not to be able to reference it or share it with others.

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