Green Gadgets

Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning student Jill Fehrenbacher started the blog Inhabitat.com in 2005 to track innovations in sustainable technology, practices and materials in architecture and home design.

February 1, the blog teamed up to sponsor the Green Gadgets Conference in New York City, along with with Marc Alt + Partners, a design, research and brand strategy agency "dedicated to sustainable innovation."

I found out about the conference today when I read tomorrow's New York Times Magazine online (its first "green issue") and ran across Rob Walker's article "Dreaming in Green" which devoted a great deal of attention to a design competition which yielded the idea for interchangeable electronic batteries and chargers for various electronic gadgets.

I guess this struck a chord because Verizon wouldn't offer me a replacement Nokia cell phone this month and I had to migrate--the sturdiest simplest alternative being a Motorola. Besides the time wasted in learning a differen interface (think Mac v.s. Microsoft) I now own several useless--to me--chargers and a spare battery. And I will have to beg, borrow or steal (just kidding on that last) a new car charger.

But then, isn't that the point. Compete, don't cooperate. Itparallels the way the providers don't unlock their phones. And more significantly, the way they don't share towers. Which means that Virgin (Sprint) claims good service at my house, but has a less useful plan nationally.

It's like Walker pinted out about the universal batteries:

if something similar had originated in the skunk works of a big company, or even at a start-up angling for venture capital, it most likely wouldn't get far. But that, in fact, is the point: the nonmarketplace context of hypothetical products frees the designer to leapfrog practical-minded meetings about market share and profit margins and the like.
But Walker's article did not provide a lot of informaiton, so I looked up the conference website which described a gathering of

industry leaders, entrepreneurs, journalists, and designers...to discuss the business case for the greening of the consumer electronics industry...[K]ey representatives from some of the largest consumer electronics companies in the world, innovators from academic thinktanks, members of startups focused on renewable energy, and some of the leading minds in the word of sustainable design and business.
Some of the firms presenting included HP, Nokia, Sony, Philips, Intel, EPEAT, the Green Electronics Council, IDEO, Engadget, Earth2Tech/GigaOm, Solio and Hymini. The topics included:

design for sustainability, product life cycle management, take-back and recycling programs, energy efficiency, greener materials, and green lifestyle and product marketing.
So, I wondered, given the pr firm c0-sponsor, what at the conference was greenwash and what actually holds potential for reducing our negative impact on the natural environment.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure, because the promised videos of the sessions aren't posted yet, only photos. I know that Solio is an $80 solar batter charger for cell phones and other small devices--more expensive than many of its competitors. But more later--the library is closing.