And now ladies and gentlemen, something completely different from the self-congratulatory, back-slapping, post-CES euphoria flooding the airwaves. Oh yes, there was amazing technology, amazing innovation and a sense of hubris in light of the economy and hard times all around. Less bling, more practical solutions. I think I even got a door held open for me a time or two by someone I didn’t have to tip, hehe.
The Intel booth was packed with enthusiastic techies and I met with over fifty of the best and brightest tech press in the world. Their knowledge and class always blows me away. We chatted Core i7, 45nm innovation, Atom, and Classmate PC. And as everybody at CES talked, we drank bottled water. Lots of it.
Bottled water which, when emptied, couldn’t find a recycling bin for a hundred miles. Literally. Turns out the Las Vegas Convention Center “isn’t set up for recycling”, so off go hundreds of thousands of empty bottles to a landfill somewhere.
Or worse — as a recent issue of the Economist writes about in depth – the ocean. Guess how much plastic is floating in the Pacific Ocean in huge masses? A few football fields worth? Try two swirling blobs totaling TWICE the size of the United States. Serious! I am always astonished at the monumental waste at CES. Not just empty water bottles but mountains of brochures, glitzy giveaways, disposable carpets and enough electricity use to power many small countries.
And yet almost all the exhibitors are companies “embracing sustainability,” “going green.” Exhibitors want to be seen as embracing the environment, so why not lean on the local convention authorities to embrace it too? A two-watt power saving in your glitzy gadget or fifteen more minutes of battery life is great, but I’d love to see technological innovation reach other areas in desperate need of greening.
Not all is doom and gloom of course. A highlight for me was meeting Anisha Ladha, Intel’s e-waste Program Manager. Kudos to Intel for giving her primo CES booth space to talk about how we reclaim more than 3 billion gallons of wastewater each year in our factories.
Anisha is passionate, with an environmental engineering background and tons of experience at all levels. And months in advance of last year’s show, she spent ergs trying to figure out who in show management could help make CES more environmentally friendly. She hit dead ends everywhere, with the fundamental issue being that “LVCC doesn’t recycle.” When she investigated offering reusable Intel branded beverage mugs she met with an even bigger quagmire of costs, rules, status quo and LVCC labor laws.
Imagine a “gentle nudge” program where attendees reused a water bottle and had it scanned at each meeting to collect a goodie at the end of the show? Maybe a collection of iTunes MP3s with “green” in the title (that’s only slightly tongue-in-cheek), or a raffle for a more power efficient, sleek and light Centrino 2 notebook?
Let’s not continue letting this convention be a study in “you can lead a CES gadgeteer to bottled water, but you can’t make him (or her) recycle.” Anisha, myself and several others I talked to last week are going to do our part to help make sure our respective companies walk the walk as well as talk the talk on green. Companies may make broad declarations on sustainability, but it is the employees themselves that must act to make words reality. Let’s hope we have enough voices chime in to really unleash the “green”!