The Greener Gadgets Conference is underway in NYC this morning, with intros by Jill Fehrenbacher and Marc Alt and Keynote from Saul Griffith. This is a great event to bring people together to share ideas to deal with our current accelerated pace of creating electronic toxic waste that create series threat to our environment. How many chargers we are throwing away every year? The area of consumer electronics, in particular, needs to make a radical shift from products that are replaced every few months or years to what Griffith called "heirloom" products, like a Mont Blanc pen or Rolex watch that lasts decades. Long-lasting products have a significantly lower embedded carbon footprint, he said.
"We need to give products to consumers with one-tenth the power consumption and that last ten times as long," Griffith said. "That implies service economies (for refurbishing or repairing products). Those will be the business models of the future."
I like the idea of this solar strap power attached to your cell phone, this thing from Strap-Ya features a tiny solar cell which is capable of harnessing the power of the sun to charge your handset.
How many cell phones you have given or thrown away? And all associated accessories and chargers? Why can’t they standardize the chargers? Batteries are the worst in terms of sustainability issues. We’re all hooked on our consumer electronics — iPods, cell phones, laptops and gameboys — but we’re all starting to hear about some of the pitfalls of our gadgets’ manufacturing processes and power consumption habits.
There are a lot of humanitarian and sustainability efforts driving innovators to think globally while creating products that work locally. Empowered by emerging and self-sufficient energy technologies including human, solar and rechargeable energy, panelists will describe how eco-designed products can create simple yet life changing solutions for these global dilemmas. This is the second event and they also awards competition that highlights sustainability and innovation in consumer technology. This one day event brings together folks from electronics industry, inventors and designers to address key green topics including product design, recycling programs, product marketing, energy efficiency and more.
One idea I like is called Recompute. It is a new way of thinking about computers that layers sustainable ideas throughout its lifecycle to make an overall sustainable product that can be easily replicated. Recompute address sustainability along three main points during its life.
Manufacturing: Rather than making a large tower constructed from numerous materials (ABS plastic, aluminum, steel, etc.), hundreds of manufacturing processes, and dozens of individual components, the Recompute case is made of corrugated cardboard (recyclable and renewable). There are four low-impact manufacturing processes to assemble Recompute: Die cutting, gluing (with non-toxic white glue), printing and electronic assembly. Recompute uses only three major electronic components: A motherboard with processor & memory, power supply, and a hard drive.
Use: Recompute is designed to allow the user to take advantage of existing hardware. For example; use the keyboard from a previous computer. For additional flexibility, external hardware customization is easy via 8 USB ports.
Disposal: Electronic components need to be properly recycled as they contain toxic heavy metals. However, this is often skipped because dismantling of computers is difficult. Recompute can be disassembled without tools, so the electronics and case can be easily recycled individually.
Very cool ideas. I would like to see the whole office machines environment be designed with the same concepts in mind. In fact, I would like to see Apple making them. In that case, the carton used would be white instead.