The Consumer Electronics Show kicked off today, and geeks are freaking out about what's faster (left), smaller, and more dazzling in the digital world this year. I haven't had much of a chance to check out green tech yet since I'm working like mad, and the "Innovations Plus" area is far from where I've been wandering. "Defining tomorrow's technology" is the slogan of this convention. Yet so far, the most "environmental" talk I hear involves outfitting your home with wall-to-wall TV screens and security systems. Still, there are glimmers of green change, such as this Zap electric car in the central tent area. There's a fuel cell charger for cell phones and a fuel cell laptop battery. The Sony e-book reader might save some trees. And I want to make it over to see ICP Solar booth to check out its thin film solar tech.
You should have seen the army of CES assembly at work yesterday; the exhibit halls during convention setup were a maze of beeping forklifts, chemical odors, electronic cables, sheets of plastic that could cover a two-flat. What will become of all this, of the forgotten shreds of astro turf, or the acres of ultra plush carpeting that pads the sprawling booths of Microsoft Vista, HP, and other A-list vendors? Will it all be left here for future generations to gawk at when they tour the ruins of a dehydrated Las Vegas? While nearby natural springs may have attracted Spanish explorers to Vegas in the 19th century, the lack of a massive water source to quench this boomtown lacks a permanent solution.
Today, the foot traffic at CES is Manhattan-like in density and stride, but lacking in grit, and homogenous in that relentlessly professional way. Garbage is born at every turn, though it's neatly carted away in big unsorted lumps. No recycling in sight. To be fair, this is true of most large-scale American conventions. I asked some maintenance people about that. Lo and behold, they pointed me to the CES main office, nestled away from the hubbub of the hallways and sporting several Office Depot variety office plants.
Hi, I said. I'm interested in this Green Saturday eco-friendly stuff and I wonder, is CES applying any of those ideas to the way the convention is run? For example, is there any recycling of waste or exhibit materials? The cordial receptionist told me that the operations people were away. Instead, I should ask across the hall where the marketing gurus were stationed.
So I strolled over there. Recycling? The desk attendant gave me a blank stare. She disappeared for a moment into a side room, then reappeared to point me to the Green Saturday page in the full-color, hopelessly unrecycled, glossy convention guide tome. Yes thanks, I said, but what about in terms of the way the convention itself is operating? Out came a marketing manager, who was polite but seemed wary of my off-the-radar question. She let me know that there's some e-waste recycling booth somewhere in the exhibition labyrinth, but the government affairs people should know more. Go across the hall,she said. I returned to desk #1 and left my name and contact data for the operations manager in case she wants to get back to me with what I expect to be predictable answers. There's "innovation" screaming from all angles of this corporate madhouse of a conference, but the pollution caused by so much high tech might make you yearn for the troglodyte era. Will I be surprised? Stay tuned.
By the way, I waited 40 minutes in line (left) at the convention Starbucks to get some nap-preventing foo-foo coffee drink. Sticking to the Starbucks Challenge, I asked if they had fair trade coffee. Coffee what? You know, Starbucks has that Estima blend...oh never mind, too many drowsy suits in line behind me. Maybe the greenest thing I witnessed here today was the green tea frapuccino (no whipped cream) ordered by GigaFast girl #2 (see top of post).