The Greener Gadgets event in New York City was a stark contrast to its Las Vegas counterpart, the Consumer Electronics Show. The venue was vastly smaller, the visual appeal was significantly absent, and the huge techie crowd was lacking (but we’ll blame that on the snowstorm).
But there was one compelling dissimilarity about Greener Gadgets, and it was perhaps the reason we made the cross-country trip: undiscovered ingenuity.
While there were no elaborate booths with devices for us to test, Twitpic and geek out about, the ideas were concrete through illustration and avid speakers, making us even more excited about how the future will better merge both technology and sustainability.
As keynote speaker Yves Béhar poignantly put it, “If a design is not ethical, it cannot be beautiful. If it cannot be beautiful, it probably shouldn’t be at all.”
The Hackable Car
Béhar is the founder of Fuseproject and designer of several other greener gadgets. He opened the show with a theme that we would later see throughout the program: Green should be available to the wider world.
Using the One Laptop Per Child project as an example, Béhar said greener design can be both simple and crave-worthy.
“When Nicholas Negroponte contacted me about the One Laptop Per Child Project, I was so over designing laptops. They are all the same, there is no innovation […] But Nicholas really wanted to do something different and groundbreaking, and he really became an ambassador for design.”
“We learned a lot of things, and the rest of the world learned a lot of things through this process. For instance, we learned that a laptop could be made light and cheap and that people would find that desirable.”
Springboarding off that idea, Béhar presented his dirt-simple electric vehicle design that would make sense in a developing country. It’s tough, versatile and “hackable,” meaning that you can build your own functions on top of its basic frame.
The car is completely symmetrical – the front and back component pieces are interchangeable, and the roof is covered in photovoltaics. While the setup is basic, the portions can be changed to suit a wide array of needs ranging from a car to a truck, van, taxi, delivery vehicle or ambulance.
The design is still in its initial phase, but we think it definitely has potential as “electric” continues to become a buzzword for the automobile industry.
We remember Ecovative founders Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre when their EcoCradle design was simply an ambitious idea from insanely gifted students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. But the two entrepreneurs are making their design idea an actual product.
An alternative to hard-to-recycle polystyrene foam packaging, EcoCradle is made from agricultural byproducts such as seed husks, which would normally be landfilled. Once the seed husks are wet, they are combined with mushroom roots, which act as a binding agent.
Part of Greener Gadgets Sustainable Showoff event, Bayer explained that the compostable fibers can literally be put in your garden to improve your topsoil. It is the ideal shipping and packaging material for products weighing more than 15 pounds.
And manufacturers will not incur an added expense to make the switch. Bayer said the price is comparable to its widely used polystyrene foam counterpart. You’ll be able to purchase furniture and consumer electronics packaged in EcoCradle starting this spring.
The ANDREA Air Filter
Who doesn’t love a good houseplant for the office? We’ve heard of the air quality improvements of keeping plants indoors, but the process has never been a timely one when compared to commercial air purifiers.
But a new design called ANDREA actually accelerates this. In fact, its general gas removal rate is, according to the RTP Labs data, more than 1,000 times faster than plants alone.
Invented by French designer Mathieu Lehanneur along with Harvard professor David Edward, ANDREA transforms household plants into air cleaners which effectively rid indoor air of toxins and pollutants to purify any room in the home or office.
ANDREA’s fan system pulls dirty air through the holes in the top of the plastic casing, swirls the air around the leaves of the plant and sucks it through the soil, roots and water, releasing cleaner air through its vent.
It will cost you about $200, but the ANDREA is 44 times more efficient than a standard HEPA or carbon filter and works with any household plant. The ANDREA is now available in the U.S. and can be purchased on Amazon.
AUG/Living Goods Program
How would our purchasing habits change if we could actually see a product’s complete lifecycle in-store and on-demand?
The winner of the Greener Gadgets Design Competition, the AUG/Living Goods Program is a concept that encourages the localization of Living goods (produce, meats and dairy) through the use of a barcoded “Producers” directory.
The mobile application scans products’ barcodes and generates information for the consumer by using a geo-location system that tracks the product’s origin and how many miles it traveled to be placed on store shelves. According to the designers, the app’s benefit is three-fold, a positive impact on the farmer, the grocer and the consumer.
The judges loved this design because it is practical and mobile, two things that other designs lacked this year. This project is still in development and is not yet available to the public. It also doesn’t specify if the app will be made for just the iPhone or if it will also include multiple formats for other cell phones with Internet access.
While judge Sarah Rich pointed out that this design is very similar to the GoodGuide app for the iPhone, the audience loved it, as evidenced by the massive applause it received.