CES 2009: Prepare for "green" lip service

Every year around CES time we get a slew of emails describing the thinnest this or most of that. A few years ago it was GPS devices (“The most points-of-interest in Scranton!”) and then it was TVs (witness Samsung’s recent announcement of a 7mm thick TV). Now it’s green. Take the Renew for example.

Through an alliance with CarbonFund(TM), Motorola offsets the energy required to manufacture, distribute and operate the phone through investments in renewable energy sources and reforestation. The plastic housing of MOTO W233 is 100 percent recyclable and made from plastics comprised of recycled water bottles, and the packaging was also created with the environment in mind.

100 percent recyclable? So is everything, given enough processing. Plastic comprised of recycled water bottles? Want a cookie? What about the 5 million RAZRs now paving the bottom of countless rivers? Environmental packaging? If you stuff the thing into a bag made of fruit roll-ups, I’ll go along with you. Otherwise, weak sauce.

Even if they offset their carbon credits with the good wood elves of Sylvan Glade, this is still a phone and it will still end up in a filthy landfill picked over by the poorest of the poor in rural China. Once everyone figures out that they can sell a few carbon credits to get the “Carbon Neutral” seal of approval on their box, they’ll hop on the bandwagon. But don’t worry! Everyone and their dog will be offering the biggest this, the smallest that, and the greenest of the other.

My problem is this: in this race to get that amazing headline (“Panasonic releases 200-inch television with dedicated team of Sherpas to change the channel”) we turn away from real progress. I don’t want to single Motorola out, but unless they or Panasonic or Sony have build a special hardware recycling system that turns your old Walkman into reusable scrap without harming the environment all of these 200-inch TVs are nothing but a waste of hot air.

We, as consumers, are beyond this, aren’t we? Are we really amazed by 7mm televisions anymore? OLED TVs the size of postage stamps? “Green” phones that will inevitably end up in the trash? Here is my request to CE makers: take 2009 off. Look over all the research your performed in the past 20 years about green tech (I remember one presentation by Sony showing styrofoam that dissolved in orange oil. That was cool.) and implement it. We’re not going to be buying your crap this year anyway, so why not pop out of the other end of 2010 with a set of green technologies that are real and not just a smokescreen. And stop with the big/thin/long TVs already. We get it: you bought a new glass factory outside of Seoul and you have to do something with it. Just don’t take us all down with you.