2007 Tech Trends No. 2: Green Gadgets

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Second in a series of posts highlighting Tech Digest’s pick of big technology trends for the second half of 2007…

Technology companies make money from flogging us technology as often as possible. They don’t tend to make money from hugging trees. So when you see a company like Dell announcing plans to become the greenest technology company on Earth, you get a sense of why eco-gadgetry is increasingly seen as a vital business strategy by tech firms.

In Dell’s case that involves reducing the carbon intensity of its global operations, planting trees for every notebook and PC it sells. It’s also offering free recycling for used Dell kit. Many technology firms are taking measures, and those that aren’t are increasingly being held to account by the likes of Greenpeace.

The second half of 2007 will see a lot more publicity around how green (or otherwise) our gadget-makers are. Publications like Greenpeace’s Greener Electronics Guide are helping – it ranks PC and mobile manufacturers on how green they are. The latest edition put Lenovo at the top of the list, followed by Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Dell and Samsung. Sony pitches in at 11th spot, while Apple languishes in 14th.

Does this sort of pressure force companies to up their game? It seems so. Lenovo was bottom of Greenpeace’s previous edition of the report just four months before, while in early May, Apple came out and announced plans to phase out the most toxic chemicals used to manufacture its products. That hasn’t stopped Greenpeace from lobbying to ensure the upcoming iPhone handset is as green as possible though.

What’s clear is that in the next six months, us consumers will have far more information on how green our favourite technology firms are (oh, and blogs like Hippyshopper will help too). Businesses will also have access to schemes like the Green Technology Initiative that’ll teach them how to reduce carbon emissions from their IT kit, while everyone can learn from info like the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s green tips guide.

So, technology companies see the business benefits of going greener, and there’s going to be much more info available for us consumers to assess whether they’re actually doing it. What remains to be seen is if that really changes our buying habits – will we resist that tempting 60-inch plasma screen when we find out it hoovers up more electricity than a football stadium? If green gadgetry has a future, it’ll be down to us.

THE BIG QUESTIONS

1. Will gadget recycling schemes get more organised, so we know that whatever PC or mobile we have, there’s one place to go to get it recycled?

2. When you buy a fridge or washing machine, it’s clearly marked how energy-efficient it is. Will similar schemes emerge for other consumer technology products?

3. Will Apple’s greener measures pull it up Greenpeace’s rankings? And if not, why isn’t the company more eco-friendly – you’d think its core userbase would appreciate it…

THE FULL TECH TRENDS LIST
1: Telly 2.0
2: Green Gadgets
3: Blu-ray and HD DVD convergence
4: Virtual Reality
5: Touchscreens
6: Mobile social networking
7: Lifecasting
8: Bluetooth music
9: DRM-free music
10: Wi-Fi personal media players

Stuart Dredge