One of the hottest attractions at the Consumer Electronics Show this week in Las Vegas isn't a product but rather a color.
A multitude of companies is stressing green features in their products, from solar backpacks and docking stations to a new type of more efficient silicon. The show itself is working to reduce its carbon footprint, using carpets made of recycled materials, recyclable cups and environmentally friendly soy-based photocopying ink. Show organizers also plan to spend about $100,000 in carbon offsets to plant trees that compensate for show-related emissions.
The timing for CES to take steps to go green couldn't be better. The IT industry as a whole over the past two years or so has made significant strides toward helping consumers and tech users to help reduce their carbon footprints.
The channel has played an increasing role in this, even if its message to get customers thinking green continues to revolve around savings as opposed to reversing the harmful practices that most scientists believe have contributed to a warming of the planet.
No matter. After all, the whole idea of going green is to save. And, yes, that means money, too.
And it's not something IT companies can ignore, especially since the technology industry is one of the worst contributors to carbon emissions. As more and more customers get wise to the fact that green products save them money, especially as fuel and energy costs in general continue to rise, they will demand those products.
Solution providers and distributors must do their part by putting together green-minded solutions and getting the message back to vendors to help them accomplish this. Distributors, specifically, ought to consider creating product divisions that focus on green products as they have with other categories of technology. It would make good marketing sense and put resources in place to help solution providers assemble green solutions.
The world's largest retailer, for its part, isn't making bones about the need to get serious about the environment. Over the years, Wal-Mart has taken a lot of criticism for some of its business practices and employee treatment, and much of it deserved, but the retail conglomerate's environmental commitment is evident. Wal-Mart has started asking suppliers to fill out a "green practices" form before agreeing to restock their products.
Dell, too, is thinking green, offering customers free recycling of computers without requiring a new purchase.
Printing companies also are doing their part, giving customers free shipping to return spent ink cartridges.
Dell, Wal-Mart and printer vendors are addressing practical aspects of going green, but there is also plenty of innovation taking place, and that includes portable flexible photovoltaic panels that charge electronic devices and can be rolled up when not in use. Some companies, such as Voltaic Systems and Eclipse, sell backpacks with built-in solar panels.
While these products remain pricey, if they catch on in the market they will soon be affordable enough.
Innovation, of course, does not exclude affordability, as proven by startup Greenprint, which has developed software that eliminates the printing of unnecessary Web pages. This is an innovation that couldn't have come soon enough, as anyone with stacks of junk printouts can attest.
The industry isn't going to save the planet with backpacks and fewer printouts, but these are the types of products that solution providers ought to consider wrapping into green solutions intended to reduce energy consumption and make technology overall more efficient.
Pedro Pereira is editor of eWeek Strategic Partner and a contributing editor for Channel Insider. He is at firstname.lastname@example.org.