Green gadgets are unfortunately only red herrings

25.10.2018

Thanks to technical progress and our green conscience, we could live more environmentally friendly lives. But it doesn’t work out that way because every saving of energy, time or money is immediately wiped out by greater consumption. For the greener the product, the more we feel we can treat ourselves to something.

A very good example of this is the rebound effect. The house has just been renovated and the improvement work to save heating and energy costs is finished. That is good for our green conscience and our environment. But nevertheless the annual bill shows that energy consumption has increased. How can that be? The simple answer is: after complex and often expensive refurbishment work, house owners think that they have already done enough and don’t have to worry so much about saving energy and using resources. Crazy world. It’s a similar story with green gadgets.

GREEN GADGETS: SOMETIMES JUST BELLS AND WHISTLES

Recently my girlfriend sent me into one of those shops that we men seldom enter: there you can buy scented candles, felt sleeves for your tablet and stainless steel toast racks so the toast cools more quickly. I had orders to buy a present and ask for the “basil greenhouse”. The assistant showed me a plastic box in which seeds would sprout even at night thanks to a small solar cell and LED lighting. EUR 99 and it would be mine. The assistant said it was a green gadget. I disagree. I call such things green nonsense.

Of course, there are green gadgets that really cut energy consumption or at least make you aware of it so you DON’T do it again. But with green gadgets it’s the same as with technical progress: all kinds of things are possible, but what actually helps?

TECHNICAL PROGRESS SOLVES PROBLEMS AND AT THE SAME TIME CREATES NEW ONES

  • We can save a lot of electricity with LCD and LED. Result: nowadays the cockpit of a car looks like the command console of a spaceship, our towns light up in the evenings like a small Las Vegas and many lights are on the whole day – after all, it can’t do any harm. But it can.
  • Because hard disks double in size every year for the same price, we go mad storing things. Everybody has thousands of photos that we don’t need any more, on their smartphone, on Instagram, Pinterest, in their own Cloud and on their PC. And every day everything is synchronised. Thanks to electricity.
  • We have heat insulation but live as singles in 80 sqm flats. That’s why housing is being built like crazy in our towns: concentrated housing. As a result, there is not enough air flow between the houses and the air gets worse rather than better.

ETERNAL GROWTH OR CLIMATE PROTECTION?

Technical progress and our green conscience alone cannot save the climate as long as we do not change our habits. If we do not just want to choose between flooded cellars and periods of drought but want to find real options, everybody has to pull together: politicians, companies… and we ourselves.
The unthinkable has to be considered: that our life style and production methods might have to change…

The latest Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC takes the same line – no solar-powered milk frother will help there, either.