While I was in San Francisco meeting with some of my peers, I took the time to attend the Green Festival, an event advertising itself as a collaboration of "business, people and the environment". To saw the gathering was an eclectic bunch would be quite the understatement.
It seemed as though this festival was a clash of cultures. The exhibitors could be divided into two very dissimilar groups. One group was what you could call the past notion of the word 'green' and the stereotypes associated with them. They were the vendors looking to promote more of the culture of 'green', the earthiness the term brings. These were your organic food suppliers, your social awareness groups, and a surprising number of tie-dye shirt manufacturers (I can't remember the last time I saw a tie-dye shirt in Canadasave for the occasional Grateful Dead cover band playing at the local pub).
On the other side, you had those who looked at the 'green' industry as a business opportunity for the technologically savvy. Not to question their altruistic intentions, but these exhibitors in their three-piece suits and slick, polished exhibit stations reinforced to me that the green industry has transcended above tye-die shirts and organically made yogurt to include new industries like solar panel manufacturing, sustainable home energy management and even a company exhibiting power strips that managed and regulated power to the components you plugged into it.
I counted no less than eight companies involved in solar panels in some capacity, with five of those eight companies trying to engage customers with the simplicity of their solar set up and the financial (and ecological but more financial) benefits of using solar electricity over energy currently supplied by the state of California. Each exhibit tried to outshine (excuse the pun) the other by focusing on the ease of implementation of their panels and how their panel set up was the most optimal for the sun conditions of your home.
Other exhibits focused on the future electric car business. There was an insurance company who was promising low rates for those who decide to switch to hybrid vehicles and even lower rates if they were to switch to fully electric vehicles upon their introduction. I also had the chance to chat with the group from 3Prong Power as they exhibited their technology that can convert a hybrid Toyota Prius into a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. With their technology, they promised a 75 percent reduction in your carbon footprint but the average consumer would probably be more impressed with their promise of a drive that works out to a cost of 1 dollar a gallon. 3Prong uses a significantly larger battery pack than that found in the factory Prius that increases the EV mode range of the car to 10-35 miles depending on system/battery option you chose. This approach was similar to what Plug In Conversions showcased at ESC Boston two years ago (as seen here).
There were also the energy companies, like PG&E of San Francisco, using the event as a platform to describe their clean and alternative energy platforms. These presentations drew quite the crowd as these companies hoped to educate attendees on their work in developing a smart grid, using cleaner methods of drawing energy (like wind and solar) and their future commitment to reducing emissions.
In general, what I found the most interesting into my foray into the green festival was the juxtaposition of what the definition of green used to be, to what the definition of green has evolved to. I had to ask one of the more 'earthy' vendors what they thought of the more 'corporate' involvement expecting an answer along the lines of "green has been sold out, etc." but I was surprised by his answer. "It's great", he said, "when I was younger, I used to hope that their would be a financial benefit in going green so that corporations would trip over themselves to get involved. I don't care how much money they make it if makes the earth better." Even though this was the opinion of one man, it seemed to carry the sentiment of most of the attendees and exhibitors, that there are only winners in green and clean technology.