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What happened to the green tech fad?


Remember the whole "going green" thing? What happened to it? Did it die out or are their still some "tree troopers" on the ground keeping the dream alive?
Remember the whole "going green" thing? What happened to it? Did it die out or are their still some "tree troopers" on the ground keeping the dream alive?
sjenner13/Thinkstock

Green tech is still alive and well -- at least according to the marketing messages of self-proclaimed green companies. But are technology manufacturers actually adhering to green tech practices or just talking about them? Has the green tech fad morphed from a short-term trend to a long-term way of doing business?

Throughout the past decade, the term green tech has been applied to everything from high-yield copy paper to solar powered cars and zero-waste factories. Business and technology sites like Forbes and CNET devote entire channels to green technology news, and there's no shortage of information to report. The Green Electronics Council maintains a registry of "greener" electronics manufacturers for product categories including computers, TVs and office equipment, listing companies that meet certain independently verified criteria for sustainable design, manufacturing, energy use and recycling [source: EPEAT].

Entire new industries have sprung up around finding sustainable and environmentally-friendly ways to treat municipal wastewater, clean up oil spills or power our vehicles, while public utilities and state and federal agencies continue to look for ways to partner with companies in the private sector and reward them for energy conservation [sources: Russell, SCE, Wang].

Of course, there are certain contradictions inherent in the green tech movement on the part of both consumers and marketers. How "green" is it to trade in our perfectly good smartphones every time a new latest-and-greatest version is released, or to leave our multitude of devices plugged into charging stations every night? Is it environmentally responsible for manufacturers to design cheaply made products destined for the landfill [source: Electronics Takeback Coalition]? Retailers like Staples, Kohl's and Whole Foods have committed to using 100 percent renewable power from sources like solar and wind, while others come under fire for greenwashing, i.e., claiming to be environmentally friendly while continuing to spew greenhouse gas emissions or create massive amounts of waste [source: Mitchell].

We still have a long way to go before green manufacturing and sustainable business practices become something we take for granted, like unleaded gasoline or non-smoking flights. But as long as companies find that it makes good business sense to enter the green tech arena, whether because of customer demand, social pressure, government grants or the need to comply with environmental regulations, green tech appears to be here to stay [sources: Hincha-Ownby, Shankland, Wang].