CES 2011: CEA Green Claims Challenged

When the Consumer Electronics Association made noise about its big Vegas exhibition being green – noting, for instance, that “68 percent (372.2 tons) of the total solid waste generated by show attendees” at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show was recycled – some folks who do virtual events pounced. ON24, a San Francisco-based company, emailed out a press release with the blunt subject line, “New report: CES is not green.”

Now, obviously these guys have a vested interested in making industry groups and companies think twice about gathering for big events. But if the CEA is going to toss around numbers, shouldn’t the virtual guys deserve an opportunity to do so, as well?

Las Vegas Convention Center, Consumer Electronics Show

image via Las Vegas Convention Center

ON24 said if CES were done virtual-style, “carbon emissions would be reduced by some 179,000 tons (the equivalent of the annual impact of around 940,000 trees) and waste would be reduced by over 1.4 million pounds.” And, noting that upwards of 125,000 people were expected to attend CES this year, ON24 said “136 million air miles would be saved” if the event were held virtually.

“The green benefits of virtual events have been clearly established,” said ON24 Chief Marketing Officer Denise Persson. “Conversely, it is interesting to see that CES is being positioned as a so-called green alternative when it really isn’t. Attendees and exhibitors are still traveling to the show and still using towels in their hotel rooms.”

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.