Monday, October 06, 2008

Environment and GHC Occasionally Collided

On Friday Mary Lou Jepsen spoke about her experiences with the One Laptop per Child and her company Pixel Qi that she started to continue that work. Apparently then have shipped approximately 1 million laptops already. In one African country an 11 year old girl created a laptop hospital to fix the broken laptops for other kids, after figuring out how to fix them herself. The laptops come with 6 extra screws, as Mary had envisioned the laptop to be fixable by the children themselves. I think this anecdote is yet another that supports the idea that girls are just as likely to be interested in computers as boys, as long as you don't tell them they shouldn't be (implicitly or explicitly).

I was also impressed to hear how little power these laptops take, and that they can be charged with a bicycle, cows walking on a treadmill-like device, and other non-traditional energy sources. According to her graphs, if a large number of people began to use these laptops instead of their traditional laptops, we could save a significant amount of energy. The laptops have innovative power saving capabilities, as the screen is exceptional in its low power usage, and the hard drive and processors are turned off whenever they aren't being used even if the computer is still on. Any action by the user essentially turns them back on immediately, so the user doesn't really notice that anything was turned off. How cool is that?! These laptops have so many capabilities that it would be great to have on ALL laptops!

Not only do I love that there is such an innovative laptop, I also love how environmentally friendly the use of it is. I wonder, of course, how environmentally friendly the actual development of the device is compared to other laptops. I hope that one day we can make computing have a much lower environmental impact, and maybe this laptop is a step in the right direction. Any guesses on how long that will take?

On a related note, GHC was overall much more environmentally friendly than usual. Every attendee was given a reusable plastic water bottle and encouraged to use that instead of plastic cups throughout the event. ThoughtWorks gave out organic cotton paper that when planted will bloom flowers, NetApp gave away organic chapstick, the free Microsoft t-shirt was made with organic cotton, and overall a lot less "stuff" was given away. Although it's always fun getting stuff, we really don't need it. There were even bins at the conference center for attendees to place any unwanted free stuff, that would then be donated to local schools. I think it's great that the organizers took the time to try to be more responsible toward the environment, and I hope the trend continues for future conferences.

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