As yesterday’s third annual Greener Gadgets Conference proved, you can’t keep a good green geek down. In the face of some particularly wet and nasty weather courtesy Mother Nature, gadget hounds, design aficionados and those just interested in learning more about the symbiotic relationship between emerging technology and eco-living converged on the McGraw-Hill Conference Center in Midtown Manhattan.

As anticipated, the Consumer Electronics Association-produced Greener Gadgets 2010 was chock-full of eco ear and eye candy. The day kicked off on a refreshingly hack-ish note as design powerhouse Yves Béhar of fuseproject gave the opening keynote speech and shared his design concept for a fully customizable solar electric car meant for use in developing nations. Béhar, the man behind the PACT line of organic cotton undies, also discussed “bringing back the sexy” to green. Next up, MNN found Green Living Begins at Home, a spirited group discussion led by former Dwell senior editor Sarah Rich, to be most intriguing as topics like “heirloom” design, home energy management systems and Brad Pitt’s Make it Right green building project in New Orleans were discussed.

Later in the day, MNN came face to face with a favorite green gadget, as the soothingly accented Tom Hadfield of French innovation firm LaboGroup presented the ANDREA Plant Air Purifier. This gizmo accelerates the indoor air quality-improving nature of ordinary houseplants like peace lilies. ANDREA — which unlike some of the gizmos on display at Greener Gadgets is indeed available to consumers — might look a touch space age-y (it resembles an astronaut’s helmet, but for houseplants) but we think it’s no less intrusive than a standard HEPA air purifier. Plus, as Hadfield pointed out, ANDREA is 44 times more effective than HEPA or carbon air purifiers.

At the end of the day, the centerpiece of the conference, the Greener Gadgets Design Competition, got under way as 10 finalists voted on by the public via the Greener Gadgets website duked it out for title of the greenest (and $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 prizes for the winner and two runners-up). The top 10 were narrowed down to the top five by a quip-happy panel of judges including Sarah Rich, ReadyMade editor-in-chief Andrew Wagner and Julian Lwin of Lwindesign. The judges, particularly a “punchy” Wagner, held nothing back as they dissected each finalist including MNN favorite Corky, a battery-less mouse made from recycled cork and recycled plastic components.

After four “go” designs were selected by the judges, it was up to the Greener Gadgets audience to pick a winner through an always-reliable method: applause. A clapometer was brought out and non-stop clapping commenced. Out of the four finalists, designer John Healy’s AUG Living Goods Program, a mobile phone application (not a true physical “device” like most of the contenders) allowing users to track where exactly their food comes from via a bar coded product directory, received the most applause and, in turn, was named the winner of the Greener Gadgets Design Competition. It’s a fascinating, useful app that melds tech with the local agricultural movement and we’re excited to see it further developed.

The airport-friendly, energy-harvesting Empower Chair and the interior-lighting powered Illumicharger came in second and third place, respectively.

A big congratulations to Healy and his AUG Living Goods Program and to all the talented finalists (nice try, Corky!). See you in 2011, Greener Gadgets … let’s just hope Mother Nature is a bit more cooperative the next time around. 

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Greener Gadgets 2010
What product took top honors at the green geek's conference? Matt Hickman reports.