The Consumer Electronic Association (CEA)’s just-wrapped-up International CES — or as it would rather not be called, the Consumer Electronics Show — is an absolute circus.

It’s like that slightly wild seventh-grader down the street who always had really cool stuff but who your mom pleaded you not to hang out with: loud, obnoxious, flashy, chaotic, and totally okay with it. At CES, there are robots and celebrities and weirdos and drones and lots of flashing lights. There’s also, oddly for a gadget trade show, a lot of bare skin. CES has also, since 1998, been held as a once-a-year event each winter in Las Vegas, which makes the whole thing even more surreal. (Sadly, for the last two years, the big event has not been held concurrently with the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo, which made for a truly peculiar cab-sharing and after hours scene).

An elephantine-sized event that has served as the lauching ground of the camcorder, the Laserdisc, and Blu-Ray, CES isn’t exactly famous for having a reasonably sized environmental footprint. This year, the event, already one of the largest trade shows in the country, was bigger than ever with 2 million net square feet of exhibit space and 3,2000 exhibitors housed in the Las Vegas Convention Center and at other convention centers/event spaces elsewhere around Sin City.

However, just hours after I choked on the fumes of the approximately 6,000 coach buses queued up outside the massive Convention Center to shuttle attendees to and from their hotels, I was happy to learn that behind-the-scenes sustainability played a larger role at this year’s show.

As reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the CEA worked with Dallas-based general services contracting firm Freeman for the first time in 30 years for CES 2014. Previously, Global Experience Specialists had served as primary contractor for CEA's annual geeks 'n' gadgets bonanza in Vegas. With the big contractor change-up – it’s unclear how long the contract between the CEA, who specifically requested an even more eco-friendly CES for 2014, and Freeman is for — came an even stronger emphasis on sustainability: Magnetic signs were recycled, materials were printed on recycled paper with soy-based ink, a million square feet of plastic sheeting was donated to a farm near Lake Mead.

“You’ve got to actually recycle materials and think about how it’s reused. There’s a great movement among all of our corporate clients, where they’re asking for sustainability in all of the things we’re doing,” Jeff Chase, vice president of sustainability at Freeman, tells the Review-Journal.

Most impressively, exhibitor Sony is donating all of the lumber used in the construction of its booth — anyone who has set foot in the Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center can tell you that these aren’t your average trade show booths but huge, elaborately designed set pieces — to Habitat for Humanity. Last year, the company sent seven dumpsters filled with lumber and building materials to landfills at the conclusion of the show.

Outside of the CEA’s work with Freeman to further green-up CES in the realm of materials recycling, Habitat for Humanity popped into the show in other areas. Habitat’s relationship with second-time CES attendee and sponsor of the first-ever CES Driverless Car Experiences, Bosch, was discussed in detail during a sustainability-minded press conference held by the privately owned German automotive and home appliance giant.

During the 45-minute presentation titled “Making a Sustainable Life an Attainable Life in a Connected World,” Bosch Chairman Dr. Werner Struth dedicated a decent chunk of time to the topics of giving back and community following an overview of his company’s slew of new — and at times mind-boggling — innovations in the realms of home and mobility: self-driving cars, health phones, eBikes, integrated environmental sensor technology, home energy solutions, and much more.

Kicking off his discussion on Bosch’s community-minded involvement in the connected world, Struth detailed how the company pitched in during the massive rebuilding efforts following Superstorm Sandy. This segued into an announcement that Bosch would be making a $20,000 donation to Habitat for Humanity as the nonprofit continues its rebuilding efforts in tornado-ravaged Peoria, Ill.

“While this may not seem to be a huge sum of money, what it represents is the number of people in this room — about 150 — times the number of years that Bosch has been in business — 127 years. While we are separated by many miles from those in the Midwest, this contribution serves as a reminder to all of us just how connected we are — and the power of communities large and small,” said Struth during his speech.

Previously, the Bosch Community Fund had made a $50,000 cash donation to Habitat for Humanity’s work in Peoria; the Bosch Power Tools Division had also donated $10,000 worth of much-needed power tools to Habitat for Humanity.

Outside of Bosch’s involvement with Habitat for Humanity, another team of green homebuilders benefited from this year’s CES: the 2013 Solar Decathlon team from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The UNLV team, which picked up the second place prize during its first-ever Solar Decathlon showing for the dramatic DesertSol house, will receive $10,000 as a “congratulations” from the CEA. Las Vegas’ 180-acre Springs Preserve the future, permanent home of DesertSol, will also be given $25,000 by the CEA to help maintain the retired competition demo home as a living laboratory. “The goal is to inspire visitors to implement green living practices and technologies into their own homes and for the house to remain a site for continued research and development of renewable energy for UNLV faculty, students and industry professionals,” reads the 2014 International CES Green Guide.

The CEA traditionally donates green project-dedicated funds to local Las Vegas organizations following CES.

Coincidentally, Bosch served as a supporting-level sponsor of the Department of Energy-hosted 2013 U.S. Solar Decathlon and was also an individual sponsor of Team UNLV’s DesertSol project.

Stay tuned as I share more highlights from CES including the latest in home connectivity from the always-forward thinking Bosch, who was kind enough to host my visit this year.

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

When gadgetry meets do-goodery: How Habitat for Humanity benefits from CES
Sustainability played a key role at this year's CES with both the CEA and Bosch donating materials and funds to Habitat for Humanity green building efforts.