It's not often that computers are sold on their "spiritual warmth" and "refreshing fragrance" but the star of the world's biggest IT fair was something different. Instead of shiny plastic it was encased in laminated bamboo strips. The result, said its Taiwanese makers, Asus, was "both aesthetically pleasing and good for the environment".
The Eco Book was the answer, they said, to the growing concern about the use of plastics.
"Bamboo is the most sustainable raw material there is," said Jellent Sun, a senior director.
"It grows very fast and therefore we decided to combine bamboo with metal, and leave out the plastic." The resulting laptop is due to go into production in June.
The computer fair, CeBIT, which opened in Hanover yesterday, took on the green theme for the first time in its 36-year history. It was met with a mixture of praise and scepticism.
One company presented a notebook that claims it can "bring you to a healthier life", by "detoxifying, sterilising and exterminating the silent assassin viruses" in your working environment, thanks to its built-in ioniser.
"Admittedly the Anion computer is not going to save the planet," said Craig Martus of MSI, "but it will sweeten the air you breathe so that rather than being stuck in an office, you'll feel like you're in the mountains."
Until now it has been aeroplanes and cars which have taken the brunt of the criticism when it comes to environmental pollution. But now the IT industry is admitting that it has to cut users' energy costs - rising electricity bills are as much of an incentive as the environment - as well as improve its recycling capabilities.
"Green IT is hype," admitted Thomas Tauer of IBM Germany, "but it is an issue that will keep us busy for a long time".
The industry has coined such phrases as "ecolutions" - short for the rather long-winded eco-friendly and environmental evolution and solutions - "cooler
and cleaner," and "hi-tech, low carbon" in its attempt to plug the message that emissions can be reduced without computer users having to sacrifice functionality or style.
"Worldwide internet usage alone needs the equivalent of 14 power stations to run the required computers and servers, which means it's producing the same amount of carbon emissions as the entire airline industry," said Omur Canaltay, a marketing manager with Fujitsu Siemens.
He was presenting the world's first O-Watt monitor, which uses no electricity when in standby mode and is due to go on sale in the spring.
Use of similar products, he said, could reduce a family's electricity bill by 40%. Calculated on the grander scale of a multi-national company, the savings could run into millions.
The environmental pressure group Greenpeace was on hand to provide a healthy degree of scepticism about the industry's claims.
"We're here to cut through the corporate greenspeak and find out how much is real, and how much is just PR," said Omer Einaiem, Greenpeace International media relations specialist.
The organisation is using its presence at CeBIT to stress its appeal to the industry to eliminate toxic chemicals, boost energy efficiency and improve computers' life cycles so that old machines do not so readily land in unregulated and hazardous "recycling yards" in developing countries.
Today it will use the fair to present a list of the most environmentally friendly IT products on the market.
© 2008 The Guardian