The Greentech Festival 2023 took place in Berlin from June 14th to 16th under the motto “Mission to net Zero”. In addition to many exhibitors and speakers, thousands of visitors followed the call of the founding team around Formula 1 World Champion Nico Rosberg. But many companies also took the opportunity to polish their image; engage in greenwashing.

Whether Shell, E.ON, Lufthansa or Audi: These are not necessarily the companies that come to mind when you think of green technologies. But they were all represented at this year’s Greentech Festival in Berlin.

E.ON, in cooperation with BMW, has presented a very interesting charging solution that allows electric cars to be used at home as energy storage systems by feeding energy back into their own power grid. However, many other companies gave the impression that they only wanted to present a supposedly green conscience.

Greentech Festival 2023, or: On the Suspicion of Greenwashing

Take Shell, for example: The mineral oil company apparently hoped to be able to present itself in a green light with numerous references to its so-called recharge charging stations for electric cars. That the company scrapped plans to cut oil production almost in the same breath; there was no talk of that.

Car manufacturer Audi also presented itself as more sustainable than ever. A treatment plant that can be used to treat waste water so that it can then be used again in production: that doesn’t sound bad at first. Seat belt plugs made from recycled plastic? This is rather less innovative and new.

How should an electric car, which only very few can afford with a price of 75,000 euros or more, make a lasting contribution to the “mission to net zero”? Quite questionable. Right next to Shell, Lufthansa, one of the largest airlines in the world, explained how they want to become climate-neutral from “sustainable” aircraft to reducing plastic waste by 2050.

In a jungle of almost innumerable houseplants – many of which were made of plastic – it is certainly commendable that some of the most powerful global corporations, who have hitherto been less known than sustainable, are jumping on the green tech bandwagon. However, the suspicion of greenwashing always resonates.

Rays of light in a scene that celebrates itself

Also present at the Greentech Festival for the first time: The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection, which came across as much more innovative. A so-called photobioreactor illustrated, for example, how CO2 can be used to grow algae, which in turn can bind the greenhouse gas.

Also: the “Mother Earth Telephone”. Interested parties had the opportunity to speak to an AI-generated consciousness of the earth via two rather Stone Age telephones. The goal: to make people aware that we are all part of a whole. A consciousness that is often lacking.

Franz Philipps, graduate physicist at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), also ties in with this. As group leader for system and vehicle validation, Philipps developed the Zedu-1: the most environmentally friendly car in the world to date.

The physicist, who seems very modest, explained to me that the point was to point out grievances. It’s not just about presenting a new electric car. But also a car that, in addition to the sustainability aspect, points to the chemically difficult to grasp topic of fine dust and microplastics, although the latter can now even be detected in the blood of almost everyone.

Greentech Festival 2023: What else?

The consequences of this can sometimes not yet be assessed. But Green is different. Even worse: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around seven million people die every year from fine dust or air pollution.

Franz Philipps from DLR would like to draw attention to this with the Zedu-1. Because the most environmentally friendly car in the world eliminates both microplastics from tire abrasion and fine dust using specially developed filter technology. Now it’s the turn of the media, politics and business, the physicist explains to me.

Other exhibitors, on the other hand, are presenting edible toothpaste tabs, recycled drinking bottles or vending machines for companies without canteens. Meanwhile we are sitting in a tiny house that can be rented as office space for festivals, trade fairs or events. A mobile and fully-fledged office on wheels: That sounds exciting if it weren’t for the price of 1,000 euros – per day!

Hardly any practical ideas

As with many other exhibitors, this is also a concept that has so far hardly been practicable. The promises made by Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) on stage don’t change that when he talks about how much money is available for the energy transition and in the fight against climate change.

Because there was no trace of the technologies that can really change something, solar systems such as balcony power plants, heat pumps or wind turbines. What remains after the Greentech Festival 2023 are some nice ideas, but few innovative concepts and exhibitors. But all the more selfies, greenwashing and self-adulation under the guise of “Mission to net Zero”.

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