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Green is the new black

Here at Connecting '07, the annual trade conference of the Industrial Designers Society of America, eco-design is all the rage.

SAN FRANCISCO--This year in design, green is the new black.

That line has easily been trumpeted by everyone from design trade magazines to consumer media moguls like Oprah. But here at Connecting '07, the annual trade conference of the Industrial Designers Society of America, it's even more obvious.

Photos: Under the hood of the Tesla Roadster

Headlining the opening day keynote Thursday was Martin Eberhard, co-founder of Tesla Motors, in a talk he called "sleek and green." Eberhard was accompanied by Barney Hatt, designer of the Lotus and the Tesla Roadster, a $98,000 electric-powered sports car that's due at the beginning of next year. (Of course, Tesla's sports car has appeal beyond environmentalists, and this year, it's been the zeitgeist of Silicon Valley.)

Eberhard, who founded Tesla Motors in 2003 because of worries about foreign oil dependence and global warming, said he wanted to design a "Porschius," a cross between a Porsche and a Toyota Prius. By building an all-electric car, he hoped to double the efficiency of the Prius, he said. "The 'Porshius' would appeal to people who love cars and care about the environment."

Still, environmental journalist Alex Steffen took the Tesla Roadster down a notch in a follow-up talk. He said that although they're "great," consumers must consider the manufacturing, maintenance and disposal costs of any car when they buy it.

"Tesla cars aren't the solution," he said. Instead, he said, people must reduce their consumption if they want to improve the trends toward global climate change.

Eco-design talks are also woven into the three-day confab, through a track of presentations on sustainable product design, as well as featured speakers. Dell, for example, is touting its international green computing design competition at the conference. Janine Benyus, the founder of the nonprofit Biomicry Institute, will speak Friday about how designers can look to nature to improve the efficiency of products, for example.