Do eco-friendliness and web 2.0 startups make a healthy mix? It looks like we’re about to find out, as dozens of new websites have launched for the environmentally conscious Netizen.
Don’t expect a “green” Facebook; instead, carbon-footprint calculators are trying to provide more than just math equations. They want to educate and inspire, throwing in a dash of social networking to keep up with the pack.
One of the best sites for CanCon is the World Wildlife Foundation’s The Good Life (http://thegoodlife.wwf.ca). The site describes itself as an online community for concerned Canadians who want to stop talking about climate change and start taking action to reduce their CO2 emissions that contribute to dangerous man-made climate change.
After joining The Good Life – for free – members can commit to various actions that minimize their carbon footprint, from recycling to eating local to installing low-flow shower heads and replacing old air conditioners with Energy Star-approved units. The site then calculates how much greenhouse gas you have reduced through those commitments.
After I joined The Good Life, I started taking action immediately, letting WWF know about the eco-friendly stuff I already do: recycle, compost, eat local, use programmable thermostats, transit or walk to work when I can and so on. In the five actions I listed, I saved 18 kilograms of greenhouse gas per year. Hurray?
Actually, looking at The Good Life’s map of what the members in each province have done, I felt that my contribution constitutes a mere grain of sand: Ontario members have saved 3 million kilograms of greenhouse gases in that same period.
Well, I have to start somewhere, and browsing through the site’s actions list truly did inspire my current eco-acquaintanceship. (I’m not sure if we’re friendly yet.)
For instance, I never thought of joining a “peak saver” program that my local utility apparently offers to reduce strain on the power grid during the summer. And the Sign Up For Earth Hour action reminded me of the global event March 29 at 8 pm when we’ll turn off our lights for one hour.
I smiled when I learned that working from home can be environmentally friendly – I thought I just liked sleeping in too much.
Apart from the greenhouse gas calculator and some articles on climate change, The Good Life is pretty bare-bones. But that’s a positive, considering how clunky and overwhelming some Web 2.0 sites can be.
What hurts this site are the constant reminders to invite your friends and family to join, and the subtle hints to donate to WWF whenever you can. It’s reasonable to plug the parent company, but WWF takes that too far. It would be better to traverse The Good Life’s pages without being bombarded to fulfill WWF’s marketing tasks.
Another green site winning acclaim is MakeMeSustainable.com, which has been described as Weight Watchers for carbon-conscious consumers. As with The Good Life, you sign up for free and commit to actions that reduce your carbon footprint. After I input the same commitments, more or less, that I made on The Good Life, MakeMeSustainable told me I’d be slashing 1.4 tons of carbon from the world every year, an 8 per cent reduction from my usual habits.
This site outperforms WWF’s offshoot for several reasons: the carbon-reduction scale is laid out on a graph, so you can easily track how you’ve done over the months; you can find out how much money you’ve saved every year from your actions; you can search for other like-minded souls in the People section and, in my case, automatically find fellow Toronto eco-friendlies; and you can join groups (à la Facebook) to connect with other members sharing your interests.
I joined the Green Literati group and read a pretty decent poem on global warming. Then again, it was post-marked July 2007 and was the latest entry.
After touring these two sites, I realize their intention is to institute change throughout your daily routine. Maybe you don’t need a social networking site to inspire you to drink from reusable coffee mugs. But some green newbies wouldn’t mind a shove in the right direction, with an easy results page for additional encouragement.
Knowing that I reduced 1.4 tons of carbon with my minimal actions got me thinking: what if I took that next step? And what if I chronicled it online to keep me honest? It looks like I can easily mix Net fandom with my newfound passion for enviro nerdiness.