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Green clicks: eco-blogs come of age.

Originally associated with disgruntled teens, blogs have grown into a legitimate form of online news and entertainment, covering an array of subjects from fashion and politics to the environment.

The growing popularity of the "eco-blog" has been attributed to the fashionably green website TreeHugger.com. Deemed the "god of environmental blogs," TreeHugger is currently the daily traffic leader. Founder Graham Hill has been featured in such magazines as Vanity Fair, Wired and Giant and was dubbed "The Modern Hippie" by Time Magazine.

"All the attention is sort of funny," says Hill. "I know a lot more than the average Joe about green design, but the real experts are the writers who contribute material." Hill may not take credit for the site's success, but he was its inspiration. "I looked at myself while creating TreeHugger, because I think I represent a lot of people out there," says Hill. "We live very busy lives and we do care about a lot of issues, but if it's going to take us six hours to make an impact, we're probably not going to do it." Hence TreeHugger's user-friendly format. Almost everything you need to know about the environment can be found somewhere on the site in an easy-to-digest form.

An Environmental Bite

And TreeHugger is beginning to see competition. Idealbite.com sends a daily newsletter via e-mail to subscribers who want tips on how to be eco-friendly. With titles like, "More Hermes than hemp?" "Humane veal?" and "Is your shampoo making you fat?" Idealbite is aimed at a group that might be, as cofounder Jennifer Boulden puts it, a "lighter shade of green."

Created in June 2005 by Boulden and longtime friend Heather Stephenson, Ideal-bite has 65,000 subscribers and has been featured on Martha Stewart Living. "We noticed that a lot of environmental efforts failed because they were too extreme for most people," says Boulden. "We don't suggest any drastic changes, just simple ones that make an environmental impact over time."

Boulden and Stephenson also send out surveys to record the percentage of subscribers who actually use their eco-tips, so they can calculate the exact environmental impact of each tip. While it may be too self-consciously hip (and commercial) for some, the ad-supported IdealBite.com makes it easy for the eco-novice.

Environmental websites can be heavy on technical data, and focused on topics like peak oil and wastewater cleanup, but many of today's blogs are confronting issues that resonate with a younger audience. "It's important to get people involved by making the content accessible to everyone, not just an educated few," says Starre Vartan, an E contributor who is also the founder of stylish blog Eco-Chick.com. Tired of searching the web for a green blog that was informative and cool, Vartan created her own site where no subject is off limits (one recent entry reviews an all-natural lubricant). "I think it's really great that environmental topics are seen as hip and that green is the new black," says Vartan. "This doesn't mean that every message will be perfect, but people can still learn how to make a difference."

Eco-Chick makes it possible for young women to discuss contemporary environmental topics and learn how to reduce their carbon footprint, from what they drive to what they do in the bedroom.

Getting Together

As the number of environmental websites grows, bloggers have to work harder to make their sites unique. New York based Green-links.org, the "online resource for all things 'green' in New York City," participates in "Green Drinks," a program that brings environmentally minded people together in 129 cities around the world. Every second Tuesday of the month, Green Drinks organizes an informational session at a local bar, art gallery or restaurant so eco-friendly individuals can network, share ideas or find friends.

Hippyshopper.com promotes "ethical consumerism" by posting articles on the latest green products and hosting links to products such as organic lipstick, organic cloth and organic furniture. The site also has links to eco-friendly clothing sites, such as the Lazy Environmentalist.

Don't go to WorldChanging.com for "green" fashion tips. This serious, tech-savvy online publication published by Leif Utne (late of Utne magazine) is ground zero for sustainable development information from around the planet. And the online magazine Groovy Green posts blogs on issues from global warming to DIY composting piles.

Even large corporations have discovered the value of a green blog. Seventh Generation, the nation's leading seller of nontoxic cleaning products, has just created its own blog, The Inspired Protagonist. Most articles double as self-promotion, but you can find some relevant information.

And not all blogs are consumer oriented. Alternative Energy Blog (AEB) posts discuss ethanol, wind power, biodiesel, plug-in hybrids and the drawbacks of "clean coal" technology. "I think that blogs are an important counterpoint to the mainstream media," says AEB founder James Wilson. "People with scientific or technical training can examine these issues and raise relevant questions on their blogs."

So is the world finally ready for a deep dive into green issues? "I certainly feel that being 'green' is trendy right now," says Hill, "but I hope that there is a lot of reality to it that affects business and policy. We humans have short attention spans. Whether it be Ugg boots or Afghanistan, we can move through things very quickly, and it's hard to get focused on them again." But some eco-blogs are showing signs of becoming more than the flavor of the month. CONTACT: AEB, www.alt-e.blogspot.com; Eco-Chick, www.ecochick.com; Green Drinks, www.green drinks.org; Green Links, www.greenlinks.org; Hippy Shopper, www.hippy shopper.com; Ideal Bite, www.idealbite.com; Inspired Protagonist, www.inspiredprotagonist.com; Tree Hugger, www.treehugger.com; World Changing, www.worldchanging.com.

KATHLEEN O'NEILL watches the blogs as an intern at E.
COPYRIGHT 2007 Earth Action Network, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Consumer News
Author:O'Neill, Kathleen
Publication:E
Date:Jan 1, 2007
Words:966
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