Growing green friends
Green social-networking sites are shooting up all over the Web. Which ones shine?
Many green products and services sprout on Earth Day only to wither the rest of the year. Hoping to maintain the momentum year-round, many geeks are nurturing social-networking sites for the nature-loving set.
Online communities built to help you take baby steps to green your life include Riverwired--where you can keep a blog, upload videos, and mingle with other members--and Be Green Now, a project of Green Mountain Energy. And in addition to the many green out there, the new GoLoco site might help you find carpooling pals.
Ecologically motivated people already may get together on established social networks MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, Tribe, and Meetup to plan tree plantings and the like. As an Aquarian Age alternative, the over-the-top earnestness of Zaadz offers its members, who adopt handles such as Beltane Yogini and Cosmicjaguar, a chance to chew the fat about changing the world. Perhaps a bit more grounded, the Vancouver-based Gusse gets people to plot more livable cities. The Seattle branch of Green Drinks, monthly shoulder-rubbing sessions around the world, has a spiffy new site.
If you're shopping for products rather than life partners, there are a host of choices for finding green goods. Alonovo has the most thorough corporate ratings. The makers of such peer-to-peer company ratings hope to offset the effects of greenwashing, whereby corporations deploy public relations pros to cover up ecological misdeeds.
Alonovo's ratings let you set preferences so you can emphasize, say, a company's recycling and clean energy practices above things you value less. Alonovo lets users make forum posts but it doesn't emphasize user profiles as much as Do the Right Thing, whose 1,599 members also assign values-based ratings to companies. Meanwhile, the Hooze wiki lists 3,000 companies so far but its community features are still under construction.
The Sustainlane community shines in local search in addition to ranking the yearly and producing the cartoon. I also like the bright interface of FiveLimes, which is still building its databases of businesses in 19 cities. Its social networking features are strong, letting you leave messages for and subscribe to feeds from other users. In addition, Evolvist came out of beta this month. Like , Evolvist's icons indicate organic, fair trade, and other green goodies at a glance.
Of course, you can always network with folks in a virtual world. Global warming even struck the virtual seas and shores of roleplaying game Second Life on Earth Day, where environmental events were held and hundreds of avatars wore green wristbands. (But critics charged that all the hubbub just stressed Second Life's servers, making it more power hungry and less green than usual.)
Some might see this marriage of neo-greens with Web 2.0 services as a blend of two merely contemporary cliches--er, trends. How can so many overlapping sites possibly be sustainable over the long term? And the more mainstream green issues become, the less green they may look; hence that color's absence in the design of new online magazines such as Sprig. Are we witnessing a and multimedia bubble? You could check out the landscape by giving the Green Maven search engine a spin.