Weaving a ‘green’ Web

While the back-to-basics, low-electricity push of the green movement may seem incompatible on some level with computers and computer monitors, there’s no question that the Internet has been a major mover in the efforts to protect the planet and human health, and plan for a greener future. These are just a few of the thousands of Web sites that are doing their part in the name of green.

Tree-huggers? Yes, indeed

If you’re a dedicated “green” person, the word “tree-hugger” may be one you’ve heard a few times before, probably with a tone of derision. But the folks at the TreeHugger Web site (www.treehugger.com) wear that moniker with pride, taking on everything from green-friendly third-world efforts to smart buys for the eco-conscious consumer in this country, as well as taking to task standouts in the other direction on the scale of environmental friendliness.

If you want some solid coverage of the deeper side of green living and awareness of environmental issues, this is a great place to start. They’re unapologetically environmentally conscious, detail-oriented and prolific, hitting up just about every new product, news story, report, opinion column and happening that has anything to do with protecting the planet.

But even if you prefer coverage of “fashion and beauty” to discussion of drilling for oil in the Arctic, you’ll find something at TreeHugger, with more than a veneer of “green.”

Frankly, this is one of the feeds in my RSS reader that I leave until I have a lot of leisure time. There’s so much to read, and all of it is interesting, detailed and important. You can’t easily scan the headlines at TreeHugger and feel like you don’t have to read the stories. This is eco-education at its best and most hard-hitting.

Green Planet live on the Web (and soon on TV)

A new entry in the “green” Web site category is the Discovery Channel’s Planet Green (http://planetgreen.discovery.com), which is so new that it’s still in its “beta” trial phase. The site is the companion to the planned Planet Green network — a new addition to the Discovery Communications group of channels, this one dedicated totally to living green and to run “green” programming 24 hours a day.

Planet Green, the TV channel, was only officially announced late this week, just as the companion site started to generate some hits with the DIY and “green” Internet crowd. The channel is due to go live at an undisclosed point this year. The Web site was created by the same team that created TreeHugger but appears to be less a preaching to the choir and more a tune to encourage the newcomer into to step into the church and take a seat.

“Planet Green is your user’s guide to living mindfully on this big blue marble we all call home. Our experts will help you navigate the oftentimes confusing sea of options available to help you detox your home, life, and planet — without the jargon or the guilt trips — so you can start being the change you wish to see in the world.

“Passionate, positive, yet always practical, Planet Green is bursting with smart tips, easy-to-understand advice, and inspiring anecdotes to help you tread more lightly on the only Earth we’ve got. And before you know it, you’ll be rolling your Rs — reduce, reuse and recycle — like a seasoned pro. Nos casa, su casa.”

Already, there’s some solid “green” reporting on the site, with pieces this week about finding a less-toxic pest-control company, getting bargains on used goods at a flea market and green gardening (just in time for spring) — and that’s just the “home” section. Looking for green toys? Ways to reuse razor blades and Brita water filters? They’ve got it, even without a channel ready to support it yet.

Consumers get green, daily

The Daily Green (www.thedailygreen.com) offers another option for “green”-friendly information. It’s labeled as “the consumer’s guide to the green revolution,” placing it squarely between TreeHugger and Planet Green, with a focus on the consumer.

I have to credit our Coastal Point “green guru” Monica Fleming for introducing me to The Daily Green, but ever since that first link, I’ve been following its tales of climate change, bee colony collapses, organic foods, health dangers and green tips in my RSS feeds. There have been a few very tasty-looking recipes and some stories even TreeHugger missed at first.

Like a magazine — upon which form most of the generalized “green” sites seem to be based — there are sections for the home, kitchen, news, tips, etc. That means that, whatever your area of interest, you’re likely to find something interesting here.

A unique feature is a regular offering of specials, coupons and sales for readers of The Daily Green, everything from free shipping on those seeds you’re ordering this month to a discount on green cleaners. A very eclectic set of information, updated constantly, and great for anyone with kids or who tries to keep a green home.

Green therapy in every room of the home

My next recommendation is not a site so much as a group of sites. And they’re not so much dedicated to green as infused with a general sense of aiming for green, across the spectrum.

Perhaps greenest of the Apartment Therapy group of sites is Re-Nest (www.re-nest.com), formerly Green Home. Their aim, they say, is “covering the intersection of the ‘green’ movement and the ‘home décor’ movement. Core to our mission is the communication of a general overarching sense of intelligence and optimism. Green, to us, is an amazing design challenge which we can solve.”

Their mission: “Helping people make their homes more beautiful, organized and healthy by connecting them to a wealth of resources, ideas and community online.”

“Carpet tile slows global warming.” Who’da thunk? But that was a lead headline this week on Re-Nest. A low-impact-living calculator, solar-powered Chinese-style lanterns, a green kitchen concept by Whirlpool. They all got time in just the last few days.

Re-Nest’s sister sites include Unplggd (www.unplggd.com), a site for home technology; The Kitchen (www.thekitchn.com), all about cooking and kitchen organization; Ohdeedoh (www.ohdeedoh.com, formerly The Nursery), a parenting site; and Apartment Therapy (www.apartmenttherapy.com, formerly NY, LA, SF & Chicago) itself, which focuses on solutions for home décor dilemmas and tips for apartment-dwellers and homeowners, city-folk and suburbanites alike.

Every one of these sites has an underlying push for clean, green, organized and simple, all of which are a growing them in today’s green lifestyle.

It’s our habitat, and we’ll try if we want to

Inhabitat (www.inhabitat.com) is another site I’ve discovered recently. It, too, has the magazine format, with a lot of current reporting on a variety of environmental issues, green-living tips, homeowner advice, etc.

“Inhabitat.com is a weblog devoted to the future of design, tracking the innovations in technology, practices and materials,” they note. Some of those trends include sustainability and eco-friendliness, which come across as a focus on the green-tinted pages.

Inhabitat’s areas of concern include architecture, interiors, furniture, products, gadgets, fashion, transportation and energy. They also offer a lot of videos, which is a feature many of the other “green” sites are only starting to provide.

Ready to go dark in 2009

A favorite Web site of mine in the last week was EarthHour (www.earthhour.org or www.earthhourus.org), which was the home base for March 29’s Earth Hour event, in which people worldwide were asked to turn off their lights for just an hour, to save electricity but — moreover — to show their commitment to the environment.

This started off as a fundraiser and publicity event for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Australia. But it was so wildly popular in its first year, and so well supported by municipalities and the public alike, that it expanded to other cities around the world this year, including Atlanta and Chicago.

The site provided ideas about what to do with that hour of darkness — most of them family-friendly — as well as ways in which those seeking to commit to the cause could get a good start, such as changing out their incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescents or LED bulbs, if they hadn’t already.

Personally, I like the idea of an old-fashioned board game by the light of beeswax candles and maybe the sound of music from a hand-cranked radio or MP3 player. It’s only a coincidence, but the official release of the Trevor Baylis Eco Media Player human-powered music player was this week, too. So, you can head over to www.ethicalsuperstore.com and pick one up to get ready for next year’s Earth Hour.

Personally, I’d like to challenge our local municipalities and residents to join us for Earth Hour on March 28, 2009. All it takes is the commitment of the decision to turn the lights out for an hour and to make some small changes in your everyday life. That’s what this event was all about. I’d like the only lights in the area that one night next year to be that of the moon and some strategically located streetlights.

You can sign up for the 2009 event at the Web site now, learn more about it or encourage friends to join in.

Green seafood options online and on the go

The Blue Ocean Institute (www.blueocean.org) provides tips for consumers on how to choose environmentally responsible seafood with its “Guide to Ocean Friendly Seafood).

Have a yen for salmon but not sure if your local grocer or fishmonger’s supply is sustainably farmed or respectfully wild-caught? Blue Ocean Institute offers a printed booklet, as well as an online database, a downloadable and printable PDF-format wallet card and a mobile-friendly Web site (www.fishphone.org) that will give you that information, whether you’re at home or in the store.

A new text message service means that consumers on the go can find out about their seafood choice by texting to 30644 with the message “FISH” and the name of the fish in question. Blue Ocean will text you back with their assessment and recommended alternatives to fish with significant environmental concerns.

Incidentally, according to Blue Ocean, Alaskan salmon remain abundant, rating a green tag on their scale of dark green (safe and responsible) to bright red (warned against). “There is concern over the Alaska salmon hatchery program’s possible adverse effects on wild salmon. In contrast, depletion and degraded habitat from dams and logging pose serious problems for most Pacific Northwest salmon,” they report.

Pacific salmon (California, Oregon, and Washington) get a yellow tag, as “overall population abundance remains well below historical levels. Habitat degradation from dams, logging and development pose serious problems for most Pacific salmon on the West Coast. There is concern over the possible adverse effects of salmon hatchery programs on wild salmon.”

Atlantic salmon (farmed), notably garner a red tag, as “There are high environmental costs in farming salmon, such as water pollution, disease, the high content of wild fish in feed and overuse of antibiotics. All Atlantic Salmon sold in the U.S. is farmed,” Blue Ocean notes, adding a red flag to the fish’s red tag, to denote concerns about contamination with PCBs and mercury in these fish.

One can or two?

If that contamination factor is your biggest concern and tuna is your fish of choice, try the Tuna Calculator from the Environmental Working Group (http://www.ewg.org/tunacalculator).

The Tuna Calculator uses the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines on mercury to advise you how much tuna you can safely eat.

You’re going to have to pony up your weight and gender, but in exchange you’ll get recommendations for how much canned “chunk light” and albacore tuna you can eat in a week, assuming you eat no other seafood. There are special notations for children and women of child-bearing age, of course.

The good news is that you could be safe eating a can of tuna most days of the week. The bad news is that many petite women, children and pregnant women may discover they’re eating more than they should. The silver lining is that they’ll know that for sure now and won’t have to guess, and won’t accidentally eat albacore tuna, which is not recommended for either children or any women of child-bearing age.

Eco-retailers green up the ’Net

The Web is a wonderland of environmentally-friendly products – so much so that I’m seeing criticism of late on how consumption-focused much of the “green” movement is and how it should instead be focused on simplifying life with fewer things, less transporting of goods, and more reusing and recycling of older items. A valid point, that.

But as many of us struggle to find the kinds of products that will let us save electricity, reduce our carbon footprints, and eliminate plastics and other substances that harm the environment, it’s great that there are so many options are available for purchase when they’re often not found in our home towns.

Eliminating bottled water from your impact on the world (and your body) but can’t stand the tap water at work or getting dehydrated? Bring a personal water bottle from home, filled with your own filtered tap water. Swiss company SIGG (www.mysigg.com) is famous for its reusable aluminum bottles with artistic designs to suit every aesthetic, as well as being safe from chemicals and flavors leeching into the water from the bottle.

Upscale Lighting (www.upscalelighting.com) may offer fancy fixtures, but they also are among the first to offer the Pharox warm-white LED bulb that can replace both your energy-inefficient incandescent and the mercury-laden compact-fluorescent, if only in 40-watt sizes as yet.

Delight (www.delight.com) offers a woman-friendly selection of cool items with an eco focus, from solar-powered chargers for our gadgets to reusable bags and bottles in cutting-edge designs. At five for $35, Envirosax reusable grocery bags are a popular selection, as are the SIGG bottles in sizes for kids and grown-ups.

Uncommon Goods (www.uncommongoods.com) is another favorite for me, especially when looking for unique gifts. They offer a variety of items made from recycled goods, a selection of organic clothing and a lot of items that those with the eco-friendly, clean-and-green living aesthetic will take to immediately.

Green Mom Finds (www.greenmomfinds.com) isn’t a retail site but focuses instead on recommending “green” products for children and families. If you’re looking for wooden puzzles, books on raising a “green” baby or recommendations on organic snacks, here’s a great source.

I’ve also been paying close attention to the parenting blog Z Recommends (http://zrecs.blogspot.com) lately, as they are becoming a de facto resource when parents are looking for information on safe baby bottles and sippy cups.

The blog always looks for green ideas for toys, gifts and household items, but recent concern about Bisphenol A (BPA) and other chemicals that leech out of plastics has led them to develop a report and text-message service that parents can rely upon if they’re looking for BPA-free products. The science on health risks from BPA is still very new, but Z Recommends has really been leading the way on both pressuring manufacturers to drop BPA from their products and making sure parents know which products at their local stores are, or are not, safe.

A grain of rice for your thoughts

FreeRice (www.freerice.com) isn’t exactly a “green” Web site, as such. There’s no advice on reducing your energy use or opinion pieces about climate change. But awareness of world hunger goes hand-in-hand with environmental awareness, and so I throw this one in here, too.

FreeRice is an advertising-supported site that utilizes visitors’ desire to get smarter (or prove how smart they are) to raise money for the United Nations World Food Program. By playing a vocabulary game, visitors allow the site to garner a donation of 20 grains of rice for every vocabulary question they get right.

They don’t have to click on the ads — though it probably would help if they do once in a while — but by sitting at their computer for a little smart recreation, they can donate to help alleviate world hunger with their time, even if they don’t have the money to spare. That totals to between 80 and 140 million grains of rice per day. Pretty cool.

The site can track your performance at the game, as well as how much rice you’ve provided with your correct answers. And it can adapt to various levels of vocabulary, so even if you’re not good with words, this stands a good chance of being fun — and rewarding to your karma.

One final thing to keep in mind is that nearly every environmental organization in the world has a Web site these days. If you’re looking for information on how to get involved, you’re one step away on the Internet these days. Take your fingers walking, too, and you might learn something new — and green.