In 1892, when John Muir founded the Sierra Club, the only "web" he knew about was the kind spun by spiders, and social networking was something people did by riding horse-drawn buggies between each other's houses. But Muir's seminal environmental conservation organization has kept up with the pace of change.
Last week, the Sierra Club launched Sierra Club Green Home, a website dedicated to educating consumers on ways to live more sustainably at home. The site takes a three-pronged approach, looking at sustainability in terms of human health, environmental welfare, and economics. It includes interactive features like calculators for estimating a household's carbon footprint and potential savings through the use of solar energy, community forums, and "ask an expert" sections.
The resident expert is Sierra Club Green Home's director of sustainability, Jennifer Schwab, whose knowledge of green living comes from her background in environmental design and urban planning. Schwab took me on a virtual tour of the site, pointing out some of her favorite features.
One I was particularly excited by was the geo-targeted resource database, enabled through a partnership with FindSolar, which can find you a local solar provider at the end of the personalized savings calculation process, helping to move the data into an actionable result.
Schwab also explained that the digital resource makes it easy to get information you need during the shopping process. "You can access articles on your PDA while at the hardware store or a big box retailer," she explained, "So you know how to ask the right questions before purchase."
The site was developed with both the newbie environmentalist and the "dark green" veteran in mind. Schwab says that while the Sierra Club has long promoted participation in large scale environmental change, it's also important to demonstrate that small, domestic behavior modifications are important and can lead to engagement with larger issues. "You have to crawl before you can walk," she said, explaining that CRAWL and WALK are both acronyms for CFLs, Recycle, Air seal, Water use reduction, Lights off; and low-flow Water fixtures, energy efficient Appliances, Low-VOC paints, and Kill plastics #3, #6, and #7.
"There are about 330 million people in the U.S. If you imagine even fifty percent of them doing just these basic things, it would make a huge difference," Schwab said. Indeed, small steps alone won't get us to a more sustainable global situation, but learning how to make changes at home can be a good gateway to feeling empowered toward more ambitious action. "We like to encourage the newly green demographic to get in the habit of making these decisions," she said, "One good move begets another."
For more information and to gather your own resources for being green at home, check out Sierra Club Green Home
Image: Creative Commons by Mountain/\Ash