Blog Post

Putting Web to work for Eco Change

The single most important issue of our time – global warming – is being empowered by the greatest communication revolution of our day. In other words, the fight against climate change will be waged by the new tools of the web — social networks, collaboration software and community sites.

O.K., so maybe I just made two really broad arguable statements, but I’ve spent quite a few hours at the Climate Summit in New York this week. And when Microsoft and The Clinton Foundation speak up, you tend to listen.

The duo announced a partnership yesterday to create and give away web-based tools for cities to manage their energy saving and CO2 emission reductions. The web tools will allow cities to figure out their carbon footprints, work on tracking their green initiatives, and share info with other cities.

This is just the latest example of web-based green services that are being created by companies to tap into the growing number of passionate communities looking to ‘save the planet’ — through broadband.

Green web-based collaboration tools are a popular concept this week, and Business Objects and nonprofit Zerofootprint Toronto launched an online footprint calculator and social network recently. Software and business tools are moving online, so naturally collaboration over a timely subject would follow that trend.

The latest web 2.0 tools are getting green versions too. Green news-ranking site Hugg paints Digg in a shade of green. Green search engines like and are adding green to online search. Yahoo launched its own green site recently and MySpace has a site dedicated to climate change.

Then there are the blogs and online news outlets that are launching green consumer and business coverage — TreeHugger, Grist, WorldChanging, Inhabitat (my sis), as well as sites like GreenBiz, Clean Break, and Cleantech Investing.

It’s a no-brainer that organizations and companies are gravitating towards using the web to organize and communicate about climate change. Media, content distribution, collaboration tools and communications are all migrating to the web, so why not put them to use for a crucial issue.

The topic of climate change is also uniquely suited to the web. The information is often localized and action-oriented — what’s the best public transportation route in my city, or where do I recycle my e-waste. The topic also has a feeling of urgency (if not at times alarmist) which helps to quicky disseminate it around the web.

Most importantly the movement is made up by passionate communities, who are often early adopters, technologically and socially speaking. It’s not a coincidence that one of the most eco states is also home to Silicon Valley.

9 Responses to “Putting Web to work for Eco Change”

  1. I’m sure you are right that the web can become an incredible tool for concerted and focused positive Green action. On the other hand, the production, use and disposal of technology itself creates a very significant negative environmental impact. Let’s just hope that the Green benefits of the web begin to outweigh its costs. As both an ardent technologist and committed inhabitant of Planet Earth, I sincerely hope they will, and massively so.

  2. Jyoti Gaur

    There is a famous saying: “We have not inherited the Earth from our forefathers, but are borrowing it from our grand-children.”
    Saving the environment is not only our duty but also our responsibility.
    There are just few things to do to make big difference
    .We can stitch to eco-friendly,appliances
    which are free of chlorofluorocarbons.
    .Plastics below 20 microns take millions of
    years to decompose. So we can refuse to
    use them.
    .We can recycle most of the things
    .Use napkins instead of tissue paper.

  3. I think it is equally important to keep an eye out for companies that are “greenwashing,” or using PR tactics to act like they are more green than they really are. It would be great if some of the sites pointed them out.

  4. Collaboration tools are a very meaningful way everyone can contribute to reducing CO2 emissions. Basically it’s as practical as changing the lightbulb. A web conference instead of a coast-to-coast flight prevents almost a ton of CO2 production (using Carbon Fund’s calculator JFK to LAX). If people would use other online tools and work from home a few days a week, they would prevent CO2 production from the commute, plus save almost $4.00 a gallon on gas.

  5. I think it’s important to say that some organizations and companies use the web to advocate the Climate Change issue but at the same time many others, through smart PR tactics, try to debunk it. In a way it’s fascinating to see how the communication between the scientific community, climate skeptics and NGOs is evolving. However, I hope this will serve to remind the general public that there’s indeed an emergency to act upon.