Andrew Shapiro on the (Environmental) Value of Sharing

Andrew Shapiro is the founder and president of GreenYour, an online resources for sharing  facts, tips, and products about sustainable living.

Andrew Shapiro is the founder and president of GreenYour, an online resources for sharing facts, tips, and products about sustainable living.

My colleagues and I have been working in the green business space for some time, but a number of us have backgrounds in IT and the internet, and so we started looking at the landscape of web properties that were focused on the interest of consumers going green. We felt that there was something missing, and so decide to start this site called GreenYour as a search resource to help people find out how to go green.

We've got the basics like, How do I green my home, What kind of lighting can I get, I hear tips about compact florescent lights, which ones are high quality, where do I buy them? You can click right through and get to sites like Amazon or Walmart and actually buy green products. Then there are also a lot of tips that are not purchase oriented, like finding ways to take old clothes and reuse them or recycle them, or insulating your home or doing something like that.

We are still in the early stages—we've just done a beta release of GreenYour—but as time goes by we are hoping to see contributors adding their own tips for how to go green in any area, whether it's greening your home, your travel, your office, your pet, your girlfriend, or whatever it might be. And we've built the site on an open platform that will hopefully allow us to make it endlessly extensible. We are still figuring out the careful balance between opening the thing up completely so anyone contribute anything, and having some safeguards on it, because the environment is an area where accuracy and trust are really important. So even as we are trying to share as much information with the world as possible about how to go green, we are also trying to make sure that the information is accurate.

We believe in collective intelligence and tapping the power of a broad group of people who have expertise and information to share, and using it in a useful way that makes the site scaleable and makes it diverse and rich with information. And this gives us a chance to, again, strike that careful balance between a trusted and authoritative resource on the one hand, but also getting intelligence and knowledge of lots of folks in different areas. We invite debate, so there are areas of the site where we ask what is better, paper vs. plastic at the grocery store, or whether or not organic coffee is as good as fair trade, or do you get both, etc. We always want to invite debates, and having our users and contributors involved makes that work.

We've got folks of different ages, backgrounds, credentials, and perspectives-from the dark green folks who are true environmentalists already living green and doing everything from buying green power to composting, and to the folks who are new to it. We are really trying to be a site and a resource for everyone. We are not trying to just cater to the one deep green consumer; we want the light green consumer, we want the person who's never thought of themselves as being green, but has finally said, Hey I want to buy a hybrid or I want to buy cleaning products that are not toxic or I want to find a smart, cost-effective way to reduce energy use in my home.

One of my favorite stories is that we are starting to see kids in classrooms use GreenYour in school projects. There was a classroom in Hawaii where they actually sent us a whole host of new tips and facts that they have created about greening your wardrobe. And kids came up with great ideas on how to buy organic products online, and how to reuse and reduce consumption. I think those are some of the greatest examples because we've got young people who are going to inherit this earth that we have burdened with our waste and our consumption. It's a great way to get them engaged and ultimately contribute to the knowledge resource we are developing.

Interview as told to Eric Steuer. Click the play button below to listen to the interview on which this piece is based.

Eric Steuer is the creative director of Creative Commons, a nonprofit organization that works to make it easier for creators to share their work with the rest of the world. It also provides tools to make it easier for people to find creative work that's been made available to them-and the rest of the world-to use, share, reuse etc., freely and legally. This is the third in a series of edited and condensed interviews called "We like to share," in which Steuer talked to people who work across a variety of fields who use sharing as an approach to benefit the work that they do.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Julian Meehan

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