What with social networking sites like Facebook all the rage right now and more attention than ever being focused on the issues of global warming and climate change, the moment certainly seems propitious for the unveiling of MakeMeSustainable, a website that draws from both trends. Yet far from being a gimmicky rip-off trying to capitalize on the latest fads, MakeMeSustainable, which has been in the works since 2004, is an innovative and full-featured website that promises to help its users take control over their environmental behavior and set green goals.
Behind its seemingly innocuous facade lies an easy-to-use yet extremely potent toolset (dubbed the Carbon and Energy Portfolio Manager) that allows users to evaluate various facets of their energy consumption and take the necessary steps to reduce their carbon footprint. Upon accessing the site (which is in public beta, unlike most internet start-ups), you create a basic profile by entering a little information about your car usage and home. What's new here is that you can also create a profile as a business so those corporate citizens with an eye on keeping their firms sustainable can join in on the fun. Facebook pros will be familiar with the general layout of the profile page: you can post messages on your friends' walls, see their profiles, edit your own on the fly and join groups. Where MMS really shines is in its "Actions" and "Manager" sub-sections. In the first sub-section, you can take a variety of actions, like replacing incandescent bulbs with CFLs, in three categories (home/office, transportation or carbon offsets) and preview how those will decrease your energy consumption with a carbon calculator. Also, you can calculate how much money each of those actions will save you over the year with an energy calculator (continuous, real-time tracking of your progress is key to MMS).
When I talked to Ben Brown, David Delcourt and Adam Shrader-Brown, the CEO, COO and Chief Creative Officer, respectively, a few weeks ago to discuss MMS' features and inception, the aspect they stressed first and foremost was the site's emphasis on bottom-up, grassroots-level empowerment. Indeed, MMS encourages individuals to form groups to reduce their carbon footprint as a community and allows them to set goals for further carbon reductions.
While social networking provides a useful platform to serve their site's needs, MMS' creators hope users will eventually come to see it more as complementary than essential to its functionality.
While they plan on incorporating some targeted advertising to make their business model more viable, they hope to see the brunt of their revenue stream derive from commissions they'd obtain by connecting users with their mostly non-profit affiliates like Energy Federation Incorporated (for instance, a user could choose to purchase carbon offsets at a discount from one and part of the cut would go to MMS).
Overall I came away very impressed with the website (especially since it's still in beta) and the creators' overarching mission: providing a simple-to-use yet extremely powerful toolset to allow individuals or organizations to go one step further and actually take control of their environmental impact. After the official launch, they plan on regularly updating the site with new add-ons and widgets to further foster user creativity and cooperation. They eventually hope to make MMS functional and easy enough to use that (cliche alert) even your grandmother could enjoy using it.
We'll definitely be keeping an eye on their efforts. For now, go check out the site and delve right into the tour for a quick primer (and also feel free to check out some of the other reviews we included below for a more complete picture).
Review round-up: ::Green Options: Weekday Web Review: MakeMeSustainable.com (blog), ::Wired: MakeMeSustainable: Bringing Green To The Social Networking Scene (blog), ::Mashable: MakeMeSustainable Launches Great Community for Living Green
See also: ::TreeHugger Picks: Green Social Networking, ::dotherightthing: Social Networking Meets Corporate Social Performance, ::The TH Interview: Adam Stein of TerraPass, ::Zerofootprint Guides: Offsetting, Part 2 - The Additionality Issue In Offsetting