Members of the TreeHugger team in a rare get-together at Discovery HQ in Silver Spring, MD. Image courtesy of Michael Graham Richard.
It all started for me with a phone call. It was after office hours, and – my office being in my living-dining room-kitchen – I took the call in the bedroom, to spare my husband from work-talk in what was, after a certain time of day, our living area. The guy on the other end was telling me about a blog he was launching, dedicated to modern green design and proving to the world that sustainability didn't have to be about hippies – God Bless Them – but about modern, intelligent, efficient, and design-savvy living. He was speaking my language, and, coincidentally, traveling nearby to where I lived. We met up in person the next day, creative sparks flew, and I became a writer at TreeHugger. That was five years ago, and that guy was TreeHugger founder Graham Hill. But even before my time, a handful of Graham's writer-friends and media architect Nick Aster were busy getting TreeHugger started. And today, July 27, marks the very first post that went live on our site in 2004. Graham had a vision for a site – and the world -- beyond what I realized at the time. But it wasn't long before I saw that TreeHugger was going places. Within a few months, we'd heard from Bruce Sterling, Danny Seo, ReadyMade magazine, and a handful of other influencers that indicated maybe some Important People were paying attention. Shortly thereafter we added a second writer, Warren McLaren, which is when we really caught a rhythm. Since then, we've grown to more than 50 writers on five continents, have roughly 30,000 articles in our archives, have joined forces with Discovery Communications and helped launch Planet Green, and have expanded our topical coverage beyond architecture and design to include everything from politics to cars to fashion.
A brief history of the past five years in green
So much has changed in five years. "Global warming" has become a household word. Five years ago, we weren't using Facebook and Twitter; now they're daily tools. We remember when Earth Day was considered lame, then watched as it was re-embraced by the green movement (some of it anyway). We've seen drugstores begin to stock organic makeup lines, and BPA-free baby bottles available at Walmart. Near the time of TreeHugger's launch, it was hard to find bamboo flooring and low-VOC paint for a house I was renovating; now those materials, and so many more, are readily available. It makes me realize how my own life has changed in so many ways, too. I've had a kid, which has opened a whole new world of green health and safety concerns for me, not to mention my level of compassion for all living things. I always recycled; now I compost. We've become a one-car family. I co-authored the TreeHugger book, along with Graham. So much has changed for me personally, but perhaps most notably, I've become the editor of TreeHugger and PlanetGreen.com.
Some things, however, never change. I've always said that my favorite part of TreeHugger is the people. As an entity, TreeHugger itself has always attracted thoughtful and thought-provoking people. While we're physically dispersed across the world, our virtual social network – our hive mind – has been positively influenced by the diverse perspectives, experiences, and – most of all – passion of each and every team member that has walked through these virtual hallways.
Together, we've seen the modern environmental movement shift, shimmy, race, and crawl through the blogosphere, over fashion runways, into movie theaters, and even through Congress. We've seen the rise of the 100-Mile Diet and Slow Food and have read the Omnivore's Dilemma. We've considered dematerialization of products via stapleless staplers, chairs built from grass, and product service systems. We've had an epic debates over what to name a whale of a mascot and whether vinyl windows are energy-efficient or devil spawn. We've discovered low-energy ways to do just about everything, from washing clothes to mowing the lawn with a bike. No area of our daily lives has gone unexplored: we've dished on green sex, feminine hygiene, and whether or not modern green types should wear deodorant.
Not everything has been perfect, of course. We've seen the rise and fall of TreeHugger TV and Hugg, our now-deceased stab at a green Digg. We got slammed by Slate. But through it all, we've learned how to be better bloggers, better citizens, better stewards of the planet. That's thanks, in large part, to the regular commenters (hello Willy Bio, Fred Smilek, vsk, Icelander, Jiltedcitizen, Gmoke, and Milton!) who keep us on our toes. But we haven't done all this in a vacuum. During the past five years, the green blogosphere has exploded, with niche sites like Inhabitat, Grist, and Triple Pundit stoking the green coals, while players like Huffington Post Green and Green Options have taken a wide angle approach to green news. Together, we are greater than the sum of our parts: We represent a new, values-driven media force that has the opportunity to educate, participate, and interact more quickly and effectively than ever.
Looking forward to the next five years
Meanwhile, other things continue to evolve: We continue to receive thanks from dozens of small companies for helping their businesses take off. We've hired people remotely and always liked them as much in person as we thought we would. We've learned that the big brands actually care about what we say, and so we're talking louder. We've figured out how to work remotely from one another and still be good friends and colleagues. (Take a virtual tour of our team's office spaces.) So when it comes to the next five years, I imagine we'll continue to marvel at nature, solar power, silly gadgets, and more high- and low-brow stuff. We'll continue to keep tabs on things as varied as supermodels and celebrities, as well as green heroes you haven't yet heard of, cutting-edge concepts just crossing your radar, and enormous issues such as peak water. TreeHugger's own diversity has taught us that we're all mixed up together in making things work out. If humans are going to conquer climate change and a slew of other environmental issues, we've got to accept that we're all in this together – across interests and industries and across political, social, and economic lines. The green blogosphere has come a long way, but there's so much more to do. Here's to everyone who's making it happen – let's move onward and upward for the next five years.
What's changed in your green life over the past five years? Let us know in the comments below, or send us a tweet at @treehugger.