Published: Summer, 2008
Three different people, three different cities – one common passion.
Living green is increasingly bringing people together and building communities. Take Didi Bethurum, Megan Kuhlmann and Rachel McAdams. This trio of friends doesn’t live in the same city and they have different careers but they share a common passion: to reduce their carbon footprint and pass on what they know to other people.
They met in the usual way: through work and mutual friends. But as they got to know each other, they found themselves comparing notes on their individual quests to go green. During one marathon conversation, brainstorming green work initiatives, the idea of doing a project came up.
“We were talking about how friends are so smart, so knowledgeable about a lot of different things and they care so much about people and the world,” says Kuhlmann. “But it was amazing they didn’t know that if you unplug your cell-phone charger when you don’t need it, you an reduce the amount of energy you use. We wanted to do something fun that would help people understand the language of green and know those tiny changes really do make a difference.”
So they decided to start a website called Green is Sexy. With constraints around finances, time and distance – busy professional woman, often a continent apart – a website seemed the logical choice. It helped that Bethurum had an extensive background in web design.
They began with what interested each of them and what they knew about it. “When we first started the site, it basically served as a dumping ground for the tips, quips and meandering thoughts collecting dust in our minds,” says McAdams. “Now family, friends and Green is Sexy readers are offering up great suggestions. The rapidly growing interest in the planet makes for an overabundance of topics. At the end of the day, we’re all very passionate about environmentalism.”
Why the name Green is Sexy? Because all three woman think that being informed, smart, proactive and caring about the environment is sexy – whether you’re a man or a woman. “I think the website is fun because it’s good for both genders,” says Bethurum. “We wanted to keep everything on the site available and inspiring and interesting to everyone. We probably have a natural demographic but it doesn’t turn anyone away. ”
The website is fresh and hip, with the kind of cross-gender appeal that comes from being confident, comfortable and having a great sense of humor. Because Green is Sexy stays accessible, it also avoids the standard pitfall of pushing a green agenda. In fact, the team adopted the motto: No green guilt. “We didn’t want to dwell on the negative,” says Kuhlmann. “We wanted to show people what they can do and not talk about what they’ve done wrong. So we wanted a positive spin and we also wanted to be cheeky.”
Fans also appreciate how the trio keeps the green focus, sidestepping the obvious temptation of cashing in on McAdams’ fame. “It’s just three friends who are making a website,” Bethurum says. “People find it from all sorts of different places. They love the idea that this is just something we do because we are interested in it.”
With daily tips, profiles of eco stars, favorite products and postcards from their travels, Green is Sexy reads like a letter from a good friend, mirroring the changes the founders have gone through. When Bethurum was strugling with her daily commute, for instance, the website ran some articles on car pooling. When Kuhlmann was greening her working place, office tips were added to the website. Recently, all three had an online discussion about their love affairs (their conclusion? Most dyes are “bad,” but there are a few non-toxic choices). “There are so many tips I’ve used,” says Kuhlmann. “I think the only suggetions from the site that I don’t use are the ones about gardening since I don’t have a garden.”
All three agree that unplugging electronics when not use, switching to organic dry-cleaners and brining their own shopping bags have become second nature. But they continue to look for ways to get more earth-friendly, finding encouragement from a variety of sources. “I get a lot of inspiration from others,” says Bethurum. “It’s become so much more of a good conversations since GIS started. It’s been fun to debate ‘What would greenie do?’”
For Kuhlmann, her childhood roots fuel her passion. “I grew up aware of the environment. Everyone in Minnesota is very proud of the purity of the lakes. When you say to Minnesotan, ‘Hey, land of 10.000 lakes!’ they’ll always correct you: ‘Oh, it’s more like 11.000 lakes.’ We have four drastically different seasons and it makes you very aware of nature.”
As for McAdams, she’s happy to see increasing changes in the film industry, which is famous for being wasteful: “I’m excited that people are getting on board and that the Oscars had their first green event. Actors have a fair amount of say in how a film is made and can affect a lot of change. Hollywood could be a pioneer and there could be a huge reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions. We could still make great art and great movies without the burden of how much they cost to the environment.”
The three woman have been running the website with no paper trail, relying on e-mail or teleconferencing. “We write the content fairly independently,” says McAdams, “but divvy up the thing to be done in a monthly meeting – usually over the phone with each of us at our respective computers. But our preferred way to work is in person, when we can make a weekend of it – that’s when we seem to flesh out most of our new ideas and future endeavors for the site.”
Time, distance and resources are potential stumbling blocks, but thanks to modern technology, all three don’t always have to be in the same room at the same time. As Kuhlmann says, “It can be challenging to be far away but also inspiring when the three of us get together.”
As the website starts its second year, Green is Sexy is keeping to its mantra and concentrating on the simple things while building its green community.
“Just having this website forces me to be more mindful and stay up to date with cleaner, greener alternatives such as new products, technologies and ideologies,” says McAdams. “I love the conversations it inspires between Didi, Megan, me and others who have visited the site. And I love being a new member of the green Internet community. It serves as a great reminder, when I’m feeling cynical or jaded, that a lot of people care about and are working towards an improved environment.”