One Man’s Treasure

Environmental Groups Profit From "Stranded" Inventory

The Internet has quickly become an indispensible tool for the environmental movement, offering a cheap and effective way to exchange information and coordinate events among a wide audience. Now, some environmentalists are also seeing the Internet as a way to make money.

Portal sites are a starting point for exploring the World Wide Web. Basically search engines, they often come equipped with news, stock prices, chat and entertainment offerings to lure the electronic surfer. “Green” portals are similar, but also offer varying degrees of environmentally themed news, information, chat rooms and community features, along with products that promote a greener lifestyle.

The financial model is similar to that of television advertising. Users get to view the information on the site for free, and the expense is supposed to be covered by ads, which so far bring in more revenue than the sale of products. Some, like Environmental News Network, don’t even have a store, offering only environmental news; revenue comes exclusively from advertising.

Though these sites are generally looking to turn a profit, many do make an effort to funnel your money towards the environment. A few, like Care2.com and Denali.com, actually give a portion of their revenue to selected environmental non-profits. By purchasing their products or even just by using their sites, you indirectly donate money to environmental causes. Other sites, like Naturalist.com, sell only environmentally friendly products and give environmental non-profits discounts on advertising.

As of now, the reality is that very few of these new sites, if any, are actually profitable yet. Internet columnist John Motavalli thinks it’s “unlikely that these portal sites will get the advertising money necessary to be profitable”—unless they get large corporations involved. And even that is no guarantee. One seemingly deep-pocketed site, Verde.com, which had financial backing from Ted Turner, just laid off its editorial and production staff and filed for bankruptcy.

The chance to take these startups public, a very real possibility until the recent NASDAQ market retreat, now appears to be receding, and with it the chance for a substantial infusion of working capital. But whether or not a stock option ever materializes, these portals still offer your hard-earned money the fast track to greener goods and services. Here’s a quick overview of what’s available in cyberspace.

DAVID ROTHENBERG is editor of Terra Nova; HILLARY YOUNG is an editorial intern at E.

The Portals: Site by Site
COMPANY FINANCE NEWS STORE PERKS OVERALL Envirolink.org Non-proit Compiles news, doesn’t write any. Breaking news section. No, but links to environmentally-friendly GreenMarketplace.com Chatroom, bulletin board, loads of links. Lots of information available; not as flashy or easy to use as the others. ENN.com For-profit Produces own daily news; compiles world environmental news; posts press releases immediately. Sells only books related to news. Quizzes, chatroom, polls, forum, post cards. CNN for environmentalists. Great for news, but not a true portal. Care2.com For-profit; 10% of all revenue goes to environmental non-profits Basic world news compilation; some focus on environmental stories. Sells broad range of items, not all environmentally friendly. Green calendar, green living tips, e-cards. Basic search engine with environmental twist; aimed at “light green” consumers. Naturalist.com For-profit Writes and compiles news; sorts by subject; not very up-to-the-minute. Some. Extensive store is upcoming, with information on trips, gear, books, etc. E-cards, job-link, trip planning, calendar, ask an expert, impact calculator Under construction; well organized—may end up being most comprehensive Denali.com For-profit; facilitates secure online donations for moe than 100 non-profit environmental groups Compiles news from a wide variety of sources, including E Magazine. Sales of environmental books via amazon.com affiliation; sales of outdoor gear through altrec.com. Environmental job links, e-cards, quizzes, kids questions, denali.com e-mail accounts, impact calculator Great graphics; easy-to-use. A true “portal.” Verde.com (folded in June 2000) For-profit World news from Associated Press, plus staff written stories. Wide range of environmentally-friendly products for home. E-mail server, how-to tips, quizzes, personal green ratings Broad-based but lacking real focus; easy-to-use. eNature.com All profits go to National Audubon Society. No. Only nature guides. Updated star maps, e-cards, electronic wildlife guides. Wildlife focus; great source for nature information; not really a “portal” site.