Boulder’s initative to cut greenhouse gasses has a fabulous-looking public face in the ClimateSmart web site launched last September. Only trouble is, behind the handsomely designed and info-rich site, it appears there’s virtually no “community” in this community effort!
We here at Boulder Carbon Tax Tracker certainly understand that problem. Cultivating a vibrant online community is a real beast. You may have noticed that we’ve been having a hard time with that ourselves. Still, it’s a beast that must be tamed if educational programs like Climate Smart that rely on participation and buy-in from local citizens are to truly succeed.
There’s no doubt that the city’s site, BeClimateSmart.com, is beautifully designed by local firm Vermillion — from its cool opening animation through to its smart structure, engaging interactive features and helpful resource info.
For example, the What Can I Do? section uses irresistible animated graphics to demonstrate the difference between choosing more or less energy-efficient refrigerators, lighting and transportation. Also provided are lists of effective steps to take at home, work and on the road to reduce your carbon footprint, as well as some short case studies.
And for the Know Your Score section, the site links out to a sophisticated carbon footprint calculator created with Toronto-based Zerofootprint, which allows registered users to tally their CO2 output, create a profile, and to establish their own goals for reduction (or for the contrarian, their increase!).
[NOTE: At this point we don't yet know whether the Zerofootprint calculator includes Boulder-specific parameters, like utility fuel mix. We'll try to find out more, but if anyone from the city or from Zerofootprint can tell us, please comment below.]
On the other hand, the site’s Pledge page does little to engage in dialogue with the community, but rather seems just a clever way to get users to provide sign up info for a monthly Changing Times newsletter. It does use the info gathered smartly, at least, to generate a list of pledger names and create a Google map showing location pins for each member.
But when it comes to providing a platform for community voices, the site is certainly no belle. The only visible community content are a dozen-and-a-half videos that appear on the site’s What Are You Doing page, and while they call them YouTube-style, they don’t appear to have been created by users (nor do they seem to have been substantially updated since the launch).
It’s only after searching BeClimateSmart deeply, can one find a bit of a potential community provided — off-site – by the Zerofootprint folks, where their calculator site has a community area with five discussion groups for the
Now, more recently, the folks behind the site appear to be trying to get more input from Boulderites – and that’s a good thing. A March 10 email to subscribers, for instance, solicited energy-saving stories by a March 21 deadline in return for prizes and recognition.
Here’s a suggestion for BeClimateSmart: Make this just the first step in a new phase of the site’s life geared toward community involvement. And here’s a suggestion to the community: Email BeClimateSmart all your great stories for the contest, but also contact the smart folks at ClimateSmart and let them know you want their site to let your voice be heard.
Meanwhile, share your thoughts below, or on a related forum post.