That is a question we’re beginning to think about over at GreenForge. Genuine VC David Beisel has some ideas on the subject, and I thought I would ask ComputerWorld UK readers what they think, to see if we can get a conversation going. Here is David’s initial framework:
1. Providing an aggregated trusted source of useful information. Startup sites like TreeHugger (which also has a site called Hugg, a Digg for environmental news) offer news, culture, and instructive information. Big media companies are also jumping on board – MSNBC has an Environment channel online and Discovery acquired the aforementioned TreeHugger company just last week). Large non-media branding-based corporations, like Starbucks, in an attempt to enhance their eco-friendly image are also sharing information via the web.
2. Connecting people to other people and useful services. For example, there’s now a Facebook Carpool app which “makes sharing a ride safer and easier by using Facebook to find people going in the same direction.” Boston-based GoLoco is pursuing the same ends with a stand-alone web service. Both are perfect examples of leveraging the web to connect people towards a greater environmental good. In addition, the web can act as the perfect vehicle to connect people to specific services, like purchasing carbon offsets in an effort for individuals to live carbon-neutral (ZeroFootPrint, TerraPass, and NativeEnergy are just a few companies doing this).
3. Becoming an integral component of a service. In some cases, the web actually is a fundamental component in a green service. As illustrations, Greendimes allows consumers to reduce their unwanted junk mail and Earth Class Mail (fka Remote Control Mail) allows users to read their mail online, reducing paper handling costs and recycling in a central facility. Without the web, these services would hardly exist or would look dramatically different.
4. Replacing functions that are otherwise less eco-friendly. It’s interesting to consider virtual meetings in Second Life and other virtual worlds as replacement for flying people to meet in person. Though some question this approach given the amount of servers/electricity in creating these spaces, examples like Cisco using virtual worlds for a number of events and interactions are surely notable.
What do you think? Does it make any sense to consider the greenness of an API? Beisel’s framework is more aimed at services than APIs per se, but these days the difference is increasingly moot.