"GreenMyApple" — a brilliant online campaign from Greenpeace

I’ve been brewing this post for a while, ever since learning (via Kathy Sierra) about Greenpeace’s GreenMyApple.org campaign. From the minute I laid eyes on it, I was quite literally green with envy. This seems as good a time as any to start a practice of techcrunch-style reviews of online advocacy websites.

Summary: Audacious, innovative and pitch-perfect in a way that many progressive groups haven’t yet figured out how to do (messaging is positive and constructive; Apple’s not portrayed as a black-and-white villain) GreenMyApple is one of the strongest uses of the social web that I’ve seen, nonprofit or otherwise. Its design is provocative, witty, and as slick as its target’s. It integrates into the social-web ecosystem in many different ways — “tag us via del.icio.us,” “upload your own video,” “blog and use this technorati tag,” etc — that haven’t yet spread beyond a small number of early adopters but have great potential for generating buzz. Greenpeace deserves a lot of credit for investing in new ideas that as yet don’t come with a “best-practices” handbook and haven’t yet been benchmarked. As Gillo notes, Greenpeace is “asking the public to be the creative mind of the campaign” — they’ve rolled out a great vehicle, saying “run with it — this campaign will go as far as you take it.” I hope the campaign’s creators get to watch it really take off (it’s done at least reasonably well in its first month, far as I can tell), and I’lll be watching closely.

And one other important detail: although look-and-feel and messaging are polished to high gloss, the site is, from a technical standpoint, quite simple. It cannot have been too expensive to build (20K-30K would be my guess). Great job getting a cutting-edge advocacy site out there within what were no doubt limited means, and proof that moxie, creativity, and agile-development principles are more important than a huge budget.

Look & Feel: The design has edge and cojones — it perfectly apes the signature look of the Apple website; tabs read “iTox & iWaste | .mAct | ProCreate | iPush“;  it looks as clean and beautiful as the Apple site (falling short on this count would, I think, have undermined the campaign’s impact — as with content, you want to send the message that Macbooks and iPods could be built green without losing one iota of coolness — they wouldn’t have to step back and lose function or beauty.)

Functionality: GreenMyApple is eye-openingly simple — It’s a flat site, no nifty social-software applications built into it — no video sharing app, for example, nor even integration with a video-sharing service such as YouTube. But it achieves a participatory, knit-into-the-web-ecosystem feel nonetheless, by: 

Messaging: One of the great failures of the environmental movement is that, in the collective mind, an expection has accrued over the years that what you’ll hear from an environmental group is strictly gloom-and-doom, blame, negativity. People expect a finger-wagging “no,” an exhortation to scale back or change one’s lifestyle in some way that’s going to make the day-to-day a little harder.

GreenMyApple, in contrast, is — with partial success — framed as a positive campaign, a site by, and for, people who love Apple products. It targets the company’s most passionate users, its customer evangelists, people who love their Macs so much they’re willing to talk until the cows come home about how much better they are than wintel machines. The first words you see are:

I love my Mac. I just wish it came in green.

That’s perfect.

The one significant criticism I have of this campaign site is that the positivity mostly stops there. I think the site could have been even more compelling if Greenpeace had paired that message with a distilled message about how Apple might go about building that green Mac. (That’s called “constructive criticism,” and there oughtta be an advocacy-communications law — no matter how difficult it may be to do so, find a way to offer your criticism within the frame “there is a better way, specifically solutions x, y, and z.”) I think Greenpeace could win over a lot more of the techies who love Apple if the site conveyed, front and center, something with the feel “c’mon, Steve, you make such a fuss about what a cutting-edge company Apple is, but why aren’t you using these ready-to-go technologies and alternatives to using toxics?” The tech audience is optimistic to the point of utopianism — they believe that every problem is solvable, if only you apply yourself to figuring it out. I don’t actually know what those technological fixes might be in this case, but I betcha there are computer scientists and policy experts who could speak to the topic. 


  • http://www.greenmyapple.org/ Tom


    Tom from Greenpeace here – thanks for the compliments. To follow on from your conclusions about solutions we are right now looking at this angle – how to harness tech optimism and ingenuity on a solutions orientated theme. We can’t do it on our own but hopefully more on this angle soon.


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