Sunday, March 30, 2008

Stories and Savings

I've been slack over the past few days. Phone calls and meetings by day. Socializing and evangelizing by night. Too much talking; not enough reading; not enough writing.

My theory is that I need to bring literature back into my life. Books make me want to write and write better, and all this interaction with the outside world is making me unacceptably negligent in the book reading department.

Regardless of reasons or excuses, however, I have to make my third post of the week. I can't live with two posts. And I definitely can't live with two posts when one got political. Totally unacceptable.

So I'll tell you about a story. Not tell a story. Tell about a story.

Last Friday, Charlie Szoradi stopped by the office to talk about websites. Charlie is the founder of GreenandSave.com, an online resource for people looking to build and remodel homes in environmentally friendly ways. He was in Wilmington setting up for the Delaware Great Green Expo. And, having heard about me from Paul and Doug, the guys that grilled me on the radio in February, Charlie came in to see the demo and talk about vision and plans and potential collaboration.

It was a great. I was all fired up: waving arms, jumping around, and raving like a madman. And Charlie had lots of questions and lots of ideas. My brain was whirring, and that's always fun.

So much fun, in fact, that I went to the Expo on Saturday to see him give his presentation.

I got a feel for Charlie and Green and Save on Friday, and the impression he and his project left was a very good one, but it wasn't until I heard him tell his story on Saturday that the real excitement hit me.

Green and Save was born of a story. The way Charlie puts it, the site came about as a result of nearly four years of highly detailed and well documented research. It's an attempt to share everything he and his wife learned while managing a hugely ambitious remodeling project. They had bought a house outside Philadelphia, and their goal was (and still is) to turn it into a main stream suburban living structure that functions in as much harmony with its natural environment as possible.

The Szoradis aren't the only people to have attempted such a feat. They aren't the only people to have succeeded beyond expectations. And Green and Save isn't the only site on which homeowners or builders can find tips and tricks and referrals and advice. In my opinion, however, it has the potential to do great things.

Green and Save disseminates anecdotal discoveries: at its core, it is a personal story and the lessons learned therefrom. The story is compelling. The lessons are useful. And the site stays sane and broadly relevant by relentlessly reminding people that there are wonderful, impactful environmental things we can do that will save us money. The model makes sense.

The site hasn't been online for long, however, and, in my opinion, it needs work. The advertising is distracting and maybe non sequitor. There's way too much going on on the front page. There aren't intuitive ways for users to interact with the information. And the story itself only really crystallized for me when I heard Charlie tell it in person. The genius is there, but it hasn't quite emerged.

It can. It should. And I hope it will.

I love Charlie's story. I love that he's using a website to tell it. I'm excited to go up and see the house in person. I'm excited to present my argument for pushing the site in a more interactive direction. And I'm excited to talk more about potential collaboration.

More to come soon I hope.

3 comments:

ONNO said...

You have an interesting blog. If you're looking for a great book to read, Ask the Dust by John Fante is one of my favorites. Also, I write a column that has an interesting character if you ever want to check her out - Audrey Rose - www.thesteamboatlocal.com

Dagny McKinley
www.onnotextiles.com
organic apparel

Jake de Grazia said...

Hey Dagny.

Thanks for the recommendation. I read this article in The Steamboat Local. Seeing the As I Lay Dying made me want to get back into Faulkner. Did a lot of work with Faulkner in college. Go Down Moses and Sanctuary are the books that hit me hardest. Something truly special about the Benjy section of The Sound and the Fury too.

Ask the Dust, eh? Any particular reason you think I should read it? I don't need obvious relevance to take a book recommendation, but I do like to know why people think I should read stuff.

Also had a look at ONNO. Very cool. I have a wonderful and totally crazy friend in Beijing that's absolutely smitten by bamboo. She thinks EVERYTHING should be made from bamboo. Apparently monoculture is not a worry if it's bamboo monoculture. Hmmm. But that's, of course, her opinion.

Thanks for the comment.

Jake

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