Published in Daily Commercial News, Oct. 26, 2001
New dot-com provides gateway to environmental information
By KORKY KOROLUK
TORONTO A Web site launched last March has already established a formidable presence in the Canadian environmental industry.
Called CanadianEnvironmental.com, the site, says president Laura Griffin, "is a gateway to environmental information in Canada."
The company is a division of Canadian Environmental EnviroJobs Inc., and was founded, Griffin said in an interview, "because we saw a need."
"There are so many people concerned with environmental management issues . . . and it has always been difficult to keep up to date on issues and on legislation, especially for people who deal with environmental concerns as a secondary role in their jobs. "If you don't deal with it every day (keeping up to date) is tough."
The intention, she said, was to design "a comprehensive on-line resource for environmental professionals."
"It is important to ensure that all professionals responsible for environmental management have the resources they need to stay informed."
It's not that there is a lack of information on line. Indeed, the fact that there is so much may be part of the problem. There was a need, Griffin said, for a central site with links to many other, pertinent sites.
"We really tried to ensure that we've linked to all the other main sources of environmental information in Canada. That way, if the professionals remembers just this one Web site to go to, then they can follow the links to get the specialized information they need. "This way, they don't have to remember a hundred different Web sites."
The site's home page has a number of buttons down the left side. Some are simple and self-explanatory, like Calendar of Events. But click on Enviro Topics and a whole world unfolds. From there you can click on By Industry, then on Construction. That will take you to a page with a modest collection of links, but the resources some of those links lead to are by no means modest.
One, for example, leads to a site called Advanced Buildings Technologies and Practices. These are aimed at improving the energy and resource efficiency of commercial and multi-unit residential buildings.
In the preamble on that site's home page says it is a building professional's guide to more than 90 environmentally appropriate technologies and practices, and lists the design and construction issues covered: indoor air quality, electricity production, daylighting, water conservation, non-toxic materials, energy efficiency, waste management and recycled materials.
Within that context, there is information on the building structure, heating and cooling, ventilation and air quality, site services and several others. The site offers pages of case studies and even more links. The site, the work of a public-private consortium, has not been widely publicized, but can easily be found through CanadianEnvironmental.com.
There are many other areas with a less direct connection to construction, but a connection nonetheless. Under Enviro Topics one can click on Asbestos, for example, or Waste Management/Recycling, or WHMIS or two dozen others.
Griffin said she and her staff are going through the site section by section "to ensure that it is as comprehensive as possible." And, she said, "we have bumped the construction section to the top of the list of sections to be reviewed."
That means there should soon be even more information available to the construction industry.
If, from the home page, a visitor clicks on Products and Services, you end up at a directory that can be searched alphabetically or by key-word. These listings are of companies that offer environmentally oriented products or services. Each company name is also a link to that company's own Web site.
These listings are available for $350 a year to any firm in the environmental field, and represent an important source of revenue for the company. There are also a few banner ads.
Another feature is the Solution Board, where visitors can post questions and answers?a feature that is already well used, with some people seeking answers to highly technical questions.
In fact, Griffin said, the entire site is well used with "about 600 to 700 user sessions a day." And people seem to be finding the information useful. "We still haven't come across a negative response," she said. "People seem to appreciate what we're trying to do. We've even had people tell us they've made our site their home page"
She said she hasn't kept track of which are the most popular sections so far, or which are getting the most visitors, "but we know that the section on environmental audits draws a lot of visitors. So does water - anything to do with water. I guess people are concerned since Walkerton."
Walkerton is the town in southwestern Ontario where half a dozen died of e.coli infections caused by poorly treated drinking water.
The section on Legislation is a vast collection of links leading to virtually all federal, provincial and territorial legislation dealing with environmental issues. Since these are links, as each governmental department updates its legislation Web sites visitors arriving via CanadianEnvironmental.com are automatically up to date.
There are other links as well. Clicking on Enviro Links leads the visitor to more than 200 of them. These are non-commercial organizations, most of them Canadian, although there are a few U.S. links that are pertinent in this country. There is even a section of job listings for professionals in the environmental field.
On top of all this, there is a place on the site where visitors can register to receive a free monthly e-mailed newsletter so they can keep up to date on the latest environmental news and events.
The site is an ambitious undertaking, but Griffin was reluctant to talk about money spent so far. "When we started work at the beginning of last year we were careful to ensure that what we were building could sustain itself. We didn't have anywhere near the burn rate that other Internet businesses have. We wanted to develop the site at the lowest possible capital cost." She said simply that she expected the site to break even soon.
The site can be visited at www.canadianenvironmental.com
(Copyright © 2001, William D. Koroluk)