One of the best things about the environmental community is exactly that–the sense of community felt by all of those participating in it. Obviously this has diminished some since green became cool, and massive corporations like Shell began their greenwashing campaigns, but the reality is that most environmentalists can tell if you’re sincere or not as soon as they meet you, and if you are, you share a special bond. Believe it or not, environmental writers are the same way, and Environmental Graffiti wanted to take the opportunity to introduce you all to Earth First by interviewing their publisher, Shea Gunther.
Shea Gunther, VP of Content and Publisher, EarthFirst: so let’s jam on the EarthFirst interview
Ben Ray, Environmental Graffiti: OK, so we’ll start with the basics– how old is EarthFirst, and how did it come to be?
SG: EarthFirst was founded by my partner Jordan Heller. He found Michael Hoffman, a super smart and sharp entrepreneur and marketing guru, in the fall. They stumbled on my blog at the end of last year and I’ve been working for them full time since January. We’re still very wet behind the ears. It’s an exciting time.
BR: I think one of my favorite things about EF is the attitude–the snark is out there in a fashion that reminds me a little bit of Wonkette–categories like haters, MS paint Sean Hannity–is that something that came over from your old blog with you, or is that a creation of EF?
SG: I think that’s just my natural voice. I’m a snarky, smartass guy sometimes, and it was one of the reasons the guys at EarthFirst hired me, one of my partners told me they were a fan of what I was doing at snarfd.com. I think it’s a voice that’s been missing in the green blogosphere– Treehugger has green cool down to a science, Grist is smart and snarky, but in a more academic way, but so far no one has really come out and really nailed what we’re going after.
BR: So while we’re on things unique to EF, tell me a little bit about the inspiration to spend so much time on Earthfirst U and creating content for college students.
SG: College kids are a great market- they are passionate about the environment, crazy enough to think they can change the world, and have grown up online. They are connected, smart, and they just freaking care, you know? Plus, they spend a lot of money on things our advertisers want to sell (laughs).
BR: So would it be safe to say that college kids are a large part of (or all of) your demographic?
SG: Yes it would be. Right now EarthFirst U is just a category on our blog, but we have bigger plans to expand what we’re offering there.
BR:Is that something you can elaborate on?
SG: We’re going to pull in a lot of social networking features and make it easy for people to organize around green themes. We’re not going to try to re-build Facebook, or even any of the green social networks, but will be focusing on giving kids tools to help foster the green scene on the college by college level
BR: Is there a projected launch date for these features?
SG: Nope (laughs). We’re taking things slow as we line up things behind the scenes, our website has been publicly beta launching for the past few months. We were kind of ugly there for a bit, but didn’t mind as we didn’t really have any traffic.
BR: And now that you’re in a comfortable place with it you’re ready to begin to really spread the word and start seeking out traffic, I presume?
SG: Yes, as of last week I can officially say that our website is ready for public consumption. Actually, today is our one week birthday.
BR: Well, congratulations! What was the finishing touch?
SG: We built a custom skin on top of a great WordPress template, but it’s default setup wasn’t exactly what we needed, so it took another week or two to rewrite it. You can open up EarthFirst and http://www.revolutiontheme.com/pro/ to see how we’ve tweaked things. It always takes 2-3 times longer than you think.
BR: That really is the problem with code, isn’t it?
SG: That’s what I’ve found over my past decade working as an entrepreneur. I think it’s the problem with everything, we’re obviously an overly optimistic animal
BR: Look at global warming…
SG: But I’d rather be overly optimistic and a pessimist.
BR: Ha, it makes for a fun sense of humor. So with all of this said, I have one more question, and it’s fluff, and then I’ll let you opine freely…I have to ask: Earthfirst: At least as fun as a night out in Columbus, Ohio?
SG: Definitely. Maybe not as much fun as a night out in Cleveland, but we’ve got Columbus beat down pat
BR: The people of Ohio are undoubtedly trying to figure out if you’re being snarky or lumping praise upon yourselves, and I’ve no real intention to help them…anything you’d like to add to all of this?
SG:Yes, make sure to spay and neuter your pets. Take it out Rod!
We’ll even throw in a free album.