Hitch your wagon to a star. Or, if you are an eco-minded contractor, designer, manufacturer or supplier, hitch it to one of the nation’s oldest and most recognized environmental groups: Sierra Club, the environmental advocacy group formed more than a century ago, has launched a consumer Web site dedicated to all things green for the home. 

And as a service to its site visitors, it's handing out what amounts to an online seal of approval to the green businesses that are selected for inclusion in its online directory.

Designed primarily as resource for homeowners who want to make their houses more energy-efficient, healthy, and sustainable, Sierra Club Green Home offers how-to content on more than 100 subjects, from the pros and cons of compact fluorescent lighting to the complexities of solar and greywater systems. 

But the site’s most utilitarian feature, by far, is a searchable database of products, contractors and consultants (sliceable by topic and ZIP code), all of whom have been vetted through the organization’s GreenCheck process. The idea, organizers say, is to weed out the green-washers from the real deal.

“Sierra Club is passionate about a sustainable future; however, we understand becoming green may be daunting for many,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope, who seeded the online venture after struggling to evaluate the viability of various green products, services, and contractors when retrofitting his own home. 

Database listings on Sierra Club Green Home are free for qualified businesses. As a first step, interested product and service providers must submit relevant credentials and a brief description explaining what makes their operation sustainable. To pass muster, applicants must demonstrate greenness in areas such as indoor air quality impact, energy and water usage, materials, waste, customer education, company viability, and good business practices.

The Sierra Club, now 1.3 million members strong, is quick to note that the GreenCheck process does not constitute an official accreditation, and that a continued listing in its database is contingent on positive reviews. The ultimate verdict on a provider’s eco-claims will come from the online user community via message boards and user ratings.  “We rely partially on you, the environmentally conscious consumer, to tell us if a product or service does not merit continued inclusion on our site,” the organization reminds users.

Other consumer-friendly site features include carbon and solar energy calculators, a home health/indoor air quality quiz, a video library offering how-to demo’s and green design tours, and tips on how to hire a green contractor.

Jenny Sullivan is senior editor, design, for BUILDER Magazine.