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Joel Makower: Sage and Cage

Joel Makower is a widely respected writer and consultant on issues of sustainable business, clean technology and green markets. His essays on environmental business and technology are a regular feature of our Sustainability Sundays.

For those on the front lines of corporate environmentalism -- the millions of faceless product designers, operations chiefs, procurement officers, facilities gurus, and safety managers at firms of all sizes and sectors -- a great Web site is one that can help you do your job. And do it cleaner, faster, smarter, and cheaper. Forget Java scripts, Flash animation, MP3, and all that other overrated techno-wizardry: You need good, reliable information -- now.

That’s why SAGE: the Solvent Alternative Guide -- and CAGE: the Coatings Alternative Guide -- win my vote for indispensable sites. Both developed by the Research Triangle Institute and the U.S. EPA, they feature an “Expert System” to identify the most promising alternatives to toxic and polluting coatings and solvents used on everything from carpets to car parts.

The sites’ well-designed, information-packed databases are quite easy to use: You plug in a few facts about the job at hand and click. Up pops specific information about alternative materials and processes that can reduce air and water emissions as well as risks to workers’ safety and health. There are glossaries, case studies, backgrounders, MSDS sheets, regulatory information, cost calculation tools, conversion checklists, and lots of other goodies.

You won’t find pretty pictures, online newsletters, blogs, animation, or opportunities for activism. Just high-quality, hands-on help. For an environmental manager, that’s a sexy site.

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