Treehuggers. Nature girls. Eco-freaks. As the opening page of their Web site says, Meghan McCormick and Renee Sweany have been known by many names.

But more recently, and perhaps more affectionately, they are known simply as the women of Green Piece Indy. That's because they just celebrated the first birthday of their Web site, GreenPieceIndy.com, which was created to help share info with their friends and family about ways to help make Indianapolis a cleaner, green place.

When they launched the Web site Jan. 1, 2008, they had a mailing list of 200 readers. Today, one year and more than 100 tips later, the list has grown to nearly 2,000 subscribers from across the city.

Though neither have formal training in environmental studies (McCormick has a BA in communications from Denison University and Sweany's education is in communications and public relations), both have fostered a love for nature and conservation for most of their lives.

"My first recycling experience occurred when I was about 7. I saved my family's aluminum cans in our backyard shed, then my dad and I took them to a scrap metal dealer in the town where we lived. I think I only got about $6, but the experience was very educational and meaningful," McCormick said.

"Being green is just something that I'm passionate about," Sweany said. "Most of my environmental knowledge comes from reading about living naturally and surrounding myself with others who care about the planet."

The two met while McCormick, who has worked as a reporter for INtake and as an assistant editor for Indianapolis Monthly, was working on a story about Sweany's employer, Endangered Species Chocolate. The chocolate company produces organic chocolates and is deeply concerned with conservation.

"We quickly learned that we share a passion for the environment and living green," Sweany said. "As we became friends, we started realizing some similarities about our other relationships, mainly that most people we know said that they'd like to 'be more green,' but they didn't think it was possible in Indianapolis."

And so they found their niche: They would make the world a little greener by focusing on Indianapolis.

"We try hard to include local content. Green tips Web sites and green blogs are a dime a dozen these days. What sets us apart is that we try to localize the information. So while other sites might tell you to recycle your old computer monitor, we tell you exactly where to go in the Indy area to do this," McCormick said.

Overcoming resistance

Truly the greatest hurdle for the duo was to overcome is the increasing resistance to environmentalism during this time of economic crisis. Already, funding for recycling programs in Indiana has been cut, and the upcoming budget-obsessed plan in front of Congress makes for an ominous future for those Hoosiers with green hopes. McCormick, however, remains confident.

"I would argue that, during tough economic times, it is even more important for people to adopt green habits. Buying a 50 cent apple shipped from China vs. a 75 cent one from your local farmers market may save you 25 cents, but you're supporting the Chinese economy, not the U.S. economy. You can be economical and eco-friendly by conserving resources like electricity, fuel, water and natural gas, and purchasing American-made goods, which require less fuel to transport than those made in other countries," McCormick said.

Sweany said that combining environmental concerns with economic ones creates a challenge, but ultimately makes the tips they give that much more useful.

"We try to show our readers how being green can also be economical. For instance, using more efficient light bulbs saves money on your electric bill; using reusable shopping bags or bringing a reusable coffee mug often times results in a small refund; unplugging electronics reduces the amount of energy used [unplug your toaster, coffee maker, cell phone charger, when not in use!]. Sure, we'd love it if everyone could afford to drive a hybrid car and buy all local, organic produce, but the smaller steps are just as important," Sweany said.

They are always ready to give advice.

Whether a subscriber or not, the green girls offer archives of all their past tips available to anyone who goes to their Web site. For those who do subscribe, they send their tips, two a week, directly to the subscriber's e-mail address. They promise no spam, protecting even your inboxes from excess clutter.

"To us, living green is a way of life," Sweany said, "and we wanted to share our ideas and habits with others to show them just how easy it can be."

For more information on Green Piece Indianapolis or to subscribe, visit GreenPieceIndy.com.

Sidebar: Top 10 New Year's resolutions from GreenPieceIndy.com subscribers

* "I'm planning grocery store trips around work hours and social activities so I don't make extra trips."

* "I'm downsizing this year, moving into a condo. I'm determined to sell, donate, gift, recycle and freecycle things I'll no longer need, and to look first for 'experienced' furniture to fill any gaps."

* "I am contemplating changing to a green career, really entertaining something like an energy auditor type of career."

* "My resolution is to make contact more often with my legislators and let them hear a GREEN message from their constituent!"

* "My resolution is to always bring my own bags shopping, and when I forget, I've promised myself to buy new reusable bags at the store for use next time."

* "Less car, more bike. Less plastic, less plastic, less plastic."

* "Replace some old windows and weatherproof all windows and doors - our house is drafty!"

* "I want to further my recycling and energy conservation efforts and possibly add composting and alternative energy consumption."

* "I have started saving all the soda cans my kids (16 and 13) go through."

* Our favorite: "My resolution is to tell more people about Green Piece Indy and seize that green day!"

Sidebar: Top 10 economic tips

* Don't idle.

* Pull the plug on unused electronics (cell phone charger, toaster, TV).

* Switch to CFL bulbs.

* Install a programmable thermostat.

* Shorten your shower and use a low-flow showerhead.

* Use electronic bill pay to reduce paper bills.

* Make sure your john (aka toilet) is efficient.

* Buy bulk, reduce packaging.

* Limit your lawn and garden watering to every other day (or less).

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* Bring your own reusable bags - you might get a nickel back on your groceries!

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