"Our project is the creation of a website that includes sustainability tips, DIYs, personal journey stories and ways to get involved from home during this pandemic. This website is a way to engage all people and ages in the sustainability movement and to inspire us all to change our actions." - Bella Bekos and Zoe Noel Pettit, May 2020
What is Cut the Crap?
Zoe: Cut the Crap is a website we started for our GCC class. The main aim of the website is to give everyone single person the tools and resources they need to feel empowered and activated to not only make sustainable changes at home, but also take action in the climate movement. We want people to feel like participating in the climate movement is accessible; it’s not just for a certain group of people, and you can do so much from home with a computer in front of you and all your household materials surrounding you.
What is on the website?
Bella: On the website, we have some easy DIYs; we have how to make a homemade cleaner, homemade almond milk, things like that. We also have people’s personal journeys. One of them was our professor, another one is about why we personally think sustainability is important. We are constantly looking for people to contribute their personal journeys in order to get different views on why sustainability is important. Then we have a “take action” page, which has petitions that you can sign from home that can take as little as 5 minutes each. We also have book and movie recommendations to stay informed and learn new things.
How does it work?
Zoe: Bella and I decided to take the project we created in our GCC course and turn it into something we continue to work on outside of school. We hopefully can make it profitable, or at least make it accessible worldwide. We are on a schedule of writing blogs, and we are doing interviews with sustainable businesses and organizations to get their stories. We focus on things like, “What got them on this path?” and “What do they do in their business or organizations?” We want to understand their businesses on a more personal level. So far we’ve only covered Minnesota and Wisconsin businesses, but we are hoping to expand it. I have an interview with the women who started change.org, and Bella just did an interview with a sustainable farmer in Wisconsin, so we are just really excited.
How did you come up with the idea?
Zoe: It was something I wanted to do before the class. Luckily, I met amazing people like Bella and our other two group members who are really passionate about this journey. They got excited about the website idea, and we all contributed our ideas and passion and shared it with our friends.
Bella: Initially, our project wasn’t about a website at all. We were going to try and get coffee shops on campus to adopt reward systems for reusable cups. We were excited about that, but then we got sent home due to COVID-19. It was impossible to do our original idea from remote locations, but a website would be super cool and super fun. Giving people agency through a website is a powerful thing when everybody feels like they can’t do much in self isolation.
How was it working with each other?
Bella: We had a great time working with each other. As of right now, Zoe and I work well together. I have some experience in non-profit work and social media. I love taking that part. Zoe is so passionate about everything, and she gives 100% to the project. I think our different backgrounds make everything better. We have different inputs and slightly different views on things, and it makes for one cohesive website.
Zoe: I’ve never worked with someone so smoothly. We complement each other in the best ways. I can’t think of captions ever, and Bella immediately types these perfect beautiful captions, and I think oh my gosh!
What challenges did you run into?
Bella: I think it is hard for any project to just get the word out. Expanding your message- whether it’s a website, a program, or a petition- is so hard. Getting people interested enough to get them to come back, and then for them to stay involved, can be very difficult. Sometimes it is hard to keep expressing how passionate you are when you don’t get feedback.
Zoe: It’s super easy to scroll past something and not click on it. To combat this, we try to provide multiple places on our website where you can go. One day you might feel like spending 5 minutes filling out 3 petitions. Or maybe you have a whole day where you have a bunch of free time, and you want to take on a DIY project. We want it to be like a tool box. The biggest struggle is to try and get it out there, but we have both been trying to push it on social media. We have been getting great engagement so far. People from all over are checking out our site and saying they love it.
Bella: And we can analyze the site visitors. It is really cool to see our subscribers. Of course, we sent it to our friends and family. We see them on our subscriber list, but there are people we don’t know that are subscribed. To me that is such an amazing feeling, because this random person – sometimes from another country - found our website cool enough to subscribe. That’s such a good feeling.
What was something you learned?
Zoe: Something we worked on in our GCC class was communication methods, and how to communicate with people on their values in order to bring them into the climate movement. With the climate movement, there is such a big wall right now. You’re either going to hit that wall and not join the movement, or you’re going to push past that wall and be full in. The biggest thing we are working through is the communication style of the site. The first few articles we had on there were very in depth. They had links to other websites. The click rate for those articles were very low. We learned that people don’t want to go to other websites; they want to come here and stay here; they want to get your perspective. We also looked at our blog posts and learned that although people are interested in reading about the climate movement, they just don’t want to read a fact sheet. They also don’t want to read a straight-up story; they kind of want everything in one piece. That was important for me to learn.
Bella: Learning to communicate with your audience is so important. I completely agree with what Zoe said. It’s really interesting, being able to see what posts get the most clicks and get the most attention. It showed me that the DIYs are super popular, but so are the personal stories. I’m excited to share a sustainable farmer story I recently did. Getting to show stories from our own communities on our website is great, because it makes people think, “Oh! I can find something like that in my community. I can connect in this way.” I think it is just all about coming together for this movement during this pandemic. It is making us focus on our talents, our community, ourselves, and how we can be sustainable. That’s what I hope the website is helping with.
What are the next steps?
Bella: We are trying to get the website out to people. Getting more subscribers. Getting more views. It is mostly just getting the word out to more people that are interested in interviewing, whether that’s small businesses, bigger organizations or companies, farmers, other students, etc.
Zoe: We are going to focus a little more on social media once we get our logo. We are thinking of engaging people and bringing clicks to our site by posting petitions to highlight every week. If we talk a little bit more about a petition on social media, it might get people to come to our page. Also, highlighting either a recipe, or a book, or movie that Bella or I were watching about sustainability is a good way to encourage engagement. As for the future for the website, we have a pretty good plan in place. I have been talking to a couple of newsletters to set up some share deals like sharing each other’s content. That will be fun to grow a community with another organization that is similar to ours. Already, I’ve made a few connections with people I never would’ve talked to in my life if I hadn’t done this project. I know it is the going to be same for Bella. I’m just excited for the both of us to keep growing. I’m so excited to keep doing this. As you can tell, I’m very excited. I love this stinkin’ site.
Where can people find you?
Zoe: By subscribing to the website! You’ll get an email 2 times a month with our top viewed blogs and interesting community organizing tips we upload, along with any cool petitions going on. The best way to stay connected is to follow our social media and subscribe to the website.