It's Earth Day - the Earth's Birthday!

This year, the Earth is turning the big 4-0-0, and Groupon is committed to helping the planet reach its 401st birthday by offering green deals and supporting environmental campaigns through Groupon Grassroots and CrowdRise, co-founded by Edward Norton.

Groupon Grassroots is the latest step in Groupon’s social giving evolution, inhabiting the charitable exoskeleton once worn by The Point and, more recently, G-Team—which saw more than 100,000 people raise more than $3 million for 500-plus projects. With Groupon Grassroots, supporters can continue to rally together and positively impact their community in ways they couldn’t do alone—donate to causes such as planting trees in a park or cleaning trash off the mayor’s private beach.

To celebrate Earth Day, we’re hosting 50 eco-friendly campaigns on Groupon Grassroots and kicking off each of those campaigns with a $1,000 grant, for a total of $50,000 in support.

Groupon Grassroots is also partnering with CrowdRise to even further extend the octopus-like arm of our philanthropic reach. Founded in 2010, CrowdRise harnesses the power of social networking and crowdsourcing to raise money and awareness for causes.

Take the Groupon Earth Day Challenge and donate to a campaign of your choice on CrowdRise—the campaign that raises the most money during the next month will receive an additional $25,000 from Groupon, while the second and third highest fund-raising campaigns during that time will receive $15,000 and $10,000, respectively.

In anticipation of Earth Day, and to save the energy wasted by a phone call,
Groupon caught up via e-mail with Edward Norton, CrowdRise co-founder
and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity.

Groupon: CrowdRise and Groupon Grassroots have a shared vision of leveraging social networking to impact the world positively—as a longtime activist and champion of environmental causes, how have you seen websites change the game of giving?

Norton: Well for one thing, if properly executed, peer-to-peer/social-network-driven fundraising can help an organization get its existing supporters to reach (out) to their networks and expand the base of support for that effort … so we’re talking about a strategy that leverages new money at a much, much cheaper cost. Often one-third to even one-fifth of traditional fundraising costs. When organizations use an effective prebuilt platform, like CrowdRise, to stage these kinds of campaigns or partner with a Groupon Grassroots and don’t spend unnecessary money and time trying to build it themselves, it’s much more cost-efficient. And this is a mode of interaction that younger people are super familiar with and comfortable engaging through, so by definition, these platforms are helping engage a younger generation in activism.

Groupon: What sparked your interest in environmental advocacy?

Norton: My dad, 100%. He’s one of his generation’s most accomplished and inspiring conservation heroes, for sure. And he took my brother and sister and I to all the greatest places in the world and encouraged us to get out and see this nutty acid trip of a planet we live on.

Groupon: You’re into conservation. How often do you use the top of the pizza box as a plate?

Norton: I’m really more of a “buy-it-by-the-slice-and-scarf-it-down-hot-without-even-needing-to-waste-a- paper-plate” kind of guy. Now that’s commitment to the environment. Has David Suzuki regularly burned off the flesh on the roof of his mouth to save a tree? Paul Hawken? Leonardo DiCaprio? I very much doubt it. When it comes to eating pizza sustainably, I’m pretty much on par with the Lorax. I can show you my scars. It hardly even hurts anymore.

Groupon: Protecting the environment is a big global topic—but on a local level, how can someone get involved?

Norton: One of the coolest things about the Internet and the tools available to conservation organizations, like Google Earth, is that you really can connect people sitting in a room anywhere with the tactile impact that they’re having half a world away. The connectivity is real and I think people love feeling like they are a part of efforts they can be in touch with. Everywhere is local now.

Groupon: CrowdRise emphasizes the importance of having fun while donating. I don’t know, though—giving away my money doesn’t seem that fun. How does CrowdRise make it fun?

Norton: Well remember that CrowdRise is a platform for people to support the causes they care about by raising funds. We give people the tools and the coaching to express their passion in ways that make their friends and family enthusiastic and proud to support them. … Plus there are so many ways to get people to look at donating as fun. We’re big believers in incentives, contests, prizes … I think if Groupon Grassroots were to offer seven minutes in a closet making out with Andrew Mason as a raffle prize there’s pretty much no limit to how much you could raise in $10 donations. I’ve met Andrew, I’ve seen him walk through a room … you guys should seriously think about leveraging that mojo.