Invest in the Earth

Put your money where your tree-hugging mouth is

Rayfield Gorum, an investment broker with A.G. Edwards in Reno, searches <a href=""></a> for green investment possibilities.

Rayfield Gorum, an investment broker with A.G. Edwards in Reno, searches for green investment possibilities.

Photo By Kat Kerlin

Is there a wad of cash burning a hole in your hemp-lined pocket? If your answer is “yes,” or even if you wish it was, it’s time to start managing your greenbacks in a more eco-friendly way.

There are plenty of investment options out there that will let you put your money where your tree-hugging mouth is. And it’s not a charitable donation—it makes you money.

“To invest in green, it shouldn’t cost you money,” says Rayfield Gorum, a Reno investment broker with A.G. Edwards. “You are making a return on your investment. It’s nice to have that and a social conscience, too.”

If you have an existing relationship with a full-service brokerage firm, you easily could contact your stock broker and ask about green investing. Find out if they can recommend environmentally friendly, socially conscious mutual funds or individual stock options. If you’re new to the market, call several brokers and ask about fees and services offered.

If you already know you want to invest in solar power or non-toxic pesticides, for example, do the research yourself, and either call a professional to make the trade for you, or make the trade online through a discount brokerage. The more you know about environmental trends, the better off you’ll be when it comes time to choose an investment.

Consider a general reference guide to direct your eco-quest. Co-op America’s National Green Pages lists nearly 3,000 businesses that have made “firm commitments to sustainable, socially just principles, including the support of sweatshop-free labor, organic farms, fair trade, and cruelty-free products.” Listings include financial consultants, mutual fund companies, and money managers.

Another good resource for broad advice about investing in mainstream companies is The Motley Fool’s online Earth Day series from last spring. If you’re serious about investing in green businesses, be sure to follow up their recommendations with some independent research. You don’t want to be a financial victim of corporate green-washing.

“Green is tough because what if there’s an energy company, and they’re part green, and they’re part in the Greenland tundra pumping oil, too?” says Gorum. “Like British Petroleum, they’re developing wind and alternative power, but they’re not all that green.”

One of the most important aspects of a green economy is renewable energy, and the New Alternatives Fund claims to be a “socially responsible mutual fund emphasizing alternative energy and the environment.”

The Green Century Find also claims to be environmentally oriented.

If you simply want to invest with a trusted environmental ally, the Sierra Club Stock Fund may be what you’re looking for. They invest in the “top investment candidates among the most environmentally and socially progressive mid- and large-cap U.S. companies, as determined by more than 20 separate environmental and social screens.”

Hopefully, these tips will get you started along the road to environmentally enlightened riches. Then it’s up to you to buy low and sell high.