Personal Finance to Save the Planet

Saving & investing, frugality & simple living. They're all part of the wealth equation.
Here's the place to discuss getting (and keeping!) your money.

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DC Portland
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Personal Finance to Save the Planet

Postby DC Portland » Thu Apr 05, 2007 2:23 pm

I am a firm believer that financial freedom (or security) for most is more a matter of controlling spending money than it of earning it. Obviously, this statement is arguable. For most of us, however, I believe it is true. How many of us truly expect to make millions? Regardless, (stick with me here), when we don't buy, when we recycle, when we precycle, when we save, when we reuse, when we have will power, when we don't succumb to the fallacy of image, we are doing ourselves a favor by getting us closer to financial security and freedom. At the same time we are consuming less, and doing a small part to preserve the valuable natural resources of the Earth.

The sustainability movement generally scoffs at money management. Frugal and proper money management, I believe, is a huge lever for moving us away from the global damage that is being wraught. People can have a positive impact by simply preserving their valuable financial resources. For every dollar not spent, there is something not consumed. Something not consumed does not have to be produced. Something that does not have to be produced, does not draw from our natural resources. All comes from something.

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Postby jdroth » Thu Apr 05, 2007 2:42 pm

Excellent post, DC.

I have a close friend who has just started a weblog that deals with these sorts of subjects: <a href="">Green Capitalism</a>. I'll point him to this thread...

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Postby tinyhands » Thu Apr 05, 2007 2:47 pm

Will power and delayed gratification are two very powerful concepts. And I believe they can be learned, which is equally important.

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Postby brad » Thu Apr 05, 2007 3:54 pm

On the other hand, there's something to be said for earning enough to do good things for the Earth with your money. I've worked in the environmental field all my life, but it's only recently (in my late 40s) that I've started earning serious money. For the past 18 years I've been writing fulltime about global climate change (for newsletters, magazines, and for the past 11 years for a government agency), and sometimes I despair that all my work has had no effect. Last year I decided to do something more direct, and I began to help out a small soap-making cooperative in Kandahar, Afghanistan that needed reliable electricity. I bought and shipped them two solar-powered generators. It was by far the biggest donation I've ever made in my life, and certainly the most satisfying. Since then I've been helping them put together a much bigger 3.5 kW solar photovoltaic system to provide a permanent source of power that will meet all their needs. The funding agency that they're working with wanted them to purchase diesel generators instead, so the PV system will make a big difference for the environment. I am now planning to give away 10 percent of my gross income each year to projects like this and others that I want to support; it's an incredible feeling to know that you're making a real, tangible difference.

Of course our daily small purchasing decisions can make a difference too, in terms of supporting "green" products and services, plus if we have money to invest and we invest it in socially/environmentally responsible funds that helps as well. I do find it hard to get myself to invest in socially responsible managed funds because the management fees are so high (one I've been looking at here has fees of 3 percent, whereas the index funds I currently have most of my retirement money in have fees of a fraction of 1 percent), and the returns are usually lower than what you can get elsewhere. But I suppose one could look at those lost earnings as another kind of charitable donation, even if it's not tax-deductible!

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Postby nickel » Thu Apr 05, 2007 4:46 pm

You should check out:

which is run by David of: (check that one out, too)

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Postby leo » Thu Apr 05, 2007 8:57 pm

I also recommend both The Good Human and My Two Dollars. I recently wrote a guest post on TGH called <a href="">12 Simple Habits to Help the Environment</a>.

Good topic! I'd like to hear others' thoughts on this.

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Response to brad

Postby Paul » Fri Apr 06, 2007 9:39 pm

I believe that I understand the tenets of brad's post. He attributes his ability to fund sustainable business practices to his recently acquired higher salary. I don't disagree with DC Portland on the whole. I agree that sound personal financial choices can provide long term benefits to society and the environment along with providing financial security, as DC Portland highlighted. I am wrestling with my desires to decrease my "footprint" on the environment versus and the recognition that it will take money to accomplish many parts of that goal. In general I am following the Get Rich Slowly philosophy. I control my spending. I have paid off my consumer debt and I am saving. However, on my net salary of $2,000 (US) each month and after paying my expenses which also includes putting $333 towards my Roth IRA, I lack the funds to make major changes to my home. These major changes include the want to use a PV energy system (or other sustainable system), manage gray water, and landscape utilizing local and environmentally beneficial principles to name a few. I can save for these large scale projects and it will take time to raise the funds. My desire to increase my income and broaden my sources of income may provide me an opportunity to purchase the material to accomplish my home improvements sooner. By speeding up the process of obtaining this goal I believe that I will decrease my "footprint" sooner.

As a cleansing measure I must say that I don't want a million dollars as soon as possible for the sake of the money or for the "stuff" that I could purchase with that kind of money. I want a million dollars as soon as possible so that I can buy ALL local, organic vegetables instead of a few organics when I can afford them on my current salary. I want another million dollars so that I can take my house off the grid as much as possible. I want another million dollars so that I can ride my current bicycle (not a new one) to near and far away places to perform acts of charity and kindness along the way without having to worry that my funds will run out. My pledge is to continue to wash out and reuse my plastic bags for bulk goods from the grocery story if I had millions. This want for proactive environmental goods is a financial challenge along with a challenge of my social consciousness.

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Postby MossySF » Sat Apr 07, 2007 2:48 am

I'm gonna rollerblade to work as often as possible. Google maps say it's 3 miles. Ptooey -- I can do that in 15 minutes. (Although that's in exercise mode -- in casual mode wearing regular atire, this might bump it up to 20-25 minutes.) Save gas and get more fit. Hell I'd probably beat a car during rush hour.

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Postby brad » Sat Apr 07, 2007 4:48 am

Paul -- I'm with you on the million dollars bit. It's weird that in our culture it takes money to live lightly on the land, but even Aldo Leopold recognized that when he wrote "you have to be able to eat your breakfast before you can have a land ethic." I've spent the last 15 years chipping away at lowing my own environmental footprint, and I'm at the point where all the cherries were picked long ago and I'm faced only with really big-ticket items: get a Prius (or ditch the car entirely and rent a Prius when I need one), install a photovoltaic system, etc., and those are a bit beyond my current budget. But I read an article somewhere that affected me deeply: its title was something like "Your Lifestyle Won't Change the World." I do think it's important for each of us to minimize our environmental footprint, but it's worth considering that we can accomplish a LOT more for the Earth with the $30,000 that we might spend on a Prius or the $40,000 that we might spend on a home photovoltaic system if we instead gave that money to an environmental organization, a political party, or an environmental project in the developing world. I know some people who've spent lots of money on a green home, a Prius, etc., and you get a sense that they're self-satisfied, that they've done their part. But in fact they've done very little compared with what they could have done had they put that money toward environmental projects in developing countries or supporting policy changes that would reduce the environmental footprints of millions of people. I don't have any answers, but I do think it's worth pondering.

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