Swept Away By Green
Senior Features Editor
DiCaprio's charitable non-profit organization is a champion the cause, promoting renewable energy. His 2007 eco-documentary, The 11th Hour, received generally good reviews.
Diaz talks the talk and walks the walk; she drives a hybrid car, is reportedly trained to give Al Gore's climate presentation and made a big announcement with the former VP about Live Earth.
That musical event – a seven-continent, 24-hour music extravaganza, featuring 150 musical acts on July 7, 2007 drew an audience of 2 billion people via, TV, radio and the Internet. It even created green event guidelines, achieving a low carbon footprint by staging the concerts in the daytime and using biodegradable concession stand containers.
In December 2006, the Sundance Channel (a NBC Universal cable TV venture) launched “The Green”, "television's first regularly-scheduled programming destination dedicated entirely to the environment."
Green Room, Green Planet
Talk about going green. The hospitality and travel industries have made green a literal journey.
Starwood founder Barry Sternlicht plans 15 luxury, green hotels and residences in major cities. The first so-called "1" property being developed by Starwood Capital Group Global is in Seattle and will be completed by 2009. In addition to using sustainable design and green energy concepts, one percent of the properties' profit will go to local environmental groups.
"We’re going to try something and see if it works," says Sternlicht, whose is more confident than he sounds here. "It’s a challenging space, it's really just evolving." (Read the full interview with Sternlich.)
In August, 2007 AOL founder Steve Case launched Revolution Places. It's first green property -- a $800 million, 650-acre luxury resort in Costa Rica, opening in 2010 -- will recycle waste water, purchase energy from renewable sources and use other sustainable concepts.
On a less grand scale, cities and states are promoting eco-tourism or their green credentials in general. West Virginia and Wisconsin were among the first.
Wisconsin launched its TravelGreenWisconsin project in 2006 to promote its environmental tradition. The program is also meant to encourage more sustainable practices in its $12.8 billion dollar tourism industry, whose members must be approved by a local organization to gain entry into the program. The campaign (Watch video) has cost little money but is considered a success based on visitor surveys.
The state's efforts may be rivaled by those of Madison, the state capital. Among other things, the city has developed a sustanbility plan, created a green guide and had its 10-year old convention center retrofitted to qualify for LEED certification, the nationally accepted stand for green building and design. The city estimates it has already made three dollars on every one dollar spent because the certification has attracted a number of green conferences and events.
"What’s good for the environment is also good for the local economy," says Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, who ran an environmental business before assuming office. "These ideas have really paid off very recently as they've gelled in the public’s mind."
Investment and Investing
OK, so being green is easy -- and worthy -- but is it also profitable and rewarding for investors? In a word, yes.
This area of the green movement is red hot – from corporations to venture capitalists to retail investors.
Big names in the world of business and finance – from Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates to John Doerr, a partner in the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers --- are into green investing.
By one measure, there are now 500 green companies. Since 2006, nine green ETFs have launched, according to Morningstar, the largest of which, ClaymoorS&P Global Water, had assets of about $284 million, as of Oct. 22. (Learn more about green ETFs.)
Morningstar counts nine green mutual funds versus the broader category of socially responsible companies. The largest, Winslow Green Growth, had almost $322 billion in assets and a total return of 29.21 percent, annualized over a five-year period. (Find out what's hot in green mutual funds.)
“It’s certainly in fashion,“ says David Schoenwald, cofounder of the New Alternatives fund, which was the first mutual fund of its kind.
“There seems to be a lot of investing on momentum," adds Schoenwald, who along with his father, Maurice, started the fund on a shoestring budget in 1982 “The shareholders who have been with this firm a long time are die-hard environmentalists.” (Read the profile.)