Swept Away By Green
Senior Features Editor
New Alternatives now counts some 12,000 investors, holds stock in 60 companies and posted a 23.75 percent annualized total return over the past five years.
Investment in alternative energy sources are expected to grow to between $6.2 billion and $8.8 billion by 2009, according to the Cleantech Venture Network. Wind energy attracted $380 million last year compared with $1.5 million in 2005. (See related story)
Goldman Sachs has invested heavily in environmental friendly projects such cellulose-based ethanol, wind and solar energy
In July, Merrill Lynch introduced a new index, identifying industry sectors and 40 individual companies that it “believes should benefit from the growing momentum to reduce CO2 emissions and the cost of energy.”
For more than a decade, EcoSecurities has been working with companies to create emission reduction credits for greenhouse gases. The company now has offices in 20 countries.
And talk about crunching the numbers, earlier this year, a coalition of investors, state officials and environmental groups petitioned the Securities and Exchange Commission to require publicly-traded companies to assess and fully disclose their financial risks from climate change.
Consumers And Citizens of The Earth
Consumers are eating it up, whether it is buying organic food, recycling household products, joining organizations or simply going to the movies.
By one estimate, some 35 million Americans regularly buy products that claim to be earth-friendly. For example, some 325,000 hybrid automobiles are expected to be purchased this year, 29 percent more than in 2006.
Airline passengers can now buy carbon credits when they book an ticket on such airlines as Continentaland Delta.
Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, has grossed $24.1 million in U.S. ticket sales since opening in May 2006, according to Box Office Mojo. The film is the third best-performing documentary in history.
Official membership in the Sierra Club has increased from 550,000 in 2000 to 800.000 today. Hundreds of thousands more participate in or contribute financially to its myriad efforts.
Recycling is now a way of life in households and businesses across the country. In 2005 there were 9,000 curbside recycling programs, vs. 2,000 in 2005, according to the National Recycling Coalition. Recycled aluminum, for instance, saves 95 percent of the energy cost of producing aluminum from raw materials. And on Nov. 15, America Recycles Day marks its 10th anniversary. (See the top-ten recycling items.)
Such commonplace initiatives have helped build interest in the environment, but making the complicated science of climate change more digestible will take more time.
"There’s a growing awareness that there is a problem," say Larry Filler, founder of the TransitChek program and an early proponent of incentive-based mass transit use to reduce auto congestion and emissions. "People have seen intense storms, very unusual weather on occasion, but sometimes it is not always clear what it means to them in their own area.” (Read an interview with Filler.)
The green movement – or mindset – has permeated so much of the consumer society and business world, it is inevitable that some of the many initiatives appear trivial, inconsequential or downright silly. Regardless, there are, of course, outright critics of the environmental movement, who say it is bad for business, technology and the individual.
“Environmentalism is a moral philosophy. It is definitely anti-capitalistic “ says Peter Schwartz, former chairman of the Ayn Rand Institute and author of The Battle for Laissez-Faire Capitalism. "Environmentalists want to protect nature not for mankind but from mankind, to live without the benefit of technology." (More from Schwartz.)
Schwartz is probably part of a shrinking minority -- just as the days of ridiculing tree huggers can no doubt be counted. Corporate America has gotten its arms around the business of green and is reaching down into what may be some pretty deep pockets.