Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Greening your Greenbacks

Greening your greenbacks - enjoy this month's column found in Abode

Think about this: Your hard-earned money in the bank could very well be funding activities you would find appalling: say, oil exploration in Antarctica’s wildlife refuge. How can you ensure your dollars are promoting the better world we all envision?

Greener banking
Simple steps include going paperless: Decline ATM receipts (at 8 billion transactions per year, that makes a difference), use auto deposits, and obtain tax forms, bank statements, investments materials online. More importantly, where do you shop for a mortgage and do your other banking? The Better World Handbook recommends using local credit unions, not-for-profit institutions with a mission to serve their community, and therefore preferable to large banking institutions whose practices are more about profits than the planet.

Greener investing
“If you are truly invested in a better future, socially responsible investing (SRI) just makes better sense,” according to Ryan Miracle of FMI, a socially responsible investment firm in Waynesboro. Screening is a good first step. This means excluding companies that violate your personal values and including companies which match them.

Another way to effect change is through shareholder advocacy where the fund manager acts on behalf of your beliefs about, for example, the importance of sustainable business practices. Community investing designates funds for specific organizations who are making change at a grassroots level.

Now the burning question. Is there more risk with SRI? Miracle has good news: “The Domini 400 (a sustainability index) has outperformed the S&P 500 since 1990.” Check socialinvest.org for a list of socially responsible mutual funds, a comprehensive screening chart, and financial performance data.

GLOSSARY of Eco-Investing Terms:
Triple bottom line: people, planet, and profits
Negative screening: simply excluding companies that violate your personal values
SRI funds: Socially Responsible Investment
ESG: Environment Social Government (industry term for SRI)

Check out Better World Betty’s local green living resource list at betterworldbetty.org


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