green communities

The rapid rise of the global fossil-fuel divestment movement is a very promising and heartening sign of real progress.

A growing number of people are trying to “put their money where their mouth is” (i.e., where their values are). They want to stop giving their unintentional financial support to destructive, polluting companies and industries, such as the fossil fuel industry, and to shift their support over to clean, forward-thinking companies and industries that aim to have a positive impact on our world.

Putting your money where your mouth is might involve more than just being selective about which stores you go to and which products you buy. You could be unwittingly giving some of your money to companies you don’t want to support through your accounts and investments: e.g., mutual funds, retirement accounts (IRAs, 401Ks), or any other stock-based accounts or investments. If you look at the list of company holdings that are part of your accounts’ portfolios, you might discover that Exxon and other oil/gas companies are in there, or Walmart, or Monsanto, or Koch Brothers-owned companies (also see the Buycott campaign/app), or McDonald’s or Coca-Cola or cigarette companies… Or there’s a good chance that your city, your college’s endowment fund, your church, or your government pension provider invests in companies that don’t align with your values. Institutions like these are increasingly being confronted by local and national divestment groups.

_DshqZRQ_400x400Fossil Free maintains this list of the hundreds of institutions (including colleges and universities, cities and counties, religious institutions, and foundations) that have committed to divesting from fossil fuels. They include: Rockefeller Brothers Fund; the City and County of San Francisco; Seattle, WA; Dane County, WI; Ann Arbor, MI, and many, many more. Countries committed to divest billions of dollars at the UN’s 2014 Climate Summit, and many world leaders have spoken out in support of the divestment movement; they include Desmond Tutu, Ban Ki-Moon, Christina Figueres, Mary Robinson, and even the President of the World Bank. People and institutions are divesting from fossil fuels for a variety of reasons. In addition to the values motivation, or to limit the political influence (lobbying budgets) of oil and gas companies, some are simply divesting because they feel that we’re approaching (or have already hit) “peak oil” and/or that fossil fuel reserves will soon become “stranded assets” and fossil fuel stocks are going to rapidly or drastically drop in value.

942A5VXM_400x400At the Divest-Invest site, you can pledge to divest from fossil fuels or to invest in clean stocks, and learn more about the issues and options. (Also see the links below.)

Whether or not you have any accounts that can be divested from fossil fuel or other harmful companies, you should think about investing some money in clean energy or other socially beneficial companies. If you want to switch your mutual fund or retirement accounts over to—or start a new account with—a “socially responsible investment” (SRI) fund, there are many to choose from. Going this route does not necessarily mean that you have to settle for a lower return on investment. SRI funds often perform as well as (or even better) than market averages. (See some performance stats here and here and here.) And socially responsible investing has become much more popular in recent years: U.S-based SRI assets jumped 76% between 2012 and 2014 and reached $6.57 trillion, according to US SIF. You can learn more about fossil-free funds and other SRI funds at the following sites:

A few funds that are fossil-fuel free (to date) include: Green Century Fund (both of their funds: Equity and Balanced), Parnassus Endeavor FundCalvert Investments’ Green Bond FundGreen Alpha Funds, Portfolio 21 Global Equity Fund, and Pax World Global Environmental Markets Fund.  A couple of fossil-fuel-free indexes have been developed, as well, to assess the overall performance of these types of funds:  FFIUS Fossil Free Indexes, and FTSE ex Fossil Fuel Index.

Note: In addition to the relatively new fossil-fuel-free criterion, there are a number of other environmental and social issues and criteria that SRI funds can screen for, in areas such as: pollution/toxics, nuclear power, defense/weapons, human rights, animal welfare, executive pay, labor relations, diversity, tobacco, alcohol, and many others. (When you click on the link above, select the Screening and Advocacy tab to find out how/whether various funds address each issue.)

If you would like to have an investment advisor assist you in selecting a fossil-free or other SRI fund, these are a couple of advisory firms that I am aware of:

(You can also do a web search to find firms or advisors who specialize in SRI or clean energy investment or fossil-fuel divestment and who are also based in your area.)

logoAnother way to invest your money is to make a direct investment in a social impact venture, AKA a social enterprise. One place to find some social enterprises and funds that anyone can invest in is CuttingEdgeX. Among their current offerings (which are called Direct Public Offerings) are the RSF Social Investment Fund and the Calvert Foundation’s Community Investment note at Vested.org. For a list of some other funds that are available to everyone (but with a focus on food and farming-related enterprises), also see the top section of this page.

Some people are also able to invest their money in local, distributed solar projects in their area or elsewhere (on housing, schools, etc.). These are two platforms that allow people to do that—though unfortunately, for now, most of these platforms’ offerings are only open to California residents, due to current securities regulations (which could change in the future):

(Note: Having solar panels or a small-scale wind turbine installed on your own property is another good—and very direct—way to invest your money and get a solid return on investment.)

Most direct investments are only open to “accredited investors” (who, basically, are people wealthy enough to endure the risk of losing a considerable amount of money on investments; an accredited investor is currently defined as someone with an individual income of more than $200,000/year or a joint income of $300,000, for the past two years; or a net worth exceeding $1 million, individually or jointly with one’s spouse). If you are an accredited investor, there are all sorts of social enterprises you can invest in, through groups like these:

And there’s yet another way that everyone can make a difference with their dollars: Move your regular (checking/savings) accounts (as well as any credit card accounts) out of the huge, greedy, bail-out banks (e.g., Bank of America, Citibank, Chase, Wells Fargo, etc.) and into a local credit union (credit unions are non-profit cooperative banks that share profits with their members) or a small community bank that won’t charge you ridiculous fees for basic transaction with your own money; won’t gamble with your money, your mortgage, and the economy for short-term gains; and that will give back to its members and your community. There are also a few banks that have an explicit social and environmental mission (and are certified B Corporations), such as:

The Sierra Club offers a credit card with Beneficial State Bank. (Most affinity cards are affiliated with the big, bail-out banks. This is one of the few that isn’t.)

Efforts are also underway to create Clean Energy Victory Bonds, which would be treasury bonds where all the funds raised to support clean energy in the United States. Click that link to learn how you can support this initiative.

 

Other general resources for further information:

 

Related posts:

Green Business, Corporate Social Responsibility, Ethical Finance, and Sustainable Economies

Climate and Energy-Related Solutions and Resources

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February 27, 2015
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Some readers might wonder what I do when I’m not preparing posts for The Green Spotlight, as I almost never mention my (other) professional work in my blog posts. I am a sustainability writer, editor, and advisor, and I work on projects for a wide variety of clients.

This is a partial list of organizations and companies that I’ve worked with in recent years. For most of these clients, I have done writing, editing, and/or research (for printed materials or online content) related to some aspect of sustainability. Click on the links below to learn about the important and interesting work that these groups are doing.

CLIENTS  (past and present)Global Green

Non-profit organizations:

Companies:

Before I formed my own communications and consulting business in 2005, I worked for a public radio program (as a producer and reporter), a green building consulting firm (as senior associate), an architecture firm, and several environmental non-profits:

FORMER EMPLOYERS

I also used to do freelance writing fairly regularly, and my pieces were published by the San Francisco Chronicle, Natural Home magazine (now Mother Earth Living), KQED.org, GreenHomeGuide.com, GreenBuildingAdvisor.com, and other media outlets. In addition, I authored a chapter of a book: Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing, edited by Global Green USA (Island Press, 2007).

For the past few years, my blog posts have been published on MotherEarthNews.com, as well as here on my own blog (The Green Spotlight). If you’d like more information about my writing, editing, and publications, please see Green Writings and Published Work or my Publications page.

-ML

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January 22, 2015
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We post morsels of illuminating information and inspiration on The Green Spotlight’s Facebook Page every day. Anyone can view the page, even if you don’t have a Facebook account. But if you do have an account, we hope you’ll click on the page’s Like button (if you haven’t already “Liked” the page).

Please visit the Page to get a sense of the wide variety of topics that it covers. You are welcome to comment on the posts and we hope you’ll share some of our links. To make sure that Facebook will continue to show you our posts on your Facebook homepage/newsfeed, visit our page regularly and give a thumbs-up to (“Like”) your favorite posts.

Here’s a sampling of topics that we’ve highlighted on the page over the last couple of months:

  • SoKind gift registry / wish list website
  • Fresh Cab: safe, natural rodent repellent (repels mice and rats)
  • ELF solar-electric hybrid cargo tricycle
  • TheRainforestSite.com
  • Mosaic: Solar energy investment platform
  • Solar power’s exponential growth and grid parity (cost competitiveness)
  • New films: Disruption; Mission Blue
  • Resilient: Soil, Water, and the New Stewards of the American West (short film)
  • Global human population has doubled over the past 35 years (approx.)
  • Drop-a-Brick: toilet-tank water-saving product
  • Air-to-water technologies
  • Indigenous Environmental Network
  • International Dark-Sky Association
  • Quotations, photos, videos, etc.
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November 29, 2014
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The following are the posts on The Green Spotlight that provide information and links that are related to energy, power, fuel, and/or climate change—with a strong focus on solutions.

SLB102_Blk_LimeGrThese posts are the most directly related to such topics:

And these posts are also related to energy and climate issues, in ways that might be less obvious but are equally important:

In the near future, we will add posts on fossil fuel divestment and renewable energy investment; local power (local renewable electricity utilities, Community Choice Aggregation); reforestation and carbon sequestration initiatives; and other important efforts to slow/mitigate the progression (and severity) of climate change.

Here are a few other online resources for good information related to climate change and climate solutions:

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September 21, 2014
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votetheenvironment-logo-300x276Vote as if the future depends on it. It does. Vote as if your life—or your child’s life—depends on it. It does, in a general if not a direct way. The future state of our climate, environment, health, and civilization—not only in the United States but around the world—will be greatly affected by who is in charge or in a position to obstruct progress (nationally and locally) over these next few years and beyond. It is critical that all of us environmentally-conscious voters vote in every election, including primaries as well as mid-term (non-presidential) elections, such as the 2014 U.S. election on Tuesday, November 4. Every election is important. Remember: Apathy is surrender. Please—don’t be (a)pathetic.

The candidates and major parties are not “all the same” as each other, and it’s naïve, dangerous, and self-defeating to believe or say that they are. If Republicans take majority control of both houses of Congress (the Senate, as well as the House), pro-environmental legislation won’t stand a chance of being passed; and the Republicans have made it abundantly clear that they will actively try to dismantle existing environmental laws, regulations, and agencies—as they’ve tried to do many times via their House votes, though so far the Senate has been able to block most of their attempts because of the Democratic majority there. The health of the environment shouldn’t be a partisan issue (and it didn’t use to be, before the 1980s), but sadly, it is now.

logo_lcvIf you live in the United States and you would like to be represented by more elected officials who support environmental safeguards for our air, water, and land, take a good look at the resources provided by the League of Conservation Voters. LCV “is a national non-profit organization that works to turn environmental values into national priorities. To secure the environmental future of our planet, LCV advocates for sound environmental policies” and works to “elect pro-environment candidates who will adopt and implement such policies.”

LCV endorses pro-environment candidates (or at least candidates who are far more green-leaning than their viable opponents). See their list of current ENDORSEMENTS here. Senate candidates whom they’ve endorsed for the upcoming (2014) election include: Gary Peters (MI), Mark Udall (CO), Kay Hagan (NC), Cory Booker (NJ), Michelle Nunn (GA), Jeff Merkley (OR), Bruce Braley (IA), Rick Weiland (SD), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Al Franken (MN), Jack Reed (RI), Dick Durbin (IL), and Dave Domina (NE). A few of the House candidates they’ve endorsed are: Brad Schneider (IL), Tammy Duckworth (IL), John Lewis (MT), Raul Grijalva (AZ); Michigan candidates Pam Byrnes, Jerry Cannon, and Dan Kildee; and California candidates Mike Honda, Julia Brownley, Scott Peters, John Garamendi, Ami Bera, Lois Capps, Pete Aguilar, and Raul Ruiz, among others. In the 2012 election, almost all of the LCV-endorsed candidates won their races; but keep in mind that that was a presidential election year, when far more voters (especially Democratic voters) usually show up to vote than they do for mid-term elections. [2014 post-election update: The majority of the candidates that LCV endorsed won their races: 11 out of 16 (69%) of the endorsed Senate candidates won their races, and to date it appears that 30 (57%) of the 53 endorsed House candidates have won, for a combined average of 59%. These endorsements were mostly given to candidates who were in very close races. Therefore, the results suggest that these pro-environmental endorsements, and/or these candidates’ pro-environment campaign platforms and records, gave them an edge. Future candidates should take note.]

The Sierra Club also makes many endorsements. And a newer organization, Climate Hawks Vote, has endorsed: Gary Peters and Paul Clements in Michigan, Scott Peters (and several other House candidates) in California, Shenna Bellows in Maine, Tom Udall in New Mexico, Rick Weiland in South Dakota, Jeff Merkley in Oregon, and Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire. [2014 post-election update:  The majority of candidates endorsed by Climate Hawks Vote won their races: 11 out of the 17 endorsed candidates (65%) won. Only some of their endorsements overlapped with LCV’s endorsements.]

State Governors races are also very important, although these national enviro groups haven’t weighed in on them with endorsements. More than 30 states now have their own state-level LCVs, which hold Governors and other state elected officials accountable on various environmental issues. Click on the map at that link to find the website for your state’s LCV and learn about your state and local candidates.

One of LCV’s flagship reports is its annual National Environmental Scorecard, which shows how each congressperson voted on every environmentally relevant piece of legislation. You can search the Scorecard by state, zip code, a congressperson’s name, or by year. Or you can download a PDF of the entire Scorecard.  LCV’s website also features several petitions and actions that people can participate in.  Some other ways to get involved with and support the League of Conservation Voters are to: join their Facebook page or follow their Twitter feed; share their videos; sign up to be on their mailing list; or donate to LCV or to specific pro-environment candidates.

Other important links for the upcoming election:

Make sure you are able to vote:

  • Verify that you are still registered to vote: Go to CanIVote.org and click on your state and follow the links, or contact your county’s elections office.  Thousands of voters have been purged from the voter rolls in several states. Make sure you aren’t one of them.
  • Register to vote, or re-register to vote (if you’ve moved or changed your name or been wrongfully purged from the registration system): Pick up a voter registration form at a Post Office (or a library or government building) in your county; or go to RockTheVote.com, or 866OurVote.org, or to your county’s election office to register. Be sure to register before the deadline for your state, which is often sometime during the month before the election. And if there’s a chance you won’t be able to get to the polls before they close on election day (the upcoming national election is Tuesday, November 4), fill out the absentee ballot form to receive a mail-in ballot before the specified deadline. Help get other people registered to vote by participating in voter registration drives or sending these registration links to people you know, especially to college students and other young (18+) voters who have never registered before.
  • Research the issues, propositions, and candidates that will be on your ballot. Don’t base your decisions on campaigns’ (often deceptive) TV and radio ads or the (often corporate-funded) propaganda flyers you receive in the mail. Read the information that’s provided in your state/county’s voter guide, as well as newspaper editorials and articles written by trustworthy, non-dogmatic analysts or journalists, and information provided by trusted organizations such as the League of Conservation Voters (National Environmental Scorecard, etc.). To get information on what will be on your ballot, and where candidates stand on specific issues, check out Vote411.org.
  • Get info on your polling location and hours, as well as voting requirements in your area (e.g., voter ID requirements), and report any voting problems: Go to Election Protection’s 866OurVote.org website, or call 1-866-OUR-VOTE, or email help@866ourvote.org.

electionprotection

  • Find out whether your state’s voting systems are reliable and publicly verifiable: Go to VerifiedVoting.org: working for election integrity/preparedness, i.e., reducing the odds of electronic and physical vote tampering, to try to ensure and verify that every vote is counted as cast.
  • And last but not least: please vote—not just for your own sake, but for the sake of your family, future generations, other species, and the environment, atmosphere, and climate that we all share and depend on for life.  Vote as if everyone’s future depends on it; it does.  Thank you.

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September 16, 2014
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You can find fresh, daily morsels of information and inspiration on The Green Spotlight’s Facebook Page. Anyone can view the page, even if you don’t have a Facebook account. But if you do have an account, we hope you’ll click on the Like button (if you haven’t already “Liked” the page).

Please visit the Page to get a sense of the wide variety of topics that it covers. You are welcome to comment on the posts and we hope you’ll share some of our links. To make sure that Facebook will continue to show you our posts on your homepage/newsfeed, visit our page regularly and give a thumbs-up to (“Like”) your favorite posts.

Here’s a sampling of topics that we’ve highlighted on the page over the last month or so:

  • Navajo teen wins award for building solar ovens
  • Tesla makes its patents open-source
  • Solar Impulse 2 airplane
  • Warka water tower gets water from the air
  • Best ways to protect homes from wildfires
  • Climate Confidential
  • Natural mosquito control
  • EWG’s guide to safe, effective sunscreens
  • Ways to reduce breast cancer risk
  • Cowboy and Indian Alliance
  • Films: Triple Divide, DamNation
  • Wendell Berry poem
  • Quotations, cartoons, photos, videos, etc.
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June 18, 2014
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The Goldman Environmental Prize is the world’s largest and most prestigious annual award for grassroots environmentalists. Many people refer to it as the “green Nobel.” Goldman Prize winners are models of courage, and their stories are powerful and inspiring. “The Prize recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk. Each winner receives an award of $150,000 [starting this year, it has been increased to $175,000], the largest award in the world for grassroots environmentalists. The Goldman Prize views ‘grassroots’ leaders as those involved in local efforts, where positive change is created through community or citizen participation in the issues that affect them. Through recognizing these individual leaders, the Prize seeks to inspire other ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world.”

This year marks the 25th anniversary of this international prize. And this year, for the first time ever, the Goldman Environmental Prize ceremony will be broadcast LIVE on the Goldman Prize YouTube channel.

This year’s six prize recipients (one from each of the six inhabited continental regions) are:

  • Helen Slottje (NY, USA) — Helping towns across New York defend themselves from oil and gas companies by passing local bans on fracking
  • Desmond D’Sa (South Africa) — Rallied south Durban’s diverse and disenfranchised communities to successfully shut down a toxic waste dump that was exposing nearby residents to dangerous chemicals
  • Ruth Buendía (Peru) — United the Asháninka people in a powerful campaign against large-scale dams that would have once again uprooted indigenous communities
  • Ramesh Agrawal (India) — Organized villagers to demand their right to information about industrial development projects and succeeded in shutting down one of the largest proposed coal mines in Chhattisgarh
  • Suren Gazaryan (Russia) — Led multiple campaigns exposing government corruption and illegal use of federally protected forestland along Russia’s Black Sea coast
  • Rudi Putra (Indonesia) — Dismantling illegal palm oil plantations that are causing massive deforestation in northern Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem, protecting the habitat of the critically endangered Sumatran rhino

Click on each recipient’s name to read—or watch a brief video—about their remarkable efforts and achievements.

Here’s the video about Helen Slottje, who has provided pro-bono legal assistance to help towns across New York (including Dryden) defend themselves from oil and gas companies by passing local bans on fracking, using a clause in the state constitution that gives municipalities the right to make local land use decisions.

Posts on Goldman Prize winners from previous years:

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April 28, 2014
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This is a listing of some of the green-themed films that came out in the last couple of years. Click on each of the links below (or go to IMDB.com) to see previews/trailers, reviews, and descriptions of each film. Click here to see my previous listing of green-themed films; it lists movies that came out between 2006-2011.

Scroll to the bottom of this post to see a list of some green film festivals; those websites provide information on more films, including some brand new ones that haven’t been shown widely yet.

Energy / Power

 

Health / Toxic Chemicals

(Note: Many of the films in the Energy section above also relate to health issues, especially Hot Water, Gasland II, and the Atomic States of America)

 

Food / Agriculture

 

Animal Sentience / Animal Rights

 

Water (Oceans, Rivers, Glaciers)

 

Environmental Movement / Activism

  • Green Gold (2012) – Entire film is available to watch online

 

More:  See my list of green-themed films that came out between 2006-2011.

If there are other relevant, recent films that you’ve seen and would recommend to others, please add those in the Comments section below.

Green Film Festivals

These are a few of the annual film fests that I’m aware of. Please let everyone know about others by contributing a Comment! Many of the festivals’ websites feature video clips or entire films (short and full-length films), and they list many additional, new, independent films, beyond what I’ve listed above.

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March 25, 2014
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I launched The Green Spotlight about five years ago, in late January 2009. Since its inception, I’ve published more than 70 blog posts, and the blog’s readership has grown steadily—and it continues to grow. The Green Spotlight was also nominated (two years in a row) for a Best Green Blog award.

I appreciate everyone who has taken some time to read the blog. I especially appreciate those of you who have shared the posts (or specific information or links from the posts) with others; have incorporated suggestions from the blog into your lives; or have added helpful comments and recommendations.

Please subscribe to The Green Spotlight’s e-mail list. Doing so means that you will receive a brief, quarterly email—only once every 3 months—that provides a listing of my most recent posts, along with a favorite quotation. Here’s one example of a recent email bulletin. I won’t send you any spam or share your email address with anyone else.

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Also, if you haven’t already, please join (“Like”) The Green Spotlight’s page on Facebook, and share the page with your friends. The page is getting close to reaching 1,000 Likes, and with your help, it could pass that mark soon.

To mark The Green Spotlight’s 5-year milestone, I recently added an ARCHIVE page, which is essentially a Table of Contents that lists the titles of all of my blog posts to date. Please peruse this list, to see the wide range of topics and issues that I’ve covered so far; I hope you’ll find a few that pique your interest.

The following are among The Green Spotlight’s most popular (i.e., most viewed) pages and posts:

And these are a few of the topics that I plan to write about in future posts:

  • Electric Motorcycles and Scooters (and other non-standard vehicles)
  • Tips for Green & Healthy Cleaning: Ingredients & methods to use or to avoid
  • Disaster-Resistant Homes and Buildings
  • Remedies for Light Pollution and Noise Pollution
  • Favorite Green Household Products: My personal recommendations
  • New Films with Green Themes
  • Permaculture: Principles, practices, and programs

Of these topics, which one(s) are you most interested in? Do you have a suggestion for another topic that you’d like to see covered?

Please add a Comment to this post or send me an email message [email: info (at) thegreenspotlight.com] if you have any feedback or constructive criticism. And I’d be thrilled to hear about any changes you’ve made or actions you’ve taken based on information you found on TheGreenSpotlight.com (or the Facebook page). Too often it can feel like I’m working in a vacuum. I rely on interaction and feedback from my readers to get a tangible sense of the results of my efforts.

If you are a big fan of The Green Spotlight: Please send me a message [email: info (at) thegreenspotlight.com] if you would be willing to write a short blurb (1-3 sentences would be plenty!), stating what you like about the blog. You can read existing blurbs at the bottom of the About page. It’s up to you whether your name (and/or a link to your own website) will appear with your blurb.

Thank you for reading The Green Spotlight, and for striving to do your best—and spreading the word to others—to keep our planet life-supporting, habitable, and beautiful for all people, all species, and future generations.

– M

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February 27, 2014
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