institutional

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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Green school buildings have multiple benefits and advantages, including:

  • reduced use of energy and water, and reduced materials waste;
  • lower operating costs, i.e., financial savings that can be used to fund other improvements or activities;
  • a healthier and more comfortable learning (and teaching) environment, resulting in better student performance (including higher test scores), improved health of all of the schools’ occupants (and therefore, fewer sick days), as well as more satisfied teachers and staff; and
  • new opportunities for on-site, hands-on environmental learning.

Whether you’re a teacher, parent, student, school administrator, or building professional, you may be interested in learning more about green schools. Here is a listing of many of the key websites, organizations, guidelines, and initiatives related to green schools, with a focus on school buildings/facilities (design of new buildings, retrofitting existing buildings, as well as the daily operations and maintenance of the buildings). Most of these resources are related to K-12 schools, but some of the information also applies to higher education facilities.


Key Organizations and Information Websites

Center for Green Schools (U.S. Green Building Council)

Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS)

Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI)

Earth Day Network: Green Your School

Eco-Schools USA (National Wildlife Federation)

EnergySmart Schools (U.S. Department of Energy)

Global Green USA: Green Schools program

Green Schools Alliance

Healthy Schools Network

High Performance Schools (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

LEED for Schools (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Rating System, USGBC)

U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools

U.S. Green Schools Foundation

For information on getting financing for green / energy efficiency projects, check out these sites: the National Education Foundation/ U.S. Department of Education’s Qualified School Construction Bonds, the California Energy Commission’s Energy Efficiency loans, PG&E’s School Resource Program (for schools within the PG&E utility area), and the DSIRE Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency. For additional links related to funding for green projects, see my post on Green Tax Credits, Rebates, and Other Financial Incentives.

Examples of Local and Regional Initiatives


Related Post: Green Curricula and Environmental Learning Activities (i.e., environmental education)

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October 1, 2010
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I’d like to let everyone know about these important new books, which were written by a few of my esteemed colleagues. Please click on the links below for more information about each tome:

Thriving Beyond Sustainability: Pathways to a Resilient Society, by Andres Edwards (New Society Publishers) — This book will be available in May (2010), but it can be pre-ordered now. Here’s an excerpt from the publisher’s description of the book: “Thriving Beyond Sustainability draws a collective map of individuals, organizations, and communities from around the world that are committed to building an alternative future—one that strives to restore ecological health; reinvent outmoded institutions; and rejuvenate our environmental, social, and economic systems. The projects and initiatives profiled are meeting the challenges of the day with optimism, hope, and results, leading the way in relocalization, green commerce, ecological design, environmental conservation, and social transformation.” Click here to read reviews of the book, the book’s Foreword (by Bill McKibben), Table of Contents, or an annotated bibliography.

Fundamentals of Integrated Design for Sustainable Building, by Marian Keeler and Bill Burke (John Wiley & Sons, 2009)— This book serves as an in-depth textbook for design students and a comprehensive reference for practitioners. It presents the history, issues, principles, technologies, process, and practice of sustainable building design, as well as case studies of model projects. In addition, it promotes active learning by providing design problems, research exercises, study questions, and discussion topics.

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February 25, 2010
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The following websites have some of the most well-presented and up-to-date, free online collections of case studies (or profile articles with in-depth project information) on green homes and green buildings around the country. They feature new construction as well as renovation projects.

These three sources provide case studies and information on residential projects only (primarily single-family homes):

[Feb. 2011 Update: See a more recent post that provides additional residential links.]

The following sites primarily feature commercial and institutional buildings, though they also include some case studies of residential projects:

  • High Performance Buildings Database provided by the U.S. Department of Energy and BuildingGreen. The case studies in this database are very comprehensive; they include information on costs, the team process, and lessons learned, as well as details on the projects’ green strategies and materials. Currently, the database contains case studies on more than 275 buildings, including more than 130 LEED certified projects. Note: In order to get full access to the case studies through the BuildingGreen site, you have to be a member/subscriber (which I believe is well worth the price if you’re actively involved or have a strong interest in green building). If you’re not a subscriber, you can get free access to complete versions of a subset of those case studies (112 of the 275) via the Department of Energy’s database (unfortunately, this site hasn’t been updated for a few years, so it doesn’t include the most recent projects that are posted on BuildingGreen). In addition, you can see complete versions of some of the LEED case studies via the U.S. Green Building Council’s site (select “Projects with Case Studies” on the search form), and case studies on the annual award winners of the AIA COTE (American Institute of Architects’ Committee on the Environment) Top Ten Green Projects via the AIA’s website.

I have written many case studies on green building projects over the years. In addition to the two recent Green Building Advisor case studies mentioned above, I’ve prepared in-depth case studies on the David Brower Center, Berkeley; Alder Creek Middle School, Truckee; Colorado Court affordable housing, Santa Monica; the Linden Street Apartments, Somerville, MA, and other projects. Links to some of my published case studies are posted on MLandman.com.

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August 20, 2009
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The new California Academy of Sciences museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park recently opened its doors to the public. The building achieved the Platinum (top-tier) rating in the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building rating system. Designed by Renzo Piano, Stantec Architecture, and Arup, the 410,000-square-foot building is the largest public Platinum-rated project in the world (to date). Featuring a four-story rainforest exhibit, an aquarium, a planetarium, and an enormous (and hilly) “living roof” (AKA a vegetated or green roof) that visitors can access, the museum is proving to be wildly popular. If you go there soon, be prepared for crowds.

For details about the building’s sustainable design features, go to:
www.calacademy.org/academy/building/sustainable_design

If you’d like to know where other LEED Platinum buildings are throughout the country or the world, click here: LEED Platinum Certified Buildings Worldwide. I also developed an interactive Google map of green buildings in San Francisco, and I keep updated lists of green building projects in the San Francisco Bay Area and all LEED certified projects in Northern California.

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February 7, 2009
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