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Go Green, Get Rich: How to Save the Earth and Get Rich Trying
When best-selling personal finance author David Bach moved into his New York City condo last year, his main motivation was to live close to his young son’s favorite park. Within the first month, though, Bach noticed that the asthma and allergies both he and his son suffered from had cleared up considerably. Was it all the clean air from the trees in the park across the street? Actually, Bach attributes it to living in one of America’s premiere “green” buildings, The Solaire.
Today, not only is Bach enjoying unprecedented good health, he wrote about it in his newly published book Go Green, Live Rich: 50 Simple Ways to Save the Earth (and Get Rich Trying). The book offers simple money-saving tips about how to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. Bach is the author of seven national best-sellers, including The Automatic Millionaire, Start Late, Finish Rich and The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner. He is now on a mission to teach the world that you can live a great life by living a green life. We recently met with him at his New York office to discuss his new book and asthma-free life.
Gaiam: How can I get rich by going green, when green and organic products often cost so much more?
David Bach: That green or organic products cost more than toxic products is a myth. Ten or 15 years ago it was true. Today green products are only slightly more expensive. When you compare a Seventh Generation cleaning product to a toxic product, the price is the same or just slightly higher. It’s time for people to take a new, open-minded and fresh look at products that are good for the environment. I urge people to start comparing prices. When you have a choice of a product that is good for the environment and good for you, buy it. As consumers continue to demand greener products and services, there will be more competition to produce these products and services, and the prices will continue to come down.
How do you justify encouraging people to go green for a selfish reason? Shouldn’t you be promoting a sense of responsibility and imperative, versus a way to amass more personal wealth?
One of the reasons Americans have been slow to embrace the message of the environment has been that the message has been a negative guilt trip. Today the message is changing from “don’t do this” to a positive message of “here is what you can do for the environment.” I am specifically appealing to people’s inherent best self- interest. When people recognize that they can be healthier and wealthier by going green, then more people will do it. It’s the triple win—it’s good for the planet, good for your health and good for your wealth.
Many skeptics say green products are just a marketing ploy to get people to spend more money. What do you say to them?
The reason many green products have cost more in the past is that they are new and in that early stage they cost more. For example, I live in the leading “green” building in the U.S., The Solaire. People come from all over the world to visit this building. When it was built six years ago, the mandate was that it had to meet certain environmental standards. It cost the developer 20 percent more to build because they not only had to go and find the right products, such as organic paints, bamboo floors and earth-friendly cabinets, but in many cases the items had to be specially created. Today there are more than 400 such buildings in development, and the costs have gone down to just 5 percent more than a standard building.
There are a lot of tips and steps in your book. What are the five most important someone should start with?
1) Calculate your carbon footprint. Just like you don’t start a diet until you step on the scale and find out how much weight you need to lose, knowing your carbon footprint gives you a starting point. In just three minutes you can figure out your footprint at www.earthlab.com/carbonprofile. I expected my carbon footprint to be very low because I don’t have a car, I recycle, and I buy green products. But I discovered that because I fly so much, mine is very high. This year I will be buying carbon offsets for all my flights. I am also consciously flying nonstop, even if it costs more, because it’s better for the environment.
2) Find your “Latte Factor.” Small changes such as not buying coffee in a disposable cup or water in a plastic bottle are not only good for your wallet, they are better for the planet. To see how it all adds up, use my calculator at finishrich.com. Click on the “learn” tab and select “Find Your Latte Factor.”
3) Drive smart and finish rich. One of the fastest things you can do to help the environment is to increase your fuel economy. Make sure your car has proper maintenance, such as getting your tires properly inflated. Don’t carry unnecessary weight in your car. When it comes time to get a new car, miles per gallon really matters. You don’t have to buy a hybrid or electric car. Today there are cars that get 35 mpg. The average American is driving a car that gets 18 mpg. You could save $884 on gas every year if your next car got 35 mpg. In 10 years you would have saved $14,000, in 20 years $44,000, and in 30 years you would have amassed $108,000. Also, consider getting rid of a car. Forty percent of all car trips we make are less than two miles—a distance we can easily walk, bike or carpool. The average family works two to four months a year just to pay for their car, car payment, maintenance, gas and insurance. I now use a Zipcar. This is a service where you rent a car by the hour.
4) Get an energy audit. Call your utility company and ask if they offer a free energy audit. Most do. An inspector will go room by room through your home and inspect all appliances, lighting, doors, heating units, etc. They do a blower door infiltration test that identifies air leaks. They also use an infrared camera to discover missing insulation, cold air pathways and moisture problems. The EPA says that by just fixing the drafts in your home you can save up to 20 percent a year on your utility bills!
5) Invest green. I believe that green investing is finally coming into its own. Many people have heard of socially responsible investing. The next big wave will be the “green wave” that will offer mutual funds and companies that are focused on the environment. Two of the better known ones are the Winslow Green Growth Fund and Green Century Funds. A great example of a company that might be included in funds like these would be Gaiam.