-- After writing a series of best-selling personal finance books, such as The Automatic Millionaire and Start Late, Finish Rich, author David Bach has built an audience of avid readers.
That's good news for the environment. In Go Green, Live Rich, his latest offering in collaboration with Hillary Rosner, a journalist, known for her work on Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, Bach is using his reach to give back in a way that goes far beyond individual pocketbooks, including his own. (A portion of proceeds from the book's sales is earmarked for donation to Waterkeeper Alliance, an organization dedicated to protecting waterways from polluters.)
He presents manageable steps to take to protect the planet and save or potentially make money in the process. In a slim, colorful, resource-packed format, Bach makes a convincing pitch that "going green" is not a luxury, an expensive choice, you can't afford. On the contrary, "From a financial point of view, you simply cannot afford to ignore it. … Investing green will be to the 21st century what investing in technology was to the 20th century."
You begin by calculating your carbon footprint at www.earthlab.com/carbonprofile. It's a simple online tool that takes about three minutes. The calculators will ask you to consider several factors such as where you live, your current utility bills, how you work, how you commute and travel — all things Bach's book shows you new ways to do.
The book is organized into 50 tips of just two or three pages each with sections on how to make green choices in all areas of your life, from driving the right car to making your home energy efficient, taking green vacations, voting green and socking your money away in mutual funds that invest in companies that are involved in renewable energy or clean water and clean air.
Consider this: Even if you decide to try just four tips from his book, you win and so does the Earth. Here's Bach's math: "You improve your car's fuel economy and save $884 annually. You save $129 on your energy bills by sealing the leaks in your home, and $85 more by adjusting your thermostat 3 degrees. And you start bringing your lunch to work and pocket $1,560." Not bad.
Invest that in a green mutual fund (he lists several) that earns a 10% annual return, and in 30 years, you would have amassed nearly $700,000. That's the promise of Bach's book. You make a difference in the fate of the planet and build wealth at the same time.
Hard to argue with that scenario.
His tips are not outlandish or unreasonable. In fact, chances are you may already have made these changes in your life. For example, you might have stopped buying bottled water in favor of filtered tap water from your own faucet, or bought a hybrid car such as the Toyota Prius, know that keeping your tires properly inflated will save fuel costs and unplugging your computer at night conserves electricity.
But it's good to be reminded. And no doubt, you will come upon savings you never considered, such as cutting out junk mail by canceling your catalogs at a new website www.catalogchoice.org. "According to Catalog Choice, more than 8 million tons of trees are used each year to produce 19 billion catalogs, requiring enough energy to power 1.2 million homes for a year and producing as many emissions as 2 million cars," writes Bach. "They're then sent to consumers via plane and truck, burning up fossil fuels and adding to global warming."
Think of this as the "litter factor." A few years back, Bach coined the "Latte Factor" as a metaphor for all the little things we spend money on over the course of a day without giving it much thought. He pressed his readers to identify those things and start saving money.
Say hello to the litter factor. "Every year Americans drink more than 100 billion cups of coffee. Of these, 14.4 billion are served in disposable paper cups, enough to wrap the Earth 55 times if placed end to end. Plus, those paper cups contain a plastic lining made from a petrochemical that would produce enough energy to heat 8,300 homes a year."
And those are the kinds of factoids that are strewn throughout the book, providing big-picture details to illustrate what small actions can change over time and make a difference for generations to come.
Kerry Hannon is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.