The Profitable Clean Up That’s Good for Everyone

Global warming and a warming planet is bad enough — perhaps even catastrophic — but it doesn’t have to become the rule of the land. If you have cash to spend, donations of intellectual property are often a more effective and likely means of curbing the growth of carbon emissions.

Readings are dire, from costly sea level rise to dramatic ice sheet changes to more extreme weather events, putting extreme pressure on polluters to clean up their act. Can ordinary citizens support the climate movement’s bottom-up calls for change? Do hipster boutique high-end businesses know any things about the environment?

Offsetting is a way to shape society and its inhabitants. Instead of planning to always spend more money, individuals could not only contribute their surplus into green programs but instead share assets that would otherwise go to waste with others. Some examples:

One-time-use items can be traded off for good causes. This is a system pioneered by J. Cloud Wash, a company that facilitates and distributes trade-in trades between urbanites who sell unwanted gadgets and clothes. Deciding whether to keep a forklift or sell it to a recycling company is often less about replacing the device itself and more about what it is used for.

Climate Camp can enlist well-heeled backers to fight climate change. Small groups of passionate climate activists have been staging long-term campouts in urban and remote locations for the past decade, attempting to thwart global warming at its core. Campaigns would offer opportunities for regular citizens to support climate friendly solutions and bring along their friends and family to show their support and goodwill.

Green charity exchanges, like Ikea’s overnight shopping marathon, or the April Gilt Car Festival, offer an innovative system for buying and selling cars. Audi swapped cars with luxury car fanatics at an event at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach, California, April 18-19, benefiting the Audi-Coca-Cola Foundation.

Trans-Pacific rich man’s club is a money-maker. The 2,500 members of the exclusive Peninsula California resort enjoy exclusive privileges like driver-driven access to the Prada-designed exhibit at the design museum and the private Ocean Liner sailboats used as massage rooms. Because the club does not accept corporate memberships, the vast majority of profits of the philanthropic events the club sponsors are rather unglamorous, too. Yet in decades past, the enormous discount discounts it offered to its members — and those of its member-owned properties — landed it praise for helping fight poverty in Asia and across the world.

But is the financial industry fully behind the green movement? Many hedge funds, for example, count carbon emissions as a major concern, although it is hard to find examples of green investment funds now or in the future. Yet with the price of fossil fuels now high, there are few more pressing issues to fight.

If any industry could break the adage, “he who has money buys the world,” it is finance. Is the time ripe for a green financial revolution?

Grant J. Budde is a Forbes contributing columnist.

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