Seeing Green

It's never been as trendy as it is right now or as crucial, many agree to take care of the environment. Indeed, more and more folks with funds want to invest in the future of the planet: A 2006 survey by the American Institute of Architects found that 90 percent of people surveyed would be willing to spend $5,000 more on a green home. Meanwhile, total investment in clean energy was estimated to be

It's never been as trendy as it is right now — or as crucial, many agree — to take care of the environment. Indeed, more and more folks with funds want to invest in the future of the planet: A 2006 survey by the American Institute of Architects found that 90 percent of people surveyed would be willing to spend $5,000 more on a green home.

Meanwhile, total investment in clean energy was estimated to be $63 billion in 2006, according to research firm New Energy Finance, up from $30 billion in 2004. Even Wall Street firms are going green: Merrill Lynch has pledged to cut its own emissions by 2 percent per year, and Citigroup plans to cut its own emissions by 10 percent over five years.

What are you doing about the environment? Becoming known as an earth-savvy rep might give a boost to your business. Here are 10 great ways to get some green into your working life in 2007.

  1. Name drop: Be aware of which big companies are incorporating green practices and performing well so you can tell your wannabe-green clients about them. Nike, for example, has cleaned up its overseas labor practices, has implemented sneaker recycling initiatives and is in the process of converting its apparel lines from conventional to organic cotton.

  2. Get the goods on green giving: If you're working with environmentally aware clients, they might want some advice on being smart with their charitable-giving efforts. Educate yourself about the projects supported by established organizations such as the the Sierra Club (sierraclub.org), as well as popular new groups like Global Green (globalgreen.org), the U.S. arm of Green Cross International.

  3. Waste not: If you aren't already doing it, start recycling. Nothing says “I don't care about the environment” quite as obviously as a trash can filled with both paper and soda cans. Well, almost nothing. Granted, if your clients are looking through your trash, you may have other things to worry about. But get some of those big royal blue bins and place them around the office. They stand out. Your clients will notice.

  4. Pick your paper: If you do any printing — and I'm sure you do — try post-consumer recycled paper. Treecycle (treecycle.com) sells printer paper, envelopes and office supplies that are easy on the planet — and easy on the eyes. Use it for documents you present to prospects and clients.

  5. Sip hip: Offering coffee at a meeting? Why not give the fair trade, organic variety a shot? Conventionally grown coffee uses lots of pesticides and can threaten a host of rainforest species. Plus, the organic stuff tastes good.

  6. Dress right: OK, maybe hemp and Birkenstocks are not quite right for a financial advisor, but how about organic cotton? (Conventional cotton is a heavily pesticide-ridden crop). It could make a great conversation starter for green-friendly clients. Boll Organic (bollorganic.com) makes fine organic supima cotton dress shirts for men; Stewart+Brown (stewartbrown.com) makes slim-fitting organic cotton layering pieces for women.

  7. Light up: Install energy-efficient light bulbs in your office — at least in your desk lamp. Think this is no big deal? If every household in the U.S. replaced just one standard bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb, the energy savings would be the same as taking 1.3 million cars off the roads. It works in offices, too.

  8. Wine and dine: When entertaining green-friendly clients, try taking them to a place that sources ingredients from local farms and has organic wine on their list. It just may please your palate, too: Meals that have traveled fewer “food miles” often taste better.

  9. Talk the talk: Take a moment to learn some eco lingo — understand what words like sustainable, renewable and organic really mean. Check out Web sites like Grist (grist.org) and The Climate Project (theclimateproject.org) for the latest environmental news. That way, if your enviro-client starts talking about hybrid cars or eco-resorts, you'll be able to follow.

  10. Buy into it, for real: If you've gotten this far, you may well be green already. If not, as you learn more about global warming and other problems facing the environment, you just might take it all to heart. And, nothing is quite as convincing to a client as sincerity.

Christie Matheson, a former investment banker, is currently working on a book called Green Chic, a somewhat irreverent guide to going green. Look for it early next year.

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