From a purely financial perspective, some of the best places to reinvest your money are tied up with where and how you live. Besides the money you’ll save on lower energy costs, many of these ideas have state and/or federal tax deductions available. Also, you may well find incentive programs that will lower your upfront cost.
Here’s an easy example. If you own a house or a condo, it’s very likely that cash is flowing out of the building non-stop every time you turn on the heating or cooling system. Many buildings are riddled with air-leaks and are under-insulated. Whether built 100 years ago or yesterday, there is a very good chance you’re wasting lots of money. Many states have incentive programs that will subsidize energy improvements you make (called “weatherization programs”). The resulting savings on your energy bill is likely to pay off this investment in a year or two – and then the savings just keep coming. Any financial advisor will tell you that an investment with a “payback period” of a year or two is a no-brainer. To start, hire a firm to come to your home and do an “energy audit.”
From there, there’s no lack of other smart investments you can make in your home – replacing windows, getting rid of old heating systems and water heaters, adding solar panels, and so on. From a purely financial point-of-view, many of these things have great financial rates-of-return. You’ll find information all over the web on these ideas.This Department of Energy site is a good place to start.
Transportation is the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. So, another way to use your money in a smarter way is to look at you how get around. If you’re about to replace a car, you’ll find that buying an electric vehicle can be a wise purchase financially. Over the lifetime of the car, the amount of money you will save on fuel and maintenance can swamp a higher upfront cost. And, the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will mean charging stations will be popping up everywhere.
Going beyond that, lots of people are buying electric bikes to use for local trips. Even cheaper and healthier, many people in urban areas are keeping the car in the garage and embracing the benefits of active transportation.
There are of course many other ways to lower your personal carbon footprint, especially when it comes to transportation and travel. But, the science is clear. If we only focus on that, we’ve missed the bigger and much more important opportunity. The most impactful way to help is to support (time and money) organizations that are gathering large numbers of people to demand change. Those demands are focused on banks, businesses and governments. Outside of doing smart things with your money, the biggest impact you can have is joining and supporting national or global organizations that are organizing big groups of people to speak out, to apply pressure where it needs to be applied.