There's no doubt about it, the "green economy" has gone global, as more and more sustainable-minded individuals and organizations have embraced the notion of a clean, environmentally friendly economy that promotes health, wealth, and well-being. The green economy is a thriving economy, as well—with overall global trade in environmental goods pegged at $1 trillion annually, a figure that should grow to $2-to-$3 trillion by 2020, according to United Nations Environment.
That's a "big picture" snapshot of the green economy. Yet if you look more closely, there is a burgeoning network of individual local green economies at work, too. This network is comprised of people living sustainable lives, and not only saving money, but earning money in the process.
How so? By tying personal financial outcomes into the increasingly "green living" choices they're making in their lives. "People can go green and boost their personal finances along the way," says Julio Daniel Hernandez, chief executive officer at EnLight.Energy, a company that helps people and business curb their energy bills.
Ways to save and earn cash by going green
What can individuals do to earn greenbacks while going green? Read on, and check out how people are leveraging sustainable living into financial reward, and how you can do the same:
Be a shower saver
You can save money on your water bill by install water saving showers, that use less water, says Thomas Jepsen, chief executive officer of ContractorQuotes.us. "Lots of people are upgrading to Energy Star appliances that consume less energy, as well, and are saving money on energy and water bills," Jepsen notes.
Get an energy audit from your local electric company
Another good household energy idea—get an audit to see where you're overspending on electricity, says Shel Horowitz, a green/transformative business profitability expert located in South Hadley, Mass. "Get an energy audit from your local electric company and save money on bills," Horowitz advises. "Power companies are under instructions to encourage conservation, so they typically do energy audits for free or for a $10 or $20 fee."
Embrace solar energy
One more tip on the energy front—go solar. "If you've already gotten a handle on your energy and have optimized your home for maximum efficiency then it's time to find out if your home is a good fit for solar," says Hernandez. "Depending on what state you live in and the specifics of your home, your payback period can range from 5-10 years. In some solar-friendly states you can sign up for a Power Purchase Agreement and take advantage of clean energy at a cost at least 20%-to-30% lower than what the electric company charges without having to take out a loan." (For a detailed look at how solar might work with your home, visit Google Project Sunroof.)
Driving an electric or hybrid vehicle
While the initial cost of buying an electric or hybrid vehicle can be higher than a gas-powered one, overall, the long-term cost of driving an energy efficient vehicle saves significant money. According to a recent study on electric vehicles from CarMax "owners report that they spend less on fuel (or none at all), and annual maintenance costs, and just over half cite spending under $100 per year. Some drivers also take advantage of HOV toll-free lane allowances in their cities and are eligible to earn state and federal tax rebates."
Upgrade your heating and air units
By upgrading an old and inefficient air conditioner and/or furnace, you not only help the environment but will save money in utilities at the same time, says Brian Schraut, owner of R.F. Schraut Heating & Cooling in St. Louis, Mo. "Additionally, many energy companies offer an instant cash rebate for upgrading your unit, sometimes as much as $1,000." Schraut notes. It's also worth noting that many U.S. states offer rebate on energy-related units like heat pumps, water heaters and smart thermostats. Check with your state's department of energy for more details. Or, visit this website for a list of state-by-state energy contacts.
List your parking space
Residents of Los Angeles are listing their parking space with Pavemint, a new peer-to-peer green mobile app that connects people looking for parking with people who have parking to share. "Not only does that put extra cash in your pockets, it also helps the environment," says Sarah Zurell, chief brand officer at the company. "By hosting your space on the app and helping people get off the roads faster, you also help reduce the 30% of city traffic due to the way we currently park, and the resulting 54 million tons of CO2 dumped into the air."
Rent out your car
Rent out your car with either the Turo app or Mavan Car Sharing. "Start biking to work while you make money and reduce your carbon footprint," says Zurell.
Go green with your investment portfolio
Be creative with your money and invests in "direct" green initiatives, says Michael Dinich, a financial planner with Your Money Matters, in Sayre, Pa. "In working with my clients who wanted to invest in sustainable environmental causes, we decided it was best to engage the green movement directly," says Dinich. "Instead of investing in solar companies, for example, we created relationships with solar installers and work with the available federal and tax incentives and clients Installed solar and wind directly on their property." It turned out to be a great investment for the clients, as the energy savings and renewable energy credits payed for the installations in as short of five years. "Plus, the tax credits were used to offset taxes on income and used to convert traditional IRAs to Roth IRA's," he says.
Get thrifty with your clothes
One major way you can go green and save money is shopping in thrift stores for your clothing, says Alicia McElhaney, founder of She Spends, a personal financial newsletter geared toward women. "Making new clothing is labor intensive and it sucks up gas to transport most fast fashion items from across the world," McElhaney states. "Thrifting is a way of recycling clothing, avoiding high gas expenditures and accessing brands that you otherwise might not be able to reach because they're often much cheaper at the thrift store."
These aren't the only ways to save and earn money from adopting a greener lifestyle, but they're at or near the top of the list. Consequently, embrace as many of the above tips as you can, and watch your bank account grow, as you contribute to a greener, more sustainable planet.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer or other company, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. All information, including rates and fees, are accurate as of the date of publication.
This article was originally published on November 10, 2017, and has been updated.