Becoming a Local Investor

In my book Deep Green, I touch on financial footprint as one category of a person’s eco-footprint. I divide financial footprint into three subcategories: debt, overhead, and investment. Getting out of debt, and minimizing one’s financial overhead, are both good ways to lead a more peaceful, low-footprint life, and I offer tips in my book and in this blog about how to reduce debt and overhead.

As for the third category, investing, I didn’t have much in my book to say about that, other than to point out that where we park our money has deep consequences for the planet, and for fellow beings. I also raised the question of how much healthier our hometowns might be if more people were to invest locally rather than keeping big nest-eggs tied to Wall Street. “Main Street, Not Wall Street!” became one of my pet slogans.

But that slogan, however passionate, was only theoretical, since at that time I did not actually have any money to put where my mouth was! For some years, including the time period when I was writing Deep Green, I literally had no money. (No debt, and very low overhead, but no money to spare.)

But that situation changed, and I had to start thinking about where I could invest money in line with my beliefs. I aspire to put most of my money into direct local investments that benefit people and the planet, and I’m currently in a research-and-exploration phase. Below are some resources I’m finding helpful, and I hope you’ll like them too.

This financial post has been in the works for awhile, and I will be posting more about money and investment in the near future.

Further Exploration:

Of Two Minds: Labor Day Reflections on Retirement. Charles Hugh Smith explains how the conventional notion of “retirement” is flawed. Amass a giant nest-egg over the course of your working life, then retire and be able to live off that money for the rest of your life, never working again … This scenario is out of reach for most people, as it is dependent on 1) the kind of job that pays well enough to let you save that kind of money; and 2) a steady stream of high-return but stable vehicles for you to invest that money. Smith, one of my favorite sustainability bloggers, offers possibly the most sensible advice I’ve ever heard on this topic: “focus not on retiring comfortably, but on working comfortably. Line up work you enjoy that can be performed in old age.” (I myself came to a similar conclusion awhile back, as have many other people I know.)

“Investing for the World We Want,” by Marco Vangelisti (keynote address at the (U.S.) National Slow Money Conference 2014). In this 15-minute talk, Vangelisti sums up how our conventional approach to investment is trashing the environment and endangering human life on this planet. And he offers a wholesome alternative, rooted in biophilia and empathy rather than fear and greed. By the way, Mr. Vangelisti is offering a 10-week webinar starting September 9, and I hear there are still a few spots open. Although aimed at financial professionals, it is open to the general public. Vangelisti, a founding member of Slow Money, describes himself as a “100% impact investor with a longstanding commitment to direct local investing.” We need more of those! Even if you’re not ready to invest the $500 to take the webinar, do listen to the talk linked above; it’s a real gem. (Update: I just noticed he also offers a day-long in-person workshop, “Align Your Investments with Your Values.” Definitely want to look into bringing that to my city!)

An organization to check out: BALLE local economy framework. Be a localist! “Local business owners and community entrepreneurs struggle to access the funds they need to launch or expand their businesses. At the same time, most of our financial investments go to unfamiliar, opaque investments in far away places and have impacts from which we are disconnected. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can divest from Wall Street and invest in community businesses and social enterprise.

And last but not least, I encourage you to bookmark this blog: Triple Bottom Line Financial Independence, by Laura Oldanie. (She’s also permalinked in my sidebar.) A fellow Floridian and fellow permaculturist, Laura (who I’ve had the pleasure of talking with on occasion since I met her at the 2018 Florida Permaculture Convergence) delves deep into personal finance for green-minded, compassionate, everyday people. “You’ve arrived at the home of the 3pfi lifestyle where we focus on achieving financial independence, while simultaneously pursuing a triple bottom line, which equally values the 3Ps — people, planet, and profit,” she says on her welcome page. (Also on her site, Laura has a link to her Etsy shop of upcycled dumpster treasures!)