Today, we’re asking a somewhat philosophical question: is it possible to live a luxury lifestyle and also live lightly upon Mother Earth? We often associate having a high net worth with conspicuous consumption. Consider the stereotype of the fat-cat banker lighting his cigars with Benjamins, or a wealthy woman throwing handfuls of high-denomination bills from a hotel balcony.
As it turns out, however, those who take home a six-figure salary have an even greater responsibility to environmental concerns. Read on to learn how a greener lifestyle doesn’t have to mean taking a vow of poverty – and how you are uniquely positioned to fight back against high carbon footprints.
Spend Your Wealth Wisely
When a person doesn’t have to pinch pennies, they can be choosier about what companies to patronize. Therefore, it makes sense that if you espouse environmentally conscious beliefs, you should also put your money where your mouth is.
More and more retailers, restaurants, service providers, and other firms are going green. Support them, and you’re not only ensuring that your wealth is well-distributed, but also that responsible businesses continue to impact the marketplace.
Resist Planned Obsolescence
Have you ever heard the expression “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or go without”? This ditty first appeared during the Great Depression, but it’s gained traction in recent years as Americans are becoming more concerned with preserving the planet’s resources. Plenty of frugal folks put this concept into practice, but if you have money to spare, it might not occur to you that a malfunctioning microwave or a furnace that’s on the fritz could be repaired, rather than replaced.
Of coures, manufacturers want you to throw items out. Otherwise, you’d never have to buy new ones. Instead of treating household goods as disposable, invest in high-quality items that can be repaired and used for a lifetime or longer. When an appliance or other belonging has truly reached the end of its useful lifespan, see if you can recycle it instead of consigning it to a landfill.
Know that Donations Have a Downside
Another way to be kind to our planet — and to your fellow humans — is to sell items at a reduced cost. Yes, you can donate or gift high-ticket items like cars, boats, real estate, jewelry, and antiques, but remember that doing so may place a tax burden on the recipient, putting them in an awkward position. It’s better to ask a nominal price by offering a Corvette for sale for a fraction of its value, or transferring a piece of property for a token dollar in profit.
Similarly, strike an investment deal with an entrepreneur rather than simply giving them the start-up funds they need. Not only is this a better solution financially, but it has the added benefit of being a morale booster. A handout can be an insult; an investment is a vote of confidence.
Use Your Social Standing to Spread the Word
Are you in a position of power? Do you have a platform — a corporation, a non-profit organization, an influential social media profile, or a media partnership that lets you voice your opinion? If so, use it responsibly. Share stories of inspiring companies that are taking steps to reduce the toll humanity has taken on the planet. Boost the signal when you hear about an individual who is making a difference.
Wealth and influence often go hand-in-hand. In addition to being generous with your money, set an example of social responsibility by publicly proclaiming your allegiance with green causes.
Last but Not Least, Pay to Play
Use an online carbon calculator to figure out just how much of an impact you, your family, and your company have on the environment. It might surprise you how much damage you are doing, just through everyday activities like driving, flying, purchasing consumer goods, heating your home, eating at restaurants, and the like.
There is an easy, straightforward solution: pay money to counteract this cost to our planet. You can purchase carbon offsets, invest in renewable energy credits, buy certificates that fund fresh-water initiatives, plant trees, or support developing communities. All of these actions can provide peace of mind to you — while making a tangible difference to Mother Earth and her resources.
At the End of the Day, Our Earth Is All We Have
No matter how rich a person is, she can never fully erase the damage that human development and greed have wrought. There’s no amount of money that can turn back the clock, restore the forests, un-mine the fossil fuels, or prevent the invention of toxic substances like CFCs and BPA.
That said, those individuals who are lucky enough to have inherited wealth, or who have worked hard all their lives to acquire it do bear a greater share of environmental responsibility. You can make sacrifices, be a role model, and lend a helping hand to the less fortunate in ways that will benefit the air we breathe, the water we drink, the Earth we live on.