Earth Day began in 1970 as a way to put national and political focus on sustaining a clean and healthy environment. According to the Earth Day Network, "The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts." It was not until 1990 when Earth Day became a global event, and not until 2000 when it really became an annual event celebrated on April 22. With the recent focus on Earth Day and an increase of support from governments and individuals - both "main streeters" and celebrities, the focus on a clean and sustainably-healthy environment has never been stronger. As such, finding Earth Day friendly companies has become a priority for many investors. But what is an Earth Day friendly company. Is it a company that participates in alternative energy, such as solar or wind, or one that helps the Earth increase its food output or one that focuses on recycling waste? (For more, see Clean Or Green Investing.)
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Solar and wind power are generated by using the Earth's natural resources (the sun and wind) without increasing harmful gases (such as CO2) in the process. General Electric (NYSE:GE) is the world's largest wind turbine supplier. According to the Company, it has over 13,500 wind turbine installations comprising more than 218 million operating hours and 127,000 GWh of energy produced. GE expects to deliver significantly increased capacity over the next few years, benefiting from the 2008 stimulus package from the Federal Government.
First Solar (Nasdaq:FSLR) and SunPower (Nasdaq:SPWR) are two of the largest makers of solar panels in the U.S. Solar power generation is perhaps the most renewable source of power generation on the earth. However, the purchase and installation of solar panels for businesses and individuals is an expensive transaction aided by Federal and state tax credits and other stimulus incentives. The payback is long, and the economics are hard to determine because it depends on the price of oil, which is always a moving target. Despite these deterrents, the use of solar power is growing in the U.S., catching up to the widespread use in countries such as Germany and Spain. (For more, see Spotlight On The Solar Industry.)
Farming has become a controversial Earth-friendly activity. It is not the act of farming that is under attack, but perhaps the use of non-eco friendly chemicals that aid in the speed and volume of output that is questioned. However, there are companies that aid in the production of food in areas of the globe that have difficulty due to poor growing conditions. Monsanto (NYSE:MON) produces genetically-modified seeds that increase yield and allow stronger plants in less optimal conditions. The company states that the use of products such as the ones it manufactures has reduced pesticide use and increased no-till adoption resulting in lower fuel to operate farm equipment.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - a motto drilled into our minds, even at very young ages. Recycled waste is being used for everything from making new products to biofuels. Recycling companies are the conduit for which these activities can occur. Casella Waste (Nasdaq:CWST) is a large regional industrial company with a focus on recycling. The Company owns 35 recycling facilities and five gas-to-energy facilities, translating the waste into compost, liquid fuels and Greenfiber insulation. New innovations such as no-sort recycling increase customers' willingness to participate, a sure sign that the Earth's landfill waste will decline.
Renewable energy, advanced farming techniques and recycling companies are Earth-friendly ways to invest and benefit from trends that seem to be growing both in the U.S. and abroad. These trends, which began with the first Earth Day in 1970, have been gaining acceptance and even a rallying cry which has resulted in growing government economic support. (For more, see Five Companies Leading The Green Charge.)
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