Friday, March 28, 2008

Beware of Wolves in Green Clothing

Being "green" is *in*. Many products and services are now touting their green creds. Eco-awareness is spreading, more people are starting to look for local, sustainable, earth-friendly products.

As the green market grows, it is attracting more entrepreneurs. Not all of them have true green values. In fact, some are are only looking to make a buck and appearing green may be the easiest way to separate you from your greenbacks.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Caveat emptor "buyer beware" - If you are considering any eco-upgrades, make sure you are dealing with a reputable company. Check references, go check out and look at some jobs they have done. Make sure they are licence and bonded. Run their CCB number and/or check Angie's List.

  2. Beware the Pink Sheets - If you are considering investing in an eco-company, make sure it is listed on a major exchange. The major stock exchanges such as the NASDAQ or NYSE have strict reporting rules that must be followed. Being on a major exchange is, of course, no guarantee that there are no dirty dealings, but there is more oversight. If a stock traded on the OTCBB or pink sheets, it is unqualified for a major exchange. That is a red flag. These are high risk stocks. Don't invest anything that you can not afford to lose.

  3. Don't Believe Everything You Read - Press releases can be used to hype the company and manipulate the stock price (pump & dump). Insiders can take advantage of this. If you hear about something to good to be true, it probably is not true. Make sure you can touch it, try it, test it, before you send in money for it.

This blog has espoused solar, electric vehicles, and renewable power. Yet these are not clear of pitfalls or danger zones. Here are articles warning about shenanigans in each of these three areas.

o ZAP! Gets Shocked
o Citizenre: A House of Cards?
o Carbon Offsets: Government Warns of Fraud Risk

EVs: According to the article above, the greed of Zap execs has done more damage to the EV industry than Detroit ever could. They'd sell out our planet to global warming or our national security to terrorists to make a buck. That is a harsh statement.

Solar: Citizenrē has an innovative business model for home solar PV. The idea has merit. However, they also have a multi-teared marketing campaign that has brought in some over zealous people. All the solar mailing lists and discussion groups have been repeatedly spammed with Citizenrē ads. They claim to have over 29,000 people who have joined to be "part of the solution", yet other than the PV install from Living with Ed, I have not seen them "solve" anything yet. The above article claims their inevitable failure will/has set the PV market back 5 years. Another harsh statement. I hope this is just a case where marketing got head of their ability to deliver and not them trying to cash in on the green wave. Either way, I am not going to be doing any business with them until after they have proven themselves.

Green Tags: Be careful with green tags. It is an unregulated market. Articles mention abuses such as planting trees then selling 99 years worth of carbon offsets based on the anticipated lifespan of the tree. Another abuse concern is that at many industrial pig farms collect manure into vats. The gases from the vats are collected and then burned to heat the mega-barn. They do this because it is a resource they have and it is cheaper than buying natural gas, not to be eco-friendly per se. However, because they are capturing and burning methane, a green house, rather than releasing it into the atmosphere, this could, with an unscrupulous vendor, be sold as a green tag.

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