Healthy Business, Healthy Planet

We recently heard the news that the U.S. population has surpassed the 300 million mark. The Fool touched briefly on how that milestone is a cause for optimism from a financial and investing perspective, but what we haven't mentioned is how things such as swelling populations place an ever-increasing strain on our planet's resources.

Now, don't worry -- we're not going to inundate you with tales of doom and gloom. There are plenty of other sites online that already focus on the problems our planet faces from an environmental perspective. Our goal at the Fool is to educate, amuse, and enrich, and with that in mind, we're proud to place the spotlight on an environmentally focused organization that doesn't just stop at pointing out the problems but instead offers proactive solutions -- sometimes even for things you may never have thought about from a green perspective.

That company is Co-Op America, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Washington. D.C., and our purpose in talking about the company today is to state its case as a worthy candidate for our annual Foolanthropy campaign.

What is Foolanthropy?
Now in its 10th year, Foolanthropy is our annual charity drive in which Fools like you help us nominate the organizations you think are the most deserving of a Foolish financial helping hand. On Nov. 20, we'll announce the five charities that we think are the most Foolish in spirit. At the end of the campaign in January, whichever charity garners the most financial support from the Fool community will be awarded with an extra $10,000 from the Fool itself.

Why Co-Op America?
We think Co-Op America is a good fit with the Foolish spirit. As the organization says on its site, it uses your charitable contributions to "empower people to buy and invest in ways that promote social justice, ecological balance, and healthy communities." It does that by offering visitors to its site an enormous pool of resources that help them live greener lives.

One way it does that is through the educational (and nearly zero-waste, since virtually everything is composted afterwards) Green Festivals that it sponsors every year in Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington. Another tool is the organization's National Green Pages, an amazingly comprehensive listing of resources to assist in greener living in just about any facet of life imaginable. If you have a green dilemma on your hands, the Green Pages will very likely offer you a complete solution, as well as educate you on the vast array of resources available. You may even find a green solution for something for which you didn't even know such a solution existed. Looking for an organic bed and breakfast for your next vacation? Need a list of food co-ops in your area? Want to learn how to mobilize effectively against a company that's being environmentally wasteful? How about finding professional resources that can guide you toward socially responsible investing practices or companies that engage in fair trade practices? Did you know that there are even architects and lawyers with a green focus to their businesses? Just plug in a few keywords, pick your state and category, and chances are you'll find just what you're looking for -- and then some.

The mission of the Green Pages is to connect people with businesses that "adopt principles, policies, and practices that improve the quality of life for their customers, their employees, communities, and the environment." This is one crucial point that sets Co-Op America apart. All too often, green living and the corporate world are portrayed as opposing and irreconcilable forces. But as Co-Op America Executive Assistant Samantha Saarion pointed out in an email to the Fool, the economic sector dominates modern life, and business is a huge part of that equation. So rather than take an anti-corporate stance, Co-Op America recognizes that "business is an enormous engine that can be harnessed for shifting society to sustainability."

To that end, Co-Op America goes so far as to help investors make green choices for their portfolios. Socially responsible investing is popular these days, but do you know how to make green investing choices that will leave your bank account as happy as the planet? Co-Op America teaches you how with its very own Financial Planning Handbook, which will guide you toward sound investments but steer you away from polluters, companies that engage in sweatshop labor, and the like. Want to learn "how to retire a millionaire in a better world"? Co-Op America promises to show you. We think that's very Foolish indeed.

As further evidence of its commitment to working with business to change the world for the better -- as opposed to acting primarily as a corporate antagonist -- Co-Op America has also struck up working relationships with a number of prominent companies that share its vision. Among them: GreenMountainCoffee Roasters (Nasdaq: GMCR  ) ; Dean Foods (NYSE: DF  ) , parent company of the popular and environmentally conscious White Wave, which produces the Silk soy milk brand; green-lifestyle company Gaiam (Nasdaq: GAIA  ) ; and Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation DeckersOutdoor (Nasdaq: DECK  ) . Member companies that belong to larger business entities include Aveda, part of Estee Lauder (NYSE: EL  ) ; Ben & Jerry's, part of Motley Fool Income Investor pick Unilever (NYSE: UL  ) ; and Tom's of Maine, recently acquired by Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE: CL  ) .

Convinced?
As a nonprofit organization, Co-Op America can only keep spreading its message of green living and corporate-environmental harmony with your help. If you think, as we do, that Co-Op America has what it takes to be considered worthy of consideration as a Foolanthropy candidate, let us know at the Foolanthropy board. The call for nominations ends Friday, Nov.10. Your voice will be the ultimate judge.

Fool on, and thank you for supporting Foolanthropy!

Heidi Cope doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. Adrian Rush does hold a position in Gaiam. The Fool's disclosure policy is always socially responsible.


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