"GREEN" is everywhere these days, and its message of eco-sustainability, a cleaner environment and healthier living is permeating the country from Main Street to Wall Street to Madison Avenue. It's seeping into our pop culture-Al Gore wins an Oscar for a dire film on global warming, while Willie Nelson gets plenty of ink (ideally soy-based) for fueling his tour bus with kitchen grease-based biofuels.

And it's increasingly part of our consumer culture, with a myriad of products and services ranging from organic baby wipes to so-called green mortgages aimed solely at green-certified homes, not to mention busy checkout lines at Whole Foods and solar panels sprouting up on rooftops.

Whether you pooh-pooh the science behind global warming or embrace the message and want to do your bit to help the environment, green consciousness is the global movement of the early 21st century. The ramifications from investment and philanthropic perspectives are profound, and high-net-worth individuals are uniquely endowed with the resources to make a big difference in the movement both from planetary and pocketbook perspectives.

"Ultra-high-net-worth people can see the power of their philanthropic dollars to do things that wouldn't get funded otherwise or to do something that's innovative and moves the needle of change," says Elizabeth Snyder, the philanthropic director at GenSpring Family Offices, a multifamily office with locations mainly along the East Coast.

On the investment side, opportunities abound with the proliferation of public- and private-equity offerings in such areas as renewable energy, clean tech and resource management. "A lot of our advisors have likened this green phenomenon to the beginning of the tech boom," says Alex Null, vice president, mutual funds and annuities at SunTrust Investment Services. "We're trying to get in on the ground floor and add value through allocations."

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Snyder says many families she works with at GenSpring are "entrepreneurial-sourced" families who relate to the idea of using philanthropy as an extension of their other ventures and investments. "One of the things I hear from clients is that they're businesspeople, but they believe that economic development and environmental protection aren't mutually exclusive," she says. For some, that could mean including green space and green building techniques in a development project.

Snyder, who works in Atlanta, cites one client in Georgia who recently built a vacation home with solar panels and a specially designed ground cover that recycles and retains ground water-an important feature given the Southeast's recent severe drought conditions.

Part of Snyder's job is to help clients find the best way to realize their green ambitions, whether it's through advocacy, land donations to a land trust, education or whatever. "It's about connecting them to the best partners so they can be the most efficient," she says.

Snyder says that land trusts and conservation easements generate lots of interest among GenSpring's clients. They want to protect a particular region where they live or take vacations, or they want to benefit a particular region of the country. Of course, the state and federal tax benefits of easements can make them a good option, too.
Another popular green option for wealthy families is a public-private partnership. "A lot of our clients support green-space projects by partnering with government entities," Snyder says. "I think there's a trend among the ultra-high-net-worth to fully utilize public money to realize the leveraged power of their money to help further a particular project."

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