The New Alternatives Fund

“Investors go gaga over green,” reported National Public Radio in July 2007. “Investors are pouring money into alternative energy and so-called clean-tech firms, touted as one of the biggest economic opportunities of the century.”

But to David Schoenwald, who manages the New Alternatives Fund, a socially responsible mutual fund, the idea that “clean tech” is a promising investment isn’t news. He’s been focused on the promise of renewable energy for more than two decades. When he founded New Alternatives with his father Maurice in 1982, the elder Schoenwald wanted to invest in technologies like solar panels, which were promising alternatives to nuclear power and fossil fuels.

So Maurice and David, both lawyers, gathered a group of socially conscious friends and colleagues to each chip in enough so that the new fund could meet the $100,000 minimum required to list with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Those early investors became the Fund’s board of directors, some of whom still serve.

Through the years, the Fund has maintained a clear philosophy of investing in renewable energy—including companies working on wind, solar, fuel cells, ocean energy, geothermal, biomass, and hydropower—along with other environmentally beneficial companies involved in recycling, clean air and water, pollution prevention, and conservation. The Fund does not invest in non-renewable or dangerous energy sources such as coal, oil, or nuclear power, or in companies that test on animals. The Fund tries to keep some of its assets in community development banks and prints all materials with soy-based inks on post-consumer recycled paper.

The Schoenwalds are grateful to be doing business in a world in which the green energy future is finally an object of unprecedented investor enthusiasm. They saw renewable energy as a solid investment in the 1980s, and they still do—the small fund doubled in size in 2006 and doubled again in the first half of 2007. They reason that the profits to be made in oil and other non-renewable resources are ultimately finite—these sources will become depleted sooner or later.

But “alternative energy is not like oil,” says David. “Alternative energy can only grow.”

—Joelle Novey

* IMPORTANT: This story is presented for information only. It is not an investment recommendation from Green America. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Before investing in any mutual fund, ask for a prospectus and consult your financial advisor.