Deborah Messing is a longtime volunteer with 350 Vermont, and was an integral part of the organizing team for the Personal Divestment Seminar. She believes in the financial and political power of Elder Vermonters, and is committed to organizing her community to stand up to fossil fuel companies by publicly divesting.

IMG_3647I’m heartened that so many people were willing to sacrifice a few hours of outdoor time on a beautiful early Spring Vermont afternoon, to learn about personally divesting from fossil fuels. The Main St. Landing in Burlington on May 2 was the venue for the seminar “Your Investments Matter”, organized by 350VT and Over 40 people attended. The majority of these attendees were already committed to the idea of personal divestment, but wanted more information on how to get started, various options available, the question of risk involved and the possibilities for re-investment of divested funds into sustainable directions.

Individuals have an important part to play in the divestment movement. More and more of us are taking matters into our own hands and, rather than allowing our money to contribute to climate change, are choosing to divest from fossil fuel companies. Dan Quinlan, one of the event’s organizers and the creator of, served as our moderator. Recently energized by attending Harvard Heat Week, he communicated the importance of personally divesting as a tool to fight climate change. “The personal divestment movement also presents the opportunity for more people to learn about and invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency – the heart of the new energy economy,” Dan said.

Each panelist focused on their specific area of expertise, and introduced many exciting ideas and approaches to this topic.

Banner by high schooler Jenna Rice on display at the Personal Divestment Seminar

Banner by high schooler Jenna Rice on display at the Personal Divestment Seminar

Panelists included:

Dan Quinlan,, (802) 760-7400

Jake Ide, Vermont Community Loan Fund:, (802) 223-4423

Tom Francis, Fossil Free Indexes:, (781) 504-6413

Harris Roen, Roen Financial Report:, (802) 658-2368

Karin Chamberlain, Clean Yield Asset Management:, (802) 526-2525 x105

Tom Francis began the Seminar with an overview of Fossil Free Indexes’ criteria for companies and history of researching the fossil fuel industry. Fossil Free Indexes, LLC has been instrumental in crafting the divestment movement’s strategy, and is a good resource to learn about the big picture of our movement.

Personally, the most helpful conversations for me were those related to specific alternative energy companies, mutual funds, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). During his talk, Harris Roen outlined his helpful, online Roen Financial Report – a great resource for folks looking to research alternative investments. In his Report, Harris has expertly analyzed which companies and funds are “greenest,” according to a list of various criteria. I encourage anyone interested in divestment to take a look at his website.

Karin Chamberlain of Clean Yield Asset Management has had a decades-long career in research and developing sustainable investments. At the Seminar, she suggested investing in companies that are incorporating sustainability into their business strategy. For example, a certain forklift company recently bought a fuel cell company, in an effort to begin using that renewable resource throughout their business. Choosing to invest in that forklift company would be a wise environmental and financial choice for investors interested in long-term company viability.

Jake Ide explained the fabulous work that the Vermont Community Loan Fund (VCLF) does, and reminded the audience that investing in the VCLF is investing directly in improving the lives of Vermonters.

Inspiring, provocative, detailed, and cautionary but enthusiastic, the Seminar was a great beginning to our personal divestment campaign. Plans are in the works for taking this seminar “on the road.” Stay tuned!


Thanks to the Personal Divestment Seminar’s sponsors: Progressive Asset Management, Bob the Green Guy, and The Skinny Pancake, & Main Street Landing.


Watch the Personal Divestment Seminar online anytime, courtesy of Bob the Green Guy: