Forbes magazine released the 2010 list of the 400 richest people in the country this week, and while the list is riddled with the super rich, there are also a few consumption-conscious billionaires among the world’s wealthiest.

Going green isn’t just limited to those who walk instead of drive and those with onsite solar arrays to power their homes; it also includes individuals and families who focus on using less. While these billionaires may not boast ownership of the largest private solar array as Larry Hagman can, they can be considered more eco-conscious than some of their peers because of their consumption habits.

Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, comes in at the number two spot on the 2010 Forbes 400 with a net worth of $45 billion. Buffett has the money to build custom mega-mansions on both coasts but instead he lives in an understated home in Omaha, Neb. He purchased this home for $31,500 in 1958.

Buffett’s profile in the Forbes includes the following quote: “Too often a vast collection of possessions ends up possessing its owner. The asset I most value, aside from health, is interesting, diverse and long-standing friends.”

The 79-year-old Buffett plans to leave nearly all of his fortune to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and his children with a stipulation that it all needs to be spent within 10 years. While this requirement may encourage overconsumption, the money could easily be spent on philanthropic endeavors, continuing Buffett’s consumption-conscious legacy.

Although the Forbes 400 was restricted to the wealthiest Americans, earlier this year Forbes published a list of the richest people in the world, and Carlos Slim Helu came out on top.

Helu currently has an estimated net worth of $53.5 billion, but he had a more humble beginning. Helu was born in Mexico City on Jan. 28, 1940. At the age of 21, he graduated from high school and at 25 he incorporated his first company and his empire-building began. (He is currently the CEO of Telmex, Telcel and America Movil.)

One would expect that the world’s richest person has a fleet of private jets, a yacht on each ocean, and a beautiful mansion overlooking Mexico City, but they’d be wrong. Helu doesn’t own a jet or a yacht and like Buffett, he has lived in the same house for decades.

Ingvar Kamprad is the 11th richest person in the world with a net worth of $23 billion. While you may not recognize his name, you’ll definitely recognize the company that helped him build his fortune — IKEA. When Kamprad needs to travel for business, he flies coach class. If he wants to go to the store, he hops into his 17-year-old Volvo.

Maybe there is something to the “frugal” billionaire trend. Perhaps the fact that these individuals have not allowed the accumulation of “stuff” to clutter their lives has helped them build their fortunes. Instead of focusing on one-upping the Joneses with a bigger house and the newest Maybach, they instead focus on building their business and supporting philanthropic organizations.

Of course these billionaires don’t live the most minimally consumptive lifestyle, residing in yurts and living off what they can grow. Some do fly around the world on private jets, but it's worth noting when those who have the ability to overconsume choose not to.

What do you think about these more consumption-conscious billionaires?

Also on MNN: NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has two pairs of work shoes

Additional photo credits: 

Inset photo of Warren Buffett: ZUMA Press

Homepage illustration: studiovision/iStockphoto


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