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Environmental Celebrities: 5 Stars Who Are Doing the Work

white wooden fence on green grass field Photo by De'Andre Bush on Unsplash Celebrities often use their star power to raise awareness about gender equality, humanitarian crises, or diversity, and other social issues in the entertainment industry. Their statements often make headlines around the world, especially with the power of social media today. But some celebrities don’t just talk about the issues impacting our planet, they go out of their way to create meaningful change. One such particular issue that’s seeing a lot of celebrity activity recently? Climate change. From rap idols like Drake to Oscar-winning actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio, these celebrities are investing in innovative environmental startups and committing millions of dollars in funding to environmental conservation programs.  What’s more, in addition to donating money, some of these celebrities are even going so far as to become advisors to environmental nonprofits, adding pressure on policymakers to take action on climate change. Here’s a look at 5 environmental celebrities who are doing their part to save our planet’s future. 

Drake

You may well know Drake for his chart-topping tunes and extravagant lifestyle, but how much do you know about his green credentials? Just in the past year, the Toronto-based rapper has made 2 major investments in ethical environmental companies. The first, with our very own sustainable fintech startup Aspiration, came about after Drake began looking for a partner to help him make the transition to a carbon-neutral lifestyle. Through this collaboration, Drake will use our climate-positive services to monitor and cut down on his carbon footprint. And with the help of his team, Aspiration will identify the emissions from his activities, travel, and so on, and work to select reforestation projects to offset his emissions.  Both of our teams hope that through this collaboration, more people will become aware of just how easy it can be to live a carbon-neutral lifestyle simply by selecting and using the right eco-friendly financial products. But it’s not just carbon offsets that Drake’s after. Earlier this year, Drake invested in Daring, a company producing 100% plant-based chicken, in their Series B investment round that raised $40 million.  The rapper, who went vegetarian in 2018, stated that his support for the company reflects his love for their products, which are made from soy, water, sunflower oil, salt, and natural flavoring.  Daring said in a statement that the new investment capital would be used to expand its retail and foodservice operations.

Kaia Gerber 

It’s hard not to notice teenage supermodel Kaia Gerber these days - she’s on just about every other magazine cover. The daughter of supermodel Cindy Crawford and businessman Rande Gerber, Kaia has modeled for Chanel, Saint Laurent, and Marc Jacobs since her early teens. In 2016, she made her debut magazine appearance on the cover of Vogue Paris with her mom. Then, just 2 years later in 2018, she won the prestigious Model of the Year award in London.  Today, Kaia has more than 6 million followers on Instagram and a growing public profile as a social influencer. Just before the presidential election in 2020, she organized an online discussion with Natalie and Naomi Biden, the granddaughters of President Joe Biden, about the global issues impacting members of Generation Z.  The trio chatted about the importance of fighting climate change and getting policymakers to take action on mental health issues and student loans.  Kaia is also one of the top investors in the fashion magazine, W, alongside fellow model Karlie Kloss and Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton. 

Leonardo DiCaprio 

Possibly the best-known actor-environmentalist of our time, Leonardo DiCaprio has advocated for climate change solutions since the tender age of 24. After the debut of his blockbuster drama Titanic in 1998, DiCaprio created The Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation to protect the planet’s last remaining wild habitats and to fund initiatives that help prevent environmental destruction. Through the foundation, DiCaprio has committed millions of dollars to decrease the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, in addition to releasing several environmental documentaries. “Sea of Shadows”, a film about the totoaba fish trafficking industry, won the prestigious Sundance Audience Award, and “Before the Flood”, took a close look at the current impacts of climate change on both humans and animals alike. As if that wasn’t enough, DiCaprio is also an active board member of several ecological organizations, from the World Wildlife Fund to the Natural Resources Defense Council, and regularly attends global conservation conferences. Plus, he’s not afraid to use his Hollywood standing to raise the alarm about climate change. At his 2016 Oscars acceptance speech, he told the audience that climate change “is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating." There’s no doubt that DiCaprio has followed up on his own words with action. He serves as an advisor on The Solutions Project, an organization that advocates for widespread adoption of renewable energy, and Blu-on Energy, an energy-efficiency startup. Just this year, DiCaprio pledged $43m towards conservation efforts on the Galapagos Islands, partnering with the environmental organization, Re:wild.  Like Drake, DiCaprio is also an investor in Aspiration. He says:  “To bring about long-term solutions for our planet, we need alternatives that empower everyday consumers to take action against climate change. Aspiration helps people protect our planet...I’m proud to be a part of Aspiration and their work to help save the planet.”

Orlando Bloom

He might be everyone’s favorite elf but the 44-year old actor has more than magic up his sleeve. A UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2009, Orlando Bloom works with the world’s most vulnerable climate refugees and migrants when he’s not focusing on his acting career.  The Lord of the Rings actor briefs policymakers on how environmental crises are forcing people to flee from their homes. At meetings and conferences, he urges world leaders to put in place climate prevention and mitigation measures to stem the destruction that is being caused by climate change. In early 2021, Bloom, along with other Hollywood A-listers such as Joaquin Phoenix and Jane Fonda, called on President Biden to refrain from making any agreements with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro that could cause further deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest.  In addition to his responsibilities at the UN, Bloom is also an ambassador for Global Green, the American arm of Green Cross International, an organization created by former premier of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to develop sustainable environmental solutions. Bloom’s environmental activism extends deep into his personal life. To make his London home carbon neutral, he installed solar panels, used recycled building materials, and installed energy-efficient light bulbs.

Robert Downey Jr.

In early 2021, at the World Economic Forum’s Digital Davos event, actor and philanthropist Robert Downey Jr. launched a venture fund to restore the planet’s health.  Named ‘The Footprint Coalition’, the fund is led by Downey Jr. and a group of investors, donors, and storytellers who aim to scale up various climate-positive technologies using venture capital. So far, the group has invested in a diverse portfolio of companies, including Ÿnsect, an insect-based pet, and human food company, and Cloud Paper, a manufacturer of bamboo toilet paper. The Footprint Coalition also became an investor in Aspiration in early 2021. Downey Jr. and his team believe that the right utilization of AI and climate-positive technologies can solve many of the world’s environmental problems in the next 10 years. That’s why their investments are focused on sustainability-focused companies that deliver innovative products with profit as an incentive. The Footprint Coalition’s rolling capital fund is managed through AngelList, giving many individual investors who meet the minimum investment requirements (currently believed to be set at $5,000 in investment per quarter) to participate in the development of new decarbonizing technologies. The Coalition also has a nonprofit initiative that provides grants for scientific research efforts in environmental technology.

An eco-friendly credit card that’s supported by celebrities

The Aspiration Zero is a carbon-zero credit card that helps you fight climate change one swipe at a time. For each purchase that you make, Aspiration plants a tree on your behalf through one of our reforestation partners.  We also give you the option to plant extra trees using our Plant Your Change program that rounds each transaction you make to the nearest whole number. The resulting spare change is then transformed into trees. And unlike other green credit cards, the Aspiration Zero tracks the carbon footprint of every purchase that you make. Your total carbon emissions appear in the accompanying Aspiration app.  In months that you make enough purchases to reach carbon zero, Aspiration rewards you with 1% cashback on all of your purchases. Get on the waitlist today and start fighting climate change with your money.  

Robert Kelley

July 23, 2021

Can Afforestation Fight Climate Change?

soldier planting tree during daytime Planting trees has emerged as one of our most formidable weapons against climate change.  Trees absorb tons of carbon dioxide from the air and sequester it in their biomass. Scientific evidence shows that the more trees we can plant, the faster we’ll be able to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and keep global average temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. One of the most popular ways to plant more trees is through afforestation, which is the process of planting forests in regions that previously had no tree cover. Scientists believe that if implemented well, large afforestation projects can green large tracts of urban and rural lands and soak up to 189 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per year, making it a promising tool against rising global temperatures. In this article, we explore what afforestation is and how it can help us fight climate change. Key takeaways
  • Afforestation is considered one of the cheapest and most natural negative emissions technologies (NETs). Trees grown through afforestation can sequester large amounts of carbon dioxide from the air and prevent them from becoming trapped in the atmosphere.
  • Afforestation projects in India, China, and North Africa have helped green desertified areas, bringing ecological benefits and new sources of income to local communities.
  • Scientific studies suggest that afforesting non-forested land could offset around 250 billion tons of carbon dioxide between 2020 and 2100.

What is afforestation? 

Afforestation is the process of growing a forest in an area that previously had no tree cover. Usually done on desertified lands, abandoned agricultural fields, and industrial areas, afforestation increases the forest cover of an area and brings ecological and economic benefits to local communities. In recent years, afforestation has gained popularity as one of the most natural and easy-to-implement negative emissions technologies (NETs). Trees grown through afforestation naturally remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis by storing the carbon dioxide in their biomass as they grow.  This carbon sequestration ability has made afforestation a favorite among policymakers and conservationists who are fighting against climate change. Afforestation can be implemented in both rural and urban areas, including barren lands such as landfills and former construction sites. As long as a piece of land can be topped with soil, saplings or seeds can be planted on it using afforestation methods.

Why is afforestation important?

Afforestation is important because it offers a variety of environmental and economic benefits to an area.  One of the key reasons that afforestation is practiced by local governments and conservation groups is because of its ability to prevent or reverse desertification. Land that has lost vegetation due to drought, wildfires, or overgrazing can become dry and prone to soil erosion.  No longer productive, these lands become void of most wildlife. But through afforestation, biodiversity can be restored through the careful and deliberate selection of tree species. As the trees grow, they attract birds, insects, and other animals into the afforested areas to establish new habitats. The growth of the trees also improves soil fertility as the trees exchange nutrients with the soil and hold the soil particles in place, preventing erosion during flooding. In addition, the trees act as wind barriers that weaken the ability of wind to carry soil particles away. They also create cool microclimates in arid and semi-arid areas that help local communities stay cool during hot summer months.  Besides its ecological benefits, afforestation can also have commercial uses. Local communities can choose to grow fruit trees and short-term crops in afforested areas to boost the local economy. Doing so turns previously arid areas into productive lands and protects the new forests from getting cut down as their produce brings in income.

Examples of afforestation 

Afforestation has been implemented in many parts of the world, from the Indian subcontinent to northern Africa. Here’s a look at how different afforestation projects have been carried out.

India

India is one of the world’s most enthusiastic practitioners of afforestation. Using the Miyawaki technique, which consists of sowing very young saplings close together, conservationists and urban planners in India have restored degraded land within 25 to 30 years.  India’s increasing interest in afforestation comes partly from its 2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) pledge to green 33 percent of its desertified land by 2022. In the state of Kerala alone, 22 micro-forests were grown using afforestation methods in the past few years. The state now has plants to grow at least 20 more micro-forests in the coming years.

China

There is probably no country more invested in afforestation than China at the moment. Since the 1990s, China has spent more than $100 billion on afforestation projects across the country. It has planted more than 35 billion trees through its national “Grain for Green” initiative, which encouraged farmers to convert their agricultural fields into forests to combat desertification. Afforestation has helped China reduce the risk of flash floods and crop failures in rural areas. The additional trees have also made soils less vulnerable to erosion. Researchers estimate that between 1973 and 2003, the afforested areas in China absorbed around 774 million tonnes of carbon

The Sahel

The Sahel is the site of the world’s largest afforestation movement. It’s home to the Great Green Wall movement, which aims to grow an 8,000km zone of trees across eleven countries from West to East Africa.  Using the same afforestation principles created by the Green Belt Movement that was started in 1977 by Professor Wangari Maathai, the Great Green Wall movement seeks to both create fertile lands in the arid regions of the Sahel and empower youth and women to take up ecopreneurship opportunities After completion, the Great Green Wall is expected to protect local communities from droughts and extreme hot weather events.

What is afforestation and its advantages and disadvantages? 

Advantages

Afforestation is often touted as a cheap way to reduce carbon emissions with the added benefit of improving depleted soils. Research has found that afforested areas enhance soil health, making them better able to store carbon from the atmosphere and lock in moisture. Recent studies suggest that afforesting non-forested land could offset around 250 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide between 2020 and 2100. Afforested areas usually contain hundreds if not thousands of trees that can capture carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. These trees are grown from seeds or young saplings, which are low in cost and can be planted with the help of volunteers or community members. In some areas where afforestation has been carried out using cash crop trees, jobs have also been created. Acacia mangium plantations in Brazil, for example, have boosted local economies as the trees can be quickly grown and sold as material for paper pulp and other tree products, reducing the demand for trees in natural forest ecosystems. 

Disadvantages

Despite the advantages of afforestation, some scientists and development practitioners have pointed out the unseen costs of this plantation process. One of the biggest concerns raised is that successful carbon emission reduction using afforestation will require millions of hectares of land. According to a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, at least 500 million hectares of afforested land - an area about twice the size of Argentina - will be required to limit the rise of global average temperatures below 1.5 degrees celsius.  Others point to the potential unsustainability of afforested areas. Land that has been afforested using fruit trees or commercial trees may only help store carbon for short periods as these trees have shorter lifespans than other longer-living, native species. Trees may also be cut down for fuel or export, further reducing the climate mitigating effect of afforested areas Growing new forests on patches of perceived ‘degraded’ land, such as savannas or grasslands may also destroy pre-existing ecosystems. These ecosystems could contain rare species of trees and plants, which might be outcompeted by the introduction of new, non-native species of trees, potentially leading to a loss of biodiversity. 

Afforestation vs. reforestation 

Afforestation and reforestation are processes that increase the tree cover of an area through tree planting. They’re both carried out to improve the environmental conditions of a particular area. But other than this key similarity, afforestation and reforestation differ in the locations where they’re implemented. According to the IPCC, reforestation is the establishment of forest cover in regions that have experienced a gradual decline of trees due to human activity or natural causes.  Non-governmental organizations and local governments often reforest natural areas that have been damaged by wildfires, disease, logging, mining, or agriculture to rebuild natural habitats and ecosystems Afforestation, on the other hand, is implemented in areas where there have been previously no forests, or where forests have been missing for decades. These could be desertified areas, bare urban land, or grasslands.  Unlike reforestation, which usually uses the same tree species as the ones remaining in the deforested areas, afforestation may be implemented using trees that are non-indigenous and invasive to an area. This carries with it the risk that afforestation could destroy original non-forest ecosystems

Can afforestation fight climate change? 

Yes, afforestation can help fight climate change if it is conducted in the right conditions. Some studies suggest that large-scale afforestation projects could remove more than 189 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by 2100, a five-fold increase in sequestration levels to what is currently being achieved now.  But for afforestation to be effective, it has to be linked to a variety of ecological safeguards. Afforested areas can serve as carbon sinks as long as they don’t damage pre-existing ecosystems and remain protected from commercial exploitation. Trees in afforested areas need to be able to mature into old age to sequester enough carbon to have a positive impact on climate change. The trees selected for afforestation projects should also help transform arid or semi-arid regions into productive areas. The trees should be able to sequester large amounts of carbon in their biomass and establish roots that keep moisture in the soil. If these conditions can be met, afforestation projects can have a net positive effect on the environment.

How to support and invest in organizations helping with afforestation 

Aspiration is a B Corp certified online financial platform that helps customers support conservation groups engaged in afforestation projects. Using our savings accounts, customers can set direct donations to environmental groups through our Environment Fund. But it’s not just charitable environmental organizations that customers can support. Customers can also buy automatic carbon offset trees through our “Plant Your Change” and “Planet Protection” programs. Our system rounds up every transaction made using an Aspiration debit card to the nearest whole dollar and plants trees with the spare change on behalf of our customers. Try Aspiration today and become a champion for afforestation.

Robert Kelley

May 22, 2021

Eco-friendly Stocks You Can Invest In

silver round coin on green grass People have grown a lot more conscious about where they’re putting their money and with good reason. Companies have pursued their growth strategies with reckless abandon. That has had a significant negative impact on our environment.  The planet has suffered irreparable damage due to the unchecked use of natural resources, the release of untreated industrial waste, mining, exploration and production operations of fuel companies, etc. The charge sheet against companies that have harmed the planet is substantial.  While many companies are now actively taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint and to limit their impact on the environment, many scientists now believe that these steps are too little and too late. The damage that has already been caused can’t be reversed.  Consumers now have access to more knowledge than ever before. Word travels significantly faster across the globe now than it did just a few seconds ago. So a company damaging an ocean on the other side of the planet can’t do it under the cover of darkness. Chances are that it will be known instantly across the globe just what they’re doing.  The increased level of accountability has had a positive outcome. People are now leveraging the power of connectivity that modern devices provide to join forces in holding companies that damage the planet accountable.  This increased access to information has also made them aware of just who the good guys are. There are a lot of companies that are actively trying to improve the planet. They are certainly worthy of our support.  People who lead socially conscious lives want to ensure that none of their investments help organizations that don’t share the same values. So even if they’re looking to invest in the stock market, they’ll be searching for green investment opportunities or eco-friendly stocks to invest in.  

What are green investment opportunities?

The idea behind all green investment opportunities is much the same. It's to rally around companies that are trying to reduce the burden that humanity places on the environment. This is easier said than done.  There are still major corporations across the globe that aren't doing as much as they should be to reduce their impact on the environment. That's despite them having launched sustainability programs that give the impression that they're making a difference when in reality they're not. What's promising is that there are now more green investment opportunities than ever before. They exist in every industry that has the potential to become more sustainable. For example, power generation can become a lot more sustainable than it currently is.  That’s why green energy stocks are now listed among the hottest investment products. The global community as a whole has recognized the importance of green energy sources. Shifting from conventional methods of power generation to more renewable methods requires a significant amount of money.  This thus provides people with green investment opportunities. They can rally around a solar power project, for example, and provide that business with the funds that it needs to set up new solar generation plants that may be capable of meeting the energy requirements of entire towns and cities.

The top industries for eco-friendly stocks 

Automotive

Automobiles continue to be among the biggest polluters on the planet. Anything with an engine in it that requires fossil fuels like gasoline is a polluter. The industry has seen explosive growth over the past few decades and now billions of cars release harmful gasses into the environment daily.  It’s interesting to know that the automotive industry now has some of the most promising eco-friendly stocks that you can find. Major auto manufacturers are increasingly adopting electric vehicle technology. They’re launching new models that run on electricity alone. Several major manufacturers have also committed to only launching electric cars not too far in the future. Some companies only make and sell electric cars. They’re also helping increase the adoption of vehicles that don’t require any fossil fuels. With electric cars gaining popularity, these eco-friendly stocks now tend to deliver exceptional returns. 

Food

The global population continues to grow and it's putting an immense strain on our natural resources. The task of meeting this incredible surge in demand for food harms the environment as well.   Some companies are tackling this problem by creating alternatives. For example, you’ll find that companies that are developing meat alternatives tend to be listed among the best eco-friendly stocks. It’s a task that they’ve been able to achieve. Plant-based meat alternatives have now made their way into fast-food chains and supermarkets across the United States and beyond.  

Construction

The construction industry can deliver a lot of improvement in its impact on the environment. The steps that can be taken to improve its sustainability are viewed by many as low-hanging fruit since it doesn't require a significant effort or change in the way things are currently done. Many real estate developers are now focusing on reducing the energy consumption in their buildings. They realize that many companies and individuals recognize the importance of being energy efficient. They would have a higher chance of attracting those tenants and investors in their buildings who would appreciate that the developer took all of the relevant steps to ensure that their buildings have energy-efficient systems. 

Power generation

Entire countries have now set ambitious targets to power themselves completely through renewable and sustainable energy sources. This means that they’re investing heavily in the infrastructure that’s required to make this happen.  Some of the biggest companies in the world are also actively taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint. They do that by acquiring energy from renewable sources to offset their usage. Major tech companies are now running entire data centers on renewable energy in pursuit of their goal to become more sustainable.  The incredible demand for clean energy means that there’s no shortage of eco-friendly stocks in the power generation industry now. That’s also a bit ironic when you consider that before the use of renewable sources, the power generation industry was one of the biggest polluters on our planet. 

Diversify by investing in eco-friendly funds

Diversification of assets is one of the golden rules of investing. You wouldn’t want to put all your eggs in one basket. In this case, you wouldn’t want to put all of your money into one single company. Your profit or loss on that investment would then be entirely dependent on the performance of one single company.  Diversification is why funds are such a popular investment product. They’re composed of many different companies and you can get exposure to all of them by simply putting your money into the fund. So even if the stock of one company in the fund isn’t performing well, the others might be reaching all-time highs, thus keeping you in the green.  You can easily find funds now that are composed of eco-friendly stocks. They provide you with exposure to a whole basket of socially conscious companies that are doing their bit to improve the condition of our planet.

Consider the Redwood Fund by Aspiration

Aspiration, an online neobank, offers the Redwood Fund for socially conscious investors. All of the companies included in this fund go through a rigorous assessment of their sustainable environment workplace and governance practices.  They consider several environmental, social, and governance factors to find companies that prioritize the betterment of the planet. These include carbon emissions, hazardous waste, water use and recycling, energy efficiency, and the use of renewable energy. The Aspiration Redwood Fund is a fossil fuel-free fund. This provides investors with the peace of mind that the money they're investing isn't helping companies that continue to harm the planet. It was also important to make this green investment opportunity available to everyone. For that reason, the minimum investment required to participate in the Aspiration Redwood Fund was set at only $10. This was done to bring sustainable investing within reach of the masses.  All customers who open an account with Aspiration are eligible to
invest in the Aspiration Redwood Fund.

Robert Kelley

May 22, 2021

How Climate Change is Affecting the Tropical Oceans

people walking on beach during daytime Tropical oceans, like most natural biomes, have been unable to escape the impacts of climate change.  Located around the equatorial band, tropical oceans have regulated global temperatures for millennia. They redistribute heat from the sun to the polar regions and create precipitation that brings rainfall to inland areas. But the recent and rapid rise in global average temperatures has brought unexpected changes to our tropical oceans.  The excess heat that’s being generated by trapped greenhouse gases is getting absorbed by tropical oceans, with detrimental effects for marine life and people living in coastal regions. Warmer ocean waters are melting sea ice and glaciers at unprecedented rates, leading to sea-level rise and coastal flooding. Higher temperatures are also destroying coral reefs and disrupting marine food chains. In this article, we explore how climate change is affecting the tropical oceans and what we can do to protect them from climate change. Key takeaways
  • Tropical oceans make up just 0.01 percent of the Earth’s oceans but contain almost all of the world’s coral reefs and mangrove forests.
  • Climate change is warming the tropical oceans and causing them to absorb high levels of carbon dioxide, causing seawater to become more acidic.
  • Ocean acidification, warmer ocean temperatures, and altered ocean currents are destroying marine habitats, melting sea ice, and precipitating stronger storm seasons.

What are the world’s tropical oceans?

Tropical oceans are oceans that exist in the equatorial region of our planet, between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. Temperatures in these waters usually stay above 20°C and remain constant throughout the year. Well-known tropical oceans include the Indian Ocean, the central Pacific Ocean, the central Atlantic, and most parts of the Caribbean Sea.  Tropical oceans maintain warm surface temperatures because they receive much of the Sun’s heat throughout the year. This heat drives the global circulation of ocean currents as well as tropical weather patterns like hurricane seasons. It also causes seawater to evaporate constantly, forming warm, moist air that condenses into rain clouds. As a result, tropical oceans see more frequent, heavy rains than temperate oceans.  Although tropical oceans make up just 0.01 percent of the Earth’s ocean volume, they are a source of half of the world’s fish stock. They’re also home to 95% of the world’s mangrove forests and most of the planet’s coral reefs, which require the warm waters of tropical oceans to survive The Great Barrier Reef in the Coral Sea and the Belize Barrier Reef in the Caribbean Sea are just some of the coral reefs that call tropical oceans home.  

What role do tropical oceans play in the Earth’s climate? 

Warm tropical oceans act as regulators of the Earth’s climate. They absorb heat from the sun and exchange large quantities of water, gases, and particles with the atmosphere. These oceanographic processes that occur in the equatorial oceans help redistribute heat to the polar regions, keeping global temperatures stable and our planet habitable.   Recent research by scientists from Plymouth University’s Marine Institute and the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) has found evidence that suggests that tropical oceans may even “act like a heart” that pulses warm water currents towards the North and South poles But as global average temperatures rise, many of the pulses seem to coincide with the melting of polar sea-ice and ice shelves in Antarctica, Greenland, and the Arctic. These anomalous pulses have the potential to increase the intensity of El Niño events, which may in turn lead to more extreme cyclones, heat waves, and droughts.  Oceanographers predict that the heat-regulating ability of tropical oceans will make them vital in the fight against climate change. Unprecedented changes in warm and cold ocean current patterns are already starting to make an impact on the climates of coastal regions

How is climate change affecting the tropical oceans?

Anthropogenic climate change, or climate change caused by human activity, is altering tropical ocean temperatures and currents with serious consequences for climate patterns around the world.  Rising ocean temperatures, the changing chemistry of seawater, and altered currents are three of the most visible impacts of climate change on tropical oceans. 

Rising ocean temperatures 

Tropical oceans have long been known to absorb heat from both the sun and the atmosphere. But the recent increase in trapped greenhouse gases, which has raised global average temperatures, has also caused a rise in upper ocean heat content. The excess heat, unable to escape our atmosphere, is being absorbed by tropical oceans at distressing rates. Available data indicates that between 1971 and 2010, more than 90 percent of the warming that happened on our planet occurred in the ocean.  The extra heat is contributing to the rapid melting of submerged ice in Antarctica and the shrinking of wintertime Arctic sea ice. It is also increasing the rate of ocean evaporation, leading to more rainstorms that flood coastal regions.  But most worrying of all, the continued melting of sea ice is causing sea levels to rise at a rate of about one-eight of an inch per year. Without intervention, sea levels by 2050 could threaten the lives of around 150 million people.

Changes in the chemistry of seawater

Tropical oceans don’t only absorb heat from the atmosphere but also exchange chemicals with it. It’s believed that oceans absorb around 30 percent of the carbon dioxide found in the atmosphere - a large portion because there is currently 412 parts per million of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, almost 1.5 times the amount found at the start of the Industrial Revolution. When the carbon dissolves in the ocean, it forms carbonic acid which increases the acidity of seawater. Increased acidification interferes with the shell growth of marine life such as corals and crabs and the health of plankton populations. Over time, the decline of these marine creatures disrupts the food chain and alters the biodiversity of ocean ecosystems. Scientists believe that most of the carbon being absorbed by tropical oceans comes from the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and cement production

Altered currents 

Climate change may also alter the direction and speed at which tropical ocean currents travel. Scientists have found that atmospheric circulation, which drives ocean currents, has increased and intensified over the past three decades Scientific models demonstrate that the intensity of the currents has increased by about 15 percent per decade. Though the studies are still being reviewed, current observations of westerly winds in the Antarctic Ocean, for example, indicate that they’ve been pushed more to the south, causing a slight strengthening of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current.  The changes in the currents, coupled with warmer ocean temperatures, could affect jet streams, the development of strong storms, and the amount of heat stored in the oceans.

How do changes in the tropical oceans affect human and marine life? 

Changes in the tropical oceans can drastically alter human and marine life in coastal regions. A slight increase in ocean temperatures is enough to make certain marine ecosystems uninhabitable while causing sea levels to rise. In recent decades, ocean acidification has led to hundreds of coral bleaching events. Lower pH levels and warm temperatures force coral reefs to eject their algal partners, which they depend on for oxygen and waste removal. Without oxygen, the corals die out.  The decline in coral reefs further reduces marine biodiversity in coastal areas, particularly fish populations. Some marine species may migrate to other areas with better conditions for feeding and spawning. Fish, octopus, and squid that stay in warmer waters have been found to experience stunted growth and changes in their predatory habits.  An increase in ocean temperatures also causes sea levels to rise as glaciers and sea ice melt at irregular rates. This poses a direct threat to coastal communities, especially those in areas that are below or just above sea level. It’s estimated that 10 percent of the world’s population lives in these areas, all of whom are vulnerable to river floods and coastal flooding The island of Kiribati, for example, has already lost two islands to rising sea levels. It and other small island nations may disappear underwater by the end of the century if climate change is not reduced.

Can anything be done to protect tropical oceans from climate change? 

While the impacts of climate change on tropical oceans may seem uncontrollable, there are active steps that we can take to protect tropical oceans from further damage.  The root cause of ocean acidification and warmer ocean temperatures in the high carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels for energy, manufacturing, and transportation contributes directly to the warming of our tropical oceans as the excess heat is absorbed. Switching to renewable energies such as wind, solar, and geothermal can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that gets emitted into the atmosphere. Cycling or driving an electric vehicle to work can also help cut your carbon footprint.  Another effective climate mitigation measure is to create more marine protected areas (MPAs) that protect coral reefs, mangroves, wetlands, and barrier islands from human exploitation. MPAs can make coastal regions more resilient to floods and habitat loss. They’re also known to help stimulate new carbon sequestration.  Some policymakers go further and suggest that ocean-centered solutions should be at the forefront of the fight against climate change. This means switching ships to zero-carbon propulsion systems, installing offshore renewable energy power plants, and decarbonizing the global shipping fleet.  Others look to enact changes in financial regulations that reduce funding for carbon-intensive activities. They suggest that financial institutions should be required to track and disclose carbon emissions from their lending and investment activities. 

Another way to fight climate change with your money 

Your fight against climate change can start with the money in your pocket. With an environmentally-friendly online financial platform like Aspiration, you can set your bank account to support environmental conservation projects around the planet with ease.  Aspiration’s high-yield Spend and Save account gives customers the ability to make regular charitable donations to socially responsible causes such as rainforest conservation projects. Customers can also use the same account to purchase automatic carbon offsets through our “Plant Your Change” program. Both of these services can help you reduce your carbon footprint and decrease the number of greenhouse gases that go into the atmosphere. By limiting your impact on the environment, you can help protect the tropical oceans from climate change. Try Aspiration today to make your money work for the planet.

Robert Kelley

May 20, 2021

The Best Cartoons to Fight Climate Change

people gathered near buildings holding if the climate was a bank you would have saved it already placard Political cartoons in America have influenced public opinion since they first appeared in newspapers during the colonial era. They offer readers a chance to reflect deeply on contemporary social issues in a clever and amusing way, making thorny and sometimes divisive subjects easier to understand. In today’s political climate, cartoons tackle everything from gender equality to presidential elections. But if there’s one issue that’s quite well explained by political cartoons, albeit in a rather satirical manner, it’s probably the subject of climate change.  Climate change cartoons reveal the common misconceptions and truths of climate science in a few simple images and words. They provide a commentary on the social power structures restricting climate action and highlight the uncomfortable impacts of climate change. In this article, we’ve put together a list of the 8 best cartoons to fight climate change. These cartoons show how much of a negative impact human activity and corporate greed can have on the environment. Key takeaways
  • People tend to take climate change more seriously when they experience climate impacts themselves.
  • Carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels accumulate in the atmosphere. Over time, they trap heat that causes global average temperatures to rise, which then gets absorbed by the ocean.
  • Many climate change skeptics and deniers refuse to promote climate action over concerns that climate solutions, such as green taxes, could become costly for the economy.

Does anyone listen to science?

climate change – Kudelka Cartoons

John Kudelka

The most frustrating thing about the current debate on climate change is probably the widespread neglect of climate science. As depicted in this cartoon by John Kudelka, scientists have been warning us about the impacts of climate change for decades, only for the warnings to fall on deaf ears This might be partly due to a growing lack of trust in experts. It may also be influenced by people’s perception and interpretation of extreme weather events and daily weather patterns. Surveys and polls suggest that many people do not see climate change as a pressing matter while others consider climate change to simply be part of a natural process. It’s clear that informing people about climate change will continue to be difficult, as this cartoon shows. But through better public engagement, the use of hard facts, and cooperation with political leaders, it may be possible to help more people accept that climate change has real consequences for our future.

Seeing is believing

John Auchter | Michigan Radio

John Auchter, Michigan Radio

For some of us, accepting that climate change is real comes about the hard way. Only when we experience the destruction caused by climate change personally do we begin to admit that the scientific evidence on climate change is not a hoax, like the man in this cartoon has. The fact that a personal experience of climate impacts increases a person’s belief in man-made climate change is becoming widespread. Researchers studying Americans’ attitudes towards climate change have discovered that only a third of Americans believe that climate change will harm them and their families The findings also suggest that people personally affected by flooding and storms tend to be more concerned with climate change than others. Others living in “safer places” often view climate change as a distant problem that is not theirs to solve. To make climate change more relevant to more Americans, the researchers suggest that climate issues should be put into the local context and made personally relevant.

Climate change progression

Political Cartoon on 'Climate Change Talks Continue' by Mike Keefe, Denver Post at The Comic News

Mike Keefe, Denver Post

As dark as this cartoon may be, it brings home the point that climate change will become progressively worse if nothing is done about it. Many parts of the world are already experiencing rising sea levels and acidic seawater. And the root cause of these disasters is our reliance on fossil fuels Carbon dioxide emitted from the burning of fossil fuels gets added to the atmosphere,  30 percent of which then gets absorbed by our oceans. As the carbon dioxide dissolves, it reacts with seawater to form carbonic acid. This acid makes seawater so corrosive that many marine organisms, from corals to shellfish, may become unable to build their skeletons and shells.  If left unresolved, ocean acidification could destroy entire marine habitats. Limiting carbon emissions is the first step we need to take to reduce ocean acidification and help oceans keep the Earth’s carbon cycled balanced.

A grim future for fishing

Washington fisheries' grim future | The Seattle Times The bleakness of this cartoon is a poignant reminder of our impact on the climate. Human activity has led to a rapid rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, which are in turn causing average global temperatures to increase. The result? Our oceans are heating up and becoming more acidic. The waters around America are so warm now that the coastal waters off California and Washington are no longer teeming with salmon and orcas. Studies estimate that rising sea temperatures have reduced fish populations in some areas by 15 to 35 percent over eight decades. Warm waters contain less oxygen, which can drive fish away from their natural habitats. Fish may also experience stunted growth and impaired reproduction in warm oceans. Over time, the supply of seafood in our coastal waters may dwindle down to unsustainable levels as in the cartoon above. Protecting our oceans from climate change is the only way we can keep marine life, and ourselves, from catastrophe.  

The most dangerous animals

Drew Sheneman: Australia's Danger - The Virginian-Pilot

Drew Sheneman, The Star-Ledger

This cartoon by Drew Sheneman makes excellent use of the element of surprise, sneaking up on readers with real examples of Australia’s most dangerous wildlife (as per the cartoon’s title) before hitting them with a big reality check.  There’s probably no denying that humans, the culprits of climate change, have caused more damage to the planet than any other animal. Human activity, through agriculture, mining, and urban development, has caused massive habitat loss. We’ve exploited the natural environment for our own development and ended up polluting rivers, oceans, and the air.  It’s believed that human activity has put almost a million animal species under threat of extinction. And since the 1500s, our quest for resources has led to the extinction of at least 680 vertebrate species.  As long as we continue to expand our population centers and increase our reliance on fossil fuels, we will continue to put other animal species at risk. 

Fossil Fuel, Inc.

Political Cartoon Twitterren: "Jim Morin 'When bodies start stacking up from climate change-related disasters, will these monsters be held to account?' #morintoon #ClimateChangeIsReal #climatechange #Fires #CaliforniaBurning #Firefighters #Heroes ...

Morin Toons

Morin Toons’ caricature of a fossil fuel executive roasting the planet on a stick simply conveys how strong of a grasp the oil and gas industry has on our future.  Since the Industrial Revolution, our reliance on fossil fuels has caused everything from climate change to air and water pollution. Fossil fuels power our cars, heavy industries, and electricity grids. They produce enormous amounts of carbon dioxide when burned.  Data collected by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) suggests that the burning of fossil fuels for energy and transportation in the United States accounts for 75 percent of our carbon emissions. And every new ton of greenhouse gas emissions brings the country closer to exceeding its carbon budget, which could get exhausted within the next 15 years if carbon emissions are not reduced.  But even with this data, fossil fuel corporations continue to extract more oil, gas, and coal reserves than the nation can afford to burn. To effectively fight climate change, it’s crucial that oil and gas companies reduce their operations immediately. 

Shareholders come first

Cartoon by Tom Moro. Click to see source. – Centre for Climate Safety

Shareholders by Tom Moro 

This humble-looking cartoon by Tom Moro puts the reader in a dystopian future where profits prevailed over the health of the planet. Simple yet powerful, it shows the reader how corporate politics (and greed) can get in the way of climate action. It’s often said that shareholders are the true captains of industry. For most of them, corporate performance, or rather high profits, is key to their continued investment in a company. But how many of them are willing to trade short-term profits for environmental responsibility and long-term planning remains to be seen.  That said, recent news reports indicate that shareholders are becoming more serious about sustainability. The growing sentiment among some investors is that companies will need to prepare for climate change if they want to stay relevant in the coming decades. This comes as good news in the “profits vs planet” debate As consumers become more eco-conscious, companies that take sustainability seriously will likely be able to grow their operations faster and wider than those that don’t.

When the economy is more important

Pim Martens on Twitter: "Climate change threatens our existence... zzz... Climate change threatens our economy...!!! So don't fall asleep... http://t.co/33jo0knK" If this cartoon makes you feel hopeless for a second, you’re not alone. Among several climate change deniers and skeptics, the economy is usually considered more important than the climate. But it’s not because they don’t believe in the scientific evidence. Rather, it’s the climate solutions that they’re opposed to, according to a study from Duke University. Many climate change deniers find it difficult to promote climate action because they consider the proposed climate solutions, such as increased taxes and regulations, to be harmful to the economy. Recent polls found that only 3 percent of the American public considers climate change to be a problem for the United States, way below job scarcity and the economy which were at the top of the list.   It’s an issue that needs to be addressed as quickly as possible. Only when most members of the public are interested in fighting climate change can climate solutions be implemented across the country.

Fight climate change with your wallet, too

Aspiration is a sustainable neobank that does not invest in any fossil fuels or harmful industries. As a B Corp certified online financial platform, we put the health of the planet at the forefront of all our business practices. We refrain from lending any money to coal, natural gas, and oil operations. Instead, we help our customers invest in clean, sustainable companies through our Redwood Fund, which requires just a $10 minimum investment to get started. Plus, customers can opt into our Planet Protection program that helps them automatically offset the carbon emissions from every gallon of gas they purchase for their car. Try Aspiration today and start fighting climate change with your bank account.  

Robert Kelley

May 15, 2021

Solar Carports Can Make Parking Sustainable

Commercial Solar Carports | SunPower If you'd like to protect your car from the elements but don't particularly like the idea of an add-on garage for your home, what solution are you then left with? You're not the only one who finds themselves in this dilemma but there’s a very practical solution available.  People who don't want an add-on garage can simply invest in a carport to park their vehicle in.  Carports are semi-covered structures that normally have a steel roof supported by steel pillars. These are open-style structures that are strong, sturdy, and very low maintenance.  You can have a carport installed in a variety of different styles. They can even be connected to your home or existing garage.  Carports are different from garages since they don't have any doors and typically don't have walls either. They're simple structures made from support beams and a weatherproof roof. However, an attached carport is likely going to have at least one wall depending on how it's attached to the building. Homeowners also tend to prefer carports over add-on garages because of no extra property taxes. In many municipalities, carports aren't classified as taxable properties. That's because the metal carports don't require a foundation.  With sustainability becoming a major concern for the public, carports are increasingly serving a dual purpose. Not only do they protect against the elements for vehicles, but they also enable the property owner to generate electricity through solar panels placed on the roof.  The solar panels are a perfect fit for the carport. It already has a vast metal surface that remains unused. By placing panels on the surface, this space can be better utilized to generate clean power through the most abundant source of renewable energy.

What is a solar carport?

A solar carport isn't all that different from a regular carport. The underlying structure and purpose remain the same. It's a metal structure that's there to safeguard your vehicle from the elements. However, the canopy on top of the carport has solar panels on it. That's the only difference between a regular and a solar carport. From a technology perspective, solar carports can be considered similar to solar ground mounts. That's because the design of both these systems has only one aim and that's to get the most optimal exposure to sunlight.  They provide a crucial benefit to property owners compared to solar ground mounts. Solar carports don't require additional land for the installation of panels like a ground mount system does. This results in more efficient use of the space

How does a solar carport work?

A solar carport works much in the same way as a ground mount solar setup does. The primary purpose of providing shade and protection for the vehicle isn't infringed by the addition of solar panels. The panels are placed on the canopy of the carport for the best exposure to sunlight. They can then utilize the sunlight to generate electricity. The solar carport can be hooked up with a home battery for power storage. This enables homeowners to significantly reduce their electricity bills.  Since one or multiple cars are parked under the carport, most people tend to hook up the panels on the canopy to an electric vehicle charging port. This provides them with a sustainable way of charging their vehicles while they're parked in the carport.

Where are they most frequently found?

It's not uncommon to see solar carports on residential properties. Many homeowners are realizing their potential and opting to invest in them. However, solar carports are significantly more popular in the commercial sector right now.  Businesses are heavily investing in large solar carports as it enables them to meet their sustainability goals as well as to generate cheaper electricity. Big businesses tend to have massive car parks dedicated to their employees and customers.  If they were to use ground mount panels, they would be unable to provide parking space. With solar carports, they can get the maximum benefit out of their land. The same holds for stadiums, churches, recreational centers, and basically any business or organization that has a large parking space at its disposal. 

How much does a solar carport cost?

Costs for solar carports have come down significantly over the past few years. The average prices now range from $3.45 per watt to $3.99 per watt. A report by EnergySage points out that a solar carport costs $3.45 per watt in the United States.  A conventional system designed to meet almost the entire energy needs of a typical home would be 11kW.  The costs for a commercial setup will be much higher simply by the larger space that needs to be covered. That can, however, bring down the cost per watt due to the economies of scale.

Are solar carports worth it?

Solar carports are worth it. Not only do they help you become more sustainable but they also enable you to save money on your electricity bill. They're a great alternative to ground-mount or solar roof installation, particularly if your roof isn't fit for solar panel installation.  Consider the installation of a solar carport as a home improvement project. Given the significant upfront cost, you'll need to get enough generated electricity out of the system to recoup the installation cost. If you're planning on moving shortly, the cost might not recuperate, even if the solar carport installation improves the property value.

Environmental impact of solar carports in the future

Solar power is the most abundant and one of the cheapest forms of renewable energy. It’s already being harnessed at a massive scale to reduce the impact that fossil fuel-based methods of energy production have on the planet.  Solar carports will play a vital role in offsetting our carbon emissions in the future. Since they provide another avenue for people to embrace solar, the reliance on fossil fuels will reduce, thereby contributing to the improvement of our environment.  The automotive industry is already seeing incredible interest in fully electric vehicles. Solar carports are the perfect companion for these vehicles of the future. They will help reduce pollution and provide us with clean energy to power our vehicles. 

Can you get a solar carport for your own home?

The federal government incentivizes you to switch to solar. You can get a federal solar tax credit for installing a solar carport at home. The tax credit provides a 26% federal tax deduction on the amount spent on installing a qualified solar energy system which includes carports.  This provides significant savings and makes it easier for homeowners to make the switch. Do keep in mind that the tax credit is only offered for residential properties. Commercial buildings don't qualify for the credit.

Go green with Aspiration

You can also make an even more positive impact on the environment by switching your banking provider to Aspiration, an online bank that is 100% committed to clean money. No customer deposits are used to fund fossil fuel projects that harm the planet.  Aspiration offers powerful cash management accounts with up to 1.00% APY on savings. It also enables you to plant a tree with every transaction so that you can contribute to reforestation efforts across the globe while you shop.

Robert Kelley

May 10, 2021

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Want an Eco-Friendly Credit Card? Check the ESG Score

Senior executives should be accountable for ESG issues, finds poll If you’re looking to adopt more sustainable and environmentally-friendly processes into your life, look no further than the eco-friendly ESG credit card. ESG stands for Environmental Social and Governance. This type of financial implementation can fund a better future for the planet and subsequent generations.  According to the Thales Group, the amount of plastic implemented in developing credit cards annually is the same as the weight of 150 Boeing 747s airplanes. That’s a hefty chunk. The carbon footprint of banking cards is enormous and the need for eco-friendly credit cards is more important now than ever. Want an eco-friendly credit card? If so, then be sure to check the ESG score of multiple credit card companies before making your final decision.

What is an “Eco-friendly credit card”?

To create an eco-friendly credit card, banks and credit unions will need to strategize by choosing the correct technology, products, and methods for producing an ESG credit card that greatly reduces adverse environmental impacts.  There are various ways that a credit card could be eco-friendly. For instance, the BNP Paribas’ Bank of the West has a biodegradable card linked to a climate-action checking account. It includes a carbon-tracking tool to discover if a store is sustainable, according to Bloomberg. Furthermore, in 2020, MasterCard along with another 60 financial establishments began issuing credit cards produced from ocean-harvested, biodegradable, or recyclable plastic.  “There are a lot of people who are thinking about sustainability and ethics when they make daily decisions about the clothes or protein they want to buy, the coffee they drink or their car,” Andrei Cherny, chief executive of Aspiration Bank, told Bloomberg. “But then don’t realize their bank credit card and deposits are having a much worse impact on the planet.” As such, an eco-friendly ESG credit card can help you take your protection of the planet up a notch.

Cards Issued from Eco-Friendly Institutions

Several eco-friendly institutions issue credit cards including:
  • BNP Paribas' Bank of the West
  • Doconomy
  • TCM Bank, which is a division of the Independent Community Bankers of America
BNP Paribas’ Bank of the West declines to add financing toward fracking and natural gas drilling. In addition, they partner with Doconomy to assist consumers by investigating and decreasing their carbon footprint. Doconomy provides a credit card that will prevent customers from buying any more products once they hit their carbon dioxide emissions target. Doconomy also emphasizes gender and racial equality, with 50% of their board being female, and a woman of color serving as their CEO.  TCM Bank also offers the Green America Visa card. With this card, a percentage of your spend will be used to support clean energy, eco-friendly businesses, fair trade, and a prohibition on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Carbon offsets

An eco-friendly credit card is also usually attributed to carbon offsets. Due to carbon offsets, you can assist in financing an environmentally-friendly assignment, which has the goal of reducing your carbon footprint. Carbon offsetting credit cards have become more popular in recent years, as financial institutions have begun to implement more environmentally-friendly principles. Credit card companies with carbon offsetting values usually partner with third parties that follow reforestation pursuits and other methods for reducing a carbon footprint. When choosing an ESG credit card with carbon offsets, check out the organizations that the credit card company partners with so that it is clear how much of an eco-friendly benefit your purchases could have. Reducing your carbon footprint also involves avoiding buying too many products, so also try and use that credit card responsibly. 

Donations and charity contributions

Along with carbon offsetting credit cards, there are also ESG credit cards associated with donations and contributions to charity. Environmental organizations all over the world need funding to ensure they can continue doing good work in terms of protecting the planet. Eco-friendly credit cards can send donations to such nonprofit environmental organizations. Anytime you need to make a purchase, a donation would go toward environmental foundations.  However, purchasing too many consumer products could also negatively impact the planet, which means more care needs to be made when choosing to use an eco-friendly credit card.  Furthermore, it may be beneficial to donate your credit card rewards to nonprofit environmental charities to avoid processing fees and ensure 100 percent of your donation actually goes to the charity. Hotel programs and frequent flyer programs often have systems for donating your cash back or points toward a nonprofit environmental organization.    Environmental, Social and Governance | McCue Engineering Contractors

Understanding ESG ratings

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) ratings look at the credit quality of a card including the ability and inclination of borrowers to pay back funds. Therefore, ESG ratings have a major part in overall credit ratings and the credit of a borrower. The ESG Evaluation is useful for investors in forming an evaluation of preparedness for taking ESG risks and opportunities. In addition, the ESG profile looks at a credit card company’s activities and incorporates outputs to analyze the regional footprint of the credit card entity. The analysis also looks at how much the company has lessened risks.  Essentially, ESG ratings show how a company is scored based on a variety of factors:
  • Shareholder reports 
  • Sustainability standards 
  • Carbon disclosure data 
  • Flood risk analysis 
  • Water scarcity data 
  • Sustainability reports
  • Climate-related financial outcomes
  • And more

What are ESG ratings?

Most companies worldwide are assessed and rated based on their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) procedures and outcomes via the ratings of third-party organizations, as reported by the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance. Multiple third parties assess ESG ratings worldwide. For example, Bloomberg assesses companies annually by looking at corporate social responsibility and sustainability records. Bloomberg looks at various aspects in terms of ESG ratings, such as carbon emissions, renewables, the supply chain, waste discarding, diversity, and human rights. The DowJones Sustainability Index also performs an ESG analysis and has been doing so since 1999. The factors that DowJones look at include:
  • Environmental reports
  • Operational eco-efficiency
  • Environmental policies and management practices
  • Corporate governance
  • Brand management
  • Business conduct ratings

How do ESG ratings apply to credit cards?

ESG ratings of banks, credit unions, and credit card companies all provide data on how eco-friendly a credit card is for those who are interested in protecting the planet via their purchases. Essentially, ESG ratings may help to show which banks are ethical and reliable in terms of implementing environmentally-friendly policies. Credit unions and small local banks are often more eco-friendly and ethical in many of their policies. Along with ESG ratings, three certifications also show how ethical a bank or credit card company is. These three certifications are called B-corps, The Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV), and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI).  B-corps certification ensures greater transparency, accountability, and general ethics of rated banks. GABV certification is based on sustainability and environmental development, while CDFI certifications look at how well companies help economically grieved communities.

Using ESG ratings when buying a credit card

When choosing an ESG credit card, it may be helpful to first look at socially accountable and sustainable banks that provide credit cards. ESG ratings apply to large consumer banks, such as Wells Fargo or Bank of America, as well as Capital One and smaller banking institutions. By mostly focusing on the ESG scores of banking institutions, you may be able to streamline the process of choosing a credit card. Focusing on different eco-friendly programs may not provide you with the best choice if the bank itself is not very environmentally friendly or ethical. As such, take a look at the different ESG ratings of each bank when choosing a credit card.

Best eco-friendly credit cards

The Green America Visa: This credit card supports green economy programs such as developing fair trading platforms, boosting clean energy solutions, and removing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from the food chain.   The Clean Water Card: With this credit card, you can support the provision of clean water to communities in need, helping to improve the health of children and families. This Visa Platinum card is aimed at those who support the Clean Water Action organization. Aspiration Zero: The Aspiration Zero credit card aims to help you to go carbon neutral. With every swipe of the card, the organization plants a tree on your behalf and gives you the chance to round up your purchase to plant an additional tree as well.  For every month that a cardholder reaches a carbon footprint of zero, you will receive cash back of up to 1 percent on purchases. For those of you who want the most eco-friendly option and love the idea of planting trees, Aspiration Zero may be a great option. To check out the Aspiration Zero, or to read more about their other green financing solutions, check out their site today

Robert Kelley

July 25, 2021

The Most Eco-Friendly Credit Card Isn’t Plastic

white and blue magnetic card What might seem like a harmless, convenient card that sits in your wallet can be very harmful to the environment.  Banks issue over six billion plastic credit cards annually, and these create a significant carbon footprint due to the plastic they're made of.When the cards expire, they add to the plastic waste issue by ending up in landfills and water bodies.  However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Today more and more eco-friendly cards are available on the market. - let’s take a look at some of the best. 

What is my credit card made of?

Most credit cards are plastic, but the type of plastic varies.  So, you might be wondering - how can I tell what kind of plastic my card is made from? And what’s the big deal about types of plastic, anyway?

Plastic credit cards

The most common credit card plastic usually consists of polyvinyl chloride acetate - or PVC/PVCA, as it is commonly known. This material is about 40% petroleum and 60% chlorine, andl has the benefit of being dense, sturdy, and water-resistant. As such, PVC makes cards that are durable enough to withstand wear and tear for the years that they remain active and longer. The issue is when the card reaches its expiry date, it’s, well, still durable. And the question then, is where does that card go once it’s no longer useful.

What is so bad about plastic?

PVC is not biodegradable.  While the card might reach its expiry date, the material does not. Plastic takes an average of 400 years to break down, and, even then, it remains hazardous to the environment. It takes over 30,000 tons of PVC to make these credit cards annually. To put this into perspective, this is equivalent to the weight of 150 Boeing 747s airplanes. Even though some cards get recycled, the majority end up in the environment as plastic waste. Additives and pigments complicate the recycling process, but the main reason behind the dismal effort in repurposing the material is little to no financial incentive. As such, the plastic is either incinerated, dumped in landfills, or finds its way into the oceans. Some argue that incineration is the best way to tackle the problem because the process produces heat that can generate electricity. However, burning plastic releases harmful gases, such as dioxins and chlorine compounds, into the atmosphere, which can have severe health effects. With landfills, the toxic materials may leak slowly into the soil, and some of them may end up flowing through rivers into the sea. Either way, the plastic often ends up in the food chain.

Plastic consumption in humans

Plastic pollutes the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink.  As the large pieces of plastic degrade over time, they form microplastics, which are less than 5mm wide. A recent study done by the University of Newcastle suggests that an average person ingests five grams of microplastics weekly - the equivalent of the weight of a credit card. Most of this gets into the body through drinking water (tap & bottled), shellfish, beer, and salt. These contain as many as 1769, 182, 10, and 11 particles, respectively, where a particle is 0 – 1 mm. In the US, 94% of tap water samples contained plastic fibers - the highest percentage of any country tested.  Currently, the world produces over 330 million metric tons of plastic, which will triple by 2050. Plastic consumption in humans, as a result, will increase unless we make a change.  This can easily seem overwhelming. One simple swap you can make is to switch to using an eco-friendly credit card.  What are the alternatives to a plastic credit card? One way to reduce PVC credit card pollution is by using these alternatives: 

Ocean plastic cards

As stated earlier, there is a lot of plastic waste in the ocean.  Ocean plastic cards contain partial or 100% recycled plastic from the sea, which helps to clean up the ocean. One card might have the equivalent material of a reclaimed plastic bottle, which means six billion credit cards could eliminate up to six billion bottles from the water. Post-consumer recycling usually has little to no financial incentive, but this process helps to finance the industry. However, even though the cards help clean the coastal waters, once the cards expire, there is a high probability they will end up in landfills or back in the ocean again.

Biodegradable plastic cards

Biodegradable plastic cards are the best alternatives currently because they are easily recyclable, chlorine-free, and non-toxic when burned. The material comes from polylactic acid (PLA), a bio-based plastic obtained from corn, plant leaves, and other renewable sources.

Wooden cards

Wooden cards from sustainably sourced trees or recycled wood make great PVC plastic alternatives as they are also biodegradable, non-toxic, and recyclable. They are relatively new, and apart from being green, they often feature beautiful wood grain patterns.

Metal cards

Metal cards might have a large carbon footprint due to their extraction and refining processes, but they are more durable and easier to recycle when compared to PVC. Therefore, they are more eco-friendly in the long run. yellow square card on white surface

The future of green banking

There is no doubt that banking is getting more eco-friendly by the day. So, what next?

Will we see more plastic alternatives in the future?

With many banks signing up to provide non-plastic card alternatives, we may continue to see innovation of more eco-friendly credit cards made of safer materials. Not only is this good for the environment, but it also creates a sense of trust. Customers can have a better sense that their financial institution is committed to protecting the planet and making it a better place. 

What is green banking?

Green banking takes the issuance of eco-friendly credit cards to the next level by helping to reduce your carbon footprint while promoting environmentally friendly activities through banking.  Becoming more popular following the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement, green banking aims to shift the focus towards tackling climate change - and away from increasing profits. Some cool introductions include reforestation policies, where a financial institution plants a tree for every purchase or transaction made using their card, and cash rewards, which reward you if you hit carbon zero by eliminating your carbon footprint each month.  In this financing trend, banks are also shifting their investment strategies towards sustainable technologies and developing eco-friendly loan policies, while divesting from the oil & gas industry. Their eco-friendly loan policies may include lending money to invest in solar or the purchase of electric cars. This is all great news for your wallet, and more importantly, for the planet!

What can I do to help?

Finding a socially responsible green bank can be a great option if you’re looking to take the next step in your journey towards responsible consumerism.  One of the most notable financial firms offering this kind of service is Aspiration The firm has two spending and saving options, Aspiration and Aspiration Plus, which both offer cashback rewards for purchases from ethical companies. On top of that, their new credit card - the Aspiration Zero - doubles cashback rewards each month you reach carbon zero. As a genuine green neobank, the firm does not use deposits to fund fossil fuel companies or political campaigns. According to a Banktrack report, the 60 largest banks in the world spent $3.8 trillion in the fossil fuel industry from 2016 to 2020. In the US, this figure is closer to $240 billion annually - and that’s from the four biggest banks only. Thankfully, Aspiration’s green policies gear towards planet-saving activities, and every $1,000 deposit has the potential to eliminate the emissions produced by driving an average car for up to 6,000 miles

Wrap up

Eco-friendly cards may be the future of cashless payments to help reduce excessive plastic pollution. Embracing green banking can be a great way to fight climate change and protect the environment.  Aspiration is one of the most socially responsible green banking firms on the market today. If you're looking to be more eco-friendly, you can start by signing up for an Aspiration account today.

Robert Kelley

July 23, 2021

Doconomy Credit Card vs. Aspiration Zero: What’s the Difference?

Close-up Photography Two Brown Cards According to recent research by Mastercard, there is an 85% increase in consumer interest in the environment and sustainability. Generally speaking, significantly more consumers have a genuine interest in living a more sustainable lifestyle.  Currently, the ongoing pandemic has pushed many credit card issuers, including legacy banks, credit unions, or fintech, to adopt environment-friendly credit card solutions. Doconomy and Aspiration take the lead on this shift by providing their clients with sustainable banking solutions. In addition, these two fintech companies offer clients credit card alternatives concerned with the negative and positive impacts of their purchases on the environment. The credit cards by the two companies track a consumer's carbon footprint, but they differ in how they use these insights to promote a greener planet.  How? Using your Aspiration credit card won't tacitly endorse fossil fuel projects, and Aspiration's reforestation partners plant a tree anytime you swipe your card. On the other hand, Doconomy credit cards show users a breakdown of their carbon emissions. The latest DOBlack card has a carbon emissions cap that prevents cardholders from spending more once they reach the limit. Let's get into the details of the two sustainable credit card alternatives and see which one is right for you.

Doconomy credit card

Doconomy is an impact fintech startup that has been around since 2018. The Sweden-based company Sweden focuses on driving positive change by helping consumers be conscious of the impact of their purchases. They are constantly creating tools to combat climate change.

Credit card features

Doconomy, through its partnership with Mastercard, provides customers with the power to take charge of their carbon footprint.  Through the DO App, consumers can determine the environmental impact of their purchases. For instance, the calculator can reveal the carbon emission of their assets plus how many trees are required to absorb all the carbon dioxide generated by each purchase. The app utilizes an Aland Index system to calculate the CO2 produced with every transaction.  The app is tied to the DO Black credit card. This card comes with a carbon limit that cuts off your spending power once you exceed the limit.  The limit on the card equals the national limit as defined by world leaders under the Paris agreement. It is also in line with the 2-degree target for 2030. Here are the main outstanding features of the DO Black Credit card:
  • Carbon footprint limit: The DO Black credit card is the world's first credit card with a spending limit based on climate impact. The card prevents customers from making purchases once they exceed their monthly CO2 emissions cap. The card also allows users to reduce their carbon footprint by investing in United Nations certified green projects.
  • Made from sustainable material: Doconomy's biodegradable credit cards contain Poly Lactic acid. It is printed using Air-ink and features a pledge signature in place of the traditional signature panel or magnetic strip to ensure it is also recyclable.
  • Revolutionary tool against climate change: By cutting your tracking and freezing your spending, the DO Black Card can reduce user's carbon impact by up to 50%, as recommended by the UN in 2013.

Annual fee

When customers sign up to DO, they receive a free savings account. They also get free access to the DO app, which connects to the DO Black credit card. Connecting to the app enables cardholders to track their carbon footprint for every purchase and compensate for the impact day by day.

APR

DO is a complimentary service to regular banks. Thus, customers can connect their standard salary accounts to their new DO accounts. Once done, they can start enjoying the free services on the app.  Doconomy charges no APR, but there is a competitive fee when using the DO card to invest in funds. Additionally, there may be a minimal administration fee when compensating for carbon emissions affixed to their consumption.

Social responsibility

Doconomy focuses on providing its customers, employees, partners, owners, and the entire society with value. They achieve this by promoting a sustainable lifestyle and raising the awareness of climate change. They offer tools and formulas to help everyone make informed purchasing decisions. As a role model in the industry, Doconomy promotes gender diversity and equality. As such, 50% of the board of directors are female, including the board's Chairwoman. Doconomy is also transparent about how they make money and are always offering competitive fees. On top of that, the products it offers are all-inclusive, thanks to its ease of use and accessibility.

Our rating

The Doconomy DO Black card is a good alternative for customers keen on reducing their carbon footprint. It will limit the amount you spend on carbon-emitting products and services, but that's as much as it can do.  Unfortunately, the process of investing in carbon-reducing projects may be long and tedious and may lead to many customers aborting the mission.  Green Banking Alternative | Comprehensive Aspiration Review From A Current Customer [2021] – Honestly Modern

Aspiration Zero credit card

Aspiration has been at the forefront of climate change-focused banking solutions to customers looking for a bank that shares environmental conservation values. Aspiration is an online financial firm founded in 2013 that provides customers with several financial management alternatives, such as cash management and savings accounts. 

Credit card features

Aspiration recently launched the Aspiration Zero credit card. The company promises to plant a tree through their reforestation teams in Kenya, Brazil, Madagascar, Honduras, and the United States for every swipe made by their customers.  What's more, it is the first credit card to provide customers with rewards based on environmental sustainability. Customers who achieve the carbon-neutral status every month will receive 1% cashback on every purchase. You can even double the rewards when you reach the carbon-zero mark.  To achieve the carbon-neutral status each month, you'll need to swipe at least 30 times a month, and to reach the carbon zero mark, you'll need to use the Aspiration Zero card at least 60 times a month. You can easily redeem these rewards like conventional cash back rewards, or simply use the card to plant more trees. Here are the main features of the Aspiration Zero credit card:
  • Partly made using sustainable material: The card itself contains 16% plastic and 84% corn. The material makes the card compostable and thus environmental-friendly.
  • Track the environmental impact of your purchases: Aspiration's Zero credit card caters to consumer's growing demand for sustainable and transparent purchases. Hence, the Aspiration app provides customers with information on the climatic impact of purchasing certain products from specific merchants.
  • Supports sustainable investments: The firm accommodates sustainable investing (never towards fossil fuel investors) allowing customers to align their values with their investment options.

Annual fee

The Aspiration Zero card is still in its pilot stages, and so the complete details on the card are yet to be released officially. However, Nerdwallet reports that the card will cost members $60 annually. You can expect to earn an automatic 0.5% cashback and 1% cashback when you hit the carbon-neutral status each month.

APR

These carbon credit cards work similarly to regular credit cards, and Aspiration Zero credit cards are no different. They offer crest lines to customers at an annual percentage rate. It is not clear how much the APR is due to unavailable information, but you can expect it to be as low as 10.24%. 

Social responsibility

The fintech company, through its Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM), provides members with a way to determine their sustainability score. The sustainability score includes the impact of business cultures and practices on the planet and the people. It gives you a closer look at how businesses you purchase from are treating their customers, employees, and community. Some of the social metrics considered when calculating AIM scores include diversity, equality, employee wages, access to healthcare, customer satisfaction, and the impact of business operations on people as a whole.

Our rating

The Aspiration Zero credit card is a top-performing carbon credit card. It is suitable for individuals looking to eliminate their carbon footprint but has no idea where to start.  The environmental conservation impact of using the Aspiration credit card begins as soon as you join the waitlist. When on the waitlist, customers receive additional information about the card, such as the rates and fees.  Plus, Aspiration plants five trees on their behalf for simply being part of the movement. 

Which one is better?

The Aspiration Zero credit card takes the win on this one. That's because of its very evident environmental impact. It helps customers spend more consciously and responsibly and ensures that their money goes towards fuelling reforestation efforts.  So far, the company has been able to plant 500 million trees globally, and the number continues to grow. On top of that, Aspiration is 100% committed to clean money and has no affiliations with organizations that fund fossil fuel projects. If you're concerned about the environment and want to help make a difference, apply for a carbon credit card today.

Robert Kelley

July 23, 2021

Can Cash Back Credit Cards be Eco-Friendly?

Top view of different types and colors American dollars placed together on each other Everyone uses credit cards; they're an integral part of society and cultural capitalism. However, many credit users have shared concerns about the ecological impact of using their cards. Where does the invested money go? Is the card a first-use plastic? How are these banks helping our environment?  Credit cards can be environmentally friendly! Although there are companies with less than transparent investments and donations, you can find credit cards that donate to environmental charities and focus on net-zero carbon emissions. In this article, we’re going to discuss: 
  • Cashback credit cards: their pros, cons, and which give you the most rewards
  • Environmentally friendly cash back credit cards and which one to choose
  • Rewards that are just as good as cashback for credit cards

Are cash back credit cards worth it? 

First of all, let’s talk about cashback credit cards in general. These cards offer a percentage of what you spend as cashback on your card. The more you spend, the more rewards you get. Cashback cards are nice because they offer you money for buying necessities and increasing your credit.  While this sounds ideal, there are some cons as well. Cashback credit cards give you money as you spend it. However, this can encourage negative spending habits. After all, you only get a percentage of what you pay, so you are still spending unnecessary money if you aren’t buying necessities.  However, in the end, you do save money with a cashback credit card, as long as you keep up with monthly payments. Everyone spends money, and almost everyone uses cards, and cash is the most versatile form of reward. If you’re spending the money anyway, you might as well make some cash off it!  

What credit cards give you the most cast back? 

Credit card companies have different cashback programs. Some offer additional rewards and privileges to elite members, and others have travel perks. The most important things to look for are the annual fees and how much cash back you’ll receive. Here are some of the cards with the best rewards (not taking the environment into account): 
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited: $0 annual fee, 1.5-5% cashback 
  • Citi Custom Cash Card: $0 annual fee, 1-5% cashback 
  • Discover It Cash Back: $0 annual fee, 1-5% cashback 
  • Blue Cash Everyday Card (American Express): $0 annual fee, 1-3% cashback 
  • Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card: $0 annual fee, 1-8% cashback 
  • Chase Freedom Flex: $0 annual fee, 1-5% cashback 
  • Citi Double Cash: $0 annual fee (first eighteen months), 1.5% cashback 
Of course, these options aren’t just about how much money you get back. When you sign up for a credit card, you’re supporting the bank that produces it. The money you invest is being used in other places. It’s essential to know what kind of company you’re investing in and where your money is going.  If you’re concerned about the environmental impact of your credit card, all of these companies will disappoint you. Unfortunately, the bigger the bank, the more likely it is to give money to unethical organizations or support fossil fuel usage. 

Can cash back credit cards be eco-friendly? 

While some cash back credit cards are eco-friendly, it’s sometimes hard to tell how green a company is. Some credit card companies pledge to help the environment but are backed by companies like Chase Bank or Bank of America, known to invest in oil drilling and fossil fuels.  There’s also the concern about the make of the card. Most credit cards are made of plastic, and many are first-use plastic. Even if you apply for a credit card made of biodegradable material or recycled plastic, critics have argued that it encourages spending, which isn’t always good for the environment.  The bottom line is that any decision you make in this world is going to be complicated. An eco-friendly cashback credit card isn’t going to guarantee you’re making a good impact; you’ll have to develop green spending habits as well. However, cashback credit cards help the environment and keep your effects at net-zero carbon emissions.  If you are looking for an environmentally friendly bank and offers cash back credit cards, there are a few labels you can look for. Any bank endorsed by B-Corp, GABV, or CDFI has proven itself to care for its customers, employees, and the environment. Look for these logos on the bank’s website to confirm their moral status.  Person Holding Debit Card

The 5 best green cash back credit cards of 2021

There are credit card companies that are genuinely trying to impact the environment positively. These companies are relatively transparent in their donation history and amount and offer cash rewards for banking with them.  After some research, these are the five best eco-friendly cashback credit cards. They aren’t backed by banks who donate to fossil fuel companies or other questionable practices. They are ethically sourced and aim for carbon-neutral workspaces. Most of these are primarily online as well to further decrease negative environmental impact. 

Green America Rewards Platinum Visa

Green America is the nation’s largest environmental association, and this Visa card donates a percentage to Green America every time you make a purchase. There is no annual fee, and you get one point for every dollar you spend. You can redeem points for cash or gift cards.  The Green America card is sponsored by Visa and issued by TCM Bank, one of the largest community-minded banks in America. With the Green America card, you’ll be able to support the environment, earn points, and be sure that your money is going to good. 

Amalgamated Bank

Amalgamated Bank has a net-zero carbon footprint and donates to several different ethical causes, including the environment, antiracism, worker’s rights, and gun safety. They ensure that none of the investments from their banks go to fossil fuels or unethical companies.  Amalgamated Bank’s credit card has no annual fee and an unlimited cashback of 1.5%. They offer cashback as their main reward, but you can also exchange points for gift cards and travel vouchers. Amalgamated Bank is an excellent place for all your banking needs. 

Aspiration

Aspiration is a fully online bank with a minimal carbon footprint. They offer several environmentally friendly options with an account, including offsetting the carbon of gas purchases and completely recycled debit and credit cards.  Aspiration Zero is one of the best credit cards for the environment. They reward you more cashback when your carbon footprint is at net zero (calculated by the number of purchases and donations you make). Although it has a yearly fee of $60, Aspiration Zero offers 1.5% cashback on any purchase. 

Amazon Watch 

Not sponsored by the online shopping giant Amazon, this card focuses on the Amazon rainforest. When you use it, the company donates money to environmental causes in Central and South America, some of the wealthiest and most endangered ecosystems on the planet.  The Amazon Watch credit card gives a point for every dollar spent to be redeemed with cash, gift cards, or hotel stays. TCM Bank also funds it, so you don’t have to worry about unintentional investments in unethical businesses. 

M&F Bank

M&F Bank is one of the most ethical banks in America. They started as the Mechanics and Farmers Bank and are dedicated to being transparent with their customers and investors. M&F Bank has several options for credit cards with varying interest rates and cashback opportunities. 

Other rewards that are just as good as cash back 

Of course, there are other credit card rewards. Cashback is an ideal reward for spending money, but some credit cards give airline points, gift cards, and travel perks. Card companies offer these rewards in addition to or instead of cashback, so you might have to decide what is the best option for you.  Travel perks involve no-fee transactions overseas and lower prices on airline tickets. You can be rewarded for traveling. You can also waive the yearly fee and get rewards when friends join with certain credit card companies. It’s essential to remember that cash is only one reward option for a credit card. 

Is the Aspiration Zero worth it? 

Aspiration Zero is Aspiration’s newest credit card option. It offers 1% of cashback when the user is at net-zero carbon emissions. At any other time, the cashback rewards remain at 0.5%. There is an annual fee of $60, and the Aspiration Zero card is entirely biodegradable.  The company defines “net zero” as planting sixty trees. Every purchase made with the card plants one tree in addition to another tree when you round up to the following dollar amount. Some credit card purchasers may ask if this deal is worth it? Aren’t there better options for eco-friendly credit cards?  Aspiration Zero does a few things differently--when they say they’re planting a tree, they’re planting a tree. They also encourage offsetting your carbon emissions with cash rewards and in-app tracking. If you are looking for a credit card that helps the environment and puts money in your pocket, Aspiration Zero is worth it!

Robert Kelley

July 21, 2021

The Most Sustainable Credit Card Companies of 2021

  If you have more than one Credit Card then know its Advantages and disadvantages Many of us probably don’t consider what banks actually do with the fees and payments we make on our credit cards.  As it turns out, many big banks directly lend and support projects that benefit fossil fuel usage and other projects that are simply not doing the environment any good.  The reliance on credit cards in America isn’t built on what’s best for us or our planet - it’s a system that’s designed to make money. And while there might be nothing wrong with money, there are certainly ways to leverage it for the benefit of our planet.   Eco-friendly banks and credit card options are on the rise.  Switching the way that you - or your bank on your behalf - invest your money, is an accessible and easy way to make an impact.  And as big banks start to lose revenue from people making more eco-conscious choices, they too may opt to direct finances towards better options for our planet. 

What Makes a Credit Card Company Sustainable?

There are several things to look for when choosing a green bank.
  • Are they B-Corps certified?
  • Are they a member of GABV (Global Alliance for Banking on Values)?
  • Are they a CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution) bank or credit union?

Certified B-Corporations (B-Corps)

A
B-Corps Certified business is legally bound to the well-being of their customers, workers, suppliers, environment, and the community they are a part of.  Unlike many big companies, they aren’t left unchecked, so you can have more confidence that they are playing their part in protecting the planet, as well as their own employees and you as a customer.  A B-Corps certified company is required to demonstrate greater transparency of their practices, and becoming certified is a fairly extensive process. 

Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV)

The GABV is a network of independent and ethical banks that work towards a better present and future. They aim to leverage finance to help create a sustainable economy and society and to benefit the environment. 

The Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI)

The CDFI specializes in aiding low-income communities. Their mission is to help empower people stuck in poverty and poor housing to have more financial freedom and power. 

4 Sustainable Credit Card Companies 

BNP Paribas

BNP Paribas is a global bank focused on eliminating poverty and helping the environment through the use of intelligent financial choices and donations. Their company is made up of diverse people from around the globe. They offer different services worldwide, including retail banking, investment and protection services, and corporate and institutional banking.  Their personal finance programs offer other credit card options for individuals looking to be more conscious of the environment.

TCM Bank 

TCM is focused on community building on a local level.  It is a subsidy of the bank IBCA, which advocates for the environment and building up neighborhoods all over America. It strives to only offer credit card services that are both transparent and beneficial.

Amalgamated

Amalgamated Bank is both B-Corp certified and a member of the GABV.  What’s more, it has a firm policy against donating to fossil fuels and is 100% powered by renewable energy.  They are dedicated to helping the environment and providing affordable housing for immigrants and better working conditions.  This bank is a First National Bank of Omaha subsidy, which has already invested millions back into their communities.  Amalgamated bank is not only working for environmental change - it's pushing for social change as well:
  • They do not invest in private prisons, fossil fuels, or any weapons manufacturers.
  • They provide mainly online banking but have physical locations in Washington, D.C, and New York. 
  • They support nonprofits run by POC and actively hire a diverse team. 
Amalgamations credit card has no annual fee, and you can rest easy knowing the money you trust to your bank is being used for a step in the right direction. 

Southern Bancorp 

Southern Bancorp Community Partners features all three certifications: GABV, B-COrp, and CDFI.  SBCP is committed to diverse hiring, has a Black CEO, and 50% Black directorial board. SBCP focuses on creating equal financial opportunity for everyone in America, especially those affected by systemic racism within the housing industry.  SBCP has two physical locations in Mississippi and Arkansas and allows you to do all of your banking entirely online from anywhere in the U.S. They are a certified nonprofit set on establishing financial equality and sustainability.

How Many Credit Cards Should I Have?

Other Sustainable Credit Card Options

The great news is that there are far more options for sustainability than there used to be.  Investing in any of the following options can be a solid way to help your community - and the planet - one sustainable dollar at a time. 

Black-owned Banks 

Proportionally in the U.S., more Black and other POC are living in underdeveloped and poverty-stricken areas. This is in part based on the systemic placement from racist systems that prevent POC from getting loans or other financial opportunities that their white neighbor has. By committing to banking with a Black-owned bank, you can invest in a place that values their community and wants to give back locally, rather than in corporations that invest in fossil fuels and other harmful actions.  Not all of these banks are focused on environmentally conscious practices, but they may be more likely to invest in your community and to aim to help end injustice. 

Local Banks and Credit Unions 

By entrusting your money to a local bank or credit union, there is a stronger chance that the money goes directly back into your local area. Your local community bank will likely take more personal interest in your money and how to take care of you.  If you have a nomadic lifestyle or tend to move around the country every few years, a local bank may not suit your needs, as they tend to have limited physical locations. However, banking locally can still be a great way to help reduce your carbon footprint. 

Eco-friendly Credit Cards from Big Banks (in a Pinch) 

If you aren’t ready to make the jump to a sustainable card from a smaller company or are simply unable to, there is always the option to opt for an eco-friendly card from one of the large national banks. Unfortunately, it's likely still the case that they are involved in non-environmentally-friendly actions, as even their eco-friendly cards are still profit-driven - even if they do give a percentage to a charity.  However, all change starts small, and if this is a step you feel comfortable with, it may be a good choice for you.  Invest in Sustainable Credit Cards with Aspiration Zero Aspiration Zero is a neobank  - they operate entirely online.  The Aspiration Zero is a biodegradable credit card that gives you the chance to plant a tree with every purchase you make.  Planting trees is one great way of offsetting the carbon from any purchases that you make and ultimately working towards reaching carbon zero.     Aspiration goes a step above and beyond with the commitment to sustainability. Not only are they a B-Corp, but Aspiration is entirely transparent with its goals and business practices, allowing you to have peace of mind. Aspiration Zero encourages mindful spending that benefits you and the world over time, offers financial guidance to help you stay on top of your spending, and makes tracking your finances - and your carbon footprint -  easy through their app.  Sign up for early access to the Aspiration Zero credit card today.  

Robert Kelley

July 20, 2021

The Aspiration Zero Is Your Carbon Zero Credit Card of Choice

Welcome to Aspiration Credit Card As the world becomes more environmentally conscious, people are looking for little ways to reduce their carbon footprint and live an eco-friendly lifestyle.  One great way to cut back on personal carbon emissions is to use a carbon zero credit card. The Aspiration Zero helps you offset your household carbon emissions by planting trees in your name each time you swipe your credit card. What’s more, you can learn more about sustainable businesses - and even be rewarded each month you net carbon zero. Even the card itself is even made of biodegradable materials to reduce environmental waste.

What Does It Mean to Achieve Net Zero Carbon?

For an organization to become net zero-carbon emissions, they have to either:
  • Not emit any carbon dioxide into the environment, or
  • Remove the same amount of carbon dioxide that they emit. 
A company can achieve carbon zero by a combination of relying on renewable energy sources, using sustainable manufacturing processes, and mitigating any emissions they do cause by planting trees to contribute to reforestation.

Carbon Zero, Carbon Negative, or Carbon Neutral?

With all the chat around how we can best combat climate change, the names can get a little confusing.  Carbon negative is the most ambitious of the three and is defined as “activity that goes beyond achieving net-zero carbon emissions to create an environmental benefit by removing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere” (thanks to Plan A for the definition) Carbon neutral, perhaps the most intuitive term, involves offsetting emissions by planting trees, which capture some CO2 from the atmosphere. This is the same thing as net zero-carbon emissions, discussed in the section above.  Net zero-carbon, on the other hand, refers to activity that doesn’t emit any carbon at all, and so no offset is needed.   Many policymakers aim to go carbon neutral because it requires less infrastructure and industry overhaul than cutting all greenhouse gas emissions. While planting trees is a step in the right direction, it will not solve the climate crisis and may incentivize people to overconsume. However, at this time, humans cannot realistically halt all CO2 emissions and achieve true net zero-carbon, particularly in the agricultural industry.  We can aim to become virtually zero carbon by cutting 90% of carbon emissions through implementing renewable energy and sustainable manufacturing and transportation practices.

How Credit Cards and Banks Contribute to Climate Change

Financial institutions like banks and credit card agencies often support the fossil fuel industry.  Between 2016 and 2020 alone, 60 large world banks invested $3.8 trillion into fossil fuels. While fossil fuel financing decreased by 9% in 2020, climate organizations mainly attribute the drop to COVID-19 restrictions, and this 2020 value was still higher than it was back in 2016. The top financiers of fossil fuels were JPMorgan Chase ($51.3 billion), Citi ($48.4 billion), and Bank of America ($42.1 billion). However, Bank of America has teamed with the World Wildlife Fund to distribute a sustainable credit card, despite contributing more to fossil fuels than WWF. Nonetheless, they wish to achieve net-zero emissions and rely on renewable energy. Recent research shows that climate change could threaten the global economy, leading to instability and inflation. Some banks have taken action by donating to climate-friendly businesses, investing in sustainable projects, and reducing assets related to pollution.

Aspiration Announces Earth-Friendly Aspiration Zero Credit Card

Can Credit Cards Go Carbon Neutral?

In the past, nonprofit organizations have teamed with banks to create credit cards where a portion of your purchases goes to charity. However, these cards are not necessarily carbon neutral. Carbon neutral or carbon zero credit cards come from banks that actively work to eliminate environmental problems by not instigating them.  Standard credit cards contribute to pollution, and stacking each of them would result in a plastic mountain as tall as 13 Mount Everests. By replacing these destructive materials with biodegradable alternatives, we can reduce the amount of plastic pollution. Eco-friendly institutions often strive to reduce the amount of mail sent to your home by offering digital and paperless services. Shipping goods via a modern truck could result in 60-150 grams of CO2 emitted per kilometer traveled and a metric ton of freight. Eco-friendly banks are more likely to only ship you a card if you have requested one, and are less likely to spam your address.  Ideally, credit card agencies can become more environmentally friendly by running on renewable energy and working to replant trees lost from deforestation. This can help to avoid the production of additional carbon emissions, and even mitigate those produced by other institutions. A green credit card is manufactured sustainably by a company devoted to cutting back on climate change.  However, it is only carbon neutral if the institution releases little to no greenhouse gases and offsets any emissions that they do produce. Many carbon zero credit cards offer fair interest rates due to their commitment to treating their customers ethically. They have transparent loan terms and conditions, so you know what you will spend on fees before getting charged. Also, many of them discourage overspending by teaching you how to cut back on your expenses through counseling and informational tools. Some percentage of your proceeds may go to a charity, depending on the institution that provides the card. The company may also offer cashback reward tiers that increase when you spend more consciously, such as at eco-friendly companies or when you achieve carbon zero.

Enter the Aspiration Zero

The Aspiration Zero credit card can help you curb your carbon footprint. Every purchase you make results in a planted tree, even something as small as $1.50. Rounding up to the nearest dollar ($2.00 in this example) plants another tree. Aspiration works with three reforestation partners: the Arbor Day Foundation, the Eden Reforestation Project, and One Tree Planted, and they are looking to expand this list. Each and every time you buy something over $1.50 with your credit card, one of the partners plants a tree in your honor. Although plastic is a cost-effective material, it is not environmentally friendly. The Aspiration Zero card is biodegradable and compostable with a plant composition. Some other perks of the card include:
  • An initial cashback rate of 0.5%
  • A cashback rate of 1% after planting 60 trees in one month 
  • An annual fee of only $60
  • An app that allows you to view your carbon footprint from purchases
While other credit cards may offer more money back, they do not work to offset your carbon footprint. Aspiration is a mission-focused financial institution, not profit-driven. Their goal is to help you reach net-zero carbon emissions each month.

How Aspiration Zero Helps You Go Carbon Neutral

Every year, the average American consumer emits 20 metric tons of carbon dioxide from their household, transportation, and food. Even the most eco-friendly communities release eight metric tons, compared to the global average of four metric tons per person.  One acre of most tree species removes 1.1 to 9.5 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually. Aspiration views you as carbon neutral if you plant 60 trees each month, equating to 720 trees each year. They plant various tree species, so you may want to view this number as more of a rough guide.  While your actual carbon footprint may vary from this number, it serves as a baseline for you to offset what you contribute. Even if you lead an eco-friendly lifestyle, you can help offset the emissions from other organizations and households. The Aspiration app makes it easy to track your carbon footprint by ranking merchants based on their social and environmental ethics. You can see how well they care for their employees and how they impact the environment. This feature lets you track when you spend money on unsustainable goods and redirects you to eco-friendly resources. By tracking each purchase and collecting data to show you the environmental impact of your spending history, Aspiration makes it easier for you to amend your habits to reduce your carbon footprint in addition to offsetting what you do emit.

Apply to Aspiration Zero Today!

The Aspiration Zero card is in its early access stage before its public release. If you want to invest in the environment now, you can sign up for the waitlist here. Simply entering your email address at this link will allow Aspiration to plant ten trees on your behalf.  If you're interested in other ways you can spend more responsibly, you might want to consider some of the other services offered by Aspiration. Opening a checking account with us will help you plant trees as you shop, give you access to fee-free ATMs, earn your wages two days early, offset your gasoline emissions, get higher interest on your savings, get more money back, minimize fees, and more.  We refuse to lend your money to fossil fuel projects and instead invest in charitable organizations working to mitigate climate change. Transferring $1,000 to Aspiration is equivalent to driving your car 6,000 miles less in terms of the climate impact. If you want to earn financial rewards for protecting the environment, get started with Aspiration today. 

Robert Kelley

July 19, 2021

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