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The Least Polluted City in the World Is…

Industry, Environmental Pollution, Smog, Sunrise

Image by Ralf Vetterle from Pixabay

What is pollution?

Pollution is the introduction of any substance, or energy, into the environment at a rate faster than it can be cleaned, dispersed, recycled, or stored in a less harmful form. The most common types of pollution are air pollution, water pollution, and land pollution, but there are lesser-known forms of pollution that can be just as harmful.

Air pollution

Smog and particulate matter (sometimes referred to as soot) are the most common forms of air pollution.  Smog forms when emissions from burned fossil fuels react to sunlight and air. Burning fossil fuels has many uses - from powering factories to vehicles to converting energy into electricity to heat our homes.  Particulate matter, on the other hand, refers to the tiny particles of chemicals, dust, or allergens that are carried in the air. The sources of smog and particulate matter are similar, with both come from sources that combust fossil fuels, such as coal, gas, or natural gas. When these pollutants are released into the air, they can be detrimental to human and animal health. Particulates are harmful because they can penetrate deep into the lungs, causing respiratory diseases and even heart attacks The way air pollution is measured is through the number and size of particulate matter in the air. Particulate matter that is 10 micrometers or less in diameter is represented as PM 10, and particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter as PM 2.5. The higher the density of these particles in the air, the higher the risk. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately seven million people worldwide die because of air pollution. In addition to that, 90% of people on earth currently breathe unhealthy air. Air pollution is also detrimental to the planet as a whole, as it can destroy plants and trees. 

Water pollution

When chemicals or dangerous substances are introduced into bodies of water, they can be harmful to the ecosystem.  Chemicals such as pesticides, sewage, and fertilizers from agricultural runoff, or even metals like lead, are considered hazardous water pollutants. These pollutants make their way into our drinking water and cause massive harm to marine life, avian life, and entire ecosystems. Scientists use a variety of characteristics to determine water quality. Some of these include temperature, acidity (or pH), dissolved solids, and suspended sediment. Each measurement reveals something different about a particular body of water, and since these can vary widely, it can be helpful to track changes in the same body of water over time. 

Land pollution

Land pollution is the process of depositing solid or liquid waste on land or underground that leads to the contamination of soil and groundwater and threatens public health and quality of life.  Most land pollution is caused by municipal waste, industrial waste, and household garbage. Industrial waste forms a significant portion of solid waste, while hazardous waste is any liquid, solid, or sludge waste that contains properties that are dangerous or potentially harmful to human health or the environment.  Industries generate hazardous waste from mining, petroleum refining, pesticide, manufacturing, and other chemical production, like tanning leather. Households can generate hazardous waste as well, including paints and solvents, motor oil, fluorescent lights, aerosol cans, and ammunition. The best way to measure land pollution is often to test samples of dirt or land for soil contamination. Soil contaminants are a diverse list of chemicals and can include petroleum products, heavy metals, pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals. Knowing the area well and whether or not there are factories or landfills nearby will help narrow down what contaminants to look for.

Noise pollution

Regular exposure to elevated or unpleasant sound levels can lead to negative effects in humans and animals. Even though noise pollution is invisible, it can still affect the environment. Noise pollution includes loud sounds from planes, factories, traffic, and other sources. Many forms of noise pollution are a part of our daily lives and we fail to even notice them anymore. Noise pollution such as car horns, construction sites, and office noise can all lead to stress, but noise pollution can also be the underlying cause of other serious health concerns like hearing loss, hypertension, and sleep disorders. Noise pollution also affects wildlife. Ships cause underwater noise pollution and can upset whales' navigation systems and feeding schedules, and kill other species that depend on the natural underwater sounds to guide them. Noise pollution can confuse or scare birds and other wildlife, and also makes wild species communicate louder, which can shorten their lifespan. Loudness (also called sound pressure level, or SPL) is measured in units called decibels (dB). The average human ear can detect sounds that range between 0 dB and about 140 dB. Sounds that range between 120dB and 140 dB can cause pain to the human ear. For reference, the SPL in a library is about 35 dB, while the level inside a moving bus or train is roughly 85 dB.

Light pollution

Like noise pollution, light pollution is a form of waste energy that can cause adverse effects and degrade environmental quality.  Light pollution occurs when there’s unwanted or excessive artificial light in a given area.  Light pollution can cause quality of life issues for people such as sleep disturbances, but it can also affect animal life by changing their migrations patterns and feeding times. Newly hatched sea turtles, for example, rely on starlight bouncing off waves to steer them in the direction of the ocean. If there are street lights around, they often get confused and head in the wrong direction.

Who is responsible for pollution?

There’s a lot of debate over who is responsible for pollution and what can be done about it.  Ultimately, pollution and our climate crisis have been attributed mostly to the fossil fuel industry and governments that don’t regulate them effectively. However, other entities are responsible, too. Banks and financial institutions who provide loans or invest in fossil fuel projects and other polluting industries, such as the plastics industry, are responsible, as well.

The five most polluted cities in the world  

Hotan, China

Hotan - a desert area in northwestern China - ranks as the world's most polluted city. This is largely due to sandstorms that have been made worse by climate change. Hotan had the highest monthly PM2.5 averages worldwide from March to June 2020.

New Delhi, India

New Delhi is a densely populated city that struggles with air quality throughout the year. Many different factors contribute to its overall poor air quality, such as emissions from thermal plants and factories, fires on farms, and congested transportation networks. At its worst, according to IQAir’s 2020 World Air Quality Report, New Delhi’s PM2.5 levels averaged 157 micrograms per cubic meter in December 2020, exceeding the World Health Organization's annual exposure guideline by more than 14 times.

Ghaziabad, India

The third most polluted city in the world, Ghaziabad, is also found in India. Part of the capital region of Delhi, Ghaziabad’s high levels of traffic and industry play a large part in its pollution levels, but the most prominent factor is its topography, which creates a sort of “dustbowl” leading to massive amounts of dust accumulating in the city without sufficient wind to blow it away.

Dhaka, Bangladesh

Dhaka is a very densely populated city with many vehicles and factories. Its pollution problems stem mostly from a lack of rigorous environmental regulations. This has led to the continued use of inefficient vehicles that use diesel fuel, like motorbikes and trucks, and industrial pollution from unregulated factories such as brick kilns which use unregulated fuel sources for power. Aside from these two issues, there’s also the large problem of dust. High concentrations of dust are present across the city due to the quantity of open burning sites where garbage is burned. Luanda, Angola Over the last decade, Luanda has turned into an economic powerhouse. New opportunities and industries have exploded over the region, while millions of people have moved to the city for work. This has increased pollution in the area dramatically, and Luanda is now one of the most polluted cities in the world. With a PM10 level of 332 and a PM2.5 level of 182, it is dangerous to even breathe without a protective mask in Luanda. 

The five cleanest cities in the world

Honolulu, Hawaii

According to the American Lung Association, Honolulu, Hawaii has some of the cleanest air in the world.  Hawaii’s trade winds carry air particulates out to sea, meanwhile, there are very few factories or commercial industries operating in Honolulu to disperse harmful particulates. Because the islands are isolated, there aren’t any hazardous particles blowing over from the mainland.

Zurich, Switzerland

The city of Zurich in Switzerland is known for its clean air, and that’s not by accident. Widespread use of efficient public transportation, instead of individual cars, helps to cut down on air pollution in the city.  People in Zurich often cycle as a mode of transportation, and use trains, buses, and subways instead of driving. The city has also implemented strict waste management techniques which help residents to manage their garbage and recycling.

Helsinki, Finland

A city that tops most lists of “Most Livable Cities in the World” is Helsinki, Finland.  The capital of Finland is hailed as sustainable and filled with great green urban areas and is also one of the least polluted cities in the world. Residents routinely use public transportation and bicycles for mobility instead of cars. It’s easy to walk and bike everywhere, with the city maintaining roughly 2,400 miles worth of bike lanes.

Calgary, Canada

With a population of more than a million, Calgary is still considered one of the cleanest cities in the world.  This is largely due to its approach to waste management - its green composting program and waste management updates have reduced the amount of garbage going to landfills by 48%. And most of this is through something as simple as sorting out compost and recyclables.

Copenhagen, Denmark

In Europe, the Danish city of Copenhagen is among the least polluted cities in the world.  It’s a sustainable city with a strong cycling culture that aims to keep people active. Almost half of Copenhagen’s residents use bicycles as their primary means of transportation. Aside from cars, there are few things in the area that cause dangerous air pollutants. Copenhagen is expected to become a zero-emission city by 2025 and hopes to see its emissions decrease by 20% by 2015.  

Ready to help keep your city pollution-free?

To help keep your city clean and pollutant-free, you can learn how to make positive changes to the environment. One way of doing this is to get involved at a local level and speak to your elected representative about what they’re doing to encourage banks and governments to divest from fossil fuels On a personal level, you can also consider what your daily credit card purchases are funding. To learn more about sustainable personal finance, or to apply for the Aspiration zero - our carbon-neutral credit card - reach out to Aspiration today! 

Robert Kelley

September 10, 2021

How to Fight Climate Change With Your Credit Card

silhouette of trees during sunset

Photo by Matt Palmer on Unsplash

A credit card is more than just a tool for making payments. With the right credit card, you can offset your carbon emissions, donate regularly to environmental charities, and reduce plastic waste in your life. Some of the best credit cards to help you achieve these goals are carbon credit cards and affinity credit cards. Both are designed to reduce their owners’ carbon footprints. They’re often made from biodegradable materials and only contain small amounts of plastic. If you’re looking to switch to a credit card that helps you fight climate change - we’ve got you covered. In this article, we look at how mainstream credit cards can fuel climate change and what you can do to help the environment with an eco-friendly credit card.

Credit cards and impact on climate change

Many of us use our credit cards every day to buy coffee, stock up on groceries, and pay for transportation. But how often do we consider the impact that our credit cards have on the environment? 

The positive impact of using a credit card 

Making purchases with your credit can actually help you fight climate change. For example, credit cards can help us donate to environmental causes each time we make a purchase.  Some credit cards, like the affinity credit cards offered by Bank of America, donate about 0.08% of each transaction to environmental charities like The Nature Conservancy and Defenders of Wildlife. Other cards allow you to convert your accumulated rewards points or cash back into cash donations to charities of your choice. Credit cards can also help us reduce plastic and paper waste that’s abundant in the banking sector. With a credit card, there’s no longer a need to carry cash or write checks.  Many credit card companies are beginning to issue sustainable credit cards to help fight plastic pollution. Made from biodegradable plant materials, recycled ocean plastics, or metal, these credit cards help reduce the amount of virgin plastics used in credit card production. 

The negative impact of using a credit card 

Despite the benefits afforded to us by credit cards, regular credit card usage can also help accelerate climate change.  Credit cards, by their very nature, can encourage us to live beyond our means. They help us borrow money that we don’t have to make purchases, which if used irresponsibly, can lead to overspending. And they entice us with cashback, bonus offers, and discounts that have the potential to gamify consumerism. The problem with this design is that it supercharges the highly polluting manufacturing, transportation, and electricity sectors - all of which benefit from the fast consumer culture that credit cards support. According to recent studies, the fashion industry alone accounts for about 10% of global carbon emissions, utilizing more energy than the aviation and shipping industries combined.  Also, plastic credit cards themselves can contribute to the climate problem. Most of the 6 billion credit cards issued annually are made from PVC plastics, which are very difficult to recycle. Despite the best efforts of card issuers and recycling companies to recycle them, millions of these credit cards end up in landfills and our waterways, where they break down into microplastics and toxic waste.

Creating a more sustainable financial future

In light of these findings, climate experts have called for changes in our spending habits. Our fast consumer culture is quickly depleting the world of its fossil fuels, forests, and minerals. 24/7 logistics operations emit close to a billion tonnes of CO2 per year. And the surprising thing is that a large percentage of the carbon emissions emitted by humans don’t come from our daily commute or energy use - instead, they come from sources further down our products’ supply chains. According to a 2015 study, 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions can be traced to the production and use of household goods and services. As countries become wealthier, more people gain better incomes and access to retail services that facilitate fast consumerism. The United States is a case in point - a typical American produces five times more carbon emissions per year than the world’s average person. The best way to halt climate change, say some climate scientists, may be for us as individuals to simply consume less.

Identifying the main stakeholders of change

While our consumer culture may be responsible for most of our climate woes, it’s not the only culprit. Our banks and governments are also implicated in this problem, and so their involvement is necessary to develop an effective climate solution.


Banks are the biggest financiers of oil and gas companies. Between 2016 and 2020, the world’s 60 largest banks invested a total of $3.8 trillion into fossil fuel projects globally.  The boom in oil wells, gas terminals, and fracking operations during this period was carried out in complete neglect of the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. These investments are believed to have effectively delayed our transition to a renewable energy-based low-carbon economy. To reverse the damage that banks have caused to the environment, it may be important to persuade them to divest their fossil fuel money and reinvest it in sustainable clean energy technologies.  Their money is vital to the creation of a low-carbon future. If banks keep financing climate chaos, they will put their future and those of their clients at high risk from the damage that extreme weather events will cause.


As the signatories of the Paris Climate Agreement, our elected governments are responsible for creating and implementing climate policies that will build a sustainable future.  They have the power to establish laws that protect ecosystems vital to the fight against climate change. With their influence and direction, they can encourage local communities to conserve forests, mangroves, and wetlands that absorb large quantities of carbon and act as barriers against storms and floods. Governments also have the authority to set national targets for greenhouse gas emissions. They can identify the most polluting industries and ask them to adopt sustainable technologies that help them reduce their carbon footprints. Lawmakers could also direct government funding towards the development of clean energy systems and low-carbon technologies.

How can I fight climate change as a consumer?

As consumers, what we buy and throw away has huge impacts on the environment. That’s why building responsible spending habits can help us reduce our environmental impact considerably. Reducing your spending is one way of helping tackle climate change. To keep your carbon footprint as low as possible, one thing to aim to avoid is fast fashion and single-use items that you’ll quickly throw away. Instead, you may want to opt for items made from durable materials that you know you’ll want to use and wear for years.  Often, the key can be to shop as consciously as possible so that you’re not buying items that you simply don’t need - or even want. 

How to fight climate change with your credit card

The credit cards we carry in our pockets can be a part of the climate solution. You can use your card to support sustainable businesses and purchase regular carbon offsets.  Here’s a look at how your credit card can be repurposed for fighting climate change.

The Aspiration Zero carbon credit card

One of the best ways to lower your carbon footprint is to use a carbon credit card, such as the Aspiration Zero issued by the sustainable neobank Aspiration. This card helps you track the carbon emissions of your purchases and automatically offset them.  For every purchase you make with this card, Aspiration plants a carbon offset tree on your behalf. When you’ve planted 60 or more trees with your credit card in a month, Aspiration rewards you with 1% cashback on all purchases in that month. Aspiration believes that our money should work for ourselves and our planet. With the Aspiration Zero, you’re given that privilege. 

Support sustainable businesses 

Even if you don’t have a carbon credit card, you can still use your regular credit card to support environmentally-friendly businesses. These are businesses that take environmental and social factors into account during the development of their products and services. They may incorporate recycled materials in their products or only use raw materials from sustainable sources. Most sustainable businesses do their best to use clean energies to power their operations.  Many sustainable businesses are leaders in their communities, taking on socially good work such as community gardening projects and reforestation initiatives. Supporting these businesses helps you pass on your money to climate-positive projects.

Divest from fossil fuels 

Many large banks invest their money in fossil fuel companies. If your current credit card is issued by one of them, it may be a good time to switch to a credit card issuer that’s aligned with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Choose an issuer that invests in renewable energy projects and helps its customers install solar panels and wind turbines. If they have net-zero emissions pledges, all the better.

Ready to learn more? 

To take the next step in investing in a greener future, check out Aspiration for tips on sustainable financial activity and pre-order the Aspiration Zero.

Robert Kelley

August 28, 2021

How Credit Card Companies Pollute the Environment

photo of coconut tree near seashore

Photo by Dustan Woodhouse on Unsplash

Credit card companies are well-known for the rewards and benefits they provide. But what’s often ignored is the amount of environmental pollution they produce. Credit card companies, just like all companies, emit greenhouse gases from their operations. Their reliance on plastic credit cards has further contributed to a plastic waste problem in our oceans and landfills, and their investments in oil and gas companies help to keep the fossil fuel industry alive. If these environmental impacts make you feel uneasy, there are alternatives you can try. You could get yourself a carbon credit card to help reduce your carbon footprint, or an affinity credit card to support conservation projects around the world. In this article, we take a look at how credit card companies pollute the environment, and what you can do as a consumer to opt out.

Why credit cards became mainstream

From just a million credit cards in circulation in 1970 to more than 365 million open credit card accounts today in America, the credit card has become one of the most popular payment methods of our times. With a credit card, you can borrow money quickly and make expensive purchases. More importantly, they help you build a good credit score.

The good bits about credit cards and their environmental impact

Just as credit cards were becoming popular in the 1970s, the environmental movement overtook public life. Activists highlighted the harmful impacts of pesticides in food production as well as the deforestation caused by high levels of paper consumption in the business sector. The banking industry, in particular, came under focus because of its heavy reliance on paper for checks, credit card statements, and office documents. In response to these environmental concerns, the credit card industry adopted sustainable measures. They began moving most of their services online to lower their paper consumption, with significant reductions in their environmental impact. Studies have found that credit card transactions using payment terminals consumed about 3.78 grams of CO2 per transaction - a lot less than the 4.60 grams of CO2 consumed by cash transactions. Cash has a higher carbon footprint due to the emissions associated with banknote production, ATM operations, and the transportation of cash. According to researchers, with the expansion of renewable energies and energy-efficient technologies, credit card issuers could further reduce the carbon footprint of cashless transactions by up to 44%.

How did credit card companies change society? 

The quick rise of credit card companies ushered in an era of increased spending.  Several businesses, especially those in the retail industry, experienced skyrocketing growth thanks to the popularity of credit cards among consumers. Customers could pay for expensive purchases without needing to pay with cash upfront. Checks were no longer needed and payments could be made in seconds both online and offline. As credit cards became easier to apply for, the buying power of the American public increased with them. People could enjoy dinners at restaurants and purchase things regularly with credit instead of having to save up to buy later.

Is credit good for our future economy?

As long as consumers are able to repay their credit card balances, credit has big potential to keep economic activity strong for several more decades. Credit enables consumers and businesses to purchase items they need. Businesses, especially new ones, may use credit to acquire tools, warehouses, and office supplies essential to their growth. Similarly, consumers might use credit cards to buy electronics, such as a personal laptop or a camera, to start a side hustle.  But it doesn’t stop there. Consistent and responsible use of credit can make consumers and businesses eligible for high-value loans. These loans enable wealth-building by giving borrowers the ability to buy property, invest in themselves and their organizations, and expand their operations, all of which are essential to the growth of the economy. When consumers and businesses can borrow money quickly, economic activity flourishes

Impact of the credit card industry on the environment

Overspending with credit cards does, of course, have some downsides.  Vigorous economic activity expands the growth of the manufacturing, transportation, and electricity sectors, which are our planet’s biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Also, many of the banks that issue credit cards invest heavily in fossil fuels. If we are to use our credit cards responsibly, understanding their environmental impact is a crucial first step.

Credit card plastic and the environment 

Recent research has found that our love of credit cards may be contributing to a major plastic pollution problem.  Most plastic credit cards are made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), a sturdy plastic material that’s quite difficult to recycle. Because most recycling stations won’t accept plastic credit cards, several millions of them end up in our landfills and oceans each year. If we were to stack all of the credit cards in circulation right now on top of one another, they would create a mountain as high as 13 Mount Everests.  When plastic credit cards are left to accumulate in the environment, they break down into microplastics that harm human and animal health. Dyes and inks that wash off credit cards may also seep into groundwater reservoirs and pollute freshwater sources. It’s difficult to rein in credit card use because it helps to encourage consumer spending, which in turn spurs economic growth. But at the same time, overspending on our credit cards can lead to a fast consumer culture, in which items are bought in an instant and quickly discarded when they are no longer considered useful - leading to the unnecessary depletion of our scarce natural resources.

Sustainability - why it matters and how to opt for it 

Without any intervention, our credit card waste problem could soon spiral out of control. Thankfully, quite a few sustainable solutions are available that can help us tackle this problem effectively. These solutions allow us to enjoy the benefits of credit cards while reducing their environmental impact at the same time. Switching to a sustainable bank is one such solution. Sustainable banks actively look for ways to reduce their carbon footprints. They may cut down on their paper consumption by digitizing their products and services, or they may invest in switching their power supply to renewable energies. Additionally, you could opt for a green credit card that helps you donate to environmental causes. These credit cards are designed to donate a percentage of each transaction to the environmental charity they’re affiliated with.

Environmental alternatives to credit cards 

Mainstream credit cards aren’t the only way for you to build credit.  Carbon credit cards, affinity credit cards, and online payment accounts are alternatives that can help you spend money responsibly - while benefiting the planet. 

Go carbon neutral with Aspiration

Aspiration is a B Corp certified socially responsible neobank that puts sustainability at the core of its business.  Since its foundation in 2013, they have not invested a single dollar in fossil fuels, firearms, or private prisons. Instead, they opt to create green financial products that help customers grow their wealth and reduce their carbon footprint. The Aspiration Zero carbon credit card does exactly that. It’s a unique credit card that tracks the carbon emissions of purchases made on the card and plants a carbon offset tree each time the card is used. When customers plant 60 trees in a month, Aspiration rewards them with 1% cashback on all purchases for that month.  The waitlist for the Aspiration Zero is now open so you can sign up for early access to the card.

Affinity credit cards 

An affinity credit card can be a great alternative to a traditional credit card. These credit cards are linked to a partnering charity that receives about 0.08% of each transaction as a donation. The charity also receives about $3 when a customer opens a new card account or renews their current account.  Bank of America currently has the widest selection of affinity credit cards. Customers can choose to get a card affiliated with Defenders of Wildlife, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, or the World Wildlife Fund. Some cards support health-related causes such as the Susan G. Komen breast cancer research foundation.

Online payment platforms 

Online payment platforms like PayPal, Payoneer, and Skrill can also help you use your money sustainably.  Being online-only, these payment platforms produce little to no plastic or paper waste. They may have a considerable carbon footprint due to the vast amounts of energy their data centers consume, but this is being gradually reduced as the centers are switched to 100% renewable energy over the next decade. Some platforms, like PayPal, offer digital credit lines that can help you enjoy the benefits of credit without having to worry about plastic or paper waste.

Ready to take your sustainability to the next level?

Check out Aspiration to learn more about green financing or to preorder the Aspiration Zero and start working towards becoming carbon neutral!

Robert Kelley

August 26, 2021

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. 


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 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.


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? 


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. 


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 


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. 


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.  


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

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What Is an Environmentally-Friendly Credit Card?

Hands, Protection, To Protect, Tree, Globe, Earth

{Whenever you need to spend money, why not keep an environmentally-friendly credit card in your wallet and, at the same time, invest in a greener future?}

Fighting climate change starts in our own backyards.  Maybe you maintain a vegetable garden or even ride a bicycle to work everyday. While it may seem like that’s all you can do to contribute, there are even simpler ways to make a difference. Imagine fighting climate change every time you make a purchase with your credit card—a card that’s environmentally friendly. An environmentally-friendly credit card can be environmentally-friendly in terms of being made of biodegradable materials, or in the sense of its use and impact. Let’s explore the impact these cards can have on our planet. 

How are credit cards bad for the environment?

By the year 2025, Statista
reports over “30.6 billion” credit, debit, and prepaid cards will be in circulation around the world. Unfortunately, most traditional credit cards are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic. This is the same material that floods our landfills and is difficult to incinerate without releasing toxins into the atmosphere. 

Physical material

Petroleum is the core material in most traditional PVC-made credit cards. Known for its resistance to recycling, environmentally-friendly card issuers are now replacing this “first-use” plastic with biodegradable alternatives, such as polylactic acid (PLA), which is recyclable and non-toxic.  Even better, some companies are molding their cards from plastic waste material harvested from the ocean. So, instead of transferring countless tons of ocean plastic directly into a landfill, it’s repurposed into an environmentally-friendly credit card.

Connections to the fossil fuel industry 

The connection between “big bank” card issuers and the fossil fuel industry is no secret. In fact, according to a report issued by the Rainforest Action Network organization, since 2016, banks and investment firms from around the world have invested close to $4 trillion dollars in the fossil fuels industry. At the same time, their eco-responsible competitors are fighting even harder to offset that damage through eco-friendly investments.

What do environmentally-friendly credit cards do differently?

Let’s take a look at some of the eco-responsible incentives some cards are rolling out.

Eco-friendly partnerships

Instead of lending or investing your annual fees or monthly interest to big oil or jet fuel manufacturers, eco-responsible financial institutions are often focused on partnerships with environmental non-profit groups and carbon-offsetting initiatives, such as reforestation projects and renewable energy advocates.  These are partnerships that will help us edge closer to carbon neutrality and minimize our collective carbon footprint as much as possible.

Commitment to minimizing our carbon footprint

Offsetting our carbon emissions can be an important part of fighting climate change.  One of the ways some financial institutions such as Aspiration do this is by investing in reforestation projects. Trees are one of the most effective ways to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere and offset the damage we do everyday. 

How do environmentally-friendly credit cards work?

An environmentally-friendly credit card works the same way as any other credit card, only it can actively offsets your carbon emissions and minimizes your carbon footprint, all with a single swipe.

Card-holder incentives

Environmentally-friendly card issuers understand that you have options when it comes to choosing the greenest card for your wallet. That’s why eco-incentives are even more important than your typical reward-points sign-up bonus or low introductory APR offer. From eco-rewards for achieving carbon neutrality, to choosing which nonprofit you support with every purchase, to ultimately shrinking your carbon footprint, it’s now easier than ever before to choose a card that aligns with your moral and financial values.

Carbon neutrality

The ability to see the size and extent of your carbon footprint could be right at your fingertips – beginning with what you spend with your credit card and who you spend it with. With the touch of an app, cardholders can study their spending trends and a store’s commitment to fighting climate change, leading to more eco-friendly choices over time. 

The top 5 most environmentally-friendly credit cards of 2021

Aspiration Zero

Protecting its eco-focused mission from the fossil fuel industry and committing to a greener, sustainable future, Aspiration tops the list with its upcoming environmentally-friendly credit card, Aspiration Zero. With its motto, “Put your money where your values are,” Aspiration offers its cardholders the best of both worlds, even if we can only inhabit one. Of course, a low APR and annual fee are enticing, but more importantly, its commitment to literally planting your money into the soil and back into your pocket is what separates it from the rest.  "We have a responsibility as a company to help the planet," says Aspiration CEO Andrei Cherny, "and we’re bringing this card to people who feel they have a responsibility, too." Cardholder Benefits: 
  • Reforestation: Every purchase you make of $1.50 or more, Aspiration, with its partners, the Arbor Day Foundation, One Tree Planted, and the Eden Project will plant a tree in your name, which will offset your carbon emission for that purchase. 
    • As an added bonus, if you choose to round up your purchase you can opt for Aspiration to keep the difference, and it will plant another tree.
  • An app to track your carbon footprint: Aspiration’s app can help you to assess the carbon footprints of the companies you purchase from, helping you to make greener decisions and eco-friendly decisions for yourself and the planet.
  • Carbon-neutral incentives: For every month you reach carbon-zero status, Aspiration will reward you with up to 1% cash back on all of their purchases.

Doconomy’s DO Black card

Doconomy has launched this biodegradable card made of PLA that supports eco-initiatives in developing countries, such as developing windmill farms in India.  Its focus is to make fighting climate change a transparent process, and that begins with its Planet Loyalty program – which asks that merchants volunteer to share their carbon footprint for all of their products and what it’ll take to offset those emissions. Cardholder Benefits: Because of its Planet Loyalty program, cardholders will receive a categorized breakdown of the carbon footprint of multiple companies and products where they use their card. Also, once a cardholder reaches their monthly CO2 cap, they won’t be able to continue using their card. 

Amalgamated Bank credit card

With no connections to the fossil fuels industry, and by using 100% renewable energy sources in its brick and mortar locations, Amalgamated’s mission is “to be America’s socially responsible bank empowering organizations and individuals to advance positive social change.”  This means not only is it committed to shrinking its carbon footprint, but it also invests in nonprofits that focus on fighting for social and racial justice.  Cardholder Benefits: In addition to partnering with a credit company committed to environmental and social justice, there are a few practical perks for a future cardholder. For example, anyone interested in a non-secured credit card can forego an annual fee upon approval.  Also, its Maximum Rewards Mastercard boasts a 0% introductory APR period for the first 6 months. Note, this will change to 18.24-28.24% afterward, depending on your credit worthiness.  

Mechanics and Farmers (M&F) Bank personal credit card 

Established in 1907, M&F is one of the oldest Black-owned, independent banks in the US. M&F is committed to community development and claims to “recycle 83%” of all deposits received “back into the communities we serve in the form of loans,” as in loans to individuals, community businesses, and even local nonprofit organizations. Cardholder Benefits: While M&F offers several credit card options, most of the benefits associated with them focus on travel perks and a lack of international transaction fees.  Its most popular card, the Platinum Payback Mastercard, comes with no annual fee, and a rewards program that for every $1 you spend, you’ll receive one point. You can then spend those points in its Perks Points Mall, or receive a cash-back equivalent.

Green America Visa card 

A card created by TCM Bank, the Green America Visa card aims to bring attention to climate change and ethical consumerism. Cardholder Benefits: Green America is devoted to a number of eco-friendly initiatives, including conservation and clean air. If you sign up for this card, you’ll enjoy the option to donate a percentage of each purchase to Green America’s eco-efforts. New cardholders will also enjoy 0% APR for the first 12 months (this will change to 9.99-17.99% afterward), and there’s no annual fee associated with this card.

The greenest card is the best, sustainable choice

While a cash-back offer or a significant number of sign-up bonus points may attract you to one credit card company over another, determining just how environmentally-friendly your card is could be the first step to investing in a greener future.  Aspiration Zero is in its early access phase, so, in the meantime, you can join its waiting list and experience the early benefits of an environmentally-friendly credit card that will plant its promises where it matters the most.

Robert Kelley

September 19, 2021

5 Responsible Credit Card Companies You Should Pay Attention To

Photo by Gene Gallin on Unsplash

Having recently recorded some of the highest average global temperatures in the last hundred years, the average rise in temperature is causing scientists to worry about the future of our planet. Experts forecast that over the next 30 years, rising global temperatures will cause significantly more wildfires, floods, and droughts throughout the world. This is why many consumers are looking towards more eco-friendly banking and credit options.

Credit card companies and responsibility

One of the large motivators behind change is the issue of responsibility. 

For years corporations have gotten away with being able to pollute as much they want without any significant consequences. Left unchecked, many of these corporations will likely continue to emit large levels of carbon dioxide without any sense of responsibility. For years these businesses have been financially backed by some of the biggest banks that not only invest in fossil fuel projects but produce the credit cards that Americans use for everyday purchases. While it is true that governments play a crucial role in enforcing corporate accountability, it shouldn’t be the only organization that keeps polluting industries accountable. Much of the account needs to fall on the shareholders of large companies. With that in mind, we’ve begun to see a rise in the number of investors who choose to invest in companies with sustainable environmental practices.

Impact Investing

Impact investing has become much more popular throughout the last decade.  This form of investment focuses on the social and environmental practices that companies engage in, and the rise of this type of investing is seen as one of the most underutilized ways of combating climate change and holding corporations accountable. When investors vote with their dollars, it can create an incentive for old polluting industries to engage in more environmentally sustainable practices. Without the support of the investment community, companies can be put in a position where they have to adapt to our changing social climate. This can then lead them to put a greater emphasis on finding more sustainable forms of energy while also minimizing their overall emissions. Along with this new trend of impact investing, is a call for the creation of international sustainability metrics These proposed metric standards will measure polluting corporation’s energy consumption while also taking into account the amount of carbon they emit in addition to the impact their pollution has on our natural ecosystem. This proposal would likely be enforced similarly to financial regulations and would be overseen by national regulators.

Beware of greenwashing

Greenwashing is when a company advertises itself as being “green” and eco-friendly but doesn’t change its business or processes to actually do so.  Many companies recognized that when “being green” and sustainable became popular with consumers, they needed to change their image. However, if all they changed was their image, then this is likely a case of greenwashing.  Unfortunately, many big banks have been caught not backing up their acclaimed values with their investments.  JP Morgan Chase is one of the top financiers of major fossil fuel projects, from arctic oil and gas to deep-water drilling. In fact, in 2019, they spent nearly $65 billion. Citi, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo are other big banks that invest in fossil fuel projects.  If you want to be certain that the bank you’re working with is ethical and eco-friendly, there are a few things to look for.  One is if they are a registered B-Corp, as these banks are required by law to consider the impact of their actions on the environment, community, suppliers, customers, and employees. Banks can also be CDFI certified financial institutions. These banks are committed to serving and empowering economically disadvantaged communities.  Finally, there’s the GABV (The Global Alliance for Banking on Values), whose banks are part of an independent network of ethical banks “using finance to deliver sustainable economic, social and environmental development.”

Credit cards – the catalyst of change

In this day and age of contactless and mobile payments, the credit card industry has grown significantly. Many companies are working towards a better tomorrow by making changes to their materials, their smartphone app options, and more.

Materials used to make credit cards

One of the biggest issues with credit cards is that they have always been made of plastic. Traditionally, they were made with “first use” plastic but many companies have moved to recycled plastic. While recycled plastic is still plastic, at least it is reused. Some companies are taking this one step further by using recycled ocean plastic or fully biodegradable materials in place of plastic.  Metal cards have also become popular. These are much more durable, last longer than plastic cards, and are also recyclable. Offering digital payment methods and giving the consumer the option to opt out of automatic card replacements can be another great way for a bank to limit its environmental impact. 

How spending needs to change

One of the best ways to make an impact on the environment is to change your personal spending habits, as little changes in your daily life can go a long way in helping out the planet.  Consumers are often simply not aware of the impact they are having on the planet through their purchases. Much of today’s technology is not easy to recycle due to the chips and components they are made from. Banks that offer a way to track your spending and the effect it has on the environment can help to increase consumer awareness and visibility into the environmental impact of purchases. 

5 credit companies paving the way

Here are five credit card companies that are paving the way in ethical and environmentally-friendly banking.

Amalgamated Bank Maximum Rewards Mastercard

Amalgamated is a B-Corp and GABV member that offers a variety of accounts and services in addition to credit cards.  They are net-zero and 100% powered by renewable energy, and their investments are fossil fuel-free. They also don’t invest in any businesses involved in tobacco, weapons, or private prisons. Their credit card offers no annual fee and 1.5% cashback on every purchase. Travel rewards are available as well.

Green America Rewards Platinum Visa

Green America is a nonprofit organization with a card issued by TCM bank. Green America supports fair trade, clean energy, and eliminating GMOs from the food supply. Their card has no annual fee and 9% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months. Customers earn one point per dollar on purchases with no cap on points you can earn, and points can be redeemed for travel rewards.

Amazon Watch Rewards Platinum Visa

Amazon Watch is a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the rainforest and indigenous people of the Amazon basin. The card is issued by TCM bank, and users can earn one point per dollar which can be redeemed for travel rewards.

M&F Bank Personal World Mastercard

M&F Bank is an independent community bank that is CDFI certified and Black-owned.  Their card has a $35 annual fee and a 12.24% APR on purchases. Customers earn one point per dollar on purchases and rewards are redeemable for travel.

International Living Future Institute’s Affinity Card

International Living Future’s Visa platinum card is all about redefining the green building movement. The mission is to offer green building and infrastructure solutions that will help create a better world.  There is no annual fee, and cardholders earn one point per dollar on net purchases that can be redeemed for merchandise or travel rewards. The card is issued by TCM Bank.

The Aspiration Zero card can help you shop responsibly

The Aspiration Zero is a carbon credit card issued by Aspiration, a sustainable neobank that tracks the carbon emissions of your purchases. With each purchase, Aspiration will plant a tree to offset your carbon footprint. After 60 or more trees have been planted through your monthly spending, Aspiration considers you to have reached your monthly carbon neutral goal. As a reward, you will receive 1% cashback on all purchases made that month. Try the Aspiration Zero today to start fighting climate change with your money.

Robert Kelley

September 17, 2021

How to Get Credit Card Rewards to Work For You – And the Planet

Paper Cutouts on a Gray Surface With so many credit rewards out there, you can choose the kind of rewards you’d like to receive, but it can be tough to navigate the numerous options and endless small print.  Let’s explore the popular credit card reward schemes of 2021, and how you can utilize your credit card to benefit both your bank account and the planet. 

Popular credit card rewards for 2021

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is perhaps one of the most popular rewards programs available. Offering a welcome bonus of 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 (available to those with excellent to good credit scores), the card offers frequent spending with redemption options for travel and dining.  Plus, the card offers a wide variety of discounts on airfare, car rentals, and cruises, all for a $95 annual fee.

Discover it Cash Back

If cashback is important to you, then the Discover it Cash Back card is an option that not only has no annual fee but also offers a cashback match.  This card is great for those who spend moderately on their card and activate the 5% rotating categories and the spending cap. This can allow you to earn more outside of the standard 1% cashback earning rate.

Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

For those who like to fly American Airlines, this Citi card can be the ultimate in airline card providing access to the complimentary Admirals Club lounge access as well as extra perks such as VIP check-in, priority boarding, concierge service, and a free checked bag. The downside would be the $450 annual fee, but if you use the lounge, you may offset that quickly. The welcome bonus is 50,000 miles.

Rewards for the planet

The one thing many of the cards above don’t offer are planet-friendly rewards. While searching for an environmentally-friendly credit card, you may want to pay attention to the following:

Beware of greenwashing

Greenwashing is defined as “disinformation disseminated by an organization to present an environmentally responsible public image.” In short, beware of companies that talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk.

Study your bank

The most obvious detrimental effect that credit cards have is the simple fact that they’re primarily made from plastic which often ends up being disposed of and entering a landfill. But the damage of plastic credit cards extends far beyond the materials they’re made of. A report titled Banking on Climate Chaos 2021 identified that 60 of the world’s largest commercial and investment banks had collectively financed $3.8 trillion into fossil fuel projects from 2016 to 2020.  This is why it can be important to do your research when exploring the financial institutions – and credit card rewards – that you want to choose. 

Understand key terminology 

Carbon neutral, zero, or negative – what’s the difference? To many of us, these terms seem like they can be interchangeable. However, each means something different in the context of understanding the environmental benefits of your bank or credit card:
  • Carbon Neutral: Carbon neutrality refers to offsetting the amount of CO2 emissions produced due to human consumption and production. We can offset these emissions by engaging in eco-friendly activities like recycling and planting trees which can overcompensate for the amount of pollution that gets trapped in the atmosphere.
  • Carbon Zero: To reach carbon zero, we would have to eliminate the release of CO2. If this were our reality, there would be no need to offset carbon emissions.
  • Carbon Negative: The most challenging level to achieve, carbon-negative  would mean we’ve reached a point where we’ve been able to remove more CO2 from the atmosphere than we have released. 
When researching financial institutions, credit cards, and sustainable finance in general, it can be helpful to have a clear understanding of exactly what benefits they are claiming to provide for the planet. 

Aspiration Zero paving the way

With Aspiration, you can have the peace of mind that your deposits won’t be used to fund the fossil fuel industry. Rather, each purchase you make using our Aspiration Zero credit card will result in a new tree planted to contribute to reforestation efforts worldwide.  In addition, Aspiration will provide you with an overview of the sustainability metrics for each store you shop at, allowing you to better understand which stores engage in sustainable environmental business practices. Aspiration rates companies based on the extent of their carbon footprint while also taking into consideration how the company treats its employees. This can empower you to make greener purchases from stores that care about the environment. But what do credit card rewards for the planet look like?

Swipe, pay, plant a tree

Every purchase made using your Aspiration Zero card will go toward the planting of a new tree.  This can go a long way toward getting the planet closer to a carbon-neutral status. Our card also offers you the ability to opt into our “keep the change” program. If you choose to participate in this offering, every purchase of at least $1.50 will be rounded up to the next whole dollar amount allowing Aspiration to plant a tree with the difference. By choosing to make purchases with this card, your spending could easily amount to 60 trees planted per month which would allow us to reach carbon neutrality.

Paperless billing and an app to track your spending’s carbon footprint

Dedicated to our quest for carbon-neutrality, we at Aspiration believe in paperless billing. Having developed an eco-friendly app, you will be able to use it to track all your purchases as well as see which stores have the best carbon footprints. Having all of this information in an accessible app can ultimately help you make more environmentally conscious purchases.

How to apply for the Aspiration Zero

Early release phase

Aspiration Zero is set to release soon, but if you’re interested in signing up right away, there’s a waiting list. The process is to:
  1. Register your email here.
  2. Once registered, Aspiration will plant ten trees on your behalf, regardless of the outcome of your application.
  3. After submitting your registration details, Aspiration will give you a link to share with your friends. And for each friend who registers, Aspiration will plant a further 10 trees – regardless of whether they end up getting the card!

Aspiration Zero rewards

  • Eco incentives: For every purchase made, Aspiration will plant one tree. If you choose to opt into our “keep the change” program, we will plant an additional tree for each purchase you decide to round up.
  • Cashback: As soon as you open an account with Aspiration, you will immediately receive .5% cashback on all purchases. And better yet, after you’ve reached a carbon-zero status – which means you’ve planted at least 60 trees – you will receive up to 1% cashback for every month you reach that level.
  • Low annual fee: With Aspiration, you can expect a low $60 annual fee. With many competitors charging close to $100 for annual fees, you can feel good about saving money and saving the planet.

Aspiration Gives Back

  • A Greener Future: Aspiration has partnered with many eco-charities and causes including One Tree Planted and the Arbor Day Foundation. These two reforestation non-profit organizations will plant one tree on your behalf with every purchase of $1.50 or more.
  • Dime's Worth of Difference: For every dollar Aspiration earns, it will donate 10 cents to eco charities that focus on sustainability, reforestation, and economic development.

Swipe your way to a greener planet

With the climate crisis reaching unprecedented levels, now is the time to make an impact. By choosing Aspiration Zero, you can contribute to a more sustainable future and put an end to the carbon emissions that are destroying our planet. To sign up for the Aspiration Zero, or to learn more about the rewards of sustainable finance, reach out to Aspiration today

Robert Kelley

September 16, 2021

How Aspiration Zero is the Carbon-Neutral Credit Card You Need

Ecological Footprint, Climate Protection

Image by Colin Behrens from Pixabay

As forest fires blaze and temperatures rise to record-setting levels, reducing our carbon footprint is more important than ever. For many of us, living an eco-friendly lifestyle just doesn’t feel like it’s enough to make a real difference on a daily basis.  Imagine, for every purchase you make daily, you could swipe your way to a greener planet. A credit card that offers eco-benefits from planting trees with every purchase you make to supporting a variety of eco-causes. Aspiration Zero is a carbon-neutral credit card on the front lines of reducing our carbon footprint by doing just that. "We have a responsibility as a company to help the planet," says Aspiration CEO Andrei Cherny, "and we’re bringing this card to people who feel they have a responsibility, too."

What does it mean to be carbon-neutral 

Is net-zero carbon possible?

While it’s pretty difficult to completely avoid releasing carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, carbon-neutrality can be a more attainable goal.  Simply put, all of us  - individuals and industries alike - can reach net-zero carbon by measuring what we’re releasing and then focusing on eco-projects such as planting trees, recycling, and so on, to make up for the harm we’ve caused. Unfortunately, we’re a long way from getting anywhere near carbon-neutrality, but there are ways to get us closer every day—for example, by making purchases from sustainable businesses or donating to environmental non-profits Even better, each of us can make simple, eco-friendly changes in our daily lives, by walking to work or buying locally sourced produce, to name a few. But the fact remains, we can do even more - starting with our credit cards, what we buy with them, and especially where we use them.

How credit cards can harm the environment

It’s no secret that a credit card is made of plastic (most commonly PVC), so manufacturing it - and later disposing of it - can harm the environment. However, a card’s harm can go far beyond the material it is made from.  Did you know you could be using a card that also supports fossil fuel production? With many large financial institutions investing in non-environmentally-sustainable projects, it can be tough to discern exactly where your money is going.  That’s where the Aspiration Zero carbon-neutral credit card is different.  Not only is Aspiration Zero a biodegradable card, but the neobank Aspiration only invests in eco-friendly causes - unlike the countless other financial service providers that support the fossil fuel industry with billions of dollars every year. 

Carbon-neutral, net-zero carbon, or carbon-negative: what’s the difference?

For most of us, carbon-neutral, net-zero carbon, and carbon-negative may seem like different terms for the same idea, but there are a few key differences among them: Carbon neutral: Carbon neutrality refers to the process of offsetting carbon emissions through carbon-reducing activities, such as planting trees. Net-zero carbon: Net-zero carbon is a state in which we don’t release any CO2 at all, meaning there’s no need to actively offset our CO2 levels. Carbon negative: Arguably the most difficult level to achieve, carbon-negative refers to a situation in which we’re able to remove even more CO2 from the atmosphere than we’re actually releasing. In other words, here, we’re able to create a positive, sustainable outcome for the environment.

How the Aspiration Zero credit card can help you achieve carbon-neutrality

Greener and smarter shopping

Rest assured, any deposit you make with Aspiration won’t be used to fund the fossil fuel industry or big oil companies.  Instead, in addition to planting a tree on your behalf for every purchase you make with the card, Aspiration will also provide you with a breakdown of how sustainable the stores are where you make your purchases. Each company will be rated based on the extent of its carbon footprint and social factors such as how it treats its employees, helping you to make wiser, greener purchases from environmentally-conscious stores.

Swipe, pay, and plant a tree 

For every purchase you make, Aspiration will plant a tree, getting you - not to mention, the planet - even closer to carbon-neutral status. What’s more, for every purchase of at least $1.50 or more, you can opt for Aspiration to “keep the change.” This means the price of your purchase will be rounded up to the next whole dollar amount—and Aspiration will plant a second tree with that difference. Even better - if you plant a total of 60 trees each month (the number Aspiration has calculated to equate to carbon neutrality) - you’ll receive an interest boost on your purchases. 

Paperless billing and an app to track your spending’s carbon footprint

Nothing says eco-friendly more than an app that allows you to not only pay your monthly payment but also track your carbon footprint along the way.  You can easily view this data along with any spending trends that might help you minimize that footprint even more. Aspiration provides you with all of the information you’ll need to make smarter, greener decisions for yourself and the planet.

Take the guilt out of your commute

Many of us refill our gas tanks several times a month. And while driving is often necessary and, in many cases, unavoidable, we all know it isn’t the most environmentally friendly.  With the Aspiration Planet Protection program, your gas purchases (particularly, your carbon output) will be measured and then offset when Aspiration invests in eco-friendly alternatives that’ll compensate for your commute time and exhaust emissions. So, while we carry on with our daily commute, Aspiration has our (and the planet’s) back.

How to apply for the Aspiration Zero

Early Release Phase

You can currently sign up for the early release of the Aspiration Zero by: 

  1. Registering your email here.
  2. When you register, Aspiration will plant ten trees in your honor, regardless of the outcome of your application.
  3. Once you submit your registration details, Aspiration will give you a link to share with your friends. Here’s the best part— for every friend who registers for Aspiration Zero, 10 trees will be planted in their honor.

Rewards offered on the card 

  • Eco-incentives: For every purchase you make Aspiration will plant a tree and give you the option to plant a second (by rounding up your purchase to the nearest dollar).
  • Cashback: From the get-go, Aspiration will give you .5% cashback on all of your purchases. If you reach carbon-zero status each month, Aspiration will give you up to 1% cashback every month that you achieve this status.
  • Low, annual fee: A $60 annual fee is all it takes to invest in a greener lifestyle, and ultimately, an eco-friendly planet.
  • A greener future: Aspiration has partnered with numerous eco-charities and causes, including One Tree Planted and the Arbor Day Foundation - reforestation non-profits that will plant a tree in your honor for every purchase you make of $1.50 or more. 
  • Dime's Worth of Difference: For every dollar Aspiration earns, it will donate 10 cents to eco-charities that focus on sustainability, reforestation, and economic development. 

We can help you swipe your way to a greener planet

While the Aspiration Zero card hasn’t been released just yet, you can join the waiting list here. We only have one life, and one planet, and the future is green - to learn more about sustainable financing reach out to Aspiration today. 

Robert Kelley

September 13, 2021

What an Eco-Friendly Credit Card Does That Others Don’t

Google Announces Billion Dollar Investment in Cloud and Renewable Energy - Olhar Digital While most credit cards offer cash back rewards or travel bonus miles - among other incentives - for their card-holders, the Aspiration Zero credit card takes incentives to the next level with rewards for you and the planet.    Unlike its competitors that frequently fund coal mining and fossil fuel projects, Aspiration Zero is a genuine, eco-friendly credit card that helps its clients offset their carbon footprint by planting trees and investing in eco-friendly charities.

Eco-friendly cards

Is an eco-friendly credit card even a possibility?

With global temperatures rising to record-breaking levels, it’s more important than ever to find ways  - big or small - to do our part to save the planet. An eco-friendly credit card is one way we can make a difference, one payment at a time.  An eco-friendly credit card provider typically donates a percentage of every purchase to an eco-charity that fights for any number of social causes, from fighting global warming and economic injustice, to replanting trees to offset the carbon we emit into the atmosphere. The Aspiration Zero goes one step further by planting a tree for every purchase of $1.50 or more that you make. The goal of this is to offset the CO2 you produce and help you achieve a carbon-neutral lifestyle every month. By investing in eco-friendly causes and refusing to fund the fossil fuel industry, eco-friendly cards are now more important for our planet’s future than ever before!

An easy way to save the planet?

Imagine spending your money with a clear conscience, knowing that every time you use your credit card, your provider is fighting for a healthier, sustainable planet by donating a percentage of your purchase to eco-charities. Not to mention, at the same time, your personal carbon footprint will shrink, allowing you to get closer to a carbon-neutral lifestyle. Many credit card companies are even offering cards made from recycled plastic (PETG or HDPE) that can be sourced from ocean plastic or other recycled or repurposed plastics. With billions of credit cards in the wallets of people all over the world, these eco-friendly cards can help free up space in our landfills. On top of that, these cards are easy to use, and an effective way to fight climate change. Since a true, eco-friendly card has zero ties to the fossil fuel industry (and instead is aligned with eco-charities and non-profit organizations that are benefiting the environment), simply making a purchase is a simple and effective way to give back to the planet and fight for its future.

How green is your card?

How can you tell how green your credit card actually is? A little digging and background reading may be in order - especially in the fine print. Here are a few details to look out for:
  • Which eco-charities does your card provider support, and how does it support them - i.e., what percentage of their profits or customer fees do they donate to the organization?
  • What does the card provider’s carbon footprint look like? Are they connected to big banks, and the fossil fuel or coal mining industries, or are they funding politicians who actively legislate against climate change?

Benefits of eco-friendly cards

General material and investments 

Eco-friendly credit cards may be made of plastic, but many of them are in fact biodegradable or created from ocean plastic or recycled materials like HDPE - a more eco-friendly plastic.  While, ideally, a card made of metal - or even be fully accessible virtually - small changes such as these can add up in the long run.  Here are a few additional benefits that an eco-friendly credit card might have:
  • A low or 0% APR
  • A low or no annual fee
  • Paperless billing
  • .5%-1% cashback
  • For every purchase, the card provider may donate to an eco-charity or even plant a tree on your behalf
  • An alliance with eco-charities that are fighting for a greener future.

Comparing eco-friendly credit card options

Not all eco-friendly credit cards are created equal.  In fact, some banking services barely donate anything to the charities they claim to support. Others, such as Bank of America, have released an eco-friendly card - while continuing to remain one of the largest investors in the fossil fuel industry. Here are what a few other card issuers or financial service providers are offering with their eco-friendly credit cards: Green America Rewards Credit Card This non-profit is focused on clean energy and being an advocate for green businesses. With no annual fees charged to the cardholder and a 0% introductory APR, this credit card could be a great choice.   League of Conservation Voters Visa Platinum In addition to an annual fee and 9.99%-17.99% APR, a percentage of every purchase a cardholder makes is donated to the League of Conservation Voters, which is a group dedicated to clean energy, environmental justice, and other eco-causes. Bank of America’s BankAmericard Cash Rewards Visa for Defenders of Wildlife It’s difficult to ignore Bank of America’s clear ties to the fossil fuel industry, but with its eco-friendly card, it claims that “$1 is donated to Defenders of Wildlife when you open your account and an additional $0.05 will be contributed on your behalf for every $100 you spend.”

Take it to the next level with Aspiration 

Unlike other financial service providers, the neobank Aspiration has zero connection to the fossil-fuel industry. In fact, it actively fights it by donating 10% of every dollar its customers pay to eco-charities that focus on clean and renewable energy sources. In addition to a low annual fee and a low annual APR%, Aspiration offers a 1% cash-back incentive to its customers for every month they reach carbon-zero.  With its user-friendly app, Aspiration promises each customer the ability to track their daily spending and the impact their purchases have on the environment.  What’s more, with every purchase, Aspiration promises to plant a tree, offsetting the carbon you emit. And, if you choose to round up your purchase (for example, a purchase of $23.77 could be rounded up to $24.00), Aspiration will keep the change and plant another tree in your honor.  Small changes can lead to bigger, greener results.

Your money’s never been greener

If you’re looking for an authentically eco-friendly credit card, the Aspiration Zero could be a great choice for you - and the planet! In anticipation of its upcoming launch, Aspiration Zero allows you to register your email and join its waiting list To find out more about sustainable finance, or to register for the Aspiration Zero, check out Aspiration today!

Robert Kelley

September 13, 2021

The Best Credit Card Sign-up Bonuses of 2021

謙虚な できる イソギンチャク コチョウラン 売る - With the global economy reopening after a COVID-induced shutdown, many credit card companies are offering enticing sign-up bonuses. While thousands of bonus points and introductory cashback offers are often the go-to bonuses credit card companies offer, some companies are breaking new ground by offering eco-friendly incentives and paving the way to a greener future for all of us.

Sign-up bonuses

We’ve all seen them—sign-up bonus offers from a sea of
credit card issuers, promising bonus reward points, travel miles, or lucrative cash-back offers for the first 12 months. But not all sign-up offers are created equal. With hundreds of seemingly perfect bonuses up for grabs, it can be tough to try and sift through to find the right card for you. 

Here’s why sign-up bonuses matter

Most card issuers offer the same basic type of sign-up bonus to their future cardholders - usually some kind of financial, points-based reward. Whether this means travel miles or points that you can accumulate and later cash-in for hotel stays and concert tickets, there’s an ideal sign-up bonus for everyone. Some sign-up bonuses, however, come with a catch, so it’s important to read the fine print.  For example, it may appear that a company is offering you 100,000 bonus points/$1250 for simply signing up, but when you read the fine print, you might discover that you only receive those points after you charge $4k on your card within the first three months of opening your account. To make sure you sign up for the card that ticks all of your financial (and ethical) boxes, we’ve broken down the types of bonuses that might appeal to you.

Different types of bonuses 

Here are the most popular bonuses that credit card companies tend to offer new members:

Travel miles

With the travel industry reopening post-lockdown, it’s perhaps not surprising that countless people are experiencing travel fever! From Rome to Bangkok to San Francisco, travel miles are a hot commodity, (and a welcome invitation) back to our pre-COVID travel days.  Not to mention the additional perks that can come with travel miles - priority boarding, access to VIP airside lounges, first-class upgrades, and so much more. A promise of 60k-100k travel miles can be pretty tempting - and it could be a very good deal! However, it’s usually a good idea to be sure to read the fine print, as this type of reward is often tied to how much you spend within a certain time frame from opening your credit card

Cash-back rewards

For every dollar you spend, many credit card companies will credit your account and put money right back into your pocket. And a welcome bonus of 5% cashback for a limited amount of time is the perfect way to bring a new cardholder on board. As an incentive for doing your normal shopping or paying your bills, card issuers will return a percentage to you—often anywhere between 0.5% and 5%, cashback. Providing you don’t use this as an excuse to overspend, cashback can be a great perk to a new credit card.  

Reward points for hotel stays, dining, events, and more

50,000 reward points to be used on anything from a 3-night stay in a luxury hotel in Paris, to a five-course dining experience at a Michelin-star restaurant in downtown Chicago - sounds pretty good, right? Many credit card issuers cast this type of bait into the sea of card applicants, hoping to snag as many new clients as possible. One thing to keep in mind when faced with such an appealing offer is that there may be a limited-time spending minimum to get that reward.  As always with sign-up offers, be sure to read the fine print. If you’d likely spend that amount within the time period regardless, then this could be a great deal to take advantage of. 

Free access to your credit report and/or score

A useful first step towards financial responsibility for many is being able to access their credit score. Some credit card issuers offer free access to your credit score and reports across all three credit bureaus. For example, the Capital One Quicksilver One credit card offers access to CreditWise, which allows you to view your credit score and all beneficial or damaging factors impacting your credit.  Ready for the best part? Even if you don’t get approved for the Quicksilver One (or decide not to sign-up at all), the good news is that CreditWise is available to the public, regardless of whether you’re a Capital One cardholder.


What if your new card issuer offered a more meaningful incentive? For example, simply for joining the waiting list for their Aspiration Zero credit card, the neobank Aspiration will plant ten trees in your honor. And, as an added bonus, for anyone who also joins with your personalized referral link, Aspiration will plant an additional ten trees - now that’s a perk!

Introducing the eco-friendly credit card

Financial rewards and incentives are always enticing, and they can improve our daily lives in a variety of ways. However, there are a whole range of other incentives available to the sustainably-minded consumer.  Some card issuers, like Aspiration, offer eco-friendly credit cards and some of their perks include being able to track your carbon footprint every month on a free app (not to mention the carbon footprint of the merchants you buy from).  Not only will you learn to shop smarter and greener, but, for every purchase you make, a tree will be planted to offset that purchase. Sometimes, the best rewards come in green packages.

Best sign-up bonuses in 2021

If you’re struggling to wade through the sea of credit card offers and sign-up perks, here are the top 5 sign-up bonuses available in 2021:

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card

Perks: Gain 60,000 bonus points when you sign-up. The fine print: To earn those 60k bonus points, you must spend at least $4k in the first 90 days of opening your account. Also, it’s worth noting that this card has a $550 annual fee. If you’re a frequent traveler, this may be worth it, but it’s worth doing the math here!

The Citi Rewards+ card

Perks: Gain 20,000 bonus points (approximately $200) when you spend $1000 within the first three months of opening your account, which can be exchanged for a variety of gift cards. Earn double points with the ThankYou® Points program​​ to use at a range of restaurants. What’s more, this card has no annual fee.  The fine print: For the first 15 months, you’ll get 0% APR. After this - depending on your credit rating - your variable APR could be anywhere from 13.49%-23.49%.

The Platinum Card from American Express

Perks: Gain 100,000 Membership Rewards Points if you spend $6000 in the first six months of opening your account. If you book your flights directly with an airline carrier (or with the help of American Express Travel) you’ll get 5x the number of Membership Rewards points. The fine print: The annual fee of $695 is higher than most cards, but if you’re a frequent traveler, you may be able to justify this cost when you consider the list of awards and exclusive member benefits available to you.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card

Perks: Marriott is also offering free, three-night hotel stays (worth over $1300) if you spend at least $3000 within the first three months of opening your card account. You could also earn 10x the bonus points for every dollar you spend at the gas pump or grocery store in the first six months of opening your account. Also, for all of you globe-trotters, there are no foreign transaction fees, so you can use this card without the added worry of racking up fees abroad.  The fine print: There is a limit of $2500 for the 10x bonus points program, and these offers also aren't available to any current or previous cardholder.

Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card

Perks: Unlimited 1.5% cashback on all purchases without any limits, and a $200 rewards bonus if you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days of opening your account. This card also does not charge an annual fee. The fine print: There is only 0% APR for the first 15 billing statements. After that -  depending on your credit rating - your APR will be anywhere from 13.99% to 26.99%.

Aspiration Zero offers the best sign-up bonus you can get

Unlike other credit card issuers that are tied to “big banks” or the fossil fuel industry, Aspiration Zero is breaking new ground with its eco-friendly credit card. Here are some of the perks:
  • Aspiration will plant a tree for every purchase you make, allowing you to minimize your carbon footprint.
  • You can choose to round up any purchase to the next whole dollar amount - and Aspiration will use the difference to plant another tree.
  • Aspiration’s free, innovative app lets you track your spending and see the carbon footprint of your purchases so that you can make more environmentally responsible purchases in the future.
  • For every month you are carbon-neutral, Aspiration will give you 1% cashback.

Fighting climate change one swipe at a time

While it may be tempting to sign-up for a credit card that offers thousands of bonus travel miles or a high, cash-back percent incentive, the Aspiration Zero is focused on the bigger, greener picture.  By signing up for an Aspiration Zero credit card, you will join the effort to combat climate change and lessen your carbon footprint once and for all.  No matter which card you choose, some bonuses are bigger and more meaningful than others. To find out more about sustainable financing - or to sign up for the Aspiration Zero - visit us at Aspiration today.

Robert Kelley

September 12, 2021

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