How to Fight Climate Change With Your Credit Card

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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

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.

Governments

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.

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