How to Use Your Credit Card Points for Environmental Justice

people gathered outside buildings holding Climate Justice Now signage

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

As consumers, we’re contributing to climate change everyday.

Whenever we turn the lights on in our homes, drive to work, or buy items online, we add the greenhouse gas emissions associated with these activities and products to our personal carbon footprints. As more of these emissions accumulate in the atmosphere, our planet gets warmer and the climate phenomena stronger.

But climate change often doesn’t affect all of us equally. For some of us living in rural areas or places close to industrial sites, the effects can be more pronounced. That’s why environmental justice, which is the principle that all humans should be protected from environmental hazards, is vital to our collective future. It encourages us to purchase fewer items and invest in sustainable climate solutions that benefit us all.

What is environmental justice? 

Environmental justice, according to Robert Bullard, a scholar widely considered as the “father of environmental justice”, is “the principle that all people are entitled to equal environmental protection regardless of race, color, or national origin. It’s the right to live and play in a clean environment”.

The environmental justice principle has deep roots in the histories of marginalized communities, who can be disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards in their home and work environments. The term came to prominence during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s when campaigners exposed the dangers that members of their communities were facing. 

They called for government regulations and laws on air pollution, poor water quality, and chemical poisoning, which were all devastating their communities and keeping them in poverty. After nearly half a century of campaigning, environmental justice is today enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency.

What does the environmental justice movement promote? 

The environmental justice movement fights for the improvement and maintenance of a clean and healthful environment, particularly for those who have traditionally worked, lived, and played in heavily polluted areas.

Member organizations, such as the Concerned Citizens of South Central (Los Angeles) and West Harlem Environmental Action, implement these policies in their respective communities. They take an inclusive approach to decision-making, often working with lawmakers, community leaders, and community members to develop environmental action plans tackling pollution control and social inequality.

Why is environmental justice important for the future?

Environmental justice will become ever more important in the future as climate change accelerates. Already, marginalized communities are experiencing a rise in old and new environmental problems, from hotter daytime and nighttime temperatures caused by the urban heat island effect to an increasing lack of access to fresh produce.

Some academics have pointed out that to solve these problems, environmental justice has to become a guiding principle for all climate solutions. Climate policies may need to take into account the difficulties being faced by people who are suffering the most, as they can help policymakers identify effective solutions for mitigating climate risk.

Banks are a part of the problem

You may not realize it, but your bank could be financing the climate change crisis.

Banks are some of the top financiers of oil and gas companies, logging firms, and industrial agriculture corporations. Their loans help keep these companies afloat, and your pension and investment funds might be contributing directly to the longevity of this relationship.

How is the climate crisis linked to consumer spending? 

It’s often been said that the transportation, electricity, manufacturing, and agriculture sectors contribute to almost 87% of America’s greenhouse gas emissions. But what’s often been ignored is how our fast consumer culture fuels the expansion of these industries.

With 24/7 online banking, online shopping, and logistics services, buying products and services has never been easier. Our constant demand for the latest electronics, clothes, food, and entertainment can encourage firms to exploit the few natural resources we have left. Multinational food companies raze down forests to make land for soybean farming while international clothing brands release dyes into our waterways.

To limit the environmental impacts of hyper-consumption, climate change experts are calling for a reduction in consumer spending. Taming the demand for consumer products may be one of the most effective solutions we have for bringing greenhouse gas emissions under control.

How does banking impact the environment? 

The mainstream banking sector has been lending money to fossil fuel companies for decades, and it shows no signs of stopping. 

In the 5 years since the Paris Agreement, the world’s largest banks invested an estimated $3.8 trillion in fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure projects. 

Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America are three of the biggest offenders, with nearly $640 billion in investments between them. Their fracking and drilling projects have caused widespread environmental destruction in the Arctic, harming the lives of indigenous peoples and animals.

Even investments at the personal banking level can harm the environment. Studies have found that less than 1% of assets in the world’s largest 100 pension funds were linked to low-carbon investments. 65% of pension funds have no formal climate policy and only 15% excluded fossil fuel companies from their portfolios.

Unknowingly, millions of people with pension funds are contributing to the growth of carbon-intensive industries.

Why banks have to start making change

If the banking sector continues to neglect its impact on the climate, there’s a high chance that we won’t be able to keep average global temperatures below 1.5°C. 

To prevent that, banks are called to start making changes. One good place for them to start would be by disclosing their climate metrics and carbon-related investments. This would increase transparency and allow them and external regulators to measure their effect on the environment. 

It’s also likely that banks need to divest heavily from current fossil fuel exploration and extraction projects. They could redirect their money towards renewable energy companies and profitable, low-carbon businesses committed to sustainable practices.

They could also offer loans for electric vehicles, solar panel electric systems, and other low carbon technologies to help their business and private customers achieve net-zero carbon emissions.

How the Aspiration Zero credit card helps save the planet

The Aspiration Zero is a unique carbon credit card that helps you fight climate change with your money. Issued by the B-Corp certified neobank Aspiration, customers are rewarded with cashback offers and carbon offsets when they make a positive impact on the environment. 

It helps you track your carbon footprint 

Unlike most other credit cards, the Aspiration Zero helps you track the carbon footprint of each of your purchases. 

This data is displayed in the accompanying Aspiration mobile app, which you can use to analyze the impact of your spending as well as to access the social responsibility score of the companies you bought your products and services from.

Understanding your carbon footprint can help you to amend your spending habits, and to identify the type and amount of carbon offsets you need to purchase to become carbon neutral.

It helps you plant a tree each time you make a purchase 

On top of the carbon tracking feature, the Aspiration Zero plants a carbon offset tree on your behalf each time you make a purchase with it.

Aspiration works with three reforestation partners: the Arbor Day Foundation, the Eden Reforestation Project, and One Tree Planted. These partners plant the trees in their reforestation projects in Brazil, Honduras, Kenya, Madagascar, and the United States.

Customers can get more trees planted if they wish by opting into Aspiration’s Plant Your Change program. This unique program rounds up each transaction you make to the nearest whole dollar and uses the spare change to plant an additional tree for you each time you use your credit card.

It offers you 1% cashback when you reach carbon zero 

For each month that you plant 60 trees with your purchases, Aspiration rewards you with 1% cashback on all of your purchases in that month. Aspiration considers 60 trees per month as the baseline amount for the average American household to reach carbon zero.

Even if you don’t meet that target, Aspiration offers an initial cashback rate of 0.5% on purchases.

The Aspiration Zero is made from biodegradable materials 

The Aspiration Zero credit card is made from 84% field corn and 16% plastic, making it one of the most biodegradable credit cards on the market today. When exposed to soil, water, and whatever microorganisms are present in the landfill or compost pile, the card will break down over the course of a few years.

Aspiration does not invest any money in fossil fuels

The most important factor that sets the Aspiration Zero apart from other green credit cards is that it’s issued by the environmentally-friendly online banking platform, Aspiration. Aspiration is committed to helping customers build their wealth and save the planet at the same time.

Aspiration doesn’t invest any money in fossil fuels, weapons manufacturers, or private prisons. Instead, it donates a percentage of its earnings to small business owners and helps environmental charities expand their reforestation, water, and education projects.

Ready to get started?

The waitlist for the Aspiration Zero credit card is now open and you can sign up here. Join Aspiration today and make your money work for the planet.

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