As the world inches closer to crossing the 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature limit, it’s becoming clear that our consumption patterns play a pivotal role in influencing the direction of climate change.
That’s because our individual actions contribute to our carbon footprint. What we eat, how we travel, and what we choose to buy daily all impact the environment and the planet’s available resources.
We cannot rely on governments alone to take action – being conscious of where we spend our money can help us choose environmentally-friendly options that protect the planet from further damage.
Thankfully, rapid advances in financial technology have created new tools that can help us track our carbon emissions.
A recent innovation called the carbon credit card calculates the carbon footprint of our purchases and suggests the right carbon offsets to purchase to offset our emissions, while still offering the same perks and services as regular credit cards.
The Zero carbon credit card from Aspiration is one of the best carbon credit cards on the market right now. The card automatically plants a carbon offset tree each time one of its customers makes a purchase and provides up to 1.00% cashback on environmentally-friendly purchases.
In this article, we look at the features that make the best carbon credit card in 2021.
What is a carbon credit card?
A carbon credit card is a credit card that tracks the carbon footprint of purchases. It’s usually paired with a mobile application that assesses the environmental impact of everything you buy. The application may also provide suggestions of carbon offsets that cardholders can purchase to neutralize their carbon emissions.
Carbon credit cards have gained popularity in recent years for their ability to help cardholders achieve carbon neutrality. Because cardholders can immediately see the carbon dioxide emissions of each purchase, they can avoid high-emission products or substitute them with lower-emission alternatives. They can also invest in the appropriate carbon offset schemes to balance out the emissions.
Some carbon credit cards allow cardholders to set a limit on the amount of carbon they can emit per month. This can help them spend and save consciously. It also prevents them from making unnecessary, impulse purchases that could increase their carbon footprint.
Carbon credit cards are usually made from recycled ocean plastics or bio-sourced materials that degrade easily, such as corn and polylactic acid. They may also be printed using special ink made from recycled air pollution particles such as soot from chimneys and car exhaust pipes.
How does a carbon credit card work?
Carbon credit cards work just like regular credit cards. They provide credit lines and are subject to annual percentage rates (APRs). The only difference is that carbon credit cards offer special eco-friendly perks that encourage customers to spend responsibly.
Unlike regular credit cards that simply show you the purchases you’ve made each month, carbon credit cards provide you with a report of the carbon emissions associated with your spending. The card calculates the carbon impact of each transaction using a cloud-based climate impact index that shows the amount of CO2 emitted by your spending in proportion to the national carbon limit.
Using the app connected with the carbon credit card, customers can choose to buy carbon credits in reforestation programs, renewable energy systems, and carbon trading schemes to reduce their carbon footprint. Some carbon credit cards may even allow you to purchase carbon offsets automatically.
In addition to carbon tracking and offset recommendations, cardholders may also receive other perks such as monthly cashback on purchases made with sustainable businesses and the ability to set recurring donations for environmental charities of their choice.
The best carbon credit card in 2021: Aspiration Zero
The Aspiration Zero carbon credit card offered by the California-based neobank Aspiration tops the list of available carbon credit cards for its ability to help customers automatically cancel out the greenhouse gas emissions produced by daily living.
According to Aspiration co-founder and CEO Andrei Cherny, the Aspiration Zero card is the “only card that rewards you for taking miles off of the planet”, unlike regular credit cards that encourage you to spend money on air travel and petrol for points. Every month that an Aspiration Zero cardholder reaches carbon zero, Aspiration rewards them with a 1% cashback on their purchases.
The card allows members to track the carbon emissions from their purchases through the Aspiration app. Each time a customer makes a purchase using their Aspiration Zero card, Aspiration plants a carbon offset tree on their behalf through one of their global reforestation partners. Customers are also given the option of buying personal carbon offset trees with every credit card transaction made.
Aspiration’s goal is to help customers plant about 60 trees per month through their spending – which is considered to be the number of trees required to offset the average American’s monthly carbon footprint.
The company says that customers can achieve this goal with about 30 purchases made using the Aspiration Zero credit card. Since its foundation, Aspiration has already planted 5 million trees through its customers’ purchases.
To be released later in 2021, the Aspiration Zero card is the latest product in Aspiration’s Clean Money lineup. It builds on the features of the company’s successful Spend and Save high-yield savings account that has helped millions of customers track their climate impact and support sustainable businesses.
Aspiration has already created a waitlist for customers interested in the Aspiration Zero carbon credit card. For every sign up to the waitlist from a personal referral, Aspiration pledges to plant 10 trees.
Future uses of the carbon credit card
Carbon credit cards are still a very recent innovation. They may be further developed to help people make environmentally-friendly purchases a regular habit.
One potential improvement that carbon credit cards could see is the introduction of carbon credits that are linked to nationally determined carbon prices.
The government may deposit a certain number of these credits into people’s accounts each year for them to spend on carbon-intensive products such as petrol, meat, and fossil fuel-generated electricity.
Once the allocated carbon credits have been used up, people can buy them from other people or the government. But if they have a surplus at the end of the year, they may be able to cash out their remaining credits for personal use.
The hope is that by putting a price on carbon and creating easily exchangeable carbon credits, individuals will be more inclined to purchase products and services that generate low amounts of carbon emissions.
Individuals may, for example, choose to cycle to work over driving to hold on to their carbon credits for trading later. They may also opt to eat more vegetables over meat.
By associating carbon credits with healthy, low-carbon habits, climate scientists and health officials expect people to eat healthier and move more. People may even be able to gain a nice profit from trading their carbon credits.