With folks becoming more environmentally conscious, people are starting to take a look at ways to incentivize carbon offset behaviors. The Aspiration Zero credit card rewards holders for doing carbon neutral and carbon negative behaviors, all while working as a normal credit card with cash rewards.
Impact of the card in hand
While it may not seem like it, the credit card you use can affect your carbon footprint. Your carbon footprint refers to how much carbon dioxide your choices release into the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide doesn’t come from you directly, but instead from the factories or farms that produce the goods and services you buy. Reducing your carbon footprint involves choosing low carbon emission practices, such as green energies.
Your carbon footprint can be described with a couple of different terms, depending on which direction you lean in your behaviors. Carbon positive is the term most people fall into, which is where you contribute more carbon dioxide than you remove with your choices. However, there are terms that we use to describe people that attempt to reduce their carbon footprint.
If you are carbon neutral, that means that you are removing as much carbon dioxide as you put into the environment. Becoming carbon neutral is the first goal folks that are environmentally conscious try to achieve. By hitting carbon neutrality, you can make sure that you aren’t adding to the carbon emissions problem our world faces right now.
Carbon negative is much more ambitious than carbon neutrality. If you are carbon negative, then you are removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Much like carbon neutrality, this term refers to the sum of all your actions as a person or business, not individual choice. It’s the choices that add up that matter to the environment!
Planting trees is a common way to help get to a carbon-negative state. Trees require lots of carbon dioxide to grow, and reforestation can encourage a more diverse ecosystem. Over time, this ecosystem can encourage more growth, absorbing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and promoting a healthier gas balance.
The most ambitious out of the three terms listed here, carbon zero refers to a state in which no carbon emissions are even produced. This is a rare state for a person or company to be in since it requires modern, green technology to accomplish.
For starters, a building would have to be off the grid to achieve carbon zero status. That way, it isn’t using any fossil fuels from a power plant to get its electricity. Instead, the building might rely on solar or wind power or be connected to a nuclear power plant that releases water vapor instead of carbon dioxide.
Net-zero carbon emissions and the role of banks
Net-zero carbon emissions is a term that means the same thing as carbon neutral. This term is usually applied to organizations and businesses, rather than individuals.
On the way to reducing carbon emissions, evaluating your bank isn’t something many people would think to do. Banks don’t have smokestacks pouring above their buildings or directly produce any emissions. However, banks make decisions with money that affect the environment. Looking at those decisions by banks will tell you how banks have a hand in the ecosystem’s health.
Investments and funding
Many big banks and financial institutions offer investment options for their members. In these accounts, financial advisors and brokers will give their members options on where to invest their money for different goals, such as retirement or maximum growth. One of the sectors banks will invest in is the energy sector, part of which is fossil fuels.
Dozens of banks and other institutions have invested in the fossil fuel industry in the last five years, totaling almost $3.8 trillion. These investments increase the price of the stock for the various oil companies. With this increased stock price, oil companies can then sell stock to traders to fund their operations and grow.
Research is showing that climate change could dramatically affect the economy in the future, and not in a good way. Disrupting ecosystems and expansion of human society push the environment into tighter spaces, reducing biodiversity and limiting resources available for the planet. Investing in these companies allows for this to continue at the rate we’ve seen so far.
That’s not to say all energy investing is bad. Publicly traded companies exist that deal with green energy solutions like wind and solar energy. While banks will have some of these companies as small parts of their energy portfolios, they don’t have the same returns and perceived safety as established oil companies. It all comes down to priorities.
Plastic credit cards and their impact
Plastics are one of the main products we make with oil. Plastic is the most common material for making credit and debit cards since it’s cheap and easy to mold. If you add up all the plastic credit and debit cards together, you’d get a pile of plastic 13 times the size of Mount Everest.
If these cards aren’t recycled, then they can end up in landfills or the environment. Plastic takes millions of years to break down, so its damage will long since have been done by the time the plastic erodes. Banks and institutions that opt for alternative materials for their credit cards could reduce their impact on the environment.
Incentives and rewards to make you care
To encourage people to use their carbon offset credit card, Aspiration has aligned its actions and rewards with an eco-friendly goal. By using this credit card, you can become mindful of your spending actions and make changes that improve your carbon footprint, all while getting rewarded for doing so.
The card’s construction
The Aspiration Zero credit card isn’t made with plastic. Instead, they use a plant composite material to make their credit card. By doing this, Aspiration accomplishes a few things that those making plastic cards don’t.
First, the plant composite makes Aspiration’s credit card biodegradable and compostable. That way, if the card gets lost or expires, you don’t have to recycle it for the card to be used in an eco-friendly way. Instead, the card will break down over time and return to its base components.
It also cuts back on Aspiration’s usage of oil products. Since plastics are made using oil, using a plant composite instead means that they are not helping to fund oil companies to the same degree as other financial institutions.
When you spend $1.50 using the Aspiration Zero credit card, they will plant a tree in your name using one of their three reforestation partners. Aspiration is partnered with the Arbor Day Foundation, the Eden Reforestation Project, and One Tree Planted to make sure that they can spread the reforestation efforts out across the world.
On their website, Aspiration has a calculator that figures out how many trees you can contribute depending on how many times a week you use your card. Using your card once a day would cause 364 trees to be planted, helping reduce your carbon footprint by almost 20,000 miles of driving the average car.
Eco-friendly reward structure
The cashback reward structure for the Aspiration Zero also encourages a carbon-neutral lifestyle. They offer a 0.5% cashback on your purchases unless you can plant 60 trees in a month with the card. If you do that, then the card instead offers a 1% cashback on all your purchases.
Aspiration also doesn’t offer a paper bill. Instead, you can track your charges and payments using their app. The app also lets you see a rating for how good or bad the company is in reducing its carbon footprint. This analysis lets you figure out what companies are hurting or helping the environment, helping you make more eco-friendly choices in your spending habits.
Control where Aspiration Zero invests your money
The Aspiration Zero credit card offers rewards for those that want to be more environmentally minded in their spending habits. The banking industry helps contribute to the carbon footprint by investing in technologies and companies that create carbon emissions. By partnering with a greener financial institution, you can reduce your carbon footprint while getting rewarded.
Currently, there is a waiting list to get the Aspiration Zero credit card. If you enter your email address on their website, Aspiration will let you know when their first round of credit card applications is being accepted for this carbon offset credit card. Toss your name into the list and see if you can achieve a greener lifestyle while also getting rewarded for your effort!