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Sustainable Banking




I’m indulging myself with a generous pat on the back. Why? Because I successfully closed out my accounts at one bank recently after a two-month transition to another bank.

 

I suppose that might seem like a strange thing to celebrate, but I assure you that there is a method to my madness. You see, I’ve been thinking about ideas for living more sustainably for some time. There are some great ideas for individuals, groups, and companies at regeneration.org/nexus. This is the website associated with the book Regeneration: Ending the climate crisis in one generation, by Paul Hawken. If you want to do something to mitigate climate change, this is the motherload of ideas. There are dozens of areas to explore: Fungi, boreal forests, seaweed farming, pollinators, compost, girls education, urban farming, EVs, green hydrogen, plastics, regenerative agriculture, and more. Of course, you can also do a simple online search for “ideas for living sustainably,” or similar and find plenty of options. I’ve been making changes as I go along for things that seem doable, like using reusable or recyclable plastic bags, composting, conserving water, etc. It never occurred to me that where I banked could have any effect on climate change.

 

But it does. It turns out that the world’s banks have invested trillions of dollars in extracting fossil fuels in recent years. Yes, they did this in spite of the Paris accord in 2015. We know that burning fossil fuels is a major contributor to greenhouse gases and climate change. Yet, these banks have blithely continued to do business as usual rather than shifting their investments to clean energy. The worst offenders are JP Morgan Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America, but my former bank, US Bank was still ranked in the top 40 banks worldwide. The parent company, US Bancorp, invested over $47 billion in the fossil fuel industry between 2016 and 2022. $47 billion! I was shocked to find that my monies we being used to further deplete our Earth’s resources rather than for regenerating our planet.

 

I did a bit of searching and found that there are quite a few banks who focus on environmentally friendly and sustainable investments. In other words, they are using their financial muscle to fund projects that don’t further degrade our environment. I selected GreenPenny Bank (Decorah bank and Trust). It invests exclusively in sustainable ventures, mostly funding solar installations. After a two-month transition, I closed out my US Bank accounts. I sleep better knowing that my money is being put to good use and not causing further harm.

 

Making the transition wasn’t all that difficult. I just checked through my bank statements and made a list of all the regular deposits and payments. I was able to transfer most of them to the new bank online, but I had to visit my credit union in person to transfer my car loan. It helped that quite a few of the payments are through my credit card, and it was easy to direct my credit card payment to the new bank. I kept the US bank account open for a couple of months to check for any unexpected withdrawals, then closed it out.

 

It’s eye opening to find out that your bank may be using your funds to further degrade our planet. Fortunately, there is something you can do about it; find our if your bank is contributing to climate chaos. Simply check out your bank on bankingonclimatechaos.org or similar sites that track fossil fuel investments. Then do a search for banks that pursue environmentally sustainable investments with greenbanknetwork.org or nrdc.org or similar. If you choose another bank, make sure that your funds will be federally insured, of course. The transition is not that difficult, and you will probably rest easier knowing that your monies are part of the solution rather than exacerbating the problem.


To a sustainable future,

David Kater

 

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