What would this year be without fire tornadoes out West and record-breaking heat waves covering most of the country? (Answer: plenty) But we can’t ignore the effects of climate change. As they grow worse, we’re all wondering what we can do to help. Should we recycle more? Stop eating meat? Try to go zero waste? Conflicting advice abounds. In reality, some of the most effective actions that you can take to fight climate change all have to do with one thing — your finances.
As a consumer, you have the power to make sure that your money isn’t supporting the companies that are making climate change worse.
There is a lot of money wrapped up in climate change. All companies need capital to run, whether they’re harming the environment, like fossil fuel companies, or working on climate solutions, like renewable energy companies. We know money matters can be kind of a drag (looking at you, Millennials), but they may just be your best way to stick it to fossil fuel companies.
Check out these five ways to put your money where your mouth is and up your environmental impact in a big way.
#1. Break up with your bank
The big banks invest a lot of money in the fossil fuel industry. Like, $2.7 trillion between 2016 and 2019 a lot. If you don’t want your money going to oil companies, make the switch to a green bank, which makes loans to support social and environmental sustainability. You have a couple of options here:
- Community development banks are for-profit banks that work to develop the economies in low-income areas, which are often underserved by traditional financial institutions.
- Credit unions also work for economic development in low- and moderate-income areas, but they differ from community development banks in that they’re not-for-profit cooperatives.
Tools such as Mighty and GreenAmerica can help you find and compare community development banks or credit unions that match your values. Or, if you don’t want to be limited to financial institutions in your area, you can choose from several online green banks. Aspiration, Clean Energy Credit Union, Amalgamated Bank, Spring Bank, and CityFirst Bank all provide online banking no matter where in the US you live.
Money talks. You can make yours talk louder by breaking up with your big bank.
#2. Connect to renewable energy
Your home energy use is one of the biggest impacts you can have on the environment, especially now that almost all of our energy use happens at home. The average home’s electricity impact is equal to burning 712 pounds of coal a month. Not great.
But you don’t need to shell out a bunch of cash to install your own solar panels. Arcadia integrates with your existing utility account to match your energy use with clean energy from wind and solar. With every power bill you pay, you’ll be putting more clean energy onto the grid to offset energy from fossil fuels. By increasing demand for clean energy, you can help us move closer to a 100% renewable energy future.
Run your home on clean energyCheck availability
#3. Invest in socially responsible funds
Like switching to a green bank, investing in socially responsible funds is a way to make a big statement as a consumer. Socially responsible investing (SRI) means keeping your money out of problematic industries, such as fossil fuels, and instead putting your investments into companies that match your values. It’s an effective way to push companies toward better and more sustainable practices, such as divesting from fossil fuel projects, and it’s growing in popularity. SRI assets have grown nearly 40% year-over-year since 2016; today, more than $12 trillion is invested in SRI in the US.
If you’re ready to take the plunge and invest, you can screen investments yourself. As You Sow has a great tool for finding funds that match your values, including fossil fuel-free funds. You can also work with a socially responsible financial advisor. Or you can use an automated online financial advisor that specializes in SRI funds, such as Earthfolio, Ellevest, Newday, or OpenInvest.
#4. Bring SRI to your retirement savings
If you feel like you don’t have the money to invest using some of the tools above, you’re not alone. But you may be overlooking a huge opportunity: your workplace retirement plan.
Some retirement plans do include socially responsible funds (sometimes also called ESG funds, which stands for environmental, social, and governance. It’s a set of criteria used to evaluate companies on standards such as how they support environmental sustainability), and some benefits companies specialize in socially responsible retirement plans. However, only 2.9% of 401(k) plans include a single ESG fund. If your plan isn’t one of them, you can change that! As You Sow’s toolkit can help you talk to your employer about making SRI an option for your company.
#5. Make sure your insurance company doesn’t support fossil fuels
Have you ever thought about the fact that your insurance company invests the premiums you pay? Because they do. And they may be investing in fossil fuel companies and other industries that actually do harm — the very thing that insurance companies are supposed to protect against! But in 2016, the US insurance industry was the second-biggest institutional investor in fossil fuels.
In a lot of ways, insurance companies are working against their own best interests by investing in fossil fuels. It’s socially, environmentally, and financially risky. Lemonade is one insurance company that refuses to make any investments in fossil fuels. As a Public Benefit Corporation, they weigh the public good of all their decisions, including how to invest your premiums. Pretty cool, right? Lemonade offers renters, homeowners, and pet insurance.