Eco Knowledge

Sustainable Bank Options in the U.S.

Ok this is one of those “I Googled it and I couldn’t find it so now I’m writing it so someone else can find it” blog posts that I’ve done a couple of times before.

When I searched for “carbon-neutral banks in the U.S.” or “U.S. banks that don’t invest in fossil fuels” I got lots of really helpful articles, like this one, underlining the importance of divesting your money from fossil fuels, but very few of them actually pointed me in the direction of banks that don’t use your money for destroying the planet, or banks that had sustainability initiatives.

Long story short: Fossil fuel projects need funding to happen. Fossil fuels (i.e. oil, coal, natural gas) are killing the planet. To get funding, they rely on banks. Banks get their money from regular people like you and me leaving our money sitting there for them to use as they please until we want it back. There are some banks that know this is a problem, and are transparent about what they will and won’t use your money for.

So that’s where I started to do some heavy research. All of these are summarized in my Instagram guide on ethical banking, so if you learn better through brevity, I’d head there.

Here are FOUR U.S.-based banks that do not invest in fossil fuels, and some cool things about them:

Amalgamated Bank (Based in New York) – Link to their website

  • Certified B Corporation
  • (Publicly) Refuses to invest in: Fossil fuels, tobacco, weapons manufacturing or distribution, hateful organizations, and private prison operators.
  • They use their money to support sustainable organizations, progressive causes, and social justice issues.
  • They’re a bank with net zero carbon emissions, and powered by renewable energy
  • Allows you to open a “Give Back” account where they donate on your behalf to an organization of your choice.
  • They reflect their values in employee healthcare coverage (such as covering gender-confirming surgeries or hormone therapy).
  • They allow flexible options for first-time bank account owners, whose credit history may be poor.
  • Compost and recycle at all offices.

Aspiration (Based Entirely Online) – Link to their website

  • Certified B Corporation
  • (Publicly) Refuses to invest in fossil fuels
  • They are a financial firm, not a bank. They provide the same services (and FDIC insurance) as a bank to help you make a difference with your money, though. They’re extremely transparent about this.
  • As part of a premium checking account, you can plant a tree with every purchase you make, offset the carbon emissions of your gas purchases, and get cash back when you buy from brands that they’ve recognized as conscious and ethical (they call it their “conscience coalition”).
  • Their debit cards are made of recycled plastic
  • They offer a fossil-fuel-free investment fund
  • They are a member of 1% for the planet.

Beneficial State Bank (Based in California) – Link to their website

  • Certified B Corporation
  • (Publicly) Refuses to invest in: oil, coal, natural gas extraction, or production of private prisons
  • Some of their core values as a bank are inclusivity of all races and genders, and being stewards of the environment
  • They prioritize loans to nonprofits and affordable housing initiatives
    • At least 75% of their loans are given to “change makers”
  • They are a 100% carbon neutral bank, and consistently aim to measure and decrease their carbon footprint
  • All employees are given paid volunteer time each year, and make a minimum of 150% of living wage or 15/hour, whichever is higher.

Sunrise Banks – Link to their website

  • Certified B Corporation
  • Committed to lessening the carbon footprint of their loan and investment portfolio, and plan to publicly report on it by 2022
  • Invest in affordable housing
  • Use solar power and LED lights in their offices to lower their footprint
  • Pay their employees time off to volunteer

Which did I choose?

I liked the ability to open a Give Back Checking account with Amalgamated Bank. When I earn interest, they match half that amount and donate it to an organization of my choice – in this case, Planned Parenthood. That was my primary reason for choosing them, besides the interest rates and annual fees that aligned with what I was looking for.

While I’m confident in the intentions of all four of the banks I recommended (duh, they wouldn’t be on the list otherwise) I found Amalgamated Bank to be the most transparent of the banks in their investments and their company values.

HOWEVER! I did love what Aspiration was doing as a financial manager, just not the fact that they weren’t an actual bank so I couldn’t keep my checking and savings separate. I chose to open an investment account with Aspiration so that I was still financially supporting them as an institution, while knowing that I was investing responsibly.

If you would like to start investing in their Redwood Fund (learn more here) I have a regular not sponsored referral link, and we both get $50 if you use it! If you decide to invest and want us both to get some moolah, you can sign up here.

Head on over to my Instagram post about the different bank options and let me know which you chose!

As always, don’t feel bad if this isn’t an action you can take. Choices and changes to make the planet a better place look different for everyone.

~ Lottie

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