By far, the biggest sources of dangerous, heat-trapping gases worldwide are dirty fuels: materials like oil, gas, and coal that we dig up to burn for heating, transportation, and electricity.
But in order to dig these fuels up, energy companies need funding and insurance, so they’re backed by some of the largest banks and retirement funds in the world — which, in turn, get the money for their investments from everyday people.
To stop the pollution, one of the biggest things you can do is to stop contributing money to these irresponsible investments and choose more eco-friendly — and profitable! — investments like clean energy.
Here are three of the best ways to put your money where your mouth is and make your green, “green.”
Switch to a green bank
Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America are the four biggest lenders to dirty energy companies. According to a recent report, from 2015 to 2021, they and other large financial institutions poured $4.6 trillion into this highly polluting industry, generating countless tons of air pollution and driving up the Earth’s temperature.
Banks invest so heavily in this sector that if you have $125,000 or more in your accounts there, your money is probably doing more to heat up the planet than everything else you do combined.
Luckily, there are alternatives: “green banks” that invest in clean energy like solar and wind power instead.
At many green banks, you can enjoy some or all of the normal functions of a bank — checking accounts, savings, loans, and more. And you can do so while knowing that you’re helping the world instead of harming it.
Many green banks, including the Climate Access Fund and D.C. Green Bank, are American Green Banks Consortium members. A number of these green banks are investment banks (rather than consumer banks) that may focus on providing access to financing to clients such as solar power developers.
You can find others through Bank For Good, such as Atmos Financial and its 55,000 fee-free ATMs via the Allpoint network. Bank For Good’s custom search tool allows you to browse by location, bank type, account features like mobile check deposit, and other selling points like whether watchdog org Mighty Deposits analyzed an institution’s community impact.
Opt for a green 401(k)
According to the Investment Company Institute, as quoted by Investopedia, the 401(k) market holds $6.3 trillion in assets, making it a powerful financial force.
Investopedia reveals that a huge portion of that money is invested in dirty fuels, and few 401(k) funds have eco-friendly options that avoid them.
It’s even harder to find the right green 401(k) plan when some investment companies “greenwash” their funds, presenting themselves as more eco-friendly than they are.
The Australian corporate pension fund Mercer Superannuation was recently sued for that kind of alleged deception, and a supposed industry leader, the Carlyle Group, was also recently outed as another major offender.
Besides making individual investors complicit in pollution, these investment plans have a huge flaw: As the world turns away from dirty fuels, these once-profitable investment opportunities will likely become much less stable.
The best way to ensure your 401(k) fund matches your values is to look for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investment opportunities.
These programs clarify a company’s approach to issues affecting the planet and ensure that you support causes you agree with. The right plan should have a yield on par with traditional investment options. You can learn more about your current plan and locate new ones at Invest Your Values, Carbon Collective, or Green Retirement. These organizations also offer resources for employers.
Invest in the clean economy
This industry is expanding rapidly, providing a whole realm of investment opportunities that aren’t just good for the planet but also your stock portfolio. Clean energy providers are among the high performers.
The best thing about investing in clean technology is that it’s here to stay. Local and even national governments are phasing out older, polluting tech like gas cars and plastic products. Meanwhile, cleaner alternatives like electric cars are booming.
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