Month: February 2020 (page 1 of 1)

Green Money

In a recent post, Emma shared her tips on how to save both pennies and the planet. Today, I (Tamara) am continuing the theme of money by sharing my attempts to ‘green’ my finances.

But first, a HUGE proviso! Though very wise, clever, smart and beautiful; I am not a financial guru or advisor. I am simply writing from my own personal experiences. This is not about me making or saving money but about me trying to be ethical in how I organise my finances and store my money.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Level 1: subscribe to the Ethical Consumer (Difficulty Rating: easy)

I share a subscription to The Ethical Consumer with a friend and it has been the number one most useful and informative resource in researching and deciding how to spend my money ethically. (This is not a sponsored post or any of that!). The Ethical Consumer does Shopping Guides, Company Profiles and basically it is where I go for clear answers when I am overwhelmed by choice. It has influenced all my choices which I will discuss below. If you can afford it, at £30 a year, get it!

Image by Jörg Hertle from Pixabay

Level 2: choose a bank with values (Difficulty rating: Intermediate)

Did you know that the big commercial banks are the worst? Main banking providers like Natwest, Lloyds, Barclays, HSBC etc are not the safe havens they appear in the ads. I was devastated to realise that the banks I was loyal to since I opened my first account at age 13 to save my Saturday job earnings in are funders of arms manufacturing and investors in the fossil fuel industry (to name but a few). These are powerful institutions focused on profits and not people.

I felt rather smug, many years ago now, when I decided to move away from terrible banking and opened a current account with Smile, then the best (in my opinion) ethical banking choice in a very limited pool. But the times have moved on and Smile, which is part of The Cooperative Bank, is no longer the top or only choice.

Triodos: a unicorn in the banking world

Triodos is the best. I do not mean it is the best of a bad bunch. Oh no no! Triodos is simply the best…dun… dun… better than all the rest! (channelling my inner Tina Turner!).

You see, Triodos doesn’t only choose not to invest in the bad aka unethical and unsavoury industries, Triodos actively invests in the good aka sustainable, ethical and planet & people protecting industries and projects.

Even their debit card is eco-conscious as it is made from PLA which is a plastic substitute made from renewable sources such as plant leaves and corn. But to be honest, it is their ethical policies and transparency that really give me a hard-on, though the small things are important too. (haha, that’s what she said! Sorry. #notsorry.)

I’ve had a saving account with Triodos for about ten years and will soon be opening a current account with them when I get my ID sorted. (Off-topic rant – can you believe that both my passport and my driving licence expired in the same month. Adulting is hard.)

Community-owned banking:

By this, I mean member-owned banking institutions like Building Societies and Credit Unions. Unlike commercial banks which are run for the profit of shareholders, here each customer is a member and has a say in how the organisation is run.

a) Nationwide Building Society

Nationwide is my compromise joint bank account with my husband, the Dutchman. After The Co-operative bank became 70% investor-owned and seeing that the Ethical Consumer rated them fairly well, he decided to move his accounts from Smile to Nationwide Building Society.

We have a shared account with Nationwide and the rest remain with Smile because as well as not being good with change, I still felt a loyalty to Smile and I was holding out for a Triodos current account. We compromised by initially keeping some accounts with Smile and transitioning one to Nationwide with ultimately all our shared accounts eventually being moved to Nationwide.

b) Wessex Community Bank

Whenever I cycle down Fratton Road, I notice the Wessex Community Bank nestled between The Bridge Shopping Centre and Garnier Street. Each time, I add it to my mental list of things to check out and immediately forget once I have cycled past.

Writing this article meant I finally researched it and I was thrilled to discover it is a not-for-profit community bank (a credit union) that invests solely in the Hampshire and Isle of Wight region. It is a proper local bank!

I plan on joining their Christmas Club saving scheme as I am tired of always being overdrawn come January. 2020 is my year of taking control of my finances!

Image by Shutterbug75 from Pixabay

Level 3: CHOOSE AN ETHICAL MORTGAGE (Difficulty rating: Advanced)

I rate this as Hard/ Advanced as for me this was the most difficult decision to make in terms of prioritising ethics over finances.

It is a privilege to be in a position to hold a mortgage. It is also my largest financial burden and my biggest monthly expense. I want that money to be invested positively by my mortgage provider. I have previously held a mortgage with The Co-operative Bank but wanted to up my game in ethical finances.

The Ethical Consumer was a key tool in helping us research and ultimately decide to apply to Coventry Building Society for a mortgage. A huge bonus is that the mortgage interest with them was as good a deal as the ones offered by the usual big banks. So it was a win-win, both financially and ethically. I consider this my biggest success in walking the walk and not just talking the talk.

Image by TheDigitalWay from Pixabay

Level 4: CHOOSE AN ETHICAL pension (Difficulty rating: expert)

This is where my laziness really shows. I don’t really get pensions and I think the fact I even have a pension is me Adulting at the highest level.

I want a safe, secure and ethical pension that doesn’t just not invest in fossil fuels, fracking, arms trade and all that fun stuff but also invests positively in sustainable, ethical, people and planet-friendly funds. I basically want the Triodos of pensions.

Quite by chance, I hold a pension with Royal London who is currently ranked the top pension provider by The Ethical Consumer. And the Dutchman has a workplace pension with Aviva, who is rated second. But unlike Triodos, for example, these are the best of a bad bunch.

I feel my only option is to learn more about pensions (ergh) and start lobbying my pension provider to do better.

But ideally, I’d have a pension provider that is making actively positive ethical investments and so far, I haven’t found that.


And what of you, Dear Reader? What are your experiences of ethical banking? Do you have an answer to my pension quandary? Let us know in the Comments section.


Written by Tamara, a Green Hairy Feminist

It’s not (always) expensive being green

Dear Reader, 

You may not know this about me, but I (Emma) am really really cheap. Cheaper than I, as a middle-class person with a fair amount of savings and a fairly steady income, have any right to be. 

So cheap that on the last holiday I took with a friend we would have had to have paid £4 to sit together on the flight and I rejected this completely. She didn’t even push the matter because she knew I’d bitch about it being a waste of money.

I suppose, if you’ll allow me this brief moment in a therapist’s chair, it stems back to my childhood, when my family didn’t have a lot of money and debt was the elephant in every room of our house. 

Photo of change

Sometimes this cheapness conflicts with my environmental beliefs.

For example, I have to buy some tampons because, while an advocate of reusable period care,  I will be on holiday and going swimming during one of my periods this year. (I have still not mastered the menstrual cup.)

The organic cotton tampons that I know I need to buy cost £4 for a pack of 20. By comparison, the supermarket own-brand terrible-for-the-environment plastic-filled tampons cost about 99p for 16.

And I’m outraged by this despite having to buy 1 or 2 packs of these a year. (Can you imagine if I was using tampons all the time or if I had any kind of medical issue with my period that made it heavier or more frequent?) 

What I’m saying is that I do understand why people would choose the cheaper option over the more environmental one in most cases. Particularly in such a dire economic time when the government prefers to make sure the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor. (I wrote this on my phone when it was still working, and it autocorrected my sentence to read ‘the poor stay put’ and tbh, I think that might be how the government feels too.) 

However, this article is not intended to be a depressing read on how caring for the earth can ruin your bank balance. Instead, I want to focus on how it can actually save you money. 

In a way, the money you save can pay for more expensive tampons and other eco things. But even if you only choose to do the green things that will save you money, it’s still a way to cut your impact on the planet. 

Planet earth taken from space

Switch to reusables

While plastic is the biggest problem, single-use anything isn’t great because of the energy used to create it. Plus, a one-off purchase that might be a little more expensive is still cheaper than multiple disposables. 

To start with, why not try a reusable water bottle, shopping bag small enough to fit in your handbag/backpack, a lunchbox, and a handkerchief?

More advanced reusable lovers can try period care, nappies, wax wraps, and toilet cloth.

Use what you have

Overconsumption is a big problem because it involves extra materials and energy to create a product, energy to ship and store it, and finally energy to get it from the store to your house. 

Where I can, I use what I have rather than buying anything. For example, for handkerchiefs I use the old napkins that belonged to a table cloth that had been thrown away. (Someone knocked cherryade over it when they small and the stain never came out.)

Use pre-loved

I fucking love buying second hand. Most of my clothes (and books) are from charity shops and at least three pairs of shoes came from my parents. 

By choosing pre-loved items, you are taking something already in the waste stream and giving it a second life.

I also love sites like Freegle, Freecycle, and Trash Nothing to get pick up cool things for free. 

You can also get rid of items on there, that you might otherwise have to take to the tip or pay for the council to collect. (Think about broken furniture, which some could repair or use for firewood.)

Repair

My main repairs are small sewing things for clothes, holes in leggings, underwire springing free from bras, and rips in the seams of jumpsuits. I can (sort of) do these myself. Or with supervision from a more seasoned sewer.

For anything more complicated, like my currently glitching phone, I defer to the repair cafe, which is donation-based. (Excuse me, while I cry over my phone.)

Public transport

I never learnt to drive and it was primarily because I didn’t have the money or the time. (Now, I have the money, it’s mostly an eco thing.)

What with all the costs associated with driving, from lessons to car purchase to tax to insurance, it’s so much cheaper for me to take the bus, coach, or train. (Or even walk on a dry day.)

As an added eco benefit, you can use e-tickets for the bus and coach to save paper. (I don’t know if you can with the train.) The First Bus app also saves you money on day passes (often less than a return), singles, and passes (week, month, year).

Okay, that’s about it from me. Do you have any other ways to save pennies and the planet? Let me know in the comments below.