Tuesday, April 8, 2008
What's In Your Wallet?
For the last five years - since the birth of my first child - I've religiously used my Toys R Us MasterCard, earning monthly rewards in the form of Toys R Us gift cards. After it dawned on me that (A) consuming copious amounts of lead-bearing plastic toys shipped from China might not be in the best interest of the planet and (B) my kids would be better off with infinitely fewer toys, I stopped cashing in my rewards. Instead, I donated the gift cards to my children's schools, where they were used for art supplies, wooden musical instruments, new scooters. It seemed a good compromise . . . except that every time I opened my wallet, there was something in there that didn't belong.
In thinking about living lighter, I tend to focus on active changes - hanging laundry, baking bread, shopping at the farmers' market, things that I can do physically. Inactive changes, like having my money work for the environment, often don't register with me even though they require less effort than, for instance, hauling buckets of bath water out to the ornamental plants.
The search for a greener credit card only involved a few clicks. Credit Card Watcher, GreenShopper, Co-Op America and Treehugger have all published articles rating different cards, their rewards and the banks who back them. Because we pay our balance off monthly, APR and finance charges were not a consideration. This left me with two factors to consider: the rewards earned and the lending bank.
Environmentally friendly credit cards offer a range of rewards. Some donate a percentage of your every purchase to organizations like World Wildlife Fund. Others, like GE's Earth Rewards MasterCard and Bank of America's Brighter Planet VISA Card, rack up money to be invested in renewable energy and carbon offset projects. The Working Assets Card offers its cardholders the ability to donate $.10 per purchase to one of 50 nonprofits.
Ultimately, I decided to go with the Salmon Nation VISA Card from a regional bank in Washington state dedicated to sustainable principles. First, I am trying to keep the endangered species of a small business alive. Moreover, the card will donate a percentage of my purchases to protect the watersheds between Alaska and California and, if you read the news these days, the salmon really need our help. Heck, using a card like this might even count in The Giving Challenge. Finally, it is a powerful feeling knowing that my money is living lighter too.
That's what's in my wallet. What's in yours?