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What is a credit card?



“Cross my palm with plastic”. The latest addition to Blue & Green Tomorrow’s “What is…” series looks at credit cards and the ethical considerations.

Most of us have one and those who don’t probably will at some point in the future. But what is a credit card? Wikipedia describes it as “a small plastic card issued to users as a system of payment. It allows its holder to buy goods and services based on the holder’s promise to pay for these goods and services. The issuer of the card creates a revolving account and grants a line of credit to the consumer (or user) from which the user can borrow money for payment to a merchant or as a cash advance to the user.” also add that “credit cards charge interest and are primarily used for short-term financing. Interest usually begins one month after a purchase is made and borrowing limits are pre-set according to the individual’s credit rating.”

Sounds simple enough. But what are the ethical implications of having and using a credit card?

Independent financial adviser Julian Parrott is very clear on the issue: One might be tempted to say a credit card is a hostage to fortune or the first step to financial ruin!”

“I don’t think that there is much of an ethical issue on credit cards really; you are borrowing the money so it’s what you are spending that’s really the issue. The association of the lender that you (temporarily) borrow from might be important to some – so I suppose it would be better to use a card from a responsible banking institution – but of those few who have ethical criteria, very few offer a credit card.”

In fact, Parrott could only provide a single example of a credit card lender with good ethical criteria—the Co-operative Bank.

“There is widespread abuse of vulnerable clients either through opaque charging or encouraging those who should know better to take on more debt – I saw a pop up [advert] the other day on the web for a card for those with poor credit rating with an annual interest rate of 34.9%. I would suggest people join a credit union and save up and then get members loans if they must borrow,” says Parrott.

“Of course, if you just use a credit card to manage cash flow and clear the balance every month, then that’s fine and it’s a useful thing to have in your wallet.”

According to yourethicalmoney.orgthere are more credit cards than people in Britain and the country’s debt problems are amongst the worst in the world”. When consumers are looking for a credit card provider its policies on responsible lending and debt advice are important but so are concerns about equal opportunities or the environment.

One of the options when looking to go down the route of a credit card is the charity affinity card. The providers of affinity cards make a small donation on behalf of the card holder to the charity it is associated with. Most charitable donations average at around 25p per £100 spent with most providers making a donation of between £5 and £25 per each new card account.

Affinity cards such as the one provided by the National Trust allows the card holder to use their card as well as be confident in the knowledge that the card provider, MBNA, are putting money back into the work done by the trust.

However, affinity cards are not for everyone. “I am not a big fan of ‘affinity cards’ where a small percentage of the regular spend is donated to the charity it ‘supports’”, says Parrott.

“I have looked into the amounts and feel that it is usually a miniscule amount that goes to the charity and often better value would be obtained by using a card that rewards the user – then allowing them to re-direct that saving into a gift-aided donation, which would be far more tax efficient”.

In their analysis of charity affinity cards, comes to the same conclusion and suggests that ‘cash back’ cards are the most effective way to donate money.

The ‘cash back’ is usually considerably more than a standard card donation and is paid into the card holder’s account, at which point it can be donated to a charity using gift aid; rather than the charity receiving £1, it receives £1.28. Notably, affinity cards are not eligible for gift aid.

If you’re interested in ethical options beyond credit cards, our recent in-depth report, The Guide to Sustainable Investment, gets to grip with the sector and interviews experts in the field.

In the Guide, we recommend that you seek independent professional advice before making any commitments, fill in our online form and we’ll put you in touch with a specialist adviser.

Further reading:

The Guide to Sustainable Investment

What is a bond?

What is an ethical bond?

What is an ISA?

What is ethical investment?

What is green investment?



How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable




sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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