In this chapter of Earth Saver, Ben gets a part-time job, so the family goes to pick a bank where he can open his own account, and Clare discovers eco-banking and charity credit cards.
Hooray! Daisy’s party was a success! Well, except for the drizzle. Good thing those solar fairy-lights turned out to be water-proof. Shame about my paper lanterns, though. Nonetheless, she thought the decorations were really stylish and she liked my present too. I gave her a daisy flower brooch and a pair of flower earrings. It took her a moment to realise the jewellery was not glass, but plastic, and she was very surprised when I told her that Mum and I had also made the flowers ourselves – out of plastic bottles!
We’d found a video online that showed you how to make them, with just some used plastic pop bottles and some permanent marker pens. We even reused an old badge pin and a pair of plain earrings Mum had managed to find, which we stuck the finished flowers to.
So that’s good news. There turned out to be even more a couple of days later when Ben announced that he had found himself a part-time job. He’s been looking for one for a while, and he’s finally been hired by a local organic fruit, flower and vegetable shop. However, they want to pay him through the bank, so Dad is taking Ben into town next week to open a current account. Dad should know what he’s doing. It’s his job to advise people on how to save money – though he did make a joke about current accounts not having dried fruit in them. No one laughed except me.
Anyway, Dad and Ben got back this evening with a whole load of leaflets about accounts from different banks, and are now sitting at the kitchen table trying to decide. I think Dad’s more interested in picking the right bank than Ben is. I take a quick peek at one of the glossy leaflets, and it all seems very complicated.
I am about to leave them to it when I notice a leaflet with the words ‘sustainable banking’ on it. Surely that doesn’t mean green sustainable does it? Then I spot another with the words ‘ethical banking’. Hmmm? I decide to ask Dad about the leaflets.
“Dad, what’re these ‘sustainable’ and ‘ethical’ banking leaflets about? Is it anything to do with being green?”
Dad picks up the leaflets.
“Ah, yes”, Dad nods, “I’ve come across this before. This is where banks are trying to be more socially responsible and green. Though there are differences between what banks call ‘ethical’ and ‘green’ banking.”
“Which are?” I ask.
“Well… ‘green’ banking usually means that the bank tries to uses its resources better, day to day. For example giving people the option to stop being sent paper statements through the post to cut down on the use of paper and get them online instead. ‘Ethical’ banking is about where the banks invest their money. Some invest them in companies that aren’t very green, that destroy wildlife and that sort thing. Ethical banks invest in companies that don’t do that. They actively invest in ones that are doing good things, such as setting up solar power projects. ‘Sustainable’ means green or ethical, or both.”
“So, Ben should apply to one of those banks then!” I cry, “If it’s green!”
“Huh?” Ben pulls out his earphones. He’d started listening to music whilst we were talking.
“That’s true, but we also have to decide on the right account for his needs”, Dad says.
“What’s this?” Ben asks.
“Ben, would you go for one of these green or ethical banks? They invest in good companies.”
“Err…it’s not quite that simple”, Dad says. “There’s the rate of interest Ben will get…”
“Can I put money in these accounts?” Ben says, interrupting Dad and taking the leaflets.
“Of course…” Dad starts.
“Then sure. Whatever. As long as my pay check can go in there, I can save a bit and I can get money out, that’ll be fine”, Ben says casually.
“I suppose you’re right”, Dad sighs, “You’re not exactly at the stage where you’ll be wanting to get a mortgage or a credit card.”
“So what do these ethical banks invest in then? Panda reserves? Wildlife gardens?” Ben asks flipping through a leaflet.
“Well”, Dad says, taking the leaflet off him, “This one invests in environmental schemes and organic businesses. Apparently they invested in a hydro-electricity scheme that a community wanted to set up.”
“Wow! I wish our community would set up a hydro-electricity scheme”, I sigh.
“A brilliant plan”, Ben says, “Now all we need is a river.”
I hear a click of keys. Dad has brought the bank’s website up onto his laptop screen.
“Look at this, they invested in a wind farm too”, he says, “You know, it’s kind of refreshing to see banks investing in communities and eco-projects. Normally they just invest in whatever they think will make the biggest profit. And then you’ve got all those bonuses they pay themselves…”
Oh no. Not another rant about the banks. Dad may be a financial advisor, but his aim, according to him, has been to make money for his client, not for the banks.
“The rate of interest isn’t bad either. You know, Ben”, Dad says, scrolling down the site, “If you just want a basic standard bank account for now, perhaps going for one of these would be a good idea. Oh, look at this – charity credit cards! Each time you use their credit card some money is donated to a charity, at no cost to you…”
Five minutes later Dad’s dragged Mum into the kitchen and they are discussing the idea of ethical banking, not just for Ben, but for themselves. Which is good, I think. I try and keep track but it’s really hard as I don’t know anything about banking. Dad’s discovered a bank with a saving account which lets you choose a charity to benefit from your savings. I’m not quite sure how, but it sounds like a nice idea.
By the end of the evening Mum and Dad are agreeing to open an ethical bank account for Ben, and switch to the same bank themselves. So I suppose that’s another thing we’ve managed to go green with. Wish I could’ve have helped more. Never mind, there’s still plenty yet to do!
Clare breaks her old MP3 player, and looks at buying a wind-up or solar replacement.