Going Cashless Lowers Our Carbon Footprint and Has Other Pros and Cons



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There has been a lot of talk about shifting towards a cashless society these days. One of the discussions that hasn’t come up much is the environmental impact. There is a large environmental footprint associated with cash, which makes a cashless society a viable option.

In 2018, a research paper showed that cashless societies can be a lot better for the environment. One of the reasons is that ATMs use a lot of energy and contribute to environmental indicators. This study used default electricity consumption data for typical ATMs with reasonable usage scenarios. However, there are many different styles of ATMs with varying energy consumption and cash carrying capacity. ATMs in different locations also have different usage patterns, leading to uncertainty in the electricity data. Figure 1 in that paper shows how a 20% change in ATM electricity demand can affect the results.

However, this doesn’t mean that all cashless options are good for the planet. As we discussed before, bitcoin is very bad for the environment. There are greener cryptocurrencies out there, but they are not as good for the planet as other cashless options.

Regardless of the environmental impacts, cashless systems are becoming more common. When the pandemic became intense, digital payments became common as people avoided using cash to prevent the virus from spreading. However, since then, there has been a push towards going cashless even after the effects of the pandemic had subsided. Nowadays, we have embraced the cashless culture, but sometimes it’s hard to tell whether your next stop accepts cash or card. Even as you plan to go out for your favourite Mexican cuisine, you’ll find yourself constantly wondering, “Should I carry cash, or does Taco Bell take Apple Pay and other cashless payments”? In this article, we look at the advantages and disadvantages of using cash.

Pros of Going Cashless Beyond the Environmental Issues

In addition to the environmental benefits, there are other merits of cashless options. Not carrying cash with you always comes with several benefits; some are obvious, while others are not. You can enjoy the following benefits when you go cashless.

  1. You don’t have to carry much –  This is the most obvious of them all as you don’t have to take many things with you. This means fewer notes and coins, and you can walk around freely.    
  2. Habit tracking – When we use cash in most instances, it can be challenging to keep track of; however, when you go cashless, you can track your spending by printing out a statement of your recent spending.     
  3. Safe – You cannot lose money you don’t carry with you. So going cashless reduces the risk of having your money stolen. But, of course, if your card gets stolen or lost, you could always block your account remotely.
  4. Convenient and fast – It is much quicker and more convenient to pay your bills, make money transfers and make purchases by just tapping a button. These days most cards don’t need much, you have to tap the card against the reader, and your transaction is complete immediately.

Cons of Going Cashless

As much as you are safe from germs when you go cashless, there are several cons.

  1. Overspending – The fact that you are not physically parting with your money might cause you to overspend as you don’t monitor how much you have. 
  2. Adjusting – For most of us who have been around since before cash, it might be challenging to adjust to using credit cards, especially individuals who are not tech-savvy or don’t have bank accounts.
  3.  Cybertheft – Most digital payments are usually encrypted and hard to crack. However, you must have secure passwords such that it will be challenging to get into your account if hacking happens to you. If your password is weak, hackers will drain your account, and if you have no other account, it could not be perfect for you.
  4. Some cashless options are worse for the environment. We mentioned that cashless options in general are better for the planet. However, some are actually bad for the environment. Cryptocurrencies are not good for the planet and leave an excess of 27.4 million tons of carbon emissions.

What Should You Consider When You Go Cashless (In Addition to the Environmental Concerns)?

When you choose to go cashless, keep several things in mind. Of course, you need to think about the impact on the planet. But there are other factors to weigh as well.

First and foremost, you should ensure that you are saving with the right bank. This means finding a bank that covers the basics and choosing a bank that is either traditional or online. Your online safety should also be something to consider. Digital paper trails may help to fight fraud and help you manage your money; you are also subject to breach. Because of this very reason, you must keep your money with a bank known for top-tier security. 


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