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Finding a new bank is a good way everyday folks can fight global warming

A man with a beard and glasses holds up a sign at a climate protest that reads "Stop Banking Climate Change"
Protest outside St Kilda and Balaclava Commonwealth Bank branches in Melbourne on Thursday May 11, 2017. Photo by Julian Meehan Copyright: Creative Commons CC-by-SA

If you live in the U.S., there's a good chance that your bank is probably a big contributor to the climate crisis.

In 2020 alone, JPMorgan Chase invested $51.3 billion in fossil fuel investments; Citi poured another $48.4 billion into oil, gas, and coal deals; and Bank of America rounded out the top three fossil fuel funders with $42.1 billion invested in the industry that's the primary culprit behind climate change.

The money that these banks invest comes from their work with big businesses, and billionaires, but it also comes from everyday folks.

In all U.S. consumers have about $10 trillion socked away in checking accounts and savings accounts and only 1% of those accounts are climate friendly, according to Trenton Allen, the managing director and chief executive of Sustainable Capital Advisors, and the founder of a soon-to-launch service called AskSustainable.

"Less than 1% of all checking accounts in the U.S. are deemed climate friendly," said Allen. "We can do better."

Allen sees AskSustainable as a resource that folks can use to find more climate friendly ways to put their money to work for themselves and for the planet. And it's taking signups now ahead of a launch later this year.

"The individual has a role to play," says Allen. And the question he hopes AskSustainable can answer is how people can invest their dollars to support the projects and services that are working to stop global warming from greenhouse gas emissions.

While the site intends to have information on all sorts of financial products that everyday investors can park some cash into to generate returns, the first step is to bank better.

And there are a number of options on the market to help folks do that. FootPrint Coalition's portfolio company, Aspiration, is one, but Allen says there are others out there that could be just as good.

Aspiration uses cash and roundups to develop carbon offsets -- and provides folks with a way to invest in a group of companies on the stock market that the company deems climate friendly through a single investment vehicle.

But other banks and financial services businesses are actually investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that reduce fossil fuel consumption (which is the main source of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming).

"Think of it in the context of is this is a portfolio of your financial assets," says Allen. "Starting can be as simple as thinking about where my checking and savings accounts are. Understanding what these banks and financial institutions are doing with the capital [you] have deposited with them are important in terms of understanding how [you're] acting in the climate space."

For folks who may want to park their cash in a company that's not Aspiration, Allen recommended checking out the Colorado-based Clean Energy Credit Union, or California's Beneficial State Bank, and Florida's Climate First Bank.

"We should... recognize that we all have something to contribute and some role to play in addressing climate change," says Allen.

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