We have been at the eco-game for many many years, and while so many things have been accomplished in living more simply, more mindfully, more green, there are ALWAYS things we can do to reduce our footprint and walk the talk in a deeper, more impactful way. I’m not talking about small things like buying bamboo instead of plastic.
With that, I thought I’d start a weekly post, talking about 3 key things we are doing to up our game when it comes to environmental protection and social justice (because honestly, you can’t have one without the other)…
1. DIVESTING (aka, putting our money where our mouth is)
While we have my husband’s Australian pension plan invested 100% in their only sustainability fund option (sigh), one thing we never paid a heck of a lot of attention to were our standard checking and savings accounts. I’d had Bank of America for so long, not for the stellar (not) customer service but because it was simply easier as a small business owner to operate completely on the mobile app than the options that smaller institutions provided (I literally never had to go into the branch except for when I changed my business name, and 99% of the time my client deposits were fully available the next day).
I’d heard about credit unions but in my particularly capitalistic years of my business, waiting 7 days for a big check to clear wasn’t going to cut it. I admit, I had let the greedy bastards hold onto my money in the name of convenience. Then I learned about how B of A has been funding immigration detention centers run by the genocidal freaks at CoreCivic and others, and so so SO much more I confronted myself this year and admitted: I’ve got zero excuses. I closed my business and personal checking/savings accounts and as of yesterday, we are officially in business with a good credit union. Here’s how I went about it:
* I got serious researching not only a credit union that seemed to have the basics down, but also one with a record of diversity, sustainability and social justice, not purely in their community activities but in their hiring. Y’all, I’m still a recruiter at heart and when you look at a prospective client or employer, the first page you need to go to is the Leadership page under About Us. Check out the exec team. Check out the board. Are you seeing one or two maximum women and/or black/brown people and that’s it (…if any at all…) and is that minimal representation in token roles (woman = HR, p.o.c. = Diversity)? Or is representation lush, so that you know they weren’t hiring for PR but for actual understanding of what real community looks like? Let me tell you, it was slim pickin’s. The first sites I visited to do homework were GreenAmerica and BlackoutCoalition, both who have search features to see who’s nearest you. This is what I found:
* There is not one black-owned credit union in the Western half of the US. Literally the closest three CUs are in Dallas. WTF! Most CUs have residency requirements for their area. FYI, the only black-owned bank in the Western US is OneUnited, which we would have but since we were looking for nonprofit, that was a non-starter for us.
* Not ONE of the credit unions in my county (and there are several) were listed on the GreenAmerica site, so I had to look outside our immediate vicinity. Considering we live in a formerly huge timber area with Georgia-Pacific and others stinking it up further down the Columbia, I suppose I’m not surprised. Going 2 hours east of us, I spotted Point West on the map, and after confirming they welcomed members from our county, noting their diverse leadership team, and seeing recognition for their work with the Hispanic community AND designation to work with low-income communities, I was stoked. After confirming we could access ATMs here in my county to do any non-mobile banking through their network, we made the leap.
* We’ve still got more to do.
My only credit card, the mileage one I pay off every month, is still with B of A, but with the crazy high credit limit I have, it will initially simply stay quiet and inactive. (It’s not like we can use our miles anyhow, but if I change to a new card, I know I won’t get the same credit limit…particularly with the circumstances). Also, our mortgage was sold to the demon spawn company Wells Fargo by our lender shortly after we bought the house out here on the coast (not something homeowners control, ridiculously enough), which sucks because you can’t simply just move it elsewhere without an expensive refi). But our (well, my husband’s right now) bread and butter is now going into a bank that is not financing coal or fracking or the caging of children, and that’s a darn good start.
2. VOTE WITH YOUR WALLET!
The excuses for shopping at companies with horrible environmental and social justice records are seemingly unlimited, but if you really mean it when you say you want to do better environmentally? Then you won’t give your money to companies who are laughing all the way to the bank while they abuse their employees, the earth, and advocate against the greater good. Here are a few to immediately say goodbye to (and not just stop shopping, but canceling your online accounts if you have one):
Amazon. One of the worst companies on Earth, where the CEO makes – in ONE SECOND ($2,489) TWICE what the median US worker makes in a week ($149,353/minute, as Business Insider reported). We don’t shop there and we dont whine about it. There are MANY alternatives, like – gasp! – shopping direct! Why are the prices so low? Hint: lower profit margins. They make more while the businesses using them make less than they would if you bought direct. Basically? they screw small businesses over in order to get your money. Don’t let your craving for a supposed convenience overcome doing the right thing. Here are just a few of the things they are doing to crap on both people and planet: https://www.thedailybeast.com/john-oliver-appalled-by-amazon-and-jeff-bezos-racist-smears-against-black-worker https://theintercept.com/2020/06/03/amazon-police-racism-tech-black-lives-matter/ https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/jeff-bezos-amazon-climate-change-money-donate-a9343046.html https://therising.co/2019/07/19/amazon-prime-is-convenient-but-its-terrible-for-the-environment/ https://slate.com/technology/2020/01/evil-list-tech-companies-dangerous-amazon-facebook-google-palantir.html
Walmart. Known for decades as the epitome of corporate greed in the retail world, they are the epitome of greenwashing, whitewashing (where less than 7% of senior leadership is Black), and crushing small businesses. It should be a no-brainer to stay away from this company, yet they continue to lie about everything from employee compensation to diversity to their supposed sustainability initiatives. Here’s more reasons why they should be avoided: https://www.morningbrew.com/retail/stories/2020/06/18/black-professionals-underrepresented-major-brands-like-gap-levis-walmart https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/06/19/walmart-exploits-black-lives-while-paying-lip-service-black-lives-matter https://www.environmentalleader.com/2017/02/greenwashing-costing-walmart-1-million/ https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/mar/22/target-walmart-coronavirus-workers-not-protected https://investigations.peta.org/walmart-great-value-eggs-horror/ https://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2013/03/31/of-course-walmart-destroys-retail-jobs-thats-the-darn-point-of-it-all/#610425bc1069
Uber. Listed as #5 in the top 20 most evil tech companies with the comment that “It’s hard to think of a company that has shown more disdain for governmental authority, or for the safety and welfare of its drivers, riders, and employees,” it’s never been a company I’ve had respect for knowing it’s long history of sexual harassment internally, the thousands of cases of rape reported all around the world, not to mention how it’s screwing over both taxi companies and public transport while lying about its drivers not qualifying as actual employees. It’s so, so FUBAR. Here’s more on them: https://slate.com/technology/2020/01/evil-list-tech-companies-dangerous-amazon-facebook-google-palantir.html https://www.sierraclub.org/articles/2019/07/environmental-hypocrisy-uber-and-lyft https://www.theverge.com/2020/2/25/21152512/uber-lyft-climate-change-emissions-pollution-ucs-study https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2019/12/18/uber-sexual-harassment-investigation-me-too/2694091001/ https://fortune.com/2020/07/07/uber-postmates-deal-merger-acquisition-gig-workers/
3. STOP BUYING THINGS IN SINGLE USE PLASTIC.
Beyond never buying bottled water and only buying coffee if you have your own mug, two things that should be pretty ‘duh’ by this point, I want to talk about takeout.
Did you know that:
…in the US, “29% of the greenhouse gas emissions come from how we make, consume, and dispose of things” (source)?
…only 12% of things are actually recycled, with the majority going to the landfill?
…no matter how biodegradable your packaging says it is, it doesn’t degrade one bit (landfills are anaerobic, these things need oxygen to break down)?
…plastic (which is made from fossil fuels, petroleum to be exact) is not truly recycled, but rather DOWNcycled (unlike glass and aluminum, one plastic tub cannot simply be made another plastic tub, which means your yogurt tub can only be made into a lesser product that is NOT recyclable…and therefore still ultimately ends up in the landfill).
So – many won’t like this – here’s what you do: DON’T BUY THINGS IF IT COMES IN SINGLE USE PLASTIC (SUP). Be mindful when you shop! If you can buy something without high fructose corn syrup, you can buy something that comes in non-plastic (or zero) packaging! Primary examples of SUP’s include…
Clamshells! Whether it be delivery or takeout, these are the worst. And no recycler takes them no matter what they say. Find out what your food is going to be delivered in BEFORE you order it. Don’t be passive, y’all – places won’t change if you don’t hold them accountable. (In my county it’s especially bad – they still legally allow styrofoam packaging, something banned in Portland eons ago, gross!)
Just about everything in “grab and go” sections at grocery stores! (Here’s a template for a letter you can send to grocers, cafes and other food businesses to ask them to stop selling things in SUP)
Chinese food boxes (these, like frozen food and butter boxes, have plastic woven into the fiber to keep them from leaking)
Plastic drink bottles (there ARE drinks you can still buy in glass – do it! recycle it!)
Candy/chips/snacks + other single use wrappers/bags (a TerraCycle box will not save your carbon footprint, sorry – as the Everyday Radical reminds us, “Terracycle is perpetuating the problem, getting into bed with big corporations to keep us consuming…so if a guilt-free solution to your crisp eating can be found, everyone’s a winner. Except we keep making more and more plastic, downcycling it into products that will end up in landfill in the end, and there’s no pressure on manufacturers to develop better packaging, and no pressure on us to change our ways.”
Just say no, y’all. Want to wean your disposable waste down? Consider this in the drive-through: “Hi I’d like a _____. Please do not include any napkins, silverware, etc.” And contemplate also saying – “no bag, please”! What a concept…
Think about those single-use purchases next time you’re at the store or contemplating ordering takeout. Ask yourself every single time: is there a non-plastic alternative? Is this something I can make at home? If there is no plastic alternative, do I really need this (will I die without it)? My husband and I ordered take-out once from our favorite Thai place a few months ago, and the crazy amount of plastic they put our dinner in was mind-numbing, so what’d we do? We bought a cookbook, and we started bonding over learning how to make a variety of Southeast Asian dishes. Rad.
So…how does this seemingly ‘green’ issue interrelate to social justice? Here’s a few things to read about environmental racism and plastics that will help wrap your head around how these things are all connected: