SustainAbility: Getting green financially
After a rough winter, I’m in the process of making some sustainable changes in my financial life.
More than a year ago, Green America launched a campaign called “Break Up With Your Bank” targeting mega-banking companies.
Since then, I have been working on the least painful way to break up with the mega-bank my husband and I have used for our main checking account.
Between federal bailout money, bonuses and profits, 2009 was a pretty good year for many of the mega-banks. After some research, I decided it was time to make the plunge.
I have been a member of a credit union since I was a kid, but the main branch is in Southern California.
Credit unions are member-owned, nonprofit cooperatives that tend to pay higher interest rates than banks on savings and charge lower rates for loans and credit cards.
Now, thanks to the wonders of technology, we can meet all of our banking needs online or at local credit unions that are part of a service center network.
We have savings and checking accounts as well as debit and credit cards with a credit union.
You may be eligible to join one of several local credit unions. For example, Coloramo Federal Credit Union has a community charter that only requires you live, work or go to school in Mesa County for membership.
Another more palatable alternative to a mega-bank is a community bank.
The Grand Valley also offers multiple choices in community banking.
Green America has great advice on how and why to break up with your bank at http://www.greenamericatoday.org/socialinvesting/communityinvesting/breakupwithyourbank3.cfm.
The motivation to use our credit union for all our banking also was driven by my desire to venture into the world of paperless billing. You may be way ahead of me on this, but we all have areas where we drag our feet in this evolving process.
I just started online banking in July 2008 and am finally choosing to reduce paper waste even more with Bill Pay and paperless billing. There are two aspects to this concept: receiving bills electronically and paying bills electronically.
Free Bill Pay is a service offered by my credit union, and I am setting things up to have all my monthly bills paid without having to write or mail a single check.
Due to the varied design of paper bills, it is helpful to have unpaid bills in front of you when setting up Bill Pay since the necessary information is often located on the part of the invoice you return with payment.
Next, I attempted to arrange electronic billing with each entity currently sending me a paper bill. Xcel Energy was the easiest because while I was adding the company to my Bill Pay list, I was given the option of receiving an electronic bill.
Most companies offer a paperless billing option, but not all. Both Ute Water and the city of Grand Junction are not set up to offer paperless billing at this time, though both want to do so in the future.
Surprisingly, the mega-corporation holding our mortgage does not offer paperless billing.
Not surprisingly, the difficulty of requesting electronic billing varied from site to site. Grand Valley Power took a mere minute, while it took a whole day just to get a PIN from Bresnan so I could make the request.
It pleases me to think about the money and resources saved by using less paper and fewer stamps.
I do wonder how long it will take me to abandon those silly check registers and why I am so attached to them?
Baby steps are definitely progress.
Adele Israel is a Grand Junction writer who has been involved in sustainability efforts for some 20 years. Have a question or column idea for Adele? E-mail her at.