Tag Archives: CDFI

Shrink your environmental footprint with this DIY urban mess kit

Shrink your environmental footprint with this DIY urban mess kit

By Stanley Carpenter | LinkedIn 

Stanley is a Beneficial Banker based in Portland, OR.

Did you know that Beneficial State Bank’s Fresno branch was the first CDFI in the Central Valley to become a certified California Green Business? If you’re reading this, you probably already know about our environmental sustainability efforts in the community, but how many of you know what goes on behind the scenes??

You’re about to find out! I’m going to highlight the ways in which we’re striving to be a model for environmentally-sustainable companies and challenge you to think about steps you can take to reduce waste (hint: your very own DIY urban mess kit). You can think of our bank in Portland as a small-scale model of our community—we hope our internal business practices will spark some ideas for how you can lower your environmental footprint everywhere you go!  So put on your surgical mask because we are about to dig through some trash facts.

Did you know that many cities throughout the world sell their waste to China to be recycled? According to the Guardian,  in 2010 China imported 7.4 million tons of discard plastic, 28 million tons of waste paper and 5.8 million tons of steel scrap. The big news of 2017 is China has actually stopped accepting foreign recyclable items through an initiative that has been translated into English as “National Sword.” Sword cracks down on illegal plastic recycling, like contaminated plastics that arrive in China either dirty or moldy, which leads to these plastics ending up in China’s landfills. China is tired of being the world’s garbage dumping ground, which is what led me to write this article. Let’s get back to the banks recycling efforts.

Take a look at this picture:

At first glance, our recycling system in Portland is confusing. But if you look closely, you see that we have from left to right: Mixed Recycling, Other Plastics, Landfill, Glass, Compost and a box for recycling metal lids. We have so many different bins because of the style of Portland’s extensive recycling system, which is considered a “single stream” recycling system. Many cities offer “single stream” recycling: You can throw all of your recyclable items into one bin, the hauler (aka your neighborhood recycling person) comes to pick up your bins, dumps them into their truck, takes the recycling to highly advanced sorting facilities which then separate all the items. Sounds great, right!? Not so fast! This comes with challenges— the biggest one being contamination.

Even though we’re able to recycle special items here in our Portland office, you may be surprised to find out that many are NOT recyclable, such as Starbucks cups and food takeout clamshells. The fact that so many products cannot be placed in our plastic recycling makes sorting a challenge for Portlanders, which is why our Beneficial State Green Team invests so much time and energy into making sure every employee is knowledgeable about our recycling methods.

And now for the DIY part: On a daily basis, we toss coffee cups, straws, lids, plastic silverware and napkins. With a few simple changes, you can easily reduce your waste by replacing those items with a reusable coffee container, steel straw, metal silverware and hankie. It’s your very own urban mess kit! Building your kit is easy—you can pick most of these items up at your local stores. Check out my personal kit:

In my backpack, I keep my Liberty Bottleworks, Hydroflask, and GoBox membership (well, I use an app for the last one). I also keep mason jars around for buying in bulk when I make a trip to the grocery store. People’s Food Co-op is a great example of a business in Portland that encourages customers to get creative about cutting waste. They simply weigh my mason jars, or I can weigh them myself before filling them up. When I go to the register, they subtract the weight of the jar off the total weight. This does two things: it keeps a container that would be recycled or trashed out of the bins, and also keeps emissions down. Brilliant! In 2008, McDonald’s stated that they sell 1 billion of coffee per year. I divided this number by $3 (the cost of one cup). That amount is staggering: 333 million coffee cups!

For the new year, I challenge you to look at your personal waste stream to see what you can cut out. Try making an urban mess kit to navigate the concrete jungle. Don’t be afraid to challenge the norm! If you see something that can be done differently, ask that person or company to do it and offer up some advice for how they can easily make a small but mighty change. A changemaker is only as powerful as the ask. For all the readers out here, I would love to see your mess kits! Feel free to add any waste-reducing ideas you have in the comments below!

Wish you had your own Green Team to keep you on track? Check out Portland’s city-wide program Sustainability at Work or get in touch with us!

This blog post reflects the author’s personal views and opinions, and does not represent the views and opinions of Beneficial State Bank and/or Beneficial State Foundation.

How do I know if my bank is good?

How do I know if my bank is good?

By Jhana Valentine | LinkedIn

Jhana is Beneficial State Foundation’s Social and Environmental Impact Associate based in Oakland, CA.

“How do I know if my bank is good?”

When I was first asked this question, I was surprised and a little embarrassed that I didn’t have an answer. At the time, I’d started an internship at Beneficial State Foundation and experienced how easy it was to move my money into a community bank. I was energized to see the Defund DAPL movement gaining momentum. I was trying to convince my best friend that not all banks were bad and that many banks and credit unions actually do a lot of good in their communities so she should move her money to one of them. I didn’t have a name for it at the time, but I was encouraging her to join the Banking on Values movement.

The Banking on Values movement, led by the Global Alliance for Banking on Values, aims to positively change the banking sector by influencing the ways in which banks and other financial institutions serve human needs, our environment, and the real economy. Consumers can engage in the Banking on Values Movement by encouraging their bank to adopt values-based banking principles or by moving their money to bank that already does.

My best friend was pressing me, as she often does, to get to the heart of the matter: “Are there principles or practices that distinguish a good bank? How do I know if my bank is upholding these principles? How do I know that my bank isn’t funding projects I don’t support, like the Dakota Access Pipeline?”

The Banking on Values movement reminds us that our deposit dollars don’t disappear into a black box

Underlying the over-simplified binary of “good” and “bad” banks are our values.  I value fairness and equity.  So when I hear about a bank charging people of color higher interest rates than white people, that goes against my values and I don’t want my money to support those practices. When I learn that my bank actively supports projects that preserve and develop affordable housing, I feel proud to bank with an institution that aligns with my values.

The Banking on Values movement reminds us that our deposit dollars don’t disappear into a black box. That money is recirculated in the economy, either by investing in the people and products we see in the real economy, or participating in the financial economy of stocks, securities, and speculation. Values-based banks demonstrate that a bank can generate positive social and environmental impact and remain financially sustainable by making loans directly into the real economy.

In my role I track and measure the impact metrics of Beneficial State Bank, a values-based bank.  We look at numerous social and environmental indicators of our bank’s loans, from the number of kilowatt hours produced by clean energy projects to the number of small and local businesses that have distributed ownership models, such as cooperatives. This work has given me an in-depth understanding of how good banking can be translated into concrete indicators, policies, and practices that can help any one of us determine if our bank is aligned with our values.

I often think back to my friend’s questions because they remind me that the impact metrics I’m collecting can help a consumer make an informed decision about where they bank. My hope is that one day all banks measure and publish not only their financial indicators of success, but also their social and environmental impact metrics. Drawing upon the work of the Global Alliance of Banking on Values members, who are working together to develop best practices for impact measurement, I’m now much more equipped to answer my friend’s questions with concrete examples.

Here are some principles and practices that distinguish a “good” bank:

To determine if your bank is upholding these principles and practices, you might have to do some digging:

  1. Read through your bank’s website. Do they share a mission and vision that resonates with you? Do they provide concrete examples of how they are living up to this mission? Do they publish information about what they’re not supporting, such as private prisons and pipelines?
  2. Talk to your banker. How is the bank involved in the community? Do they have special products or pricing that serve communities that have historically been left out of the banking system?
  3. Check their certifications and associations. If your bank is a certified Community Development Financial Institution, Community Development Credit Union, or certified B Corporation, or a participant in the Global Alliance of Banking on Values or Community Development Bankers Association, there’s a good chance they’re a values-based bank.

Thanks to dedicated organizations, you can check if your bank is funding certain projects that have negative social and environmental impacts:

  1. Food and Water Watch will tell you if your bank has funded the Dakota Access Pipeline.
  2. Rainforest Action Network will tell you if your bank is funding activities that directly contribute to climate change.

For me, values are at the heart of the matter, whether I’m picking out food at the grocery store, deciding how to spend my free time, or putting my money into a bank or investment vehicle. I know that we all have a unique blend of values, but I think there are as many similarities among people as there are differences. I think many of you would agree that you don’t want your money working against you. And so, if you only saw your bank’s purely financial statements, that information alone wouldn’t convince you that your bank is good. I think you’d want more comprehensive information. The Banking on Values movement has inspired me to consider us all as stakeholders of the banking industry. As a depositor stakeholder, I want my bank, which holds my money, to support the communities and ecosystems that sustain, nourish and make my life beautiful. What do you want from your bank?

For more tips on how to find a values-aligned bank near you, check out our Move Your Money toolkit.

This blog post reflects the author’s personal views and opinions, and does not represent the views and opinions of Beneficial State Bank and/or Beneficial State Foundation.