Tag Archives: Portland

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.

The Freshwater Trust moves money to make bigger difference

The Freshwater Trust moves money to make bigger difference

By Haley Walker | LinkedIn 

This post originally appeared on The Freshwater Trust’s website. Haley Walker is the Freshwater Trust’s Communications Director, based in Portland, OR.

The Freshwater Trust (TFT) began the New Year by partnering with Beneficial State Bank, one of only a few financial institutions in the world certified as a B Corporation.

Certified B Corporations are for profit companies that meet strict social and environmental standards.  There are more than 2,000 in 50 countries.

“These companies are retooling the way ‘success’ has long been defined,” said Joe Whitworth, president of TFT “It’s not just about financial returns but also what’s being given back to the society and to our natural resources.”

“Our core mission is to fix rivers, but our positive impact doesn’t have to be reserved for just a river system. Fortunately, it can – and should – extend further than that.”

Philanthropist and environmentalist Tom Steyer and his wife Kat Taylor founded Beneficial State Bank in California in 2007. Just in 2016, the bank loaned $86 million to nonprofits, $57 million to affordable housing projects, $36 million for renewable energy, and $122 million to low and moderate income communities.

“The mission of Beneficial State Bank is to build prosperity in our communities through beneficial banking services delivered in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner. We believe banks can nourish communities instead of extracting from them. Together we can build a new banking system, and a new economy, that helps restore the environment and invests in economic security for all,” said Randell Leach, president and chief operating officer of Beneficial State.

In 2017, TFT evaluated its systems and practices to identify areas of improvement–in its internal operations and externally in terms of restoration work on the ground.

“We audited ourselves to be candid about where we could make a bigger difference,” said Kimberlee Myers, TFT’s operations director. “Moving our money was one pretty immediate way we could do better.”

TFT also recently pursued and won a $20,000 grant from Meyer Memorial Trust to provide its staff and board with diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training. The two-day training session will focus on capacity building, creating a shared understanding of the importance of DEI work and exploring issues, challenges and opportunities for the organization and its partners.

Beneficial State reports seeing a steady increase in the number of people, nonprofits, and businesses opening new accounts at the bank since images of water protectors at Standing Rock Sioux first appeared on television screens across the country. Recognizing that many people wanted to move their money out of the big banks funding the pipeline – but were unsure of where they should move their money to – Beneficial State released a Move Your Money toolkit in 2016 to help individuals, businesses, and institutions take action with their deposits. Joining the Beneficial State banking family means joining a values-based banking movement that continues to gain traction as people wake up to their agency in the banking system and demand more from the banks that serve them.

Reflecting on this new partnership, Matt Anderson, Beneficial State’s SVP and director of nonprofit banking says, “We are very focused on helping nonprofits increasing their impact, and our relationship with The Freshwater Trust is prime example of how aligning our vision for beneficial banking with their tremendously effective model for conservation, research, and advocacy, moves us all closer to the reality of an economy that nurtures and protects our natural environment. Our entire team is excited to support such an impactful organization.”

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.

Beyond one-day service: how you and your company can build lasting relationships with nonprofits to further your mission

Beyond one-day service: how you and your company can build lasting relationships with nonprofits to further your mission

By Tegan Molloy | LinkedIn

Tegan participated in Beneficial State Foundation’s 2017 Summer Fellowship as the Community Engagement Fellow based in Portland, OR.

In order to build a new economy that’s inclusive of all communities and sustainable for the planet, the business and nonprofit sectors must team up and build new systems together. As a Beneficial State Foundation Fellow, my focus was to lead market research on the nonprofit sector, including conducting interviews with thirteen nonprofit leaders throughout California, Oregon and Washington. This blog explores a few challenges I identified through these interviews, and some suggestions for how individuals and business leaders can be better partners to nonprofits.

As an MBA candidate at Presidio Graduate School studying triple-bottom-line business and social entrepreneurship, I deeply believe in the power that business can have in catalyzing systems change with thoughtful consideration for its stakeholders. Despite the progress the business sector has made towards becoming more sustainable, we still have mountains of work ahead of us. Let’s face it: big, gnarly, societal problems will always persist in various forms. As one of my wise professors likes to say, “As soon as you have the answers, the questions change.”

“The most critical work that needs to be done is what I call high impact, low profile work.” – Jan Masaoka, CEO, CalNonprofits

The nonprofit sector is critical for addressing these problems with its reach across interconnected spectrums of society. Nonprofits play the important role of think tanks who lead formative research, build pilot programs, and catalyze movements. On the other side, nonprofits can also act as last line of defense, serving those who have been failed by inequitable systems in our society. And while the business pendulum is beginning to shift in a more responsible direction, nonprofits are often the invisible glue, binding communities. In an era where various public sector players are failing to meet basic needs for some of our population, the role of nonprofits is more important than ever before.

CHALLENGE: Capacity Building

Volunteers working with Beneficial State Bank nonprofit client SupplyBank.org to stuff school supply bags and dental kits for children.

The greatest capacity building challenge that nonprofits face is a shortage of staff and talent. In one interview, an Executive Director revealed: “The dark side or shadow to nonprofits is that they compete for talent. The sector has a challenging time sourcing professionals because the pay isn’t competitive. And there’s a lot of turnover between like organizations.”

In learning about the talent shortage, I thought that this was yet another reason why volunteering plays such an important role. While this may be true, I discovered that volunteering can also be problematic. In fact, multiple interviewees expressed that one-time volunteering habits are often something nonprofits “endured.” Yikes!

Interviewees expressed that when it comes to Board of Director positions, board members can be harmful when they apply the exact same principles and strategy of their own businesses to the nonprofit they’re serving on. Instead, the organization should be treated as a unique entity with different resources, operations, and purpose.

Nonprofit leadership can also create problems with board service. While on a mission to find a board member to a) amplify their mission and b) fulfill legal requirements, it’s not uncommon to lure business leaders into serving on a board under false pretenses. Often they’ll frame the opportunity as one that “won’t be that much work!” The fib that board service is a small undertaking is hugely destructive to organizations and their potential. In doing this, nonprofits automatically diminish the huge responsibility it is to serve on a board. If you’re a current or future board member, be ready and willing for a significant commitment.

SOLUTION!

  • Update your company’s volunteer hours strategy to encourage long-term service & formal partnership capacities. Some companies are known to compensate employees’ time for up to 40 hours / year.
  • As a volunteer, ditch any thinking that you might “know what’s best” for the nonprofits you’re serving.
  • Consider how your business can count civic engagement as volunteerism. How is it defined in your policy?
  • Like many behavioral patterns, there’s a gap between people wanting to volunteer and actually doing it. If you must, address stagnant volunteerism at your company by organizing a group outing where people can volunteer together. Making it a regular habit will hopefully outweigh any drain it might have on a nonprofit.

“Nonprofits are at the forefront of understanding and addressing social and economic disparities.” – Nonprofit Association of Oregon

CHALLENGE: Nonprofit Displacement

The second greatest capacity building challenge nonprofits face is lack of space and equipment. Nonprofits in urban areas are increasingly being forced to move, or combine offices with two to three other organizations due to rising rents. Why not purchase a building? It’s challenging for nonprofits skating by on their annual budget to set aside savings towards a down payment towards a building purchase. Oftentimes, the majority of nonprofits (who are under $100,000 in annual revenues) don’t have not any collateral to begin with. The cycle of nonprofit displacement is a real issue that’s costly, and exacerbates stress and employee turnover.

SOLUTION!

  • If your company’s based in an urban area with rising rents, consider renting space or equipment to a nonprofit at a more affordable rate.

CHALLENGE: Equity Work

Equity can be roughly defined as allocating money and systemic support to the communities who have been marginalized and systematically discriminated against to level the playing field for all. Vu Le, a comedic nonprofit thought leader and the Executive Director of Rainier Valley Corps defines equity on his popular blog here.

Beneficial State Foundation and Bank teaching young creatives from Oratory Glory’s leadership cohort about socially responsible banking.

It’s not news that oftentimes communities with the highest need get the least attention and least financial support. Many foundations and funders have been shifting funding practices towards using “an equity lens”. However, according to one nonprofit consultant interviewed, despite this focus, equity isn’t getting better, it’s getting worse. She wasn’t alone in this unsettling sentiment.

In trying to do good things for, rather than with, marginalized communities, there are still very harmful practices that halt progress. Effective community engagement with marginalized communities is often missing, or is treated as an afterthought. This only reinforces cycles of inequity. Oftentimes businesses want to turn their attention to the shiny, trending objects, rather than embracing the lower profile work that may be most impactful to communities.

SOLUTION!

  • Hire a consultant and host a diversity and social justice training (or ongoing trainings) with employees to deepen awareness of inherent bias and systems that may be failing or harming your stakeholders. And create a permanent committee within the company who will keep social justice issues at the forefront of company decision-making.
  • Consider setting aside funds for rapid responses needed in the community.
  • Focus on specific communities and not just hot-button issues. The most significant impacts are often felt when they’re tangible and targeted for specific community needs.
  • Inequity is incredibly complex and will require many different solutions. Keep in mind that these solutions will require a whole lot of trying, failing, and learning along the way.

CHALLENGE: Funding Cuts & Policy Reform

Source: CalNonprofits

Perhaps the largest trend affecting the behavior and well-being of nonprofits today is the current political climate. The chart below illustrates responses from 800 nonprofits in a CalNonprofits survey taken in March of 2017. With federal budget cuts to human services, the environment, the arts—and more organizations need to face the reality and quickly adapt to current and imminent funding disruptions.

What many people don’t realize is that much of this funding is invisible to the general public and it’ll likely have a domino effect.

What happens when government funding disappears? Nonprofits will scale back from innovation to providing basic services in times of economic stress. For example, the health and wellness program for a low-income population will be reduced to a simple food program. This shatters the holistic desired outcomes that these organizations and their funders envisioned. In addition to shrinking services, there’s always a chance that people will be laid off or that the organization will close its doors.

For policy affecting nonprofits, and well, everyone. . . The Johnson Amendment will be eliminated by Congress and the Trump Administration through the latest tax bill. This enables nonprofit and religious organizations (who are exempt from taxation) to legally endorse political candidates, having serious implications for campaign finance. Boiled down, the repeal of The Johnson Amendment eliminates nonpartisan regulations in place for tax-exempt institutions.

SOLUTION!

  • Show up for nonprofit stakeholders on policy positions by making endorsements and being vocal advocates for issues aligned with your values. Attend community events and forums, hang signs, wear buttons, write an op-ed, start a flash dance mob.

    Mike Torres (Opportunity Fund), Sarah Livnat (Opportun) and Beneficial State Foundation’s Director of Strategic Communications Emma Guttman-Slater meet with Congresswoman Roybal-Allard to share the importance of the CDFI Fund.

  • As an organization’s financial capacity grows, it’s typically more effective in accomplishing its mission. Donate a portion of your profits to nonprofits. Stumped on who to support? Utilize resources like Willamette Week’s Give!Guide, an annual guide to giving in Portland, OR. Note that California nonprofits receive roughly 8% of their revenues from individual donors. So even if individual giving has increased to 10%, it will likely not make up for the loss of funding. This is yet another reason why it’s critical to donate money as a member of the business community. If funds are tight, consider donating to smaller nonprofits where your money could make a more significant local impact.
  • Further the missions of your favorite nonprofits by simply moving your money into banks, credit unions, and retirement funds that align with these missions. While your money sleeps at night, it has the potential to help advance those causes. You can even take steps to convince your employer to shift your company’s retirement plans. Here are some resources to get a move on it:

A special thank you to the talented nonprofit community who generously shared their time, ideas, insights, and expertise!

Nonprofit Sector Resources:

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.