Tag Archives: sustainability

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.

A small change makes a big impact

A small change makes a big impact

By Annette Vasquez

Annette is a Beneficial Banker at Beneficial State Bank based in Visalia, CA.

Every year, people from around the world come together to participate in a challenge that is not only fun, but also beneficial to themselves, their communities and our planet. The Northwest Earth Institute’s EcoChallenge invites you to set personal sustainability and wellness goals that often lie outside of your comfort zone—and to stick with those goals for two weeks. It may sound impossible to change your behavior at the drop of a hat, or it may sound like one small change from one person just won’t make a difference! However, each action is tallied on a platform that the NorthWest Earth Institute provides for participants, and when everything is added up, it’s clear how big of a difference each person has made. There is nothing better than sitting back and being genuinely being proud of your impact—which is why Beneficial State participates in the EcoChallenge.

Congratulations to this year’s Beneficial State EcoChallenge winners: Bethany, Jackie, and Amanda!

We asked our winners to share a few thoughts about how the EcoChallenge inspired them to make a well-being change:

Jackie Alcantar (Porterville, CA)
“I was born and raised in San Jose, CA. I moved to Porterville in September of 2016, and started to work with Beneficial State Bank in November of 2016 as a Legal Collection Department Representative. Beneficial State is an organization that encourages its employees to be ‘beneficial’ to their community and the earth. My own values align with the organization’s passion for environmental sustainability, and this year’s EcoChallenge inspired me to plant an herb garden. I was also encouraged to come out of my shell when I set a goal to chat with new colleagues and share ecofriendly tips. I felt proud to show my love for our planet and the people around me by participating in this fun workplace challenge!”

Amanda Wingfield (Porterville, CA)
“I was born and raised in the Central Valley, and I currently work in Beneficial State Bank’s Legal Collection Department. My hardest challenge was trying a new method of food preparation. As for my favorite result from the EcoChallenge—I now have a variety of plants in my kitchen! I was also able to involve my children in the goals I set for myself, which gave them the chance to learn more about the importance of environmental sustainability. This was a great introduction. I am planning on teaching my kids about other ways we can nurture our environment.”

Bethany Ambrosini (Porterville, CA)
“I was born and raised in the Central Valley. Due to the lack of water resources in this area, I focused on challenges that would help conserve water. I graduated from Fresno State with a Bachelor’s degree in business administration and option marketing. I have worked in the banking industry for more than twenty years, and the majority of those years were with Finance and Thrift Company. Currently, I work as a supervisor in Beneficial State Bank’s Legal Collection Department. I am married with two kids, and I enjoy going to the coast or Lake Tahoe in my free time.”

Beneficial State’s Team Impact for the 2017 EcoChallenge: up to 1,216 pounds of CO2 saved; up to 1,625 gallons of water saved; and up to 1,915 minutes spent outdoors

Overall, Beneficial State’s EcoChallenge team saved up to 350,265 gallons of water and prevented roughly 29,305 plastic bottles and cups from being sent to the landfill. We collectively spent roughly 268,886 more minutes outdoors than usual, and spent about 453,143 more minutes exercising!

Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s EcoChallenge! I challenge everyone to keep up the good work, and to join us for next year’s challenge. Whether you’re thinking of bringing the EcoChallenge into a classroom, the workplace, or even your home—it’s a great way to see just how easily you can help decrease your carbon footprint and establish healthy habits.

To learn more about how you can join next year’s EcoChallenge, visit: https://EcoChallenge.org/

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.