Green Finances: Help the planet and your checkbook

Consumers continually seek faster and easier ways to get things done. Green banking—that is, paperless online banking—is an eco-friendly way to help reduce your carbon footprint. Not only is paperless banking a contributing factor in our planet’s overall wellness, it also provides a more efficient and organized way to handle your finances. Here are a few ways that green banking benefits you and the environment:

Paperless Banking

Banking in just one click. Most banks now offer online banking; by choosing this option, you’ll automatically remove the hassle of filing financial paperwork. Of those households with Internet access, four out of five have adopted some aspect of online banking—if only to access balances, track account histories, and transfer funds between accounts. Other benefits of online or smart phone banking include accessing past and current statements, paying bills, managing credit cards, and more. Even so, many customers neglect to cancel their paper statements. To be truly green, embrace all the eco-wise advantages of online banking and eliminate redundant, wasteful paper statements.

Those who believe that saving all those paper statements will increase security are misinformed. Identity theft can easily happen when mailboxes and homes are burglarized. Paperless banking can drastically reduce and even remove many of the risks associated with identity theft, such as stolen mail and credit cards, fake accounts, or fraudulent loans opened in your name.

Do you require even more security? One of the best-known and commonly used apps for personal finance management is Mint, a free resource that pulls all your financial accounts into one place. The format is read-only, so any connected bank accounts cannot be hacked from the site. Because Mint allows you to combine your different bank accounts, investments, and credit cards into a single platform, organizing your finances and setting goals couldn’t be easier.

Online Billpay

Online billpay is similar to online banking. As of 2009, 64.4 million households pay at least one bill online, either at a bank website or directly at a company website, and the number is steadily growing as customers become more accustomed to the reliability of online portals for safe and efficient financial management. Approximately 24% of consumers who pay bills online also receive at least one bill online (e-bill) each month. Among the reasons for the growing popularity of online billpay are faster payment, ease of use, and money saved by not having to buy stamps.

What we enjoy reporting most at PGiGreen is the increasing environmental awareness driving these behaviors: 58% of e-bill recipients said that environmental impact was either important or very important in their decision to view and pay bills online, up from 51% last year.

Digitally Convert Your Files

As with the growing practice of converting and storing photos and music digitally, digital solutions for managing financial records is also on the rise. A small scanner, available at most office supply stores, will enable you to safeguard your historical documents easily and liberate those overstuffed file cabinets.

One thing to remember: certain crucial documents—birth and marriage certificates, car titles, home deeds, and other “big life” documents—should be saved and stored securely, ideally in a fire-proof safe. However, consider scanning, shredding, and recycling those checks you wrote seven years ago.

Invest in Green

Micro-loans from companies like Kiva, solar and wind power, and cradle-to-cradle production are all examples of green and environmentally-focused industries that can potentially increase the health of your stock portfolio as well as the health of the planet. Ask your local bank or seek out a financial advisor who specializes in green businesses.

Bottom Line

We owe it to ourselves, the planet, and future generations to do all we can to adopt green solutions in our daily lives. We have but one planet, and it needs all the help we can give it to ensure that all of us who live upon it will thrive. By replacing outdated and resource-depleting habits—whether in our banking methods or other practices—with eco-friendly choices, we can not only reduce our carbon footprint but make our lives simpler and more efficient. Mother Earth will thank you.

About Lea G.

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