Slacker’s Syllabus: How to save money sustainably

Maxine McCrann

If you’ve already donated to climate non-profits and want to do more, consider moving your money from a big bank to a smaller, sustainably-oriented bank (that won’t fund the fossil fuel industry).

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The trillions of dollars that were given to the fossil fuel industry by commercial banks since the adoption of the Paris Agreement.

Rainforest Action Network

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A small, meaningful step

Sustainable-oriented banks offer many of the same perks as the big guys — online banking portals, apps, and waived ATM fees — without the ethical implications.

Money makes the world go round.

Sylvia Panek, Natural Investments financial adivsor

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Finding a better bank

Socially responsible investing organization Green America offers the Get a Better Bank Map, and you can also search through Better Banking Options. If you’re looking for greener alternatives to big banks, financial planner Patrick Costello suggests Bank for Good and Bank Local.

Find a community-based institution

Finding a bank dedicated to sustainability can take time and energy, which is why Natural Investments financial advisor Sylvia Panek recommends, at minimum, moving your money to a certified CDFI (Community Development Financial Institutions Fund). While banks are for-profit, credit unions are non-profit and member-owned.


Get a B Corp certification

Some certifications are created for the purpose of greenwashing, but, according to both Panek and Costello, you can trust a B Corporation certified financial institution. A B Corp certification confirms a company’s operations go toward supporting people and the planet, while C corporations are focused on the return to the shareholder.

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What is the lending activity?

Before considering a financial institution, it’s important to do some research. Mighty Deposits, for example, is a website that lets you compare investments across banks and credit unions to see which kinds of companies a bank is loaning to.

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“Mix and match what works better for you in terms of what is most important to you.”

Sylvia Panek

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How to get started

The first step is to open an account and start using their checks and/or debit card. Then, update every app or system where you’ve set up autopay, leaving enough money in your old account for any outstanding auto payments.

Finally, let your bank know why you’ve decided to leave. While a time-consuming process, it could help stave off climate catastrophe.

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