“Voting” with your dollar is bigger than the moment you make a retail purchase
Got a minute? Ready to take a big breath with me to reflect on how it’s going with your growing awareness of our collective and personal responsibility in regards to the climate emergency? I realized last week that it was time for me to put my money, real money, where my mouth was as an advocate for conscious consumption. The big word being consumption. Consumption consumes. But we don’t just vote for the type of world we want where we spend our money. We make an even bigger vote where we invest our money. Investing feels like it almost has the opposite meaning to consumption in this scenario. We “invest” in our future. We “invest” in our health. We “invest” in our children and our communities. Our investment (of time, or money, or expertise) is the true way we make real difference in our lives and for our one and only planet.
Divest to invest
Retirement investments make an impact on more than your personal future. Are your financial investments - your personal IRA, your 401k, your retirement savings - in line with your values? We made the big decision to divest from our retirement funds that were environmentally and socially destructive and didn’t align with our values, even though it cost us money - thousands of dollars, in fact. Why? Because you can’t advocate for a cleaner, fairer, and more equitable world while your money is being used to support fossil fuels, weapons, and other industries responsible for our planet’s consumption.
If you are privileged enough to have retirement savings and investments, consider moving them to meet ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) criteria. In the US, options include funds like the Neuberger Berman Sustainable Equity Fund and/or any of the Calvert mutual funds - one of the oldest, most diversified funds manager in the field with a focus on ESG investments. According to Morningstar, a global investment research firm, there are over $8 trillion in sustainably invested funds, including mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, and other products. So the options are good. I spoke with our personal financial planner, Clinton Bell, over at Northwestern Mutual about our desire to have a green and ethical array of investments. After reviewing our portfolio, he recommended using Calvert because of their strong reputation in the industry for supporting ESG not just in the US but around the globe as well. He also recommended using one of their “fund of funds” to maintain a proper asset allocation without the need to continually re-balance as different markets fluctuate.
Even though it cost us quite a few thousand dollars of our equity to move our investments to new funds, I feel better and have a clearer conscious over aligning our investments as closely as possible with our ethics.
Where “voting with your dollars” makes the most impact
In addition to adjusting your investment portfolio to ethical and sustainable companies and funds, everything from your small change to your monthly bills and unavoidable expenses can be viewed through a sustainability-supportive lens. Go beyond bulk and low-waste shopping and second-hand clothes with these sustainability-forward investments:
Make your spare change make a difference by rolling up your “digital spare change” with Benefit Corporation, Olive Gives, who’s partnering with non-profits to help you make your spare change make a big difference.
Check out these apps that making giving back a no-brainer.
Switching to green utilities even when they cost you more because you have that privilege. Here’s the links for Oregonians with PGE and Northwest Natural Gas to switch their utilities to 100% renewable and smart energy programs.
Finally, consider looking into how small (or big!) adjustments to your flying, driving, and eating habits can really lighten your carbon footprint! Let’s all do the most we can to invest not only in our own future, but also in our planet’s and children’s future while we’re at it.
Intentional living in Portland, OR
I take sustainability personally. Really personally. I use my voice to advocate for plastic-free and low-waste living by offering tips, tricks and hacks to busy families through my Instagram account @eco.emily.pdx. When I have something really long to say about something, I'll stick it here.