ethical investing

Upcycling, Ethical Investing, and Opting Out: 3 Ways to Use Money to Help the Planet

Climate change is here and it’s coming to mess up all our money. I mean, I hate to be a downer about it but it’s a truth to life on Earth now, which means our money is tied up in it. Ethical investing, lifestyle changes, and new money habits are all tools we can use to protect the planet and our wallets.

You can use your money to help the planet, and helping the planet can help your money. And it doesn’t have to mean confusing jargon, expensive products, or financial and eco overwhelm.

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Upcycling, Ethical Investing, and Opting Out: 3 Ways to Use Money to Help the Planet

Using What Ya Got

Upcycling is broadly defined as finding a way to give waste or generally useless items a new purpose.

Maybe you turn your bread bag ties into art, old cottage cheese containers as tupperware, or you use your old t shirts as cleaning rags. That’s upcycling and it’s a fantastic way to keep trash out of landfills/the ocean (seriously, there is so much trash in the ocean) while also saving you money.

See, you already spent money on that item, whether it be a tshirt, a glass bottle, or an old lamp. The more use you can get out of that item, the less money you have to spend on more items in the future.

That saves you cash dollars, and it puts less of a burden on our resources, because ideally, it means less stuff gets made and less stuff goes to float in the ocean and ruin a whale’s day. Think of it as the smallest level of ethical investing.

Upcycling isn’t exactly a wealth building exercise; you’re not going to upcycle your way into a million dollars. But it absolutely can save you hundreds or thousands a year, depending on what kind you do and how much of it you do.

Let’s say, for example, you save all your small glass jars that things like yogurt come in. Instead of tossing these in the trash or recycling, you can use them as small containers for things like hair elastics or matchbooks.

Get really fancy and make your own candles to give as gifts in them! You can buy wax pellets, melt them over the stove and then pour into your glass jars with wicks.

ethical Investing

Investing is how people grow wealth, so we are all for that here at Bravely. (We even have an investing 101 class to walk you through how to get started.)

When you invest in the S&P 500, you’re investing in Amazon. And Amazon is an environmental disaster. From encouraging people to shop more, which means more stuff produced, to the gas that powers their drop off trucks, to the extra packaging required.

So how do you balance the need to invest for your own financial future with the desire to do right by the environment?

That’s the million dollar question, and the answer will look different for everyone. (Read more about getting started with sustainable investing right here.)

The great news is, sustainable funds perform just as well as, if not better, than unsustainable funds. The idea that you can’t make money with environmentally friendly investing holds no water.

Investing for the environment might become a necessity for profit sooner than you think too. 2020’s California fires showed that power grids will be ravaged by natural climate change induced events, as did Texas’ 2021 freak winter storm that shut down power and water all over the state for days at a time. (Living through that was wild y’all.)

Here are a few steps to take to invest for the environment.

Look for companies that have filed a Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure. It’s a report that can show you as an investor how the company approaches sustainability and the risk that climate change is likely to have on a company’s profitability.

Look for ESG funds at your brokerage. Though often flawed, a fund that has an ESG label is a t least *trying* to be sustainable. They are a better starting point than a non sustainable fund.

Opt Out

Probably the most powerful, and sometimes the hardest thing to do is to opt out of the practices, companies, and investments that are doing environmental damage.

Your ability to opt out will depend a lot on your personal financial situation, goals, privilege, and background. I certainly don’t expect anyone who makes $35,000 a year and has $40,000 in student loans to hold themselves to a super strict ethical investing standard.

I also don’t expect members of marginalized communities to be held to the same investing standards of white people. White people have been getting rich off unethical investing and businesses, and boxing out people of color since day one. If anyone needs to change their ways, it’s white people.

All of that said, there are about a billion ways to opt out and they can each do great things for the environment.

Here is the financial case for opting out of investing in fossil fuels.

Try skipping meat at meal time three days a week

Use public transportation and forgo car ownership

Put yourself on a shopping ban from things like clothes or electronics for a month or longer

Avoid buying food or drinks in plastic containers for a month

Each of these is a way to opt out of a system that’s bad for the environment. They’ll all require a little more planning than usual, but they can also save you money while helping Mother Nature.

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