Go Green with Your Finances — Beyond the Basics

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This article, written by Ella Morton, was originally published on Citi’s Women & Co.

April 22 is Earth Day, a prime time to reflect on the environmental impact of our daily routines. We’re all familiar with the basic stuff—re-using grocery bags, switching lights off, walking short distances instead of driving—but there are smaller, less obvious changes that may have a big impact. One area in which you can reduce waste is your finances. Here are some ways to make your spending and saving more eco-friendly. (Spring Cleaning Bonus: Several of them also involve a reduction of clutter and paperwork.)

Recycle gift cards.

Separating out bottles and cans has become second nature, but what do you do with little plastic items like gift cards? Many of these cards are made from a base of PVC, which isn’t widely recycled. There’s a way to save them from ending up as landfill, however: You can mail old cards to a company called Earthworks, which breaks them down and turns them into new ones.

When purchasing gift cards, look for those made from biodegradable materials—a few big retailers have switched to biopolymer cards, while others offer wooden cards. An even greener option is to buy a virtual gift card online and have it sent via email.

Opt for e-receipts.

Several retailers now offer you the option of having your receipt emailed instead of printed at the store. (How often do these slips end up scrunched beyond recognition in your bag or wallet, or get thrown immediately into the trash?) Not only does this save on paper, but it also makes it easier to search for specific receipts at tax time—instead of rifling through a shoebox, you can just type in a keyword and the purchase will pop up on your screen.

Make payments paperlessly.

Need to settle up a dinner debt, pitch in for a present, or give money to a family member? Instead of handing over cash or writing a check, consider using a tool like the Popmoney® personal payment service, which allows you to easily send money to virtually anyone’s U.S. bank account with your phone, directly from your bank account, using the Citi Mobile® App. While you’re at it, say goodbye to those utility bills and multi-page statements that fill up your mailbox each month and switch to online bill pay and paperless statements.

Ask the question: How green is my bank?

Earth Day provides an opportunity to evaluate not just your own eco habits, but also those of the companies and institutions who handle your money. Check out independent reports on the sustainability practices of the organizations with which you interact. Bloomberg Markets, for example, publishes an annual list of the world’s greenest banks, based on a study of waste reduction efforts, carbon footprint minimization, and clean energy investment. In 2013, Citi claimed the top spot, after making investments that include California’s Solano Wind Project, which in May 2012 began delivering enough new power for 44,000 homes.

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