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A penny for your trees


This article is published in partnership with:

Acting on climate change is harder than it ought to be. Sure, you care about the environment, but how in the name of Captain Planet are you actually supposed to buy a carbon offset? And how many of those things are you supposed to get, anyway? You’re willing to throw some hard-earned cash at the problem … but where are you supposed to throw it?

They are good questions. When it comes to climate change and environmental degradation, cash is still king. That’s why climate activists have worked so hard to redirect institutional investment away from fossil fuels. Campaigns for divestment have stormed the halls of power, from universities to pension funds, at the same time that clean-energy innovators have worked to bring down the price of renewables so they compete on their own terms. Rerouting the cash flows of industry and energy helps alter the incentive structures that drive climate change in the first place.

But for those of us who don’t own pension funds or wind turbines, the question remains: What can we do with our cash to help restore the environment?

That’s where Aspiration comes in. Through its Plant Your Change initiative, every time you round up a transaction on any U.S.-based debit or credit card, the financial services firm plants a tree. That’s it. Whether it’s 1 penny or 99, your spare change will sink a little sapling into the earth.

The premise is simple: Money may not grow on trees, but that doesn’t mean trees can’t grow from cash. Aspiration, a certified B Corporation, takes care of all the details — all you need to do is shop like you normally do with the debit or credit card you’re already using (and opt in to rounding up your purchases). Plus there’s room to customize your limits or push the pause button whenever you like. For the client, it’s a different kind of investment than most brokers offer: an investment in the planet.

Trees are some of the most heroic climate fighters out there. Foresting the world’s treeless land could eliminate up to two-thirds of global emissions currently in the atmosphere. (Trees sequester carbon in their woody parts as they grow.) Trees won’t solve the climate crisis alone — people and our economies need to change, too — but they’re likely an essential part of the solution. Besides, they come with a host of other benefits, from cooling urban centers to boosting property values to doing what they do best: cleaning the air.

To get the dirty work done, Aspiration partners with the Arbor Day Foundation, One Tree Planted, and tree-planting juggernaut Eden Reforestation Projects, a nonprofit that has planted more than 420 million trees since 2005. By Eden’s estimate, that makes it the largest tree-planting operation in the world. And as one of Eden’s “million tree partners,” Aspiration has been certified as having planted — well, you can probably see where this is going — more than a million trees through their partnership. (The tally was more than 3 million at the time of writing.)

The firm’s tree-planting figures are even more impressive in the context of having just launched the Plant Your Change initiative in April. By July, just three months later, they’d already hit the million-tree mark — enough to absorb about 24,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually. With just under 2 million customers (and growing), Aspiration is poised to reforest vast stretches of land. And that’s to say nothing of the non-customers rounding up their purchases through Plant Your Change.

That’s the kicker: You don’t even need to be an Aspiration customer to participate. In October, the firm rolled out a service that allows anyone to connect a credit or debit card to the same tree-planting pipeline that Aspiration customers have been using since April. As the campaigners note: “It doesn’t matter what kind of card you have or what you buy — each round up puts a tree in the ground.” The Plant Your Change campaign aims to plant 100 million over the coming years.

It’s in this manner — a commitment to environmental outcomes as opposed to profit — that the initiative aims to change finance (with your spare change!). In today’s tumultuous world, this kind of change is especially welcome.

Plant Your Change is an initiative powered by Aspiration, a financial firm dedicated to building a better world by helping people spend, save, and invest with a conscience. Through Plant Your Change, Aspiration seeks to help mitigate climate change through collective reforestation efforts by making it easy for anyone to plant a tree with every purchase. Sign up today to start making your impact each and every day!


This story was originally published by Grist with the headline A penny for your trees on Nov 17, 2020.

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