Sustainable Financing for Your Green Renovation

With many people losing faith in their global banks, there is a growing movement to shift money away from banks "too big to fail" and into community banks and credit unions that serve the needs of their neighborhoods.

So it makes sense that green banking goes hand in hand with green renovation. After all, you have to wonder whether your big multinational bank — the same one financing your energy efficient upgrades — is also the one bankrolling environmentally destructive projects elsewhere.

How do you find a small bank whose ethical values jibe with yours? While many banks have incorporated some level of sustainability into their missions, here are three institutions that take sustainability a step further.

New Resource Bank: Founded on a mantra of "rethink, rebuild, renew," New Resource Bank opened its LEED Gold-certified headquarters in 2005 in San Francisco, California. It offers personal and business banking, as well as financial assistance to nonprofits. New Resource Bank provides solar and energy efficiency home equity loans for green projects that conventional banks won't finance. It also gives back to the community by solely funding businesses built on sustainability, such as organic food purveyors and outdoor youth education programs.

Permaculture Credit Union: Based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Permaculture Credit Union (PCU) was founded by members of the local permaculture community and has been flying under the radar since 2000. It is a savings and loan institution that applies the ethics of permaculture — "care of the earth, care of the people, reinvestment of surplus to benefit the earth and its inhabitants" — to its investment and lending practices. PCU provides specialty loans that traditional banks avoid, such as a second mortgage to pay for solar panels or a construction loan for an off-the-grid home. It also offers a Sustainability Discount Program for members who use their loans for green improvements, like rainwater catchment systems, permaculture landscaping, and fuel-efficient vehicles.

One PacificCoast Bank: For consumers who prefer to make purchases on plastic but still want a socially responsible credit card, West Coast-based One PacificCoast Bank offers community bank-minded credit cards with a conscience. As an environmentally-focused bank, One PacificCoast Bank aligns itself with nonprofit organizations whose missions it believes in. Its credit cards promote conservation of Pacific salmon regions (in partnership with Ecotrust) as well as environmental sustainability and social and economic justice (with Green America).

When you're seeking sustainable financing for your renovation, start with small banks or credit unions with strong community ties. You can further narrow down your search by doing a little eco-conscious homework:

  • Look for incentives on green loans.
  • Research credit cards, CDs and other financial instruments that donate a percentage of your purchases or yields to good causes.
  • Ask whether they support any green businesses or nonprofits in your community.
  • Find out how they promote sustainability within their own companies, such as recycling efforts, carbon offsets, etc.

By choosing a green bank whose economic and social values are in line with yours, you will not only finance your home renovation sustainably, but also help your own community become more sustainable.

(Image: Liz Vidyarthi | John and Melissa's City Skyline Renovation)

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