For example, Canadian tar sands oil extraction is financed by HSBC, ING, TD Bank, Wells Fargo, and other sources. This huge project destroys boreal forest, producing scarring of the earth visible from space. Mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia is financed by Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, and others.
Bank of America, JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs loaned about 6 billion dollars to coal mining companies in 2014 alone. Coal is the dirtiest form of energy we currently use. Many of these companies practice mountaintop removal, which is blatant destruction of our wild lands. Mountaintop removal contaminates the air and streams, and besides it being massively destructive to the environment, health problems have been on the rise in areas with these mines. The coal that is mined is fed into power plants that make even more pollution. The big banks loan money to them as well, in the amount of about 11 billion dollars in 2014.
To give you a concrete example of this, JPMorgan was an underwriter for Indonesia’s largest coal mine. This mine polluted multiple rivers with lead (up to 18x safe limits), killed off fish (an important local food source), caused flooding (which damaged local roads) and moved indigenous people from their homelands in order to mine. Another example, Bank of America and Goldman were involved in a 1 billion dollar deal in 2013 with Coal India, whose track record includes child labor.
Visit BankTrack for more on big banks' effects on people and the earth.
Credit Unions, on the other hand, are not-for-profit organizations that exist to serve their members rather than to maximize corporate profits. Because they follow a cooperative structure, credit unions are owned and operated by their members. Upon making the initial deposit, you will be granted voting rights along with surplus income returned in the form of dividends because cooperatives are owned and operated by members.
Credit Unions provide the same services as a traditional bank - checking, savings and investment accounts, loans, and more (insured through the FDIC or NCUA). Worried about the availability of credit union ATMs? Not to worry - most credit unions reimburse their members for ATM fees incurred outside of their machines!
Credit unions, especially smaller and more community oriented ones, generally have more human based customer service. Due to their smaller size, customers can have the opportunity to develop more personal relationships with their credit unions
Here in Contra Costa County, we have lots of credit union options. Here are just a few with local branches:
1st Northern California
Diablo Valley Federal
Do a good deed for both the environment and yourself. Find a credit union that will work for you, take your money there, and feel good about keeping your money local!