You’ve probably done a lot of thinking about how to keep your carbon footprint small. Most of us are driving less, recycling more and getting rid of plastic water bottles, all in the name of preserving the planet.
But have you ever considered whether using a credit card is good for the environment? The answer really depends on how you use your plastic. Take a look at the details below for more information on how to green your payment routine.
Paying with credit can be good for the Earth
Using a credit card is a green move for several reasons:
Paperless options abound — With the advent of the Internet, there’s no reason to receive a paper bill or receipt for your spending. You can swipe your card, get your receipt emailed to you, and pay your monthly bill online – no paper required. This cuts down on the trees that need to be harvested to create paper checks, bills and currency.
Reusable – One credit card is valid for years, whereas paper money is constantly going in and out of circulation. This means that credit cards are the ultimate reusable item. What’s more, worn-out paper bills usually get shredded and sent to landfills. If more people adopted a plastic-only lifestyle, paper consumption would fall.
Rewards can be donated to green groups – You can generate some pretty great rewards by paying with plastic consistently. One way to make that cash-back count is to donate it to a green organization, like the Sierra Club. Some credit card issuers allow you to do this directly. If not, you can make the commitment to dedicate your rewards to the planet-friendly charity of your choice.
But there are drawbacks to consider
Credit cards have the potential to keep our environmental impact low. But credit cards aren’t all good for the Earth:
It’s tough to recycle the plastic – One of the major drawbacks to credit cards from an environmental perspective is the plastic they’re made of. Most payment cards (debit, credit, gift cards) are made of PVC plastic. This is tough to recycle, which is why many expired credit cards end up in landfills.
You’ll buy more stuff with credit – “Reduce, reuse, recycle” has been the motto of the environmental movement for years. But credit cards have been shown to encourage us to do just the opposite of “reduce.” We’re likely to buy more with credit cards, and all that stuff eventually gets thrown away. Plus, it’s difficult to buy secondhand items with a credit card – thrift shops and sellers on Craigslist usually only accept cash. All this means that shopping with credit makes it harder to cut down on waste.
Going green with your plastic
The upshot: Using a credit card can be an environmentally-friendly move if you take the right steps. Here are the Nerds’ top tips for swiping green:
- Switch to paperless billing and paperless receipts
- Stop credit card pre-approvals from being mailed to your home
- Consider a mobile payment system to eliminate both paper and plastic from your spending routine
- Be mindful of your credit card spending — only buy what you need
- Shred expired credit cards and take them to a PVC recycling center in your area
- Consider donating your rewards to an environmental organization
The takeaway: Using a credit card doesn’t have to be bad for the environment. In fact, there are some built-in benefits to the Earth. Use our tips for making your credit card usage as green as possible!
Tree hugger image via Shutterstock