In a market that is increasingly more conscious of environmental issues, “green” or “eco-friendly” credit cards are becoming more popular. But what exactly is a green credit card? Is it more than a buzzword and how do they differ from regular credit cards?
With all the environmental concerns out there, it’s easy to overlook the impact of our credit cards. After all, they’re just little pieces of plastic, right? Wrong.
While a single credit card may not seem like much, it becomes a much bigger problem when you consider the billions of cards in circulation. Each card weighs about five grams. When you add up all those grams, it equals to a whole lot of pollution.
Credit cards are made from PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, which is a type of plastic that is notoriously difficult to recycle. In fact, the share of PVC recycled annually is estimated at just 3 percent or less. The rest ends up in landfills or incinerators, where it releases harmful toxins into the environment.
Not only that, but the production of PVC creates dioxins, which are a type of pollutant that can cause cancer and other health problems.
So what can be done? For starters, we can all make an effort to use our credit cards less often. Or, we can look for alternatives to PVC-based cards.
Some companies are already making cards out of more environmentally friendly materials, eco-friendly cards that are made from renewable resources. But what exactly makes a credit card eco-friendly?
What Is an Eco-Friendly or Green Credit Card?
Eco-friendly credit cards are made of materials that are environmentally friendly and sustainable. For example, many eco-friendly credit cards are made out of recycled materials like recycled plastic, plastic retrieved from the ocean, biodegradable plastic, wood, metal, and more.
They are also usually printed with sustainable inks, which means that they use less energy and water during the manufacturing process.
Eco-friendly credit cards tend to be more durable than traditional credit cards. This is because they are made out of stronger materials that are not as prone to breaking or tearing.
A green credit card is also specifically designed with eco-friendly or sustainable living in mind. This can mean supporting environmental healthy products and services through targeted investing, funding environmental projects at a lower interest rate, or even offering cashback rewards for making environmentally conscious purchases.
What Separates a Green Credit Card From a Regular One?
Here are some of the key points that eco-friendly credit cards differ from regular credit cards:
As we mentioned above, eco-friendly credit cards are made of sustainable and environmentally friendly materials. They also use sustainable inks during the printing process.
Sign-up Bonuses and Rewards
A lot of green credit cards will offer special sign-up bonuses or rewards for making eco-friendly purchases. For example, some cards will give you extra points or cashback for every dollar you spend on renewable energy products or services.
Eco-friendly credit cards also support eco-friendly causes. For example, most green credit card companies donate to renewable energy projects and other environmental initiatives.
Buying Carbon Offsets
A lot of companies that offer eco-friendly credit cards will also help you offset the carbon footprint of your purchases by investing in renewable energy projects, planting trees, or buying carbon offsets.
Interest Rates and Fees
Eco-friendly credit cards often offer lower interest rates and fees than regular credit cards. They do this to encourage sustainable spending and discourage people from racking up debt.
Many eco-friendly credit cards also offer rewards for making environmentally conscious purchases.
Eco-friendly credit cards have a smaller carbon footprint than regular credit cards. This is achieved, as mentioned, through the use of sustainable materials and support of eco-friendly causes.
Why Use an Eco-Friendly Credit Card?
There are plenty of reasons to use an eco-friendly credit card. Here are a few reasons why you might want to consider using a green credit card:
- You want to do your part to support sustainable living initiatives. If you’re looking for a way to support eco-friendly causes, using a green credit card is great.
- You want to take advantage of rewards for sustainable living purchases. Many green credit cards offer great rewards for purchases that help support sustainable living.
- You want to help the environment. Using an eco-friendly credit card is a great way to help reduce your impact on the environment.
- You want to save money. Many green credit cards offer lower interest rates, saving you money in the long run.
The Downside of Eco-Friendly Credit Cards
Just because the materials are environmentally friendly doesn’t make the credit card automatically eco-friendly. If the company that owns the credit card is not sustainable, then the credit card is not eco-friendly.
The dirty little secret is that often companies that offer green cards still rely on fossil fuel products in other areas of their business.
This means that while you are personally doing your part to be eco-friendly by using your credit card, the company as a whole is still contributing to environmental damage.
Also, some companies that offer eco-friendly credit cards might not be as transparent as they should be about where they invest their money.
Getting Rid of the Physical Cards Altogether
Eco-friendly credit cards are one way card companies are trying to reduce their environmental impact, but there are still some hurdles to overcome.
Even though eco-friendly credit cards are made of sustainable materials, they still create waste. Is it possible to get rid of the physical cards altogether and just use digital versions for a more sustainable future?
People are looking for ways to avoid touching surfaces and coming into contact with others. Digital and contactless payments allow people to make transactions without physically coming into contact with anyone or anything. This continued amidst the pandemic and is likely here to stay.
This is supported by the 2021 Visa Study, 85% of consumers expect digital options when they shop in person, including contactless credit cards, mobile payment apps, and mobile wallets.
Also, according to Bain & Co, by 2025, 67% of global transactions are estimated to be done digitally, up from the 57% COVID-19 pandemic estimate.
Many companies have begun to issue digital-first cards to their customers in response to this shift. These cards can be used for contactless payment methods, such as tap-and-pay and online purchases.
But digital payment still has some holes that need to be addressed before it can completely replace physical credit cards.
As digital payments become more widespread, it is not impossible to see a future where physical credit cards are no longer necessary. But, for now, eco-friendly credit cards are still the best possible way for card companies to reduce their environmental impact.
And it doesn’t have to be one or the other. There’s no law saying you can’t continue to use traditional credit cards with the best offers and just be more mindful of how you use and dispose them.
After all, even eco-friendly credit cards end up in the trash eventually. So, it all boils down to our individual responsibility to be as sustainable as possible.