Call me cynical but, like many TreeHuggers, I have always been a little skeptical about Earth Day.
Maybe it's the idea that we can spend one day doing a beach clean up, or creating art out of trash, and then go back to our daily lives. Or maybe it's the fact that PR folks seem to think that pitching an environmental website on a story the same day that EVERYONE ELSE is pitching environmental stories is a solid strategic move. I'm really not sure, but it's just not my thing.
That said, where Earth Day does come into its own is if it can engage more people in environmentalism and get them to make some change—any change—that lasts beyond April 22nd. It seems to me that shifting how you invest and where you park your money is about as good a place as any to create a permanent change.
So the fact that Sierra Club and financial firm Aspiration are teaming up to "democratize" access to sustainable investing certainly piqued my interest and, for once, made me actually pay attention to an Earth Day press release. Andrei Cherny, cofounder and CEO of Aspiration, put it this way:
“Sustainable investing should be in the hands of the many, not just the few, Millions of Americans consider their values when they buy clothes or coffee, but haven’t had the ability to do so when it comes to their investments. Working with the Sierra Club, we have a chance to change that by bringing the Sierra Club’s passionate and committed members a new way to make money and make a difference at the same time.”
According to their announcement, Aspiration offers sustainable investing options in either an investment or IRA account at a minimum investment of only $500, and offers its clients the opportunity to invest in companies that understand that smart, long-term thinking is not only the right thing to do, but right for their bottom line. Aspiration’s sustainable investment approach invests in companies that are reducing their carbon emissions, embracing renewable energy, and are 100% fossil fuel free.
Exactly what "100% fossil fuel free" means is a little unclear from the press release. After all, most solar companies I know still have trucks to get where they need to go. I suspect this is referring to investment funds avoiding companies that are involved in fossil fuel-based production or energy generation, not companies that use fossil fuels in their daily operations. (Which would exclude pretty much everyone.)
Also worth noting, the Sierra Club gets a donation for every member who signs up, and Aspiration will also sponsor memberships for its own customers.