Responsibility Revolution

Take three minutes from your Monday to check out this interview with the visionary Seventh Generation co-founder. He is really the type of leader business needs to make the shift toward sustainability and corporate responsibility. It’s refreshing see some of the corporate partnerships taking place lately. Nike has been trying to find sustainable solutions for fifteen years now, and now has a program sharing its sustainability “trade secrets” to other companies who want to further their sustainable practices. It’s also important from the consumer perspective, I love when he says “they’ve made it easy to make good sustainable decisions.” 

This is one of the core reasons I started this blog, because I believe every family wants to live well without harming the Earth. It’s a matter of finding the resources and having the social support to reach your goals. 

Do you think companies can be truly responsible? 
Which green companies are your favorite?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Green Gifts

A co-worker and friend is having a housing warming party, which gets me thinking about green gifts.
  • House plants  – Is there a better way to bring a little bit of nature inside than house plants? I love house plants and they are one of my favorite gifts to give (and receive). Many are very easy to propagate, and I often will snap off a piece (or my kids do it for me) and put in a vase until it roots. Yet, I also realize that not everyone is has a green thumb, so I try to only give ones that are easy to grow. Here some more favorites: prayer plant, Christmas cactus, philodendron, spider plant, wandering jew, asparagus ferns and jade plant (a symbol of prosperity). Aloe is perfect for kitchens in case of burns. House plants shared by friends can also become like family, my Mom has an angel-wing begonia from a friend since before I was born, and I have a plant from the same cutting.
  • Candles – Nothing warms a room like candles, but you want to make sure you give (and use) “green” ones. Many candles are petroleum based and some are made with a thin wire of lead in the wick (to help with dripping) obviously not good for your own environment. Pacifica  is my favorite candle-maker (and soap, lotion…)
  • Herbs – It’s very cost-effective to grow your own herbs for your pantry . Yet, you’ll find that come harvest time there’s almost always a surplus. Everyone could stand to refresh their herbs (I know I’m in need!), and moving is a great time to do it.
  • Seeds – After the blossoms fade it’s easy to collect seeds from your favorite flowers (or even in a friend’s yard), and they make perfect gifts.

Sharing things like seeds and herbs can be a great way to earn some social capital. Enjoy sharing the wealth!

What gifts do you give for a house warming?
Do you bring hostess gifts?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Doggy Debt

Many families wonder, what would it cost to own a dog? Well, since last summer we’ve been finding out for ourselves.

Last July we adopted our loving Doggy, a very large purebred black labrador who needed a family who would give him lots of exercise and lovin’. Our decision  was somewhat on a whim, so we were pretty naive about it all and I hadn’t given much thought to how much he would add to our monthly budget. Thankfully he hasn’t broken the bank yet, but here’s the rundown on things you might want to think about as a new dog owner.

Adoption:  Adoption is definitely the most cost-effective option. Unfortunately, due to the recession there are still many pets who have been given up and need a new home. The good news is that there are a lot of terrific pets available, and you’ll save a lot. Our Doggy was almost 5 when we got him, and had complete vet records which clearly showed that even a healthy puppy can be pretty expensive. We saved ourselves a lot of initial costs, and didn’t even end up paying a shelter fee because we adopted through a co-worker.

Supplies: While you have to really assess needs versus wants, there are still several supplies that come with dog owner territory: tags, leash, bowl, bed, brush, soap, chuck it, Frisbee and a Kong. You’ll also need several ongoing things: dog food, treats, dental bones and peanut butter for the Kong. We checked out books from the library, and researched online. Our start-up costs were almost $200, and our ongoing expenses average $40-50 per month.

Boarding: We’ve really lucked out on boarding, since I have a dog loving co-worker who has generously taken care of our Doggy on several occasions (we had several weekend trips planned before we adopted). I did spend $50 on a yoga gift certificate over the holidays as a token of our appreciation. If we hadn’t had such social capital handy, we would have to pay $35 per night. 

Vehicle: Truthfully, it first really crossed my mind as we driving to meet our beloved Doggy that we might need to purchase a larger vehicle as a result of our new family member. This is especially true because of our love for camping, which as a family of four means a car packed to the rooftop. We are both a bit reluctant to buy a minivan, but our Doggy may push the issue earlier than we had hoped. We are going to try out a large rooftop carrier first…we’ll let you know the verdict after a cabin trip planned for May.

There are plenty of extensive resources on the costs of dog ownership if you want to consider it further. 

Lastly, the decision to own a dog is not all about the expense though, and there are may “payoffs” that can’t be accounted for. We love going on walks as a family with our Doggy and playing fetch in the backyard. He provides free daily exercise and a mental break, as Hubby wakes up at 5:30 to walk him (part of the reason this blog is always set to post at 5:30). The first Girly giggles and BigGuy lessons are priceless. Plus, he’s now family.

Does your family have a dog, what expenses have surprised you?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Sustaining Social Capital

After chatting with your significant other about your dreams and finances, and once you choose a bank that invests in your values, I’ve got another item for you to consider.

Do you have a network of people who support your own goals of living in sustainable abundance? Do you know your neighbors? Do you have a proverbial safety net for your family?

Most financial advisors recommend that one of the first things you should do after paying off any debt is create an emergency fund, but what seems to be undervalued in our society is social capital.

Social capital is about creating mutually beneficial relationships of caring and reciprocity. It’s about sharing our talents and interests in a unique relationship that builds bonds and creates a dynamic network of giving. I found a fun post on  Aha-Moments that shares a story of how a family going away on vacation gave away green tomatoes to neighbors who had helped them in a variety of ways. Its about developing a network that sustains your family in ways that money really cannot.

S ocial capital is essential to creating sustainability , and build networks to create social changePaul Krugman talks about the need for accelerated social change and its relationship to social capital. The creator of the Story of Stuff would also have to agree:

So the number one thing to do is to hook up with others who share your values and start making some real change.” – Annie Leonard from Umbra interview on Grist

Now on a practical day-to-day busy-family level, I understand that creating social capital is not at the top of the to-do list (laundry seems to trump all!) Yet, I would encourage you to look a month or two in the future and plan just one way to create social capital.

In our family, we moved a year and a half ago (about five miles), and even though we’ve made our best effort to reach out to our neighbors, I feel like we’re just beginning to really scratch the social capital surface. Perhaps the best thing we’ve done was to host a neighborhood BBQ last summer. We ended up meeting several neighbors who we hadn’t managed to meet in our first year on the block. Everyone had a really nice time, and I got everyone’s contact info for when we want/need to get in touch. Similarly, a co-worker hosts an annual neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt. I’m hoping this summer we’ll be able to create more social capital and dig a little deeper to develop more community ties.

How does your family create social capital? 
Has there been a time you wish you had more?

Sustainable Family Finances  The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

PS In case you are actually interested in some academic research on the subject, here is an excerpt from my Master’s thesis, June 2005 – Antioch University Seattle:

In order to create a sustainable place to live, the social relationships that build a community must be nurtured. Learning about the importance of social capital is one approach to understanding why cities need to value community. Social capital has been defined as:

“the features of social organization, such as networks, norms and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit” (Putnam, 1995, p.67).

A broader definition is given by Coleman, who describes social capital as:

‘‘a variety of different entities, with two elements in common: they all consist of some aspect of social structure, and they facilitate certain actions of actors—whether personal or corporate actors—within the structure’’ (1988, p. 598).

While, Woolcock (2001) argues that a relative consensus has been struck among scholars on the definition of social capital as referring to ‘‘the norms and

networks that facilitate collective action’’ (p. 70).

In recent years, the study of social capital has branched beyond its origins of sociology (Coleman, 1988) to applied studies of governance (Bowles and Gintis, 2000), health care (Leyden, 2003), and environmental planning (Rydin and Pennington, 2000). Assessing the value of social capital became in vogue with the seminal research (Putnam, 1993), and popular book, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (Putnam, 2000).

Social scientists have identified two types of social capital, referred to as “bonding” and “bridging” (Gittell and Vidal, 1998). Bonding capital is created between people who have an existing social proximity their neighborhood, career or perhaps family friends. Interestingly bonding capital has a strong connection to creating class, and is employed in either “getting by” or “getting ahead” depending on your class status (Granovetter, 1973). Bridging capital is considerably less common and is developed by crossing societal boundaries such as race or class, which are often inhibiting factors in social relations. This type of social capital was formed during the civil rights movement (Putnam, 2000), and which could be generated more in the environmental movement.

Social capital is a factor that influences a community’s ability to implement comprehensive sustainable design (Pretty and Ward, 2001). This is particularly due to the ability of social capital to enhance public participation in local decision-making;

“Social capital is also self-reinforcing when exchanges and reciprocity increase connectedness between people, leading to greater trust, which, in turn, enhances collective decision-making confidence and capacity to innovate” (Brunckhorst, 2002, p. 110).

Furthermore, “social capital is closely related to what some have called ‘civic virtue’. As is well known, civic virtue is linked to active citizenship, the political dimension of people’s identities” (Evers, 2003, p. 14). This so-called civic virtue is essential to working for the common good, and developing long-term community partnerships. The dynamic nature of social capital is important to understand if we are to create a sustainable city.

Banking for Good

As I mentioned in yesterday’s Money Honey post, we’ve decided to switch all of our banking to ShoreBank Pacific. This is a pretty significant step for us, since we’ve had an ongoing discussion/debate about where our family should bank for several years actually. We both previously had accounts at Washington Mutual, now Chase, mostly for the “free” checking. Here’s the brief back story about our change of heart:

An environmental economics course back in grad school is what first prompted me to switch my banking to Albina Community Bank. I couldn’t help but choose a local community bank once I began to learn and think about how my own money can either cause environmental destruction globally or fund people and businesses locally. The interconnections tend to be out of sight and out of mind for most of us, and I certainly can’t claim to know the precise impact of my finances. Yet, I’m pretty sure that our cumulative impact is fairly significant. 

Our decision to switch to ShoreBank is based on the mission, the story, and our family finance needs. Above all the reason we want to switch is because they are the first American bank with a banking mission that combines sustainability and managing your finances:

ShoreBank Pacific profitably assists businesses, and through them their communities, to be sustainable in economic, social, and environmental practices.

Sustainable reasons to switch:

  • Practices the “Triple Bottom Line” – Economy, Environment and Community
  • Accredited through The Natural Step
  • Purchases carbon offsets
  • Innovative green projects need funding – rural and urban projects
Personal finance reasons to switch: 
  • Offers complete online banking
  • Offers checking, savings, IRAs, even EcoKids accounts
  • Simple to have everything in one place (Before I still hadn’t convinced Hubby to let go of our ING accounts, and now we’re planning to move everything but our retirement)
Lastly, we like the feel of the place; it doesn’t even look like a bank, not one teller in their branch! If you can’t tell, I’m excited about making the switch. Despite the initial effort, I’m certain that the long term impact of switching our family funds will be worth it.

Are you satisfied with your family’s bank? 
Do you do your banking online? 

Sustainable Family Finances 
This blog is the story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.