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Ethical banking in Australia: How to make the switch

This article is based on my personal research and experience in making the switch to more ethical banking in Australia. It is intended for educational purposes only and does not constitute financial advice. You should always seek financial advice that is tailored to your personal situation and needs. 

Choosing where to open my first bank account in Australia was not a deliberate decision. I’d arrived in the country in 2007 as an international student and needed an account to manage my money. Dealing with the challenges of identity verification without a history of residential records or a Medicare card was difficult enough. And learning more about the different available bank brands wasn’t a priority for me at the time. What’s more, all banks seemed to offer more or less exactly the same thing anyway. 

So, I did what most people do in this scenario. I just walked into the nearest branch and opened my first Australian bank account with NAB. Over the years, I added a joined account with my partner, a savings account and a credit card. Staying with them was easy and convenient and I didn’t put much further thought into it. 

As it turns out, I’m not alone with my banking set and forget mentality. 40% of Australians are still with their childhood bank and 1 in 5 people have said that they could not be bothered changing. In fact, more people file for divorce than switch their banks

Why ethical banking matters

The thing is, where we choose to bank matters. Financial institutions invest our hard-earned savings – amongst other things – into loans to help small businesses and large corporations grow and expand. And if you care about environmental or ethical issues, these investments are unlikely to all be aligned with our personal values. For example, a recent report revealed that Barclays has financed $56 billion in new fossil fuel projects since January 2021. 

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Buy in bulk: how to start living a more sustainable lifestyle

How to start living a more sustainable lifestyle

There is no question that we’re on the brink of an environmental crisis. Scientists have been warning us about the consequences of global warming caused by human activity for decades. In Australia, we now feel the negative impact of global warming on an almost daily basis.

The bushfire crisis has continued for months, and an area of over 10.7 million hectares have been destroyed. Australia is home to over 1800 at-risk plant and animal species, and an estimate of over 1 billion animals have perished.

The world heritage listed Great Barrier Reef has suffered from two major back-to-back coral bleaching events. If water temperatures continue to rise, we might lose large part of the reef forever, destroying a delicate ecosystem and with it the livelihood of thousands of people that depend on it.

At the same time, governments and many multinational companies continue with business as usual. Large scale fossil fuel project such as the Carmichael coal mine in Queensland and a deep water oil drilling project in the Great Australian Bight still forge ahead.

Seeing all these events unfold can lead to a feeling of helplessness. Many of the decisions that have led us to this point can seem out of your control and too complicated to solve as an individual.

But you can make a difference through the choices you make every single day. This article provides you with tips on how to start living a more sustainable lifestyle.

What sustainability means

In very simple terms, sustainability means to meet our own needs without compromising the needs of generations to come.

When you choose to live a sustainable lifestyle, it means that you intentionally avoid things that deplete natural resources, to maintain ecological balance. You leave enough for the environment to replenish itself and avoid products that cause harm to the environment or cannot break down at all.

The 5 R’s of living a more sustainable lifestyle

There are hundreds of small steps you can take to start living a more sustainable lifestyle. The tips below give you some ideas on the habits you can adopt to reduce your personal carbon footprint.

Sustainability tips