Ethical banking money ja

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. 

Ideas Lifestyle Sustainability tips
Aussie startup fights food waste with maggot robots

Maggot robots take on the food waste management challenge

Startup journeys are rarely linear. It often takes many iterations to get something from a mere idea to a market-ready product. And sometimes, a business idea can change entirely during the discovery process. For Olympia Yarger, it led from wanting to launch a sustainable poultry farming business to developing modular maggot robots for food waste management through her Canberra-based startup Goterra

“When I started, I was just looking for a sustainable protein feed for a poultry enterprise. And that’s how I found insects. Initially, I switched my focus to farming those instead of poultry to avoid the trap of doing too many things at once,” says Olympia. “But then I realised that the supply chains around feeding animals (or humans for that matter) are broken in their current state.”

Australia’s agricultural sector depends on carrying heavy road and rail freight over vast distances to feed farm animals. This adds to the sector’s overall environmental footprint and is also a major money drain. Feed makes up 70% of production costs for farmers and the cost of feed is relative to its transportation requirements. And Olympia didn’t want to replicate the model for her insect farming business by carrying food waste across the country to feed insects that would then, in turn, feed other farming animals in the supply chain.

Taking the leap: from insect farming to food waste management robots

“If we had used the same intensive farming model to farm insects as in the intensive farming of any protein, we would have also replicated the same problems. That’s why we switched gears to fix the logistical challenges around feeding protein and combine it with proximity to the waste streams for the insects,” says Olympia. “And once we figured that out, it was like ‘hold on a second: this is a food waste management business, not a protein business’.”

Entrepreneurs
Planetary health: a new discipline for a better future

Planetary health: better outcomes for people and the environment

I started this blog a couple of years ago because I was feeling overwhelmed about the declining health of the planet. Hardly a day went by without devastating news about large and small environmental catastrophes. 

At the same time, I saw in-action and climate denial in politics and much of mainstream business. I had reached a point when I could not sit back and watch anymore. I needed to do more than avoiding plastic and eating a more climate-conscious diet. And I wanted to understand what ideas and solutions could help us turn things around for the better. 

That’s why I decided to interview people who were making a positive difference in big and small ways. It’s been a huge learning curve so far. I wrapped my head around how waves could be leveraged for energy generation. And I brushed up on my high school knowledge of photosynthesis as a key concept in regenerative farming.

The experience exceeded my expectations. Not just intellectually, but because of the people I had the pleasure to get to know. There were heartfelt and generous conversations about the trials, setbacks, and triumphs of working in this space. It gave me a sense of connection that I had long been missing.

From bushfires and a pandemic to planetary health

Then unprecedented bushfires raged through Australia. The event struck yet another blow to biodiversity and critically endangered species. The fires were still burning when life as we know it came to a standstill due to COVID-19.

It was hard to avoid the doom scrolling. Many articles ascertained that this was only a foretaste of what is still ahead of us: More fires. More floods. More diseases.

If anything, though, the pandemic only reinforced that I wanted to do more. And for that, I felt like I still needed to learn more.

Coincidentally, it was in one of the doom scrolling articles that I first read about the emerging academic field of planetary health. It is a transdisciplinary approach that focuses on the interrelationship between the health of the planet, ecosystems, humans, and other living beings.

Ideas Scientists Thinkers
sustainability reading list November 2020

Sustainability reading list: November 2020

My sustainability reading list for November features a mix of older and new content from around the web.

Addressing climate change in a post pandemic world

COVID-19 has forced governments globally into action. The pandemic is maybe the first event since the deregulation of markets in the 1980s when governments had to put policies in place that prioritise human health over economic growth.

It’s perhaps not surprising then that analysts are comparing the pandemic response to climate action (or the lack thereof). McKinsey has put together a useful overview of the similarities and differences between COVID-19 and climate change.

Ideas Snippets
Sustainability reading and watching in June

Sustainability read and watch list: June 2020

I read and watch quite a lot of sustainability related content. There’s an incredible amount of information out there once you start looking. But I figured there’s not much point keeping all this to myself. That’s why I have decided to occasionally share some of the articles, videos and podcasts I have found the most interesting, insightful or entertaining.

How language shapes our approach to farming

I recently stumbled across American indigenous regenerative farmer, Chris Newman, on Medium. I love his direct writing style and realism about regenerative farming.

The idea of running a small sustainable farm can seem quaint and romantic, but tough if you have to make a living from it. Let alone feeding large populations. His writing is thought provoking, especially when it comes to matters of stewardship of the land and scale.

One of his articles from earlier this year goes into the relationship of language and how it shapes our worldviews and sense of place.

People ask with the best of intentions for book recommendations on indigenous agriculture, failing to realize that the nucleus of our sustainability ethic is in how we look at the world, not in specific planting or husbandry techniques A person can take indigenous methods and with the wrong worldview, destroy the whole world.

Chris Newman, Indigenous Agriculture: It’s Not the How, It’s the Why

So, instead of giving recommendations about indigenous agriculture, he recommends books that challenge our world view and language.

Ideas Snippets
Voting with our wallets is only part of the solution

Voting with our wallets: why the approach has limits

Switch to solar energy. Refuse products packaged with excessive plastic packaging. Buy from companies that produce ethically and sustainably.

As consumers we’re constantly told to vote with our wallets to stir our planet toward a more sustainable future.

There’s no denying that how and what we buy can have a big impact. And we’re starting to see some changes in the marketplace. Big brands such as Adidas have introduced product lines made from ocean plastics. Fast food chains are offering meat-free burger alternatives on their menus (even though clumsily).

What’s more, there are the countless small business owners and regenerative farmers who are doing things differently. They are working hard to provide consumers with sustainable alternatives to the standard wares on supermarket shelves and retail racks.

And in principal, I agree that we should make purchases that are aligned with our values. But I also believe that the concept of voting with our wallets has some big limitations. We can’t rely on market mechanisms alone to fix the climate crisis.

Ideas
Thoughts on food and sustainability

Food and sustainability – a few thoughts

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about food and sustainability. And I have talked to many amazing people who are making a difference in this space. Some are adopting regenerative farming practices. Others are developing plant-based meat alternatives or are connecting communities to fight food waste.

But the more I learn, the more complicated it all seems. Here are a couple of problems I have been mulling over.

1. Lack of connection with the origin of our food

In the little bubble that I inhabit, it seems like we’re making incredible progress in terms of people making more informed choices about the provenance of their food.

Many people I know are very aware of the issues surrounding food and sustainability. They aim to buy produce that has been grown responsibly. Many are eating less meat, but of much higher quality. And some have given it up altogether.

But I am under no illusion that I am mostly surrounded by people who are very similar to me.

Ideas

Aussie plant-based meat convinces Michelin star chef

The rich flavours of a bolognese sauce. The melt-in-your-mouth texture of slow-cooked meat. There are some dishes that are irresistibly delicious and comforting. So much so that they are making it difficult for many people to adopt a more plant-based diet. Even if they are otherwise convinced that it’s a better choice. 

It’s a conundrum that is all too familiar to Sunshine Coast entrepreneur Michal Fox. After becoming vegetarian four and a half years ago for ethical, health and environmental reasons, he sometimes still craved his favourite dishes that were difficult to recreate without meat. 

And the former CEO of now closed shoe retailer Shoes of Prey kept hearing similar stories in his network. People want to reduce their meat consumption, but are struggling with the practicalities. 

The brains behind Fable's plant-based meat alternatives: Jim Fuller, Michael Fox and Chris McLoghlin (LTR).
Jim Fuller, Michael Fox and Chris McLoghlin (LTR) are the team behind Fable’s plant-based meat creations.

 “I’m a terrible activist, but have some entrepreneurial experience” says Michael. So, after a six months sabbatical during which he kept diving deeper in the complex issues of industrial animal agriculture, he decided to use his skills to help people reduce their meat consumption and launched Fable Food Co.

The plant-based meat company is promising to make it easier for people to create meat-free versions of their favorite recipes without having to compromise on flavour or texture. 

A plant-based meat that harnesses the natural goodness of mushrooms

“When I started to explore the plant-based meat category, two things became really important to me. Firstly, I didn’t want to create another burger or mince alternative. There were already quite a few very good products in the market,” explains the self-taught food entrepreneur. “And secondly, I wanted to use only natural ingredients that required minimal processing.” 

Entrepreneurs
Jane Goodall's Masterclass teaches valuable lessons in conservation

Jane Goodall’s Masterclass: 3 lessons on driving change

Since starting this blog a little less than a year ago, I’ve been lucky enough to speak to some incredibly inspiring people that live a life with impact and have learned a lot from them. But I am also keen to understand if there are general rules that I (and others) can apply to drive meaningful change.

One recent experience that has pushed my thinking in this direction, was taking Dr. Jane Goodall’s Masterclass on conservation.

A scientist turned activist

Jane Goodall is probably most well-known for her work with chimpanzees, starting in the 1960s. While observing chimps in Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park, she discovered – amongst other things – that the animals were picking leaves of sticks and used those modified sticks to fish termites from a nest.

Goodall’s discovery was ground-breaking since scientists up until then thought that only humans were capable of toolmaking. Her insights re-shaped the definition of man and our perception of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom.

In the 1970s Goodall realised that to protect chimpanzees and their habitat from increasing deforestation and destruction, she needed to get out of the forest and spread her message. She founded the Jane Goodall Institute and since then has been working as a tireless advocate for the environment, social justice, poverty alleviation and peace.

Activists Conservationist

Returnr is making single-use packaging a thing of the past

The lunchtime trip to the local cafe or takeaway shop is a ritual for many professionals of all collar colors. A nice diversion in the middle of the day. Even if it’s only for a few minutes and the lunch is actually eaten at the desk or on the road.

But our daily habits come at a price – both literally (Australians spend $8.3 billion per year on buying lunch) and metaphorically in terms of the impact our routines have on the environment. The majority of take-out plastic containers are in use for less than 30 minutes before they end up in landfill where they’ll continue to live forever

The good news is that reducing single-use packaging might soon be a lot easier – thanks to initiatives like Melbourne-based startup Returnr

A closed-loop reusable container network

“The idea behind Returnr is to completely get rid of single-use packaging,” says Founder and CEO, Jamie Forsyth, about the company’s Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)

To achieve this Jamie is building a closed-loop network of cafes, restaurants, take-away stores, businesses and individuals that uncouples packaging and containers from the idea of ownership.

Jamie Forsyth is looking to reduce single-use packaging
Jamie Forsyth is the Founder & CEO of Returnr. Image credit: Returnr

“One of the problems with owning a reusable container is that it’s so easy to forget at home or it hasn’t yet been cleaned to be able to use them again,” says Jamie. “This friction completely disappears if ownership is taken out of the equation.”

Entrepreneurs