Ethical Banking

I’m going to pick up where I left off a couple weeks ago with the Occupy Wall St posting, add a primer on the shenanigans the major banks have perpetrated, and show some alternatives to the system that has hurt and angered so many people. Please note: these are my views and do not necessarily represent EcoEtsy as a whole. (but if you agree, or have other solutions, by all means share in the comments!)
So Occupy Wall St has finally grown into something the mainstream news has to acknowledge. People from all across America are speaking up and speaking out and searching for ways to move forward. One of the things that people are focusing on is the role of the major banks in the crisis. Part of that is how banks have treated the little guy, and there is special anger directed at a new fee that many large banks are now charging customers to use their debit cards.
While some politicians have attempted to turn this into a left vs right issue, don’t be fooled. For an explanation of the truth behind the fee, you can check out this video by the senator who’s been blamed for it.

If you are as disgusted as I am by the nonsense many of the major banks have been involved with, from unfair and possibly illegal foreclosures, you DO have options.

First, there are credit unions. from WIkipedia:

A credit union is a cooperative financial institution that is owned and controlled by its members and operated for the purpose of promoting thrift, providing credit at competitive rates, and providing other financial services to its members.[1][2][3] Many credit unions exist to further community development[4] or sustainable international development on a local level.

Credit unions are sometimes organized around a specific working group, like teachers, or people who live in a specific geographic area. They tend to have much more community friendly practices because they have to actually answer to the people giving them their money (you!). To search for a credit union in your area, try this website:

If you are looking for an investment or savings option which doesn’t involve a bank, you can do triple the good by checking out organizations such as which allow you to lend money to individuals and small businesses across the globe, specifically in areas underserved by traditional banks. Check out this video for more:

You can also look into “green” retirement funds such as or

Last but not least, you can remove yourself from a system which requires banking, by fully investing and participating in your local economy. Many communities have barter systems set up, including but not limited to Freecycle and BarterQuest. You can also invest time or money in community supported agriculture to put food on your family’s table.

There are many ways to fight back and regain control of your money. I’ve merely listed a few. In fact, there’s a whole movement dedicated to showing you options and giving you the tools to move your money. National Bank Transfer Day is set for November 5th.
Beyond that, what creative ways have you found to make sure your money is going to something you believe in? Let’s get this conversation moving!

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  1. Great article! I didn’t know about, very interesting.

  2. I haven’t used a “bank” in 20+ years. As a UofO (Oregon) student I discovered the credit union & then was fortunate enough to have opportunities to join others as I traveled. Now there are “community” credit unions everywhere, so you don’t have to be a part of a labor group to join. Credit unions rock!!! Thanks for this fabulous article and the link to National Bank Transfer Day. I’ll be sharing the info.

  3. This is great info and advice to consider. We’re at the worst of the big banks because it was the only option available in both MA & AZ which we needed when we moved so we could write a check for rent as soon as we got here. Now that we’re settled I’d like to open something more local like we had in MA. I loved my local bank back in Arlington! They knew me when I walked through the door (seriously) and sent me a birthday card every year. Now THAT’s service! Plus no fee to use my debit card or anything else. Just good solid business and friendly staff who were always there to help & smile. Thanks for reminding me its time to look into a new option.

  4. Great post. thanks. I have made 8 loans with and also given their gift certificates-they make great birthday or holiday gifts.

    • Awesome. I just recently heard about them and think it’s just a fantastic idea. Good to hear from more people who use it.

  5. Great article! I’ve been contemplating moving my money over to a credit union for a couple of years now, but just haven’t gotten around to it. But now I definitely plan to do it in the next week or two. Thank you for the links!

    When I lived in Connecticut, I belonged to a wonderful credit union. The customer service was amazing, the locations were convenient, the interest rates were much better than those of commercial banks. It was a pleasure to work with them. Then I moved here and switched to a regional commercial bank. While the service is fine, I’ve longed for the truly personal touch of the credit union, and I’d rather not pay the account and debit card fees, and I’d like to know exactly how my funds are being utilized by my bank.

    This Green America article from February 2009 provides some numbers that underscore why it’s important to find alternatives to corporate banks (e.g., Bank of America received a $45 billion bail-out, then spent $10 million on their Super Bowl party!)

    And this other Green American article from October 2011, which includes a link to a PDF guide with information on community banks, community investing and credit unions

    • Mary, thank you for those links. I just watched Inside Job (the movie) this weekend, and I’m more determined than ever not to give these jokers any of my money!

      • You’re welcome! And “Inside Job” is an incredibly powerful and well-researched movie. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about how the financial systems in our country actually work.

        By the way, today Green America released it’s new PDF “Break Up With Your Mega-Bank Toolkit,” which has lots of helpful tips and step-by-step instructions on how to make a smooth transfer to a credit union or community bank.