Living my values: January/Spending

Instead of a traditional New Year’s resolution, this year I decided to put my words into actions. As a writer, it’s easy for me to create words—words that blast my views on social media, words that convince, words that criticize, so many words.

However, even writers have to acknowledge that words, while powerful, must eventually lead to action. So I decided this year I’m going to focus on making sure my actions fit my words.

Each month I’m going to focus on one aspect of implementing my values. Looking at things like how I spend my time and my money, what resources I consume, how I relate to my community, and to my own well-being. I’ll share what I learn, and maybe it will inspire someone else to do the same: Think about what your values are. Are you living them or merely talking about them? Make 2018 the year your words lead to something more.

Here we go:

January is the month I’ve designated for spending. I’ve never focused a lot on how my money aligns with my values. So, I decided to take a look at some things and find ways to improve. I’ll start by saying that the intrusion of mass corporations into our daily lives is so complete at this point I can’t be “pure.” As much as I’d like to say “to hell with corporations I’m going local,” that’s simply not realistic. I decided instead, to improve on the corporations I do use wherever possible. Here’s what I did:

1. Verizon wireless has the best service, we all know this. However, it also charges disgustingly high rates and is a serious threat to Net Neutrality. I wanted to get rid of Verizon, but I didn’t want to simply switch to another massive corporation where the only real difference was worse coverage. So I went to CREDO. CREDO is a carrier that’s been around since the late 1990s. They utilize the Verizon network, but give a percentage of profits to the types of causes I care about. They let users vote each month from a selection of three non-profits to donate to, and since their inception, they’ve given over $83million to non-profits that work toward things like gender equity and environmental protection. Huge bonus for me, they’re costing me HALF of what Verizon was each month, so while I haven’t completely escaped Verizon, I’m saving money and doing some good at the same time.

2. I’m a writer, and Amazon has the biggest bookstore on the planet. It’s pretty much impossible for me not to shop there. I won’t lie: their corporate culture can really suck. BUT, there are also opportunities to use the options they have to make a positive impact. The first choice I made was to stop buying my books on Kindle and use iBooks instead. Apple’s not perfect either, but God knows Amazon needs competition, and I can’t complain about their monopoly on the ebook market if I don’t make the change myself. Then I started utilizing the Amazon Smile program. If you sign in via Amazon Smile, Amazon will give .05% of the money you spend to a non-profit of your choice. You can change the non-profit anytime you’d like, and it shows you in a toolbar how much you’ve donated over time. Like the switch to CREDO, this doesn’t make me free and clear of the evil corporation, but at least I’m doing some good at the same time. A third option I found when I was looking for a better way to handle Amazon Prime shipping boxes. I hate the idea of all that cardboard that’s virtually unused being put into recycling when it has a lot of life left. But Amazon has an answer. Through an arrangement with a program called “The Give Back Box,” I can now fill my leftover Prime shipping boxes with things for Goodwill, print out a free shipping label, and send the box and the donations to a designated Goodwill at no extra cost. This also serves the fantastic function of forcing me to declutter every month.

3. My electric provider is a local co-op, and when I moved into the house nearly seven years ago I don’t remember seeing options for alternative energy. However, whether I just wasn’t paying attention, or things have changed, I was really excited to find that not only can I now buy green energy credits, but I can pay for solar panels as part of a regional solar energy cooperative my company has joined. So, instead of having solar panels installed on my house, they’ll add them to the regional array that then provides my electricity. It’s not cheap, so I’m starting small to see how it all works, but my goal is to add on over time and use the maximum amount of solar energy I can afford.

4. Using smaller or mid-sized companies where I can is also something I’m working on this year. Getting my fast food from Colorado-based restaurants Larkburger or Good Times instead of a national chain, buying organic meat from a small provider instead of buying mass-farm produced meat at the chain grocery, etc. These things help support places that think like I do, and put money in my local economy rather than a corporation’s pockets.

5. Like a lot of people I have things like 401Ks and IRAs. While I’ve done minor things with them over the years like sell oil and gas stocks to purchase Whole Foods (yes, long before Amazon bought them), I haven’t put a lot of effort into who manages the mutual funds I’m invested in. A few days ago, however, I read a really interesting letter from the CEO of the world’s largest asset management company, BlackRock [https://www.blackrock.com/corporate/en-us/investor-relations/larry-fink-ceo-letter ]. I’m really impressed with his take on corporate responsibility, including the call for corporations to insist on a diverse makeup in their boards, so I’m going to instruct my investment advisor to switch whatever we can to BlackRock products, in addition to continuing to switch individual stocks to companies that are most in line with my values.

There’s no way I can make my spending and investing philosophically pure. But I can leverage my money to do the most good wherever possible. I’m going to continue to look for ways to do this on an ongoing basis. Next month I’m going to start volunteering regularly, and I have some really great places to do it, so keep watching for more!

One Reply to “Living my values: January/Spending”

  1. Wow, I had no idea about the Give Back Box program–this is amazing!!! I will also be filling up all Amazon Prime boxes with donations. This will be a great way for me to de-clutter my small studio apartment (the other way I’ve done that has been to shift from print books to e-books!).

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