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  • Writer's pictureDan Sherrard-Smith

The 7 biggest ways you are wasting money and destroying the planet

There’s an idea that it costs more to choose the more sustainable option.

You might have heard the term "green premium".

It’s a story often told in the media: the green version costs more.

But in many areas, this is a myth.

MotherTree’s extensive research uncovers areas where you can save or even make money AND improve the health of the planet.

And we’re not talking about getting rid of plastic straws. (Although that needs to happen too).

1. Current Accounts

The big UK banks – including Barclays, HSBC and Santander – are funnelling billions into oil & gas every year. In fact, the world’s 60 biggest banks put 50 times more into oil & gas expansion than the fossil fuel companies themselves! That means, for every £1 that BP puts into expansion, the banks are putting in £50.

But fortunately, not all banks are investing equally.

There are banks out there who refuse to invest in oil & gas. This means your personal “banking” footprint could be dramatically reduced simply by choosing a greener bank.

And here’s the good news.

The greener banks are, in general, offering higher interest rates on their current accounts!

At the time of publication, Nationwide (one of the greenest banks) is offering a 5% interest rate on their "FlexDirect - Funded Account". This compares to 0% from Barclays and HSBC.

2. Saving accounts

It’s a similar story with saving accounts.

Like current accounts, by storing our money with a bank investing heavily in fossil fuel we are encouraging the continued use of oil & gas and ultimately destroying our planet.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

And…often, you can get better saving rates by moving to a greener bank.

Tandem Bank, as of 6th July 2023, is offering a colossal 5.85% on their one-year fixed deposit account.

Tandem saving rate

That compares to 3.8% at Barclays and 4.4% from HSBC.

Barclays saving rate

Find out how to switch your current and saving accounts through our Green Living Service here.

3. Pensions

That means it is one of the biggest levers we can pull to avert climate disaster.

Because the businesses we fund via our pensions today are the most likely to succeed tomorrow.

And here’s even better news.

Our analysis shows that, historically, green funds have performed better than the default fund for most major providers.

In fact, over the last 5 years, green funds (where MotherTree has verified they are green) have outperformed default funds by 15%.

Green funds vs. default funds

Based on 5-year performance of selected default pension funds (including but not limited to Scottish Widows & Lloyds) compared against selected green funds, (including but not limited to Vanguard ESG Developed World & Pictet Clean Energy funds).

So make sure your pension aligns with your values and gets you competitive returns.

Find out more by booking a free call.

4. Energy

Rising energy prices have been a major issue for millions of people in the UK.

We are all beholden to that market (unless you are able to generate your own energy – more on that below).

And it means, often, we are buying electricity generated from fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels supplied over 75% of the overall energy use in the UK last year.

The UK energy mix

That means, if you are buying your energy from one of the big suppliers like British Gas, you are likely to be contributing to a lot of fossil fuel burning!

But there are suppliers who generate 100% renewable energy.

They are often cheaper than the big energy suppliers’ standard tariffs. (A standard tariff is one the supplier moves you to at the end of your contract or when you move house).

Our analysis shows that for the average UK household (using Ofgem approved figures: 12,000 kWh gas and 2,900 kWh of electricity) could save £88 per month by moving from British Gas’ standard tariff to Green Energy UK’s 100% renewable energy tariff.

5. Mortgages

Mortgages are an area that you might not initially think has an impact on our planet.

In fact, there are two ways mortgages influence this:

  1. As we’ve seen with current and saving accounts, some banks invest heavily in fossil fuel while others refuse to put any money there. So taking a mortgage from a bank like Barclays is an endorsement of their high fossil fuel investing strategy.

  2. UK homes are facing an energy efficiency crisis. In fact, they lose up to three times as much heat as homes in European countries such as Germany. So making sure the home is properly insulated and built for energy efficiency can go a long way to reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. There are mortgages available that reward this behaviour, typically called green mortgages.

Green mortgages tend to offer cheaper rates to borrowers who purchase a property that meets certain energy-efficiency standards. For instance, new-build properties with Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ratings of A or B, or homes that have been renovated to improve their energy performance sometimes qualify, too.

Rates on green mortgages are often cheaper than standard deals, but the savings aren't huge.

NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) currently offer the cheapest green mortgages on the market. Their two and five-year fixes are both available with a 0.1% reduction on their standard rates.

6. Insulation

Pre-2022, 2.5 million UK homes were in fuel poverty. Since the cost of energy skyrocketed, hundreds of thousands more households have joined them..

Unfortunately, the UK has been reliant on imported gas for decades.

It meant, when the gas price went up after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, our energy costs went up.

But this crisis was not inevitable.

For over a decade, we have been failing to properly insulate our homes.

Between 2012 and 2019 the number of home insulation installations actually dropped by 95%.

And that means a huge amount of energy loss.

Which costs us money.

And leads to more carbon emissions as more energy needs to be produced to heat our homes.

This is a key area where millions in the UK are wasting money and destroying the planet.

But you don’t need a big budget to insulate your home.

And often the savings on the energy bills soon pay for the work required.

Find out where you stand by booking a call with MotherTree today.

7. Solar panels

UK houses are leaky!

While the UK remains dependent on fossil fuels, there is one step you can take to reduce your CO2 impact and save money.

Installing solar panels may seem like an expensive task up front: There is a need for cash to get them installed.

But with rapidly improving solar panel technology, the payback period is shortening, with savings of around £980 per year available.

And there are finance plans available to decrease the need for upfront capital.

If you want to take energy power into your own hands, then installing solar means it’s more possible than ever before.

Find out what it means for your home.

Bonus: Insurance

Insurance is a very interesting industry to think about when it comes to saving the planet.

A fossil fuel project can have all the finance it needs to get going, but without insurance, the project won’t be able to start.

So finding an insurer who refuses to insure oil & gas is a big step and indicator to the market that we’ve had enough of these polluting, planet-destroying energy sources.

There are even small savings to be had.

If you’d like to find out how you can make all of the above happen, without lifting a finger, then get in touch with MotherTree.

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