In a recent interview, Katrina Brickley shares her personal story relating to climate change and how her work has shifted into a career building a virtual, carbon-neutral bank.
Unfortunately, many banks use the money deposited by individuals, non-profits, and business to finance the fossil fuel industry. My startup company greenpenny is a virtual, carbon-neutral bank designed with the sole mission of financing a more sustainable future, and has pledged to finance only renewable energy projects, including solar power arrays.
I’m an optimist but can’t help but wonder if we’ve reached a point where even the rain has been compromised and is impure. The impacts of the changing climate are everywhere and often on my mind, grim reminders of the storms and flooding that have directly impacted me and my community. In one flooding event a few years ago, my neighborhood on a hill became an island surrounded by water, and my family scrambled to clear basements of neighbors and bring supplies to strangers we had not met. Though we couldn’t reach everyone in need and our own resources were limited, I would do it again.
Then the Derecho storm hit this past July and I found myself helping out family members on day three of a power outage. Frighteningly, this was the third time they been affected by extreme weather in Iowa since 2008, even losing their Victorian home in one flooding event. Many members of my community are in similar situations, still unrecovered from the two 100-year flooding events to devastate Northeast Iowa in the last 12 years. I worry about others affected by these climate disasters, with the sad understanding that some can’t afford insurance or the costs to rebuild.
It is clear from the immense and lasting damage caused by climate change, and now also by the COVID-19 pandemic, that we are not as resilient or self-sufficient as we should be. We are so dependent on our electrical grid that when a flood knocks out power, whole communities become panicked. While it brings me hope to see communities come together to bring in assistance and donations to cope with flooding and fierce storms, we need to move beyond reliance on others. It’s time to reevaluate how we live and how we cooperate as neighbors, communities and governments. For the future we need to build resilience and create easy and affordable ways for individuals and family members to have more control.
One way individuals can implement a sense of control in the face of climate change is to make informed decisions about what they’re buying and who their money is supporting. Personally, I try to buy local when I can, research even small purchases, avoid plastic when I can (it’s everywhere), and try to support those offering sustainable products and services. On a larger scale I believe that my startup company greenpenny is doing good for the planet. Greenpenny is a virtual, carbon-neutral bank designed with the sole mission of financing a more sustainable future. Unfortunately, many banks use the money deposited by individuals, non-profits, and business to finance the fossil fuel industry. Greenpenny on the other hand has pledged to finance only renewable energy projects, including solar power arrays. Greenpenny offers a secure hi-tech banking app and services with no-fee atms worldwide, allowing users to earn interest on their money while enjoying a smart banking experience. We had planned on launching greenpenny in March but were delayed due to the pandemic. Ultimately, we decided that the U.S. needs a bank based on environmental values and we must do everything we can to address climate change, officially launching the company in June.
People like us in the private sector are stepping up to combat climate change. I feel blessed to work with greenpenny, powered by Decorah Bank and Trust, because one of their core values is to be good to Mother Earth. I’ve learned a lot from my colleagues, and they’ve learned from me. We don’t judge or place guilt; but we know that everyone needs to make better choices daily. Like rethinking how we make things, grow food, make our homes comfortable, and transport people and goods. Society needs brilliant, educated minds and people who advocate for the natural resources that remain and work with nature instead of against it. There are many opportunities to create green tech jobs, I’ve listened to pitches from start-up companies who are up for the challenge and doing good economic and environmental things, so why not Iowa? We’ve fallen to the 40th State to be proactive with solar energy, innate energy from the sun. Iowans are better than this and we can find ways to make sustainability easier and more accessible financially. Finally, we need our government to lead by example and prioritize addressing climate change so that we can minimize its destructive impacts.
To learn more about Iowa Climate Stories, click here.
Written by: Katrina Brickley
Digital Communications Director, AVP