“Shop to help the Planet!” scream this phrase out these days and everyone will just think you’re encouraging consumer spending to kick start an economic recovery.
Less than half a decade ago though, the phrase could just have easily been a tagline for one of the many Credit Cards that promised to help YOU Save the Planet (or Wildlife, or Salmon) One Purchase at a Time.
Almost all of these cards promised to donate a certain portion of either the Purchase Price or Revenue Generated to NGOs like the World Wildlife Fund.
Purchase-based Carbon Offsetting
I recall a striking innovation in 2006 involved Dutch Rabobank’s Climate Credit Card which was ‘Smart Enough’ to calculate your Carbon Emissions based on your Purchases and subsequently offset it with Carbon Credits. So when you purchased $100 worth of Fuel, Rabobank would purchase more Carbon Credits on your behalf than if you were to purchase $100 worth of Groceries. Imagine a similar card now, imagine a similar card now that could calculate the combined Food Miles of your Grocery Shop and offset your carbon accordingly.. Unfortunately we are not there yet.
Made in the USA
What Discover has recently brought to the US, is a Biodegradable Credit Card.
Why is this significant?
Its not a world 1st. HSBC’s Green Credit Cards and Barclays’ Breathe Credit Cards have been made with Non-PVC material that also advertises to be Biodegradable.
Its not breakthrough technology. BIOPVC was developed in 2004 and has seen use in Target Gift Cards and Hotel Key Cards.
Its not even Green. Well, not in the traditional “1% of your purchases will go to saving the Amazon” way. Nothing goes to an NGO, Charity or Initiative.
So again, Why is this significant?
Because its been brought to the United States, the spiritual home of Credit Cards, where (in 2006) there were 1.5 BILLION Credit Cards in Use, Credit Cards that are usually dumped when they expire every 3 years. That’s enough dumped plastic to Stretch 70 Miles into SPACE, every 3 years.
In January, we posted a story about the 1st US Mutual Fund to use the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), it was hardly a World 1st, but because it was being introduced to a market with such potential, it was significant.
Like the DJSI, being introduced into the US gives Biodegradable Cards a chance at making it into “Global Mainstream”.
COST: A mass of US consumers subscribe, enough to drive down the cost of production of BIOPVC cards to make it economical for companies that would not have been able to afford niche technology.
EXPOSURE: The ‘word of mouth’ on BIOPVC through the promotion of these new Biodegradable Credit Cards will encourage awareness of the material and encourage companies to consider BIOPVC as an alternate material.
Discover’s Press Release: Link
Shift in Priorities?
The absence of any active donation program attached to this product signals could signal that some consumers might be taking strongly to the philosophy of ‘Personal Social Responsibility‘. Where they feel that they ultimately have far more complete and certain control in their personal regular sphere of activity than they do over a Food Aid Program for example and choose to ‘save the planet’ by focusing on making sustainable choices part of their lifestyle.
They might not ignore giving and charity but they prioritise leading a Personal Sustainable Lifestyle.
Could this be a future theme of Sustainability?