How your money affects our planet

In honor of Earth Day we offers some tips on how your can better align your spending with your values and keep the planet in mind.

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Happy Earth Day! 🌎

Back before I transitioned to full time with Tiller I ran a small consulting business. Two of my most fun projects for a couple years focused on organizing two festivals.

An Earth Day celebration, the Charlottesville Earth Week Eco Fair, and the Charlottesville Vegetarian (now Vegan) Festival in Charlottesville, Virginia. All that to say, I have an immense passion for doing my part and helping others learn how to be a better environmental steward. 


My decision to stop organizing the festivals and focus entirely on Tiller was twofold. I feel so driven by my work at Tiller. I know, wholeheartedly, it’s my purpose in life right now. Helping people understand their money is one of the greatest gifts I can give others because I know what it’s like to be financially insecure.

At our core we want to help people easily understand their money in a flexible and customizable way so they can move confidently in the direction of their dreams. Secondly, there is an incredibly strong tie between money and the fate of our planet. 

Let’s do a quick mental exercise. 

You walk into the grocery store and head to the produce section. How do you decide which strawberries to buy; organic or conventional? The conventional strawberries are probably cheaper, right? And if you’re on a tight budget, they’re probably going to win your vote. But did you know that most conventional food is grown with pesticides, which have a dire impact on the environment? 

You visit your local coffee shop (let’s pretend it’s pre-pandemic life) and intend to sit and work on your laptop for a while. You order your latte and the barista moves for a disposable cup. Do you ask for a regular cup since you’ll be staying a while, or go along with the force of habit? If that cup has a plastic coating, it can’t be recycled and goes straight to the landfill. Even if it doesn’t its carbon footprint is dramatically increased due to the cost of recycling it. 

You’re shopping for clothes online. Is the brand you’re shopping sourcing their materials sustainably? Do they have a good recycling or waste program? Do the workers who make those clothes earn a living wage? 

You pop into the gas station and are browsing the candy bar aisle. You choose Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. One of the main ingredients is palm oil, which is often not grown or harvested sustainably and is one of the leading causes of orangutan endangerment. [EDIT: thanks to one of our customers for sharing with me that Reese’s parent company, Hershey, is committed to sustainably sourcing palm oil! Reese’s lovers rejoice!]

Each of these simple choices on how and where you’re spending money has a ripple effect that is often hidden from you. Out of sight out of mind, right? Wrong. The impacts we’re making and how we vote with our dollars is catching up to us. Nearly half of our planet’s forests have been harvested for their lumber. Trees are one of the biggest carbon capture elements built into the Earth’s biosphere, keeping it cool and inhabitable for us. 

So what to do? 

I’m sure you’re thinking, that’s great, Heather, now I feel bad about those Reese’s, (I admit I occasionally have them too…) but what can I do about it? So I’ll offer a few ideas. 

Build awareness

That is the greatest step toward change. Tiller helps you do this, especially if you manually categorize your transactions. Often in our Weekly Foundations Webinar I express that if you want to change your spending habits, manually categorize your transactions. Don’t let AutoCat do the work for you, even if for just a month, I promise it will change the way you think about and spend your money because you have to touch each transaction. Which lends itself well to the next tip. 

Pause before you spend

When you have to touch each transaction, it starts to build this habit where you pause before you actually make the purchase because you know you’ll have to touch it. In the store, pause and think about how this product might be affecting the factors that are mostly invisible to you. When you open your online checkout cart, ask yourself, do I really need this? Unconscious consumption is one of the leading drivers of environmental degradation because we are producing more than we really need. Pausing can help us slow this down, and conserve some of those resources. Not buy unneeded products at all can do even more.

Choose local or conscious brands

Shop local whenever you can. This helps small businesses, your community, and often has a dramatically smaller carbon footprint than products from big brands manufactured overseas. When you’re in the store, look at the ingredients list and the other badges and labels on the packaging. Research the brands you’re considering online. This can help you decide whether the brand cares about the planet. If you care, choose these brands. Choose options with less packaging! 

You vote with your dollars

We’ve written about how the money you spend is a reflection of your values and where you place your votes matters. The first time I spoke to Peter, Tiller’s founder, in July of 2015 he said something along these lines to me. 

“We vote with our dollars. We can help people align their money with their values because we give them the data that helps them build awareness.” 

We had the same vision for how to make impactful change in the world, and I’ve been in ever since.

How will you celebrate Earth Day or commit to more earth-friendly spending habits?

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