20 to Watch: Green is the New Black

Alix discusses three examples of how credit unions are making the effort to go green.


So far, we’ve looked at lending and savings. Let’s step outside the box and consider something entirely new: the environment. Today, Green is the new Black. What is your credit union doing to ensure not only the future of your institution, but also the future of the world as we know it? Read on to see how 3 credit unions are taking a step in the right direction.

Sustainability in Action
When planning began for Navy’s new call center in 2003, the credit union was focused on creating a design that benefited both the credit union and its employees. What they found also benefited the environment. Ebb Ebbesen, the man in charge of Navy’s Pensacola call center, oversaw the development of the facility which qualified for a GOLD LEED® rating. (LEED promotes five areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.) The credit union was so pleased with the results, they are in the process of adding another 400,000 square feet for 1,700 in two buildings on the same site.

Supporting Eco-friendly Members
Dozens of credit unions are now offering Green auto loans—favorable rates for hybrid, bio-diesel and other energy efficient vehicles. One of the earliest was Unitus Community Credit Union in Oregon which has closed almost $700,000 in auto loans since the program launched. Members who purchase full or mild hybrids qualify for a 0.5% reduction on their rate and can apply online or through any CUDL dealer. According to Paul Kirkbride, vice president of credit services, “anything we can do to encourage smarter spending on the part of our member is a plus.” The credit union is now investigating green home loans as their next offering.

Green, Hollywood Style
Of all new auto loans financed by First Entertainment in Los Angeles , 7% were green, with financing for Toyota Prius’ dominating the portfolio (see pie chart on page 89 of the print edition). To qualify for the Green Loan Program, an automobile must obtain more than 35 mpg. The list of eligible vehicles, based on information gathered from www.fueleconomy.gov, is updated quarterly. The credit union also went one step further and offers RIDEgreen, a 60-month term loan for “small, eco-friendly, non-traditional personal transportation” devices such as Segways and Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (golf carts, GEMS).