For those with New Year's resolutions to lead a healthier lifestyle in 2008, it might be a good time to think about the health of the planet and what consumers can do to reduce their individual impact on the environment.
Ethical and environmentally friendly financial products are getting increasingly popular among consumers who are becoming more aware of the effects of their choices. There are a number of simple things that people can do to reduce the footprint they leave behind, such as opting for paperless billing, and switching to bank accounts which do not issue paper statements.
There are also ethical banks, such as the Co-operative Bank, which offset the carbon emissions of their business by planting trees and investing in advancements in green technologies, and refusing to do business with companies or investors which have unethical practices such as being associated with the arms trade or any practice which violates human rights.
Some consumers use charity credit cards
as a way of donating money to environmental causes. Providers usually make an initial donation upon the opening of the account or on its first use, followed by further donations of a certain percentage of each subsequent purchase made with the card.
One such card is a new one offered by The Co-operative Bank called the Think card, which saves half an acre of Brazilian rainforest the first time the card is used, and makes subsequent donations to the charity Cool Earth of 25p per £100 spent on the card.
James Caldwell, director of Fair Investment Company, said: "There are many ways in which the consumer can do their bit against the threat of climate change."
There is a growing number of green energy
providers, such as Good Energy and Green Energy, in addition to traditional energy providers which have introduced the option to consumers of offsetting their emissions. Green energy can help to lower the carbon footprint left behind from heating a home or boiling the kettle, by offsetting the emissions created when generating gas and electricity.
Some companies offset a certain proportion of the emissions and others offset 100 per cent, by investing in research to further the reduction of carbon emissions and sourcing energy by environmentally friendly methods such as wind and solar power.
Insurance companies, such as ibuyeco, are also realising that consumers want to do their bit to reduce their impact, so are now offering eco-friendly car insurance which offsets either part or all of the emissions from the customer's car by investing in green alternatives and planting trees.
"Providers of green products such as car insurance and domestic energy sometimes charge more in order to cover the cost, so it is up to the consumer to decide," continued Mr Caldwell, "but it is still possible to find competitive deals on green products without it costing the earth.
"There are environmental gains to be made with ethical investments
, for socially responsible investors who wish to avoid companies that have a negative impact on the environment, or those who see the opportunity for growth in companies which practice ethical investment management or stand to benefit from developments in this area."
One example of an ethical investment provider is Legal and General, who provide an ethical investment fund which excludes businesses in the stock market which don't meet certain ethical criteria, allowing investors to put their money in the stock market without compromising their principals.
Fair Investment Company (fairinvestment.co.uk) offers free comparison services which allow the consumer to compare providers of bank accounts, investments, credit cards, insurance products and energy, to find the products which best meet their ethical requirements.