My Climate Practice: Green Banking and Becoming a Weekday Vegetarian
My Climate Practice is a series where we talk to folks using Commons about their climate practice and what a sustainable life looks like for them. Today, we're talking to Cooper Klose.
Cooper is a gardener, marketer, and fan of composting. He's originally from North Carolina, and now he lives in Washington D.C. where he volunteers with the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation’s gardening program. He loves playing soccer and taking advantage of how bike-friendly the city is. Here are a few of Cooper's current climate practices:
When did you start trying to live more sustainably, and what was your motivation?
I spent most of my life trying to live more sustainably, but I got really engaged during the pandemic. When everyone was staying at home, the economy was shutting down, and the whole world was closing down, we saw these drastic changes to the environment. The air quality improved, nature was coming back, and animals were going into areas they had never been before.
It was really incredible to see that when we drastically reduce the human impact on the Earth, all these great things can happen almost immediately — and you can see the impact. So I thought, there has to be a way to do this without closing the entire world down. There has to be a way to live more sustainably while achieving the same kind of goals and living our lives normally. So that really inspired me to try new climate practices and stick with them.
How do you use Commons in your climate practice?
I use Commons to track my carbon footprint and see which of my activities and purchases has the highest carbon footprint versus the lowest. I like to compete against myself each month to lower my footprint.
Commons helps me to be more mindful of my spending and actions. And the Climate Practices and educational tools have been really helpful for learning about important actions, the impacts of carbon, and humans' impact on the environment.
What motivated you to switch to a greener bank?
I always thought about it, but there were a lot of steps, so it wasn’t an immediate focus in my climate practice. But in Commons, one of the first climate practice guides I went through was Greening your Bank. The app walked through the whole process and what kind of impact it can have when you divest from these banks.
I was using Bank of America, which is one of the biggest supporters of fossil fuels in the US. I finished the Commons guide, and I thought — I'm just going to do this. Enough's enough. It took a little bit of time to complete the whole process, but the app is what really pushed me to do it.
What banks were you using before the switch? And how did you go about making the switch?
I had one bank account with Bank of America and two credit cards with Chase. So I pulled everything out of Bank of America, and I moved it to a green bank called Aspiration. With Chase, I canceled one of my cards that I wasn't using as much, and I kept one of them. I feel a little bit guilty about that, but also I think it's a helpful card for rewards like collecting travel and cash back.
How did you choose Aspiration bank?
There are a lot of options, so it was a tough decision for me because I'm very indecisive. I did a lot of research into what each bank offers. I talked to a couple of people who are in the environmental world and asked them for their suggestions. Based on my research and what I heard from other people, I made up my mind.
How do you balance your spending between Aspiration and Chase?
I have a Chase credit card and two Aspiration cards: one credit and one debit. I favor the Aspiration cards as much as possible. I try not to rely on the Chase card too much, but when I do, I make sure that I'm also giving the Aspiration cards some love so that I'm putting money in the right places.
Have you talked to any of your friends about green banking?
Whenever you're at a table with a bunch of people and everyone pulls out their credit cards to split something, the Aspiration cards stick out because they have cool designs on them. So I usually get questions about what the card is and what Aspiration is.
I really enjoy talking about that with people because I think most people have an account with one of the big US banks that are funding fossil fuels. I don’t want to be on a high horse or anything, but I think it's been an important opportunity for me to help people understand why I made the switch to green banking and the benefits of it.
How do you compost? At home, through your city, or via drop-off?
I started composting around 2019, just dropping off my compost at farmers markets once a week.
And then more recently — around 2022 — I was working at a community garden that's run by the DC Department of Parks and Rec, and they launched a new composting co-op. At the co-op, they collect compost and train local community members to manage the compost bins. Once I started volunteering at the co-op, I started dropping off my compost at those bins.
I've been doing that for the last year now. I don't have to wait until the weekend to drop it off at a farmers market, plus it's two blocks from my house, so it's a little more efficient.
What is your process for gathering your food scraps?
Right now, I'm putting everything in a freezer. I used to use those green compostable bags. I put them in the freezer, and then once they fill up, I would walk them over to the compost co-op.
But recently, I've realized that those bags aren't great for composting. In the finished compost bin, I noticed that everything else looked great except for these little strings of the bags that had not broken down at all. They say they're compostable, but I think it only works in an industrial facility. So I'm in the process of buying one of those metal buckets that have the filter. Then I'll use that and just skip the bags.
How does it feel to compost? How has it impacted your life?
It’s a really rewarding experience. You’re part of this process of taking something from this very early stage of food scraps and then bringing it through the whole process — moving it from one bin to the next and seeing it change over several months, finally resulting in this pile of compost that goes back into the ground. It's this whole cyclical process that you can see and be a part of. That's been really interesting to me.
Eating Less Meat
When did you start eating less meat and what were your main motivations?
I started around 2022. I was seeing the research and the studies about the impacts of meat on the environment, and that started to get to me. I became more aware of my own eating habits and how often I was eating meat — which was basically every day. So I realized I wanted to make some kind of change.
What was your relationship with meat before? Do you miss it?
I really don't think about it a lot, which is interesting. I don't have any cravings. Maybe that's because I'm not going full vegetarian. If I really want to eat meat, I will. But during the weekdays, when I'm not eating meat, I really don't feel like I miss anything at all.
What were your first steps to start eating less meat?
Whenever I went to the grocery store or when I was planning meals for the week, I decided not to include any meat on my grocery list. That eliminated it from my fridge and eliminated the choice of eating meat at home.
I was still eating meat for lunch when I went into the office a few days a week, or if I was going out to dinner. So I went from eliminating meat from groceries to also eliminating meat from office lunches.
How often do you eat meat now? Why does this cadence work for you?
I eat meat probably two or three times a week, at most. Now I'm able to do the whole work week without eating meat. I've really tried to eliminate beef entirely. It’s very rare that I eat some kind of beef. So if I do eat meat, it's mostly just chicken.
Were there any challenges to finding meatless options when you work at the office?
I found a lot of vegetarian options at the places I was already going to, which was really convenient. I know it's probably not that easy in other places, but in D.C. there are a lot of vegetarian options and salad places.
What has helped you stick with eating less meat?
At the time, my partner also wanted to eat a lot less meat, so we did that together, which was really nice. It's easier when you have someone doing it with you, and you can share the load of coming up with the meals and finding creativity with the types of food you're eating.
More recently, my partner's gone full vegetarian, so that makes it easier for me because I'm not tempted at all.
What are some of your favorite meatless meals that you make at home?
Right now, because it’s cold here in DC, we've been making a lot of soup. In the past, I always put some pork sausage or chicken in there. But instead, I've been doing a lot of soups with beans, lentils, vegetables, and rice. I really don't notice any difference without any meat.
What climate practice are you excited to start in the future?
In the next year, I want to buy a house. I'm excited about putting solar panels on my roof and being able to see what it takes to get them set up, manage them, and then see the impact on the electric bill. Around the same time, I also want to buy an electric car. It’s an exciting option to not have to pay for gas and use a vehicle that I can charge with power from solar panels. I want to have one hundred percent renewable energy, with everything connected to one sustainable lifestyle.