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Its dead of winter but CUs thinking green
MADISON, Wis. (2/3/10)--From tree plantings to paperless promotions, credit unions are embracing green practices that are not only saving them money--but also helping the environment. Last April, People’s Trust FCU in Houston placed its six-page member newsletter online, saving $35,000 by year-end. To encourage readership of its online newsletter, People’s Trust placed three multiple-choice reading comprehension questions on the last page. Readers were invited to answer the questions and enter a contest to win $500. About 600 readers entered the contest, said Patsy Jalomo, business development and marketing manager. The $420 million asset credit union received no complaints when the newsletter went online, but is considering sending paper copies to 4,500 members who have been with the credit union for 20 years or more. One reason for this is because the credit union recently gave members copies of annual reports on USB jump drives, and some older members were not familiar with the technology. “When I think about the older members I feel they might be separated,” Jalomo told News Now. “[The online newsletter] is a great tool for younger members, but we don’t want to leave out the older members.” People’s Trust had sent paper newsletters to its members of 20 years or more in April, but stopped because it had not heard any feedback. Jalomo urged credit unions to assess their membership’s needs when undergoing environmental initiatives. She also emphasized that many individuals want to do business with companies that preserve the environment. Through a tree-planting promotion, OSU FCU, Corvallis, Ore., has encouraged its members to choose e-statements instead of monthly printed statements. For each member who converted to e-statements,
Click to view larger image OSU FCU branch managers (left) Ranelle Crosby, Peter Walker, Jenipher Miller, Nathan Wuerch and Patti Ferry and District silviculturist Evelyn Hukari of the Oregon Department of Forestry planted tree samplings in a 38-acre parcel near Hoskins, Ore. The credit union donated 11,000-trees for the reforestation based on member participation in moving from monthly paper statements to e-statements. (Photo provided by OSU FCU)
the credit union donated $1 toward a reforestation effort by the Oregon Department of Forestry. Members also were entered into a drawing for a Kindle, said Mike Corwin, assistant vice president of public relations and business development. The promotion ran Oct. 8 through Dec. 31 and 3,424 members signed up for e-statements. The $3,424 generated by the signups helped plant 11,000 trees. OSU FCU branch managers helped plant about 60 of the trees at a 38-acre site. “It was a rainy, soggy day, but they had fun,” Corwin told News Now. The forestry department will plant the rest. Members’ response to the credit union’s efforts was positive and has helped further spike e-statement conversion even after the promotion ended. The promotion was “relatively simple,” Corwin said. “This is the thing to do,” he said. “It has benefited us in a huge way.” A team of Redwood CU (RCU) employees joined 100 community volunteers for the first annual Laguna de Santa Rose Tree-A-Thon, a local tree planting effort to help preserve Laguna’s oak woodland ecosystem, restore lost animal habitats and provide food for the area’s native wildlife. Volunteers planted more than 750 trees on a five-acre parcel of land.
Click to view larger image Redwood CU employees recently joined community volunteers to participate in the first annual Laguna de Santa Rose Tree-a-Thon, where volunteers planted 750 trees. The credit union is based in Santa Rosa, Calif. (Photo provided by Redwood CU)
“It was just amazing that we were able to plant so many trees,” said Kate Kelly, assistant vice president of marketing and public relations. Kelly grew up in the Laguna area, so she said she was extremely passionate about the project, which was organized by a fellow credit union employee. RCU--which embraced environmentally friendly practices “before they were in fashion,” according to Kelly--offers several sustainability programs including recycling, paper-free online banking, bill pay and e-statements, loan discounts on qualified hybrid vehicles, and an online green center where members can find tips on energy efficiency and reducing waste. The credit union also has a sustainability committee that meets regularly to consider sustainability practices and how to use less paper and produce less waste. “We are committed to being a leader [in green efforts],” Kelly said. When RCU began offering online statements instead of paper statements, it sent its members e-mails and direct mailings about the benefits--including security, and saving paper and emissions. The credit union targeted members who used online banking but had not signed up for e-statements. “There were great response rates,” Kelly said. To excite employees about green efforts, Kelly suggested creating a culture that values volunteerism. “Employees at RCU are so passionate about their community,” Kelly said. “If you create a culture that values volunteerism, you’ll find that staff is on board [with your initiatives].” RCU, with $1.7 billion in assets, is based in Santa Rosa, Calif.
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