Green Banking: New Mexico's Permaculture Credit Union
by Doug Pushard

The history of financial institutions is one of focus on the bottom line which results in overexploitation of the earth's resources. In New Mexico, however, we found a new kind of financial institution, one dedicated to green banking.

Permaculture Credit Union (PCU) utilizes a unique strategy of combining sound financial business practice with earth care ethics to supply its members with a growing set of financial services.

PCU was established to allow its members to share their excess with other members of like mind who would use it for sustainable projects and, at the same time, take care of the Earth.

The People of PCU : (L-R) Susan Coulter, Chair; Bill Mollison, Founder; and
Donald Sarich, President


In 1997, members of the permaculture community from Santa Fe, New Mexico were attending a think-tank meeting in California and got the idea to form a financial institution geared towards promoting eco-friendly lending practices.

Over the next three years the organizing members met frequently and developed a business plan suitable to secure the necessary $100,000 per account insurance to get started.

Now eight years later, the Permaculture Credit Union (PCU) is not only real, it has assets of over $2.7M and loans outstanding of $1.9M.

The "Sustainability" Discount

Not just words, but in deeds, the Permaculture Credit Union (PCU) offers a .75% (3/4%) Sustainability Discount Program for customers that use their loans for green improvements.

These include:

  • home energy efficiency upgrades
  • renewable energy generation
  • permaculture landscaping
  • water catchment and delivery
  • farm machinery
  • fuel efficient automobiles (.75% for vehicles that achieve 35mpg average and an extra .75% discount for vehicles that exceed 45 miles per gallon average.)

"We are excited about our new Sustainability Discount Program, says Don Sarich, PCU President and CEO. "We think it is a unique offering and it has generated a lot of member interest and in fact has become one of our most popular lending programs."

Results :
a cistern project funded by the PCU's
Sustainability Discount Program

The PCU started Sustainability Discount Program loans in 2002 and has issued several loans for water-catchment systems. Some of the loans have been solely for rainwater systems; whereas, others have been home equity loans of which a portion was used to finance rainwater catchment system.

The Permaculture Credit Union's efforts were recently recognized Social Investment Forum Foundation (SIFF) and Co-op America in their top 10 list of socially responsible institutions.

Over 50% of the PCU members are non-New Mexicans residents. Loans are granted to members that share the same eco-friendly vision as the Permaculture Credit Union.

PCU fully understands rainwater catchment systems as well as other eco-friendly building methods and so members spend less time educating and more time determining the best loan to help them achieve their dream.

The PCU is a state chartered and federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration, a U.S. Government Agency. For more information on how to become a member of PCU or apply for a loan visit www.pcuonline.org or call 866.954.3479.

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