We've Gone Platinum!

by Steve 11. February 2014 07:00

We’re thrilled to announce that GreenChoice Bank’s flagship Green Exchange location, which opened in August 2011, has been awarded LEED® Platinum for Commercial Interiors by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). GreenChoice Bank is now the first community bank location in the Midwest and one of only a few in the country to achieve LEED Platinum, the highest attainable level of LEED certification.

This recognition is twice as sweet, since our flagship branch was designed by our Green Exchange colleagues, Lisa and Ron Elkins of 2 Point Perspective. They’ve been a terrific team to work with, offering visionary ideas and following them through to create a sustainably responsible business location that is a pleasure to work in and visit.

By using less energy and water, LEED certified buildings save money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to a healthier environment for employees, customers and the community. Some of the sustainable features of this location that helped earn GreenChoice Bank LEED certification include:

  • Casework is manufactured by a local, sustainable millwork shop using sustainable woods and finishes.
  • PVC-free desk chairs by Haworth are Green Guard Certified as low emitting and contain recycled content. At the end of their lifecycle, 98 percent of the chairs’ components are recyclable.
  • Break-room furniture and conference room chairs were purchased used and refurbished. The conference room tables and the unique, GreenChoice Bank curved architectural wall are manufactured from reclaimed walnut from a former turkey farm.
  • Many building materials, including carpet and floor tiles, Tectum acoustical panels, acoustical ceiling tiles, gypsum wall board and metal studs are manufactured using recycled content.
  • Use of high-efficiency climate and lighting controls and water-saving plumbing fixtures.
  • ENERGY STAR equipment and appliances are used for at least 90 percent of applicable equipment.

You’re invited to stop in and experience the difference green design and construction can make. Our LEED Platinum flagship branch is located on the first floor of the Green Exchange building, 2545 W. Diversey Ave., Chicago. Hope to see you soon!

Tags:

Green Exchange | LEED | Sustainable Business Community

A Heartfelt Thanks to Our Heroes

by Steve 6. February 2014 14:54

 

We appreciate everyone who took the time during the busy holiday season to bring toys and essays to our branches during our second annual Holiday Heroes drive. It made the holidays happier for dozens of families in need in our Logan Square, Cicero and Lockport communities. New and gently used toys were donated to the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago, Logan Square Club, Lockport’s Toys for Tots and Cicero’s Corazon Community Services.

Mary Johnson, executive director of Corazon Community Services sent a note of gratitude for our community’s support of her organization expressing, “I want to thank all of you so much for reaching out to us and for your generosity toward our Cicero families.”

Over the past few weeks, we had the chance to recognize some of our young Holiday Hero participants for making a difference. Hanna Murphy, age 7, was a winner with the best essay where she expressed how “it’s important to give help and share during the holidays and every day…” Breems brothers Joshua, age 3, Garrett, age 5, and Carlo, age 5, spread holiday cheer with their donation of 15 toys -- the largest number of toys donated by one family.

You can be a Hero by helping others throughout the year. As you’re running errands, stop by our Cicero, Lockport or Green Exchange branch – we’re collecting used eyeglasses and prescription sunglasses for Lions Club International, cell phones for reuse by Cell Phones for Soldiers and used print cartridges with proceeds benefitting local charities through Evolve Recycling.

Thanks for all you do for our community and the environment!


Be a Holiday Hero!

by Steve 2. December 2013 09:00

Our second annual Holiday Heroes toy and essay drive is in full swing, and we look forward to the opportunity it brings to help local families in need and teach our youth to be Heroes for the less fortunate. Help spread the cheer by getting your kids, school group, day care or club involved in this special initiative.

Through Dec. 17, kids can:

  • Bring a new or gently-used, unwrapped toy into any GreenChoice Bank branch for donation.
  • Write an essay of up to 100 words on why it’s important to give, help and share during the holidays and every day.

Kids can do either or both, and we’ll gladly accept toy donations from adults, too!

When a Holiday Hero brings their toy donation or essay to a GreenChoice banker, they’ll fill out a Holiday Heroes deposit slip with their parent or guardian. We’ll tally our Heroes’ toy donations through Dec. 17 and post their essays in our lobbies.

The Hero who donates the most toys and the Hero whose essay is chosen by GreenChoice Bank’s staff will each receive a gift certificate redeemable for up to four movie passes, plus special recognition on our website, in social media and in our e-newsletter. The two winners and their proud parents or guardians will also be invited to a GreenChoice Bank branch where they will be honored for their good work.

All kids who deposit toys and essays will be winners, receiving a smart savers’ worksheet, a treat and the satisfaction of knowing they’re spreading the holiday spirit. Toys and essays are welcome during our lobby hours at all three branch locations: in the Green Exchange at 2545 W. Diversey, Chicago; 5225 W. 25th St., Cicero; and 838 S. State St., Lockport. Toys will be distributed to kids in need through the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago, Logan Square Club, Lockport’s Toys for Tots and/or Cicero’s Corazon Community Services.

Last year’s drive made a difference for many area families and we’re hoping this year’s drive will help even more. Please spread the word with the attached flyer and make it a happy holiday for all!

NO PURCHASE IS NECESSARY TO ENTER. A PURCHASE WILL NOT IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. GreenChoice Bank’s 2013 Holiday Heroes Toy and Essay Drive is sponsored by GreenChoice Bank, 2545 W. Diversey Ave., #106, Chicago, Illinois, 60657. One prize of a gift certificate redeemable for up to four movie tickets (retail value $35) will be awarded to the entrant who donates the greatest number of toys. One prize of a gift certificate redeemable for up to four movie tickets (retail value $35) will be awarded to the entrant whose essay is chosen by the Bank’s staff as this year’s special essay. Odds of receiving each prize depends upon the number of eligible entries received. See the Official Rules, which are also available upon request from a GreenChoice Bank employee, for important restrictions on receipt of prizes and limitations on eligibility.


Getting Back by Giving Green

by Steve 9. July 2013 10:13

One of the most rewarding aspects of working for a B Corp and benefit corp is the partnerships we build with our communities. From the Holiday Heroes toy drive in December and the running shoes and clothes collected at GreenChoice Bank’s 5k for Earth Day in April, to the educational outreach we’ve shared with kids and teens throughout the year, we all get so much back by giving.

This summer, we’re looking forward to painting the town green with our Giving Green Fun Fairs! Free and open to everyone, GreenChoice Bank’s Giving Green Fun Fairs are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the following Saturdays: July 27 at our Lockport branch, Aug. 3 at our Cicero branch and Sept. 7 at our Green Exchange branch. With lots of fun things to see and do, the events kick off at 10 a.m. with a tour, where you can view the cool, sustainable details that went into the branch’s construction – each of which is anticipated to achieve LEED certification. For example, did you know our offices are built with walnut planks reclaimed from a turkey farm and reclaimed Haworth wall systems, diverted from landfills?

At the GreenChoice Bank Giving Green Fun Fairs, you can help reduce landfill waste and pass along items to others who could use them. We will collect your:

  • Documents for safe shredding and recycling by Paper Tiger
  • Used print cartridges and cell phones for recycling and reuse through Evolve Recycling, with the proceeds benefiting local charities
  • Children’s and adults’ prescription glasses and sunglasses, for reuse through Lions Clubs International
  • Cell phones for reuse by Cell Phones for Soldiers
  • Used computers and parts for computer refurbishing, education, internet access and job skills training in the Logan Square community by FreeGeek Chicago. They’ll welcome your LCD monitors, keyboards and mice, video game consoles (and games!), peripheral cards, cables, media, software and manuals. Sorry, CRT monitors, networking equipment and servers, printers, scanners, televisions, photocopiers, fax machines, VCRs, DVD players, stereo equipment and landline telephones will not be collected at this event.

As our sincere thanks for giving green, we hope you’ll stay to enjoy complimentary refreshments, games, face painting and other family-friendly activities. You can also help us make our giving green collection drive a success by spreading the word. It’s a great way for everyone to see first-hand the difference we can all make by giving to others.

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Earth Day

by Steve 22. April 2013 13:04

Being good to the earth is a critical part of what we aim to achieve through a sustainable mission. So we look forward to greeting Earth Day – an annual reminder for us all to take an extra step, by improving our habits and finding new ways to make the future a little greener.

The official Earth Day – today, April 22 – marks the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” and these initiatives for the first Earth Day evolved into the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.

Since then, networks of supporters have helped to build awareness of our environmental issues and what we can all do to make a difference. In the spirit of celebrating and promoting the Earth Day message, GreenChoice Bank has pledged its support as title sponsor of the “GreenChoice Bank 5k for Earth Day” event, Saturday, April 27, in Humboldt Park. With the backing of city councilmen Joe Moreno of the 1st Ward and Roberto Maldonado of the 26th Ward, the event is an integral part of the community's green initiatives and features a solar powered stage, an ambitious recycling program and composting of the event’s waste.

The festivities kick off at 9 a.m. with a family-friendly 5k run/walk and will culminate at the Humboldt Park Boathouse Pavilion, 1301 N. Humboldt Blvd., with a free Green Market featuring local farmers with organic produce, organizations offering opportunities for health and environmental education, great music and family fun.

Here are a few ways event attendees can join the “green” initiative:

Ride share – create a free PickupPal account and ride share to the race. PickupPal members can complete a profile, upload a photo or use Facebook to drive or arrange rides with other members. PickupPal can also help members track the number of rides they have given or received, the number of miles they have traveled through ride sharing and their reduced emissions.

Donate clothes – since the start time can be chilly, race participants are encouraged to bring "sheddable" layers they'd like to offer for donation as they warm up at the race’s step off.

Donate shoes – if you have a gently-used pair or two of running shoes, consider depositing them in the race receptacles – they’ll find a great new home through Ecology Shoes and Nike USA.

We hope you’ll make this an eventful, green Earth Day with your friends and family! Enter the coupon code “GCB” to save $5 off your race registration. Runners and walkers will be invited to pick up their chip, bib race number and reusable tote bag at GreenChoice Bank’s Green Exchange branch on Thursday, April 25 and Friday April, 26 from 4 to 8 p.m.

If you won’t be available to run, walk or celebrate with us, consider contributing your time through a clean-up of one of your local parks or check out http://act.earthday.org/ and see how your greener actions measure up with their carbon calculator.

Have other thoughts on how we can all do good by doing green? Share your suggestions on our blog and on Facebook and together, we can all do great work for the earth!

Use Less, Save More with Energy Impact Illinois

by Steve 18. March 2013 11:00

Did you know Chicagoland homeowners are beating the chill and reducing their bills through the turnkey Energy Impact Illinois (EI2) program? EI2 paves the way for homeowners to make affordable, energy-efficient upgrades – starting with an energy audit and ending with a pre-screened contractor doing quality work at a significantly reduced out-of-pocket cost. The program reimburses up to 70 percent of a homeowner's expenses on the improvements they make, with rebates of up to $1,750 paid directly to an EI2-approved contractor.

We’ve seen many GreenChoice Bank clients (and our bankers, too!) successfully green up their homes through this comprehensive program. By implementing energy efficient measures such as installing whole house insulation or improving the efficiency of their HVAC systems, homeowners will benefit from an average payback period of three to five years.

The EI2 program is simple and streamlined -- providing a custom assessment of each home’s energy weaknesses, evaluating what cost-sensible improvements can be made and hooking up homeowners with quality, program-approved contractors that will get the job done right.

  1. The first step is a low-cost, yet thorough, energy audit of your home, so you’ll learn more about where it’s efficient and where it’s not. Skilled environmental contractors use the latest technology to measure baseline air leakage, find solutions and audit the safety and efficiency of your appliances.
  2. At the end of the audit, you’ll receive findings and recommendations, which include suggested improvements, costs, applicable rebates and projected energy use reduction.
  3. Energy Impact Illinois will pay for 70 percent, with a total of up to $1,750, of the up-front cost of air sealing and insulation. EI2 will guide the homeowner through the process, help with additional applicable rebates, loan applications and tax credits, and ensure the work is completed.to the program’s high standards.

For costs not covered by the EI2 rebate and for a number of other energy-efficient upgrades, financing is available to qualified applicants through GreenChoice Bank. Our financing options include unsecured loans from as low as $1,000 to as high as $10,000, as well as secured loans for amounts greater than $10,000. GreenChoice Bank's EI2 loans can cover up to 90 percent of the cost of installing high-efficiency furnaces and completing other home improvements that reduce energy use when using qualified EI2 contractors. To borrowers, EI2 will also provide a rebate approximately equal to the amount of interest the borrower would pay during their first year of the loan.

With a streamlined application process, a reduced interest rate and the ability to repay the EI2 loan over a period of as long as seven years, energy savings can help quickly offset a borrower’s loan payments. The loan application process is quick and easy, with decisions often made within one day.

GreenChoice Bank's EI2 loan program is a fantastic way for area homeowners (and those with one- to four-unit properties) to make much needed energy improvements while leveraging the expertise of qualified, pre-screened contractors, EI2 rebates and a streamlined lending program. Visit our EI2 page for an application form. In addition to a homeowner's savings, EI2 is a great option to consider during the purchase or sale of a home that is in need of energy improvements. Visit the Energy Impact Illinois website for more info about the program.

To learn more, attend a free EI2 Home Energy Workshop on Saturday, April 27 at 10:30 a.m. at 2 Point Perspective in the Green Exchange building. We’ll have representatives from the EI2 program available to help answer your questions and get you started down a greener path!

 

 

Hooray for Our Heroes!

by Steve 8. February 2013 09:00

With the turn of the New Year in our rear-view mirrors, and the holidays becoming a distant memory, we might lose sight of our resolutions for giving back to the community and those in need. As a registered benefit corporation, GreenChoice Bank knows that living, working and growing in one's community and for one's community year-round is what makes us all stronger and allows us to thrive.

This past December, heroic kids showed us this spirit of community as they participated in our Holiday Heroes initiative, bringing new and gently used, unwrapped toys and thoughtful essays to our branches in Cicero, Lockport and Chicago. Kids received a Holiday Heroes deposit slip from a GreenChoice Bank associate to help track their deposits, and the hero with the best essay and the hero with most toys donated were recognized in the media and invited to a GreenChoice Bank branch for special acknowledgement.

Our hero with the winning essay, Ariana Rodriguez, age 10, of Joliet, wrote, “It’s important to give to kids and people that are less fortunate because you are not only helping them but you are letting them know that someone cares for them.” Pictured above with Green Exchange branch manager, George Caraballo, the Heydenburgs from Buffalo Grove – Riley, 8, Dylan, 9 and Colin, 5 – were recognized for their toy donations. Riley also shared thoughts in her essay, “It makes me feel happy to give something to people who need some help. If everyone helps out, our world would be a better place.” While many children were making wish lists this season, these heroes were thinking of kids whose lists might not have been fulfilled. The toys collected by GreenChoice Bank’s three branches were donated to kids at holiday parties held by Logan Square's Boys and Girls Clubs, Lockport’s Toys for Tots and Cicero’s Mary Queen of Heaven School.

How can we follow these heroes’ examples throughout the year? As you may have read in our Jan. 14, 2013 blog post on benefit corporations, GreenChoice Bank is pledging to use our resources and abilities for public benefit. You can do your part by looking for opportunities to improve the situation of someone or something in your community, even in a small way. Benefit corps believe that our efforts can inspire people and give them the tools to change the world. We can all contribute to this movement if we just remember the wise words Ariana (pictured right) wrote, “We should think of people who are in need all the time and … maybe next year they will be able to help someone else so the gift of giving can on keep going.”

For the Benefit of Us All

by Steve 14. January 2013 07:00

GreenChoice Bank had an exciting first official day of business in 2013, becoming the first bank in the U.S. to register as a benefit corporation (pictured from left, GreenChoice Bank president and CEO, Harold Sherman, and me registering our corporate status at the Illinois Secretary of State's office.) On Jan. 2, GreenChoice Bank was among the first in Illinois to elect the benefit corporation structure – a new type of corporate entity designed to help create high-quality jobs and a more sustainable and inclusive economy. At least thirteen other Illinois companies also have registered or signaled their plan to register.

A benefit corporation is legally required to: 1) have a corporate purpose to create a material positive impact on society and the environment; 2) expand fiduciary duty to require consideration of the interests of workers, community and the environment; and 3) publicly report annually on its overall social and environmental performance using a comprehensive, credible, independent and transparent third-party standard.

Illinois is one of 11 states that have passed a benefit corporation law, which allows businesses to enjoy legal protection to create value for society, not just shareholders, while meeting higher standards of accountability and transparency. Other types of corporations are typically required to prioritize the short-term financial interests of shareholders over the interests of workers, communities and the environment. Similar legislation has passed in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Virginia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Hawaii, Vermont, Maryland, California and New York with strong bipartisan support. Fifteen other states are moving forward for 2013.

GreenChoice Bank believes that by creating valuable social and environmental impacts, while returning value to our shareholders, we are demonstrating that businesses serve a higher purpose and can create a sustainable economy that we are all proud of – an economy that serves the entire community and not just a select, privileged few. By realizing the greater benefit of our choices, we can contribute to an exciting new movement – benefit corps – and by doing this, show that what’s best for the world is also best for business.

Please share your ideas on how to support businesses that are dedicated to the greater good here or on our Facebook page. For a comparison between Certified B Corps and benefit corporations, see our Aug. 30 blog post, “B Corps, Benefit Corps, Better Corps” and for additional background on benefit corporations, including national and local legislative updates, see www.benefitcorp.net. Thanks for your support!

Tags:

B Corp | Environmental | Social Responsibility | Sustainable Business Community

Kids Can Be Holiday Heroes!

by Steve 27. November 2012 13:11

The holiday season can be a time of joy and togetherness for many families, but for those less fortunate, it can be a time of sadness and stress. We’re happy to be able to help with our second annual new and gently-used toy drive. We’re collecting again this year for Logan Square's Boys and Girls Clubs, Lockport’s Toys for Tots and Cicero’s Mary Queen of Heaven School. Last year’s drive made a difference for many area families and we’re hoping this year’s drive will help even more!

This year, we’re taking the holiday drive one step further by asking kids to take the lead as Holiday Heroes. Through Dec. 14, kids are invited to stop into any GreenChoice Bank branch with new or gently used, unwrapped toys and/or an essay they’ve written of up to 100 words, on why it’s important to give, help and share during the holidays and every day. When a Holiday Hero brings toys or an essay to a branch associate, they’ll fill out a Holiday Heroes deposit slip – we’ll be hanging and sharing our Heroes’ essays and tallying each Hero’s toy totals. The Hero with a special essay chosen by our staff and the Hero with the most toys donated will be celebrated in GreenChoice Bank's coverage of the Holiday Heroes promotion! We’ll also contact our Extraordinary Participants and invite them to a GreenChoice Bank branch for a special acknowledgement.

 All kids who deposit toys and essays will be winners, receiving a smart savers’ worksheet, a treat and the satisfaction of knowing they’re spreading the holiday spirit. Of course, we welcome Heroes of all ages to bring in toy donations and help us spread the word! Please take a minute to encourage your favorite Heroes to participate by sharing a link to this blog post on your Facebook page or circulating the attached flyer: GCB_HolidayHeroLgFlyerPRESS.pdf (747.74 kb)

We are grateful to all our friends, customers and Heroes for helping us wish others a happier holiday.

A Sustainable Perspective

by Steve 9. October 2012 07:00

An inspirational customer and neighbor, 2 Point Perspective, is paving the way for sustainable construction throughout Chicagoland. From its offices at Green Exchange, they’re providing uniquely green-minded architectural and interior design services that lead, and sometimes LEED, to elegant, forward-thinking buildings. We spent a few minutes with Lisa Elkins, the firm’s founding architect and LEED AP, who filled us in on some of the exciting new developments in her industry.

What is 2 Point Perspective? How did you come up with the name?
“We’re an eco-focused architecture firm that works on projects targeted to yield less waste, a longer life and healthier living. Since so much of Chicago is already built up, a lot of the work we do requires creative and deep thinking, to figure out how to modify and improve existing spaces. This involves mapping out changes to walls, plumbing, electrical and roofing, to offer the detailed plans a contractor will follow to meet our client’s needs more sustainably. The 2 Point Perspective name reflects that – both sides of every project must come together to make sense –inside and outside, efficient, yet attractive and healthy, yet affordable.”

How does green design and construction differ from traditional methods?
“Our approach examines energy efficiency and materials re-use and recycling, but also goes one step further. With our design team and the project’s contractors working together – we can ensure there's a lot less waste. If we design a room with a 12-foot dimension as opposed to one that’s 12 feet six inches, we can use the industry standard 12-foot carpet roll’s width instead of ruining an additional roll for that extra six-inch strip. We do the same with lumber sizes for studs, where as much as a third of materials are cut on site and thrown away. A study of a California commercial facility showed that the improved lighting and air quality offered by green construction reduced employee absenteeism by 47 percent and increased employee productivity by five to seven percent!”

What are the biggest challenges 2 Point faces?
“When our residential or commercial projects are pursuing LEED Platinum, it can be a bit of a juggling act to figure out how to make all components work together to achieve certification. We had one recent project for a dental office that was striving for LEED Silver, but the systems performed so efficiently, they reached LEED Gold.”

How has the recent economy factored into your business decisions?
“As a sustainably-minded firm, we have the unique ability to keep our clients' budgets in check by reducing waste and building for the longer term. But we have run into situations where people wanted to build, yet had a hard time getting loans. GreenChoice Bank is a really good resource to speak with because they understand the value of supporting sustainable projects – two members of the bank’s management team are LEED APs – and we like that GreenChoice is dedicated to investing back into our community.”

What are some steps 2 Point Perspective takes to be a sustainably-minded business?
“In addition to standard recycling, we have a program in our office where employees bring in batteries and wine corks to be recycled. I’ve made it a point of practicing what we preach on our own home, using it as a laboratory for new ideas and energy savings. We recently completed an attic insulation project through the EI2 loan program, which gave us a 24-percent increase in our home’s energy efficiency.”

We “like” to meet and work with our customers who are passionate about creating a greener future. If your group or organization is interested in taking a tour of 2 Point Perspective’s amazing space, or one of the three branches they created for us, such as the Green Exchange branch pictured here, please leave a comment on our blog and we’ll contact you to set a date!

 

About Us

GreenChoice Bank is one of the only community banks in the country and the first in the Midwest to offer a values-based choice in banking to consumers and businesses. GreenChoice Bank believes in supporting the environmental, social and financial well-being of our communities and the planet through our products, services and operations. In following our bank’s mission, we hope to help make positive change in our communities and the banking industry as a whole.

Chicago  •  Cicero  •  Lockport

and online 24/7 at www.greenchoicebank.com

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