Questions for “How we choose to pay has hidden costs for the planet”

These banknotes represent just some of the many types of currency people use to pay for things. Money in all its forms has environmental impacts. That’s especially true for the virtual type known as cryptocurrency.

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To accompany feature “How we choose to pay has hidden costs for the planet


Before Reading:

1. You decide to buy a new videogame console. There are many ways you can pay for it. List as many of these as you can.

2. Among coins and banknotes (paper or plastic bills), which do you think has a higher environmental cost? Explain why.

During Reading:

1.  What is a life-cycle assessment? In terms of money, what would it include?

2.  Why does Peter Shonfield think it’s important for people to know the life-cycle costs of various types of money?

3.  Describe as many steps as you can in the life-cycle of a penny.

4.  When did Great Britain switch to plastic banknotes? Which did Shonfield find was “greener” — the new banknotes or the old type? Which features of the better bills made them apparently “greener?”

5.  Nicole Jonker found which types of Dutch currency have the biggest environmental impacts? What did her research show was the role of ATMs in the environmental impacts of money?

6.  What are the environmental costs associated with credit and debit cards? Why does Uwe Trüggelmann argue that it probably does not make sense to recycle these cards when they’re no longer needed?

7.  An assessment of the environmental costs of Dutch debit cards by Jonker’s team found that each debit-card transaction had a climate-change impact equivalent to what? Does Jonker find that debit cards are ultimately good or bad for the environment?

8.  Give an example of a digital currency. These currencies have no physical presence. Yet they have substantial environmental impacts. Why?

9.  What are CBDCs and how do they differ from cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin?

10. Give at least three ways consumers can limit the impacts of their payments for products and services.

After Reading:

1.  Read about cryptocurrency mining. Why is it important where the “mining rigs” for this currency are sited? How can the source of power for mining vary in its environmental impacts?

2.  In many instances, the costs of money are paid largely by people in the nations that issue the money or that set up the payment networks. When might that not be the case? When the environmental costs of your “money” are being paid mostly by people in other nations, is that fair? Working with a partner, think up a way in which you might make those payment systems more fair to all countries.