By Nathan Ham
Piedmont Federal Savings Bank has spent a lot of 2021 coming up with ways to help people in their community.
The bank’s Zero Carbon Footprint Mortgage requires no additional cost, paperwork or obligations and pays for carbon offsets over the first year for all mortgage customers. Offsets such as these will pay for programs that are working to produce energy from renewable, greener resources, programs that are handling methane gas at farms and landfills and even programs that are working to improve forest management.
“One of Piedmont Federal’s lynchpins of our mission is to nurture a better quality of life for our community. As the environment becomes a bigger issue, we started to think about what were some ways we could make a difference. The carbon-neutral mortgage was born out of looking at this,” said Ginger Salt, the Chief Experience Officer for Piedmont Federal Savings Bank.
Piedmont Federal has partnered with a company named Terrapass, which has been a leader in the carbon offset field since they were founded in 2004. The goal of the mortgage program is to raise awareness of some of the issues that are currently affecting the environment. This is particularly important in areas like Boone and the High Country where nature and the environment are some of its most valuable commodities.
After the first year of the mortgage, there is no obligation for homebuyers to take over purchasing the carbon offsets. They can choose to do that through Terrapass on their own if they would like.
“With our program, we pay for the first year to keep them carbon neutral. The energy that is used generates a certain amount of carbon. If you have four people in the home, in that first year if you estimate the amount of carbon that is emitted, what we do is pay for programs that offset that,” Salt explained. “What we hope is that our customers get engaged in this and continue the partnership in year two and beyond.”
The projects funded by carbon offset programs cover a wide range of efforts to improve and project the environment. Many projects help with water restoration to lakes and rivers with the most efficient use possible of water resources. Renewable energy projects augment other energy sources while creating jobs. Forests are restored, preserved, and their use and management improved. Other programs capture methane gas and then use it for energy production. In short, the list of projects reads like a great set of efforts everyone can be excited about across a wide range of environmental objectives.
Another program instituted by Piedmont Federal Savings Bank is providing students at Watauga High School and other schools across Wilkes and Forsyth counties with free financial literacy educational resources.
Students at 10 schools and the surrounding community will now have free access to Banzai, an award-winning online program and content library that allows users to practice real-world finance from the safety of their home or classroom using any internet-enabled device. At a time when a solid foundation of practical financial knowledge is critical, these resources will make a huge impact on users.
“This program can be for both schools and online audiences at any age. The schools that choose to participate we support with materials through Bonzai. We will go on-site and talk to their classrooms. It’s a great program and of course, we bring our real-world experiences when we go in there,” Salt said. “We really enjoy getting out to talk with the schools. Kids today are a lot savvier about where their money comes and goes. Many of them have part-time jobs and many also contribute to the family income.”
Through the Banzai online courses, students try out managing a budget, saving for a goal, and dealing with unexpected financial pitfalls. Teachers can easily monitor and grade student progress remotely. Other resources, which include articles, calculators, and personalizable Coach sessions, explain everything from the basics of filing your taxes to how health insurance works. These resources are available at piedmontfederal.learnbanzai.com.
“Thanks to Piedmont Federal Savings Bank, area students will now have access to a wide array of courses and resources designed to help prepare them for our increasingly complex world,” says Morgan Vandagriff, co-founder of Banzai. “We wouldn’t be able to provide these tools without their support.”
For 2 years, Piedmont Federal Savings Bank has worked with Banzai to build financial literacy
in the Forsyth County community by investing time, money, industry experience, and a variety of bank resources. Now, they’re taking their commitment to education a step further. Through their help, students have access to Banzai learning tools, virtual or in-classroom presentations from a Piedmont Federal Savings Bank expert and even class visits to a branch to see it all in person.
Banzai resources are used by over 72,000 teachers across the U.S. These educational tools align with North Carolina’s state curriculum requirements, making the program a fun way for students to gain vital skills and an ideal way for anyone in the community to increase their financial literacy. After finishing the Banzai courses, users will know how to track where their money is and what it’s for, recognize financial trade-offs, and plan for a financially sound future.