Jeff Gallery grew up around farming, soil conservation, and the excavation business and has a long-standing relationship with the Arbor Day Foundation, buying trees from the nonprofit tree-planting organization for more than 25 years.
The relationship came to his workplace earlier this year as, one week into his tenure as USC Credit Union’s chief lending officer, Gallery and Arbor Day joined forces as part of the $724.4 million asset credit union’s “green for green” commitment. The Los Angeles-based credit union and Arbor Day partnered to plant 5,000 trees in Southern California’s Los Padres National Forest.
“There’s a long-term positive impact to the environment and to society in general,” says Gallery, who grew up on a farm in Iowa and embraces environmental protection. “The general rule in farming is you’re a caretaker for the next generation. My relationship with Arbor Day started years ago on a more personal level, planting trees with my sons every year since my first son was born. We now have an opportunity to do that on a larger scale to benefit California, which has been devastated by wildfires.”
The Arbor Day campaign complements USC Credit Union’s expanded clean energy lending portfolio, which it launched to promote green lending and make green living more affordable.
The credit union offers special loan rates for environmentally friendly items such as electric vehicles. But new electric cars can be very expensive, so budget friendly economical vehicles are also included. Members get lower loan rates for vehicles that get more than 35 miles per gallon.
“We’ve targeted electric vehicles and high miles-per-gallon vehicles, as well as e-statements and mobile banking,” Gallery says.
USC Credit Union will introduce solar lending and other green lending initiatives in 2022, plus funding for energy-efficient home improvements.
Members embrace the credit union’s “green for green” commitment and its efforts to address California’s environmental issues.
“The need is there,” says Gallery. “It’s a win-win to be part of reforestation and addressing tree deserts.”
USC Credit Union also wants to make solar power more affordable for members, many of whom live in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods.
“In the long term, solar will benefit people economically by lowering energy costs. But the cost makes it challenging,” Gallery says. “We are a Community Development Financial Institution [CDFI], so we’re going to work with other CDFIs and agencies so we can make solar affordable through our loan programs.”