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Green Purse Alerts!

Why My Purse is Green

Because I believe…

  • the fastest, most effective way to stop polluters is by pressuring them in the marketplace
  • women can be the world’s most powerful economic and environmental force if we intentionally shift our spending to the best green products and services
  • women have the power right now to solve many of our most serious environmental problems by using our green purses to make a difference
  • women must act – intentionally, collectively, and with the full force of our purse power behind us – if we hope to leave our children and grandchildren a better world.
  • « March 2007 | Main | May 2007 »

    April 28, 2007

    Thumbs Down: Windex Antibacterial Multi-Surface Cleaner

    Img_antibacterial  With all the havoc that increased resistance to antibiotics is causing in treating disease, why in the world do we need another antibacterial product in the marketplace? Especially an antibacterial window cleaner? Yet that's exactly what S.C. Johnson has introduced: Windex Antibacterial Multi-Surface Cleaner, a product that promises to "kill 99.9% of bacteria" on glass, chrome, mirrors "and so much more."

    Last time I looked, whatever bacteria I had on my glass and mirrors weren't doing me all that much harm.

    In fact, I have never heard of anyone anywhere anytime getting any illness of any kind from any bacteria found on any glass, mirrors or chrome.

    Need to clean your windows? Use a simple - and healthy - solution of vinegar and water and leave it at that.

    Thumb_brown_2 As for the Windex Antibacterial Cleaner? A great big thumbs-down.

    April 22, 2007

    On Earth Day, Think About Your Health

    The link between the state of the environment and women's health is finally getting the attention it deserves, and there's no better day to talk about this than Earth Day. A terrific new Women's Health and the Environment Tool Kit helps explain the connections.

    For example:

    Breast Cancer - Industrial chemicals that act like the hormones estrogen and progesterone may be adding to a woman's breast cancer risk.

    Heart Disease - Air pollution, exposure to arsenic, lead and mercury, and of course cigarette smoking and second-hand smoke make us more susceptible to heart disease.

    Endometriosis - Endometriosis affects 1 out of 10 women in the U.S. Some contaminants that may increase our risk for this condition include dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (pcbs) and radiation.

    Diabetes - A recent study showed that chronic exposure to Bisphenol A, a chemical found in some plastics and food can linings, causes insulin resistance in laboratory animals, leading to Type II diabetes. Other studies showed that exposure to organochlorines (which may be found in pesticides) may also lead to diabetes.

    To download the entire kit, as well as some great tips for action at home and in your community, visit the Women's Health and Environment website.

    April 18, 2007

    Teresa Heinz Kerry Supports Marketplace Change

    Teresa Teresa Heinz Kerry, chair of the Heinz Family Philanthropies, is poised to kick off the annual Women's Health & Environment Conference in Pittsburgh, PA April 20. I caught up with her on her blogtour to ask her opinion on the way women can use their big green purse to protect the planet.

    DM: How important is the marketplace as a venue for environmental change?

    Teresa: The market can change the status quo overnight, and it can either help or hurt the environment.

    For example, when CEOs decide to change their purchasing or investing practices to be more environmentally friendly, it can have an immediate impact on both the environment and how other businesses respond. And, when a CEO is prepared to encourage their workforce to think creatively, to accept a challenge to find ways to cut costs and do it in an environmentally sustainable way, it can result in a win-win outcome.

    Kerrybook In the book John and I just finished, This Moment on Earth, we share the story of Alice Waters, who founded the restaurant Chez Panisse. As Susannah Abbey reports,

    "To supply the restaurant, Waters bought only food grown in accordance with the principles of sustainable agriculture. Since it opened in 1971, the fixed-price menus offered nightly at Chez Panisse have consisted only of fresh ingredients, harvested in season, and purchased from local farmers.

    "By pursuing one goal, Waters has accomplished another: she has successfully established relationships with local farmers and become an integral part of the agricultural community (she serves on the board of one of the farmers' markets). In this way she has demonstrated how a restaurant can thrive while contributing to the general welfare of a community."

    Teresa continued: The markeplace can also be very important for driving change. Purchasing locally grown and organic products drives demand for those products, allowing the producers to thrive and expand, and encourages more producers to enter the market, thus making healthier products available to more consumers.  For the environment, that means lower transportation costs (less pollutants) in the air, and for the consumer it means fresher food.

    DM: What steps can women take in the marketplace to protect themselves from the most serious environmental threats that impact their health?

    Teresa: Understand what you are purchasing by becoming an informed consumer. Check specific websites that can be helpful, such as the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the Environmental Working Group regarding their work on the body burden, and the Nature Conservancy for their Zero Emissions program.

    Next, combine your purchasing power with that of other women and men. In other words, if we are going to successfully bring more environmental, organic and other products into the marketplace, it will take the financial clout of millions of Americans purchasing together. Remember, numbers times dollars equals green power.

    DM: What role can students play?

    Teresa: Take a look at a book that Alice Tepper Marlin produced called Students Shopping for a Better World.

    It's a do-it-yourself guide on how to exercise your power as a consumer to protect the environment, promote equal opportunities for women and minorities in the business world, prevent cruelty to animals and reward corporations that act responsibly.

    I happened to grow up in  real jungle. With the information provided in this book, you will be able to clear a path through the jungle we call the consumer marketplace.  Our goal is to get companies to march to the same tune as their customers and understand the reasons we have for buying their products. Such consumer power will force responsible social and environmental behavior through economics - for a future we can all afford.

    DM: Women seem to be the victim of many ingredients in cosmetics that have the potential to harm our health, from nanoingredients to parabens to phthalates. What advice do you have for women who want to use cosmetics but still protect their health?

    Teresa:  We all need to know what we are using and whether it is safe. Check with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics as well as Environmental Working Group. And, as you are doing that, ask your member of Congress why there is no federal agency responsible for monitoring the ingredients in cosmetics, personal care and household products! Then ask them what they are going to do to help!!

    DM:  Any final thoughts?

    Teresa: As John Heinz said, standing on the steps of the Capitol on Earth Day 1990, "Remember that green is magic...and the color of your money is green.  Use your green magic as if the fate of our planet depends on the decisions you make every day.  It does."

    April 15, 2007

    Be One in a Million

    Wallet_money_2 How can we really make our money matter?

    One way is to focus our spending so that its power can be felt.  That's what the Big Green Purse "One in a Million" campaign is all about. It's encouraging one million women to intentionally shift at least $1,000 of their existing budget to environmentally-friendly products -- for a noticeable ONE BILLION DOLLAR IMPACT in the marketplace.

    You can have the biggest influence by picking one commodity and shifting all $1,000 to it. Some of the most important options (and ones that should be readily available in your neighborhood, as well as on-line) include:

    * organically, locally-grown food (to reduce pesticides)

    * energy-efficient appliances (to stop global warming)

    * phthalate-free cosmetics (to protect your health)

    * fuel-efficient car (to save energy and clear the air)

    * fairtrade, shade-grown coffee (to protect rainforests)

    * non-toxic cleansers (to protect your health, reduce toxins)

    Alternatively, you can spread your spending among the variety of eco-friendly products and services that you need to manage your household.  You'll probably find that you'll end up shifting far more than the initial $1,000 you pledge.

    That would be effective because the key to getting literally the biggest bang for your buck is this: the more money you shift, the bigger impact you'll have.

    Ready to sign up? You can get a free Balance Sheet to help you get started when you join the Big Green Purse One in a Million Campaign.

    April 12, 2007

    Women Wield their Marketplace Clout -- and Imus Feels the Heat

    The uproar over Don Imus' appalling comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team have thrown a sharp spotlight onto how powerful consumers can be in the marketplace -- simply when they stand up for what's right.

    By rebuking Imus' racist, mysogynistic statements, the distinguished women of Rutgers and the men and women who have supported them have literally brought a multi-billion dollar corporation to its knees. More importantly, the women are forcing MSNBC, along with CBS and NBC, to finally confront their tolerance of Imus' 30-year broadcasting history of trash-talk.

    Of course, the networks are talking a little trash themselves. They're giving a lot of lip service to how abhorrent Imus is, even though he really didn't say anything they haven't heard -- and tolerated -- in one way or another over the last three decades.

    What makes it different this time is the fact that, with women standing together and flexing their collective consumer muscle, advertisers got scared enough to start pulling their support from Imus' program. Reported the New York Times today, "Starting this week, large advertisers began telling MSNBC and CBS not to broadcast their ads during "Imus in the Morning." The companies, like Procter & Gamble (a major producer of goods women buy) and Staples, said they were dismayed that their brands had been associated with Mr. Imus's offensive remark."

    Somewhere between $20 million and $50 million in ad revenue is at stake for the broadcasting companies; potentially much more could be lost by advertisers if they continue to support a shock-jock whose foul comments have clearly alienated their biggest customers.

    There's a lesson to be learned here for all of us working to protect the environment but feeling like we have our own "shock-jocks" to stand up to. 

    We have power in the marketplace. When we use it -- individually as well as collectively -- we don't just take the "shock" out of the jock. We force change throughout the entire system that was blithely looking the other way when the jock was doing his damage. Hopefully, that change is what gets us closer to the world we really want to live in.

    So...anybody ready to take on Rush Limbaugh?

    April 10, 2007

    Leading the Bull

    Remember when people used to say, "you've got the whole world in your hands"?

    Not any more.

    These days, we women have the whole world in our purses - or we could, if we'd only change the way we spend our money.

    Big Green Purse contends that women who shift their spending to environmentally-friendly products and services could have a faster, bigger impact on protecting the planet than most of the legislation and regulations environmentalists are trying to pass on Capitol Hill or in statehouses all across the country.

    Why the shift, and why women?

    Industries - the planet's biggest polluters - fight laws and public policies with a ferocity that's every bit as strong as the category five hurricanes that wrecked the Gulf Coast in 2005. Yet as much as manufacturers oppose environmental legislation and regulation, they embrace what happens in the marketplace. They have to. Consumer dollars are their lifeblood.

    Corporate need for profit gives women power. And because women spend $.80 - $.85 of every dollar in the marketplace, we've got a whole planetful of power.

    Or we would have, if we focused it so that it made a difference.

    Unfortunately, until now, women's spending on "green" products has been haphazard and diffuse. Sure some women are buying organic food, non-toxic personal care products, water-saving appliances, and other eco-friendly commodities.

    But overall, do our purchases match the serious level of concern we have for the health of the planet and its related impact on us and our families?

    Not by a long shot.

    In part, that's because there's still a supply and demand problem.

    Despite the ballyhoo about organic produce, only 4 percent of food sold int he U.S. is pesticide-free.  Less than 1 percent of vehicles in the marketplace are highly energy-efficient. Only 2 percent of coffee purchased in the U.S. is "shade grown," meaning it's raised in natural rainforest habitat, rather than in rainforests that have been clearcut and doused with pesticides.

    Bull But there's something more critical afoot.  Amazingly, few women understand that their demands for greener products can actually help increase the supply - that if a woman intentionally used her purse as if it were a bright green ring threaded through the nose of the big black manufacturing bull, she could pull polluting manufacturers in a greener, more eco-friendly direction, and do it far more quickly than most laws and regulations.

    "I can buy wind power not just to meet my energy needs," she'd say, "but also to protect my kids from asthma and ecnourage other utilities to transition away from fossil fuels that cause air pollution."

    "I can buy toxin-free cosmetics not only for their exceptional quality but to assure my own personal safety and force other companies to clean up their incredients."

    "I can buy no-VOC paint not only so my family won't have to breathe nasty chemicals for a week or more after we paint the house, but to encourage other paint manufacturers to eliminate VOCs from their products."

    In other words, "I can get what I need... and get what I want, too."

    Does the "big green purse" idea work?

    Stay tuned...

    April 05, 2007

    Beat the Peeps

    If there's one thing I hate to see on store shelves around this time of year, it's "Peeps."

    These sugar-coated, marshmallow-molded, chick-imitating disasters masquerade as Easter candy. But truth be told, they've got to be the most disgusting option available for a child's Easter basket -- or his tummy, for that matter.

    I've always wondered how long Peeps have been sitting on a store's shelf, protected as they are in their overpackaged cardboard box and plastic wrapping. But it turns out, that's not even the real issue.

    Of greater concern is what these things are actually made of.

    Peeps' parents (i.e., the Peeps manufacturing company) claim they consist primarily of sugar and marshmallow.

    Peeptorture But scientists at Emory University recently tried to melt Peeps...and they failed.

    They couldn't boil Peeps, either.

    Even dipping a purple Peeps chick in liquid nitrogen didn't phase the "candy."

    So...if fire, or liquid nitrogen, or boiling water can't kill a Peep, how can our stomachs really dissolve it? Makes you wonder where a Peep goes once it gets inside you, doesn't it?

    What if you throw a Peep away?  CAN you throw it away? Or, as the Emory experiment implied, is a Peep indestructible? If Peeps do get loose in the environment, how long will they last? No one really knows.

    If you don't want to find out, this Easter, beat the Peeps. Buy some nice organic chocolate instead.

    April 01, 2007

    Are We Bulldozing Medicines Before We Discover Them?

    Aspirin_2 It seems second nature to reach for an aspirin to stop a headache or ward off potential heart disease. We can do so thanks to the stately willow tree, the aspirin’s biological source.

    But what if sources for the medicines that haven’t been developed yet are destroyed before they have a chance to be discovered?

    The notion isn’t farfetched. Rainforests are losing an area about half the size of Florida each year. Temperate groves, like the kind we’re more likely to find in our national forests, are also under siege. So are the wetlands, streams, rivers, lakes, meadows, and plains that harbor thousands of untested but potentially medicinal plants.

    A new study (you can find it in our Latest News column) by the National Cancer Institute reports that at least 70 percent of all new drugs introduced in the U.S. in the past 25 years came from Nature.

    In fact, David Newman and Gordon Cragg, the study’s authors, found that about half of all anti-cancer drugs introduced since the 1940s are either natural products or medicines derived directly from natural products.

    What does this have to do with your big green purse?

    You can help protect Nature and her life-saving plants by spending your money on products that make a difference. Buying shade grown coffee keeps rainforests intact. Choosing recycled paper products reduces the need to clearcut temperate forests. Not purchasing chemical-intensive fertilizer so you can garden organically will protect wetlands and waterways.

    When you use your money to keep Nature alive, ultimately you may be keeping yourself alive, too.

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