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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.
  • « May 2007 | Main | July 2007 »

    June 28, 2007

    Is Your Sunscreen Giving You a False Sense of Security?

    Sun_tan_3 If it’s not protecting you from UVA, the sun rays linked to skin cancer and immune system problems, it could be.

    According to the latest analysis from scientists at Environmental Working Group (EWG), only 16% of sunscreen products  are both safe and effective (i.e., they'll protect you from sunburn and skin cancer, remain stable in sunlight, and contain few if any ingredients with significant known or suspected health hazards).

    Among the chief concerns:

    * Sunscreens break down in the sun. Parodoxically, says EWG, many sunscreen ingredients break down in a matter of minutes or hours, and then let UV radiation through to the skin.

    * Questionable product claims are widespread. At least 48% of products on the market bear claims that are considered "unacceptable" or misleading under the Food and Drug Administration’s draft sunscreen safety standards. Claims like "all day protection," "mild as water," and "blocks all harmful rays" are not true, yet are found on bottles.

    * Many sunscreens contain nano-scale ingredients that raise potential concerns. Though micronized and nano-scale zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in sunscreen provide strong UVA protection, studies on nanotechnology question their unique, toxic properties. Options available in Europe could replace nano-scale ingredients here in the U.S., but the Food and Drug Administration has been slow to approve them.

    Thumbs UP: Despite these issues, you have at least 128 safe options, according to EWG, including Blue Lizard Australian Suncream SPF 30/Baby, California Baby Water-Resistant Hypo-Allergenic Sunscreen SPF 30-plus and Aveeno Baby Sunblock Lotion Continuous Protection SPF 55.

    Thumb_brown Thumbs DOWN: Sunscreens on EWG’s “Avoid” list? There are 37, including Coppertone Sport Sunblock Lotion SPF 15 and Neutrogena Healthy Skin Face Lotion SPF 15.

    See the entire database of recommendations at Environmental Working Group.

    June 25, 2007

    Let's Party!

    There’s a great new free on-line portal just opening its virtual doors that helps you give a party or go to one … as long as there’s a good intention behind it.

    Party4APurpose.com” bills itself as a “philanthropic catalyst.” In other words, it wants to help people who are organizing any kind of event – birthdays, dinners, concerts, reunions, potlucks, bike rides, and mores – give it greater meaning. Want to raise money for the homeless? Organize a “pick-up party” to clean up the local creek? Invite folks to learn about human rights? The site allows anyone to easily post, create or find charitable events by price, type, purpose, and location.

    Take a look. You’ll find all kinds of “parties,” from free happy hours to poker nights and galas. The one thing they all have in common is some element of greater good. “By creating a platform that makes it easy to party with a purpose any day of the week,” say the site’s founders, “we believe that over time we can have a significant impact on…how individuals socialize and how organizations communicate around their mission.”

    What a great way to promote philanthropy, civic participation, and volunteerism!

    June 20, 2007

    Stop buying toys made in China

    Thomaswoodencat This week’s revelations that toys and jewelry made in China contain high levels of lead  is the last straw. It's time to stop buying toys made in China.

    The story in USA Today about the crisis is particularly alarming. In the last four years, the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued 27 recalls for children’s jewelry made in China due to high lead levels in paint or other health threats. On June 13, 2007, the CPSC recalled 1.5 million Thomas the Tank Engine wooden railway toys produced over the last two and half years because high lead levels were detected in the paint used to decorate the trains. Other toys manufactured in China have been found to contain kerosene.

    USA Today reports that, despite known developmental delays, IQ impairments, and impact on healthy kidney and liver function, the Chinese government told the CPSC that it's unnecessary to limit the lead content in the products it manufactures for kids because it believes much of the lead wouldn't seep out of jewelry so would "do little harm for children."

    Maybe the Chinese didn’t hear about the 20,000 kids who were treated for lead poisoning between 2000 and 2005 thanks to the toys and jewelry they chewed on and, in some cases, swallowed.

    We should not put our kids' health and safety on the line just so they can play with a few trinkets. You can find wonderful alternatives at local crafts fairs or online at our sister site, TheWorldWomenWant.com.

    And next time you visit Toys R Us? Tell them you’re not buying toys imported from China until China shows it cares about kids by getting the lead out of its toys.

    June 19, 2007

    Keep Indoor Air Fresh

    House_2 Keeping our homes closed up against the heat of the summer and to reduce air conditioning costs tends to make the house a little stuffy. Jason Raddenbach of Chimney Balloon USA got in touch to offer a few ways you can freshen things up inside your house.

    "The US EPA says the most energy efficient and cost and energy friendly way to deal with stale air is "Source Control" of indoor pollutants. This essentially means you need to stop doing things that contaminate your indoor air.

    Step 1: Plug the bad air intake spots. Your house is going to tend to suck in air because of the negative pressure created by fans, AC, furnaces, wood or corn burners, or other sources. In the winter time this is more noticeable because this inward pressure manifests itself as cold drafts that are easy to identify. In the summer warm drafts are tougher to spot. Plug up the worst bad air intake spot in your home: the fireplace chimney.

    Step 2: If you are doing an indoor home improvement project that includes painting, sanding, torches, welding, soldering, burning, heat gunning, harsh cleansers like bleach or ammonia, or any other activity that puts something into the air other than your breath...you will be better served to open your home to the outside than to keep it closed up. At a minimum, open up the room you are working in to air it out. If you don't, your return vents suck this in and circulate it through your house repeatedly.

    Step 3: Display your nice paraffin or scented candles but don't burn them. Anything you burn from candles to wood in the fireplace is going to introduce toxins to your air through smoke and carbon. There are some more friendlier soy-based candles that are not nearly as polluting as regular scented candles, but they should be used with a trimmed wick so the flame does not get too long. This probably goes without saying but smoking cigarettes and pipe in the house is horrible for everyone in the home, especially when the house is closed.

    Step 4: Don't bother with tabletop air purifiers or ridiculous amounts of house plants. The US EPA does not certify or endorse air cleaning filters. And third party testing labs like Consumer Reports do not give glowing reviews of any air filter products. As a matter of fact, they have found some filter systems tend to introduce more ozone than is healthy. The US EPA says a small amount of plants helps with carbon dioxide levels but does nothing for air pollutants. Too many moist plants can cause mold issues. When it come to air filters and plants it is best to focus your energy in other ways to make a dent in indoor pollutants.

    Thanks for the tips, Jason.

    For more information, see www.chimneyballoonusa.com.

    June 16, 2007

    Act... with BlogHer

    Bloghersact_0 On June 5, BlogHer asked its members to nominate the “red-hot issue” on which its 11,000 member community could make the greatest difference. Imagine the impact “if every member of BlogHer … focused our considerable brainpower, ingenuity and influence on one red-hot issue,” prodded Elisa Camahort.  “How about if that one red-hot issue was the focus of an organized, year-long campaign to make a measurable difference that this community cares about?”

    June 15 was the deadline for suggestions; the BlogHer website now lists more than a dozen ways we BlogHer members could work together to create real change.

    My recommendation? That we mobilize women to use their consumer clout to pressure companies to be better eco citizens. Women spend $.80 - $.85 of every dollar in the marketplace. We have as much economic clout as Japan – if we use it. A campaign that mobilizes women to become a force in the marketplace could accelerate the transition to a cleaner, greener environment in ways that just won’t happen if we wait for legislation or regulation to work through the system. The additional benefits: once women really take charge of their purchasing power, we can impact every issue we care about: healthcare, education, poverty, war and peace, even who is elected the next president of the U.S.

    We can talk all we want; we can blog until we're blue in the face. We can make a difference -- at least where the industries that pollute are concerned -- by spending our money so it matters.

    June 12, 2007

    Give Organic Farmers a Fair Chance

    Ever wonder why just 3% of the fruit you can buy is free of potentially dangerous pesticides? Or only 2% of vegetables? Or less than 0.02% of corn?

    It’s not a simple matter of “that’s all that farmers grow.”

    Organic farmers competing against conventional agricultural interests (i.e., the ones that use pesticides and herbicides) don’t receive an equitable portion of U.S. tax dollars for research into how to grow organic food more efficiently and economically.  And when it comes to making the transition from conventional to organic, farmers just don’t receive the financial support from the government that conventional farmers get to stay in business.

    Environmental Working Group’s Action Fund is working with Congress to “make sure organic farmers get their fair share of federal funds to improve access to healthy alternatives” like organic fruits and vegetables.

    You can help, by signing EWG’s petition to “Grow Organics.”

    Oh, yeah. Buy some organic peaches, too. 

    Ewg_4 

    June 09, 2007

    The circus leaves town

    This week’s two-ring eco-circus – in Germany and on Capitol Hill – provided another all too pointed reminder of why we need to use our marketplace clout to protect the environment: As they proved once again, the President and our elected officials in Washington, D.C. sure aren’t going to do it for us.

    President Bush had his chance at the G8 summit, where he could have embraced the Europeans’ ambitious proposals to stop climate change. Instead, he refused to commit the United States to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's goal of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions 50 percent by 2050. His “compromise”? He said he’d "consider seriously" adopting such a goal. Consider seriously for how long, and until when, and then to do what? Sounds to me like the President has figured out a way to “talk the talk” but not “walk the walk.” But what do you expect from a Texan who’s all swagger and no substance?

    Cars Meanwhile, at exactly the same time President Bush was dancing the Texas two-step over in Germany, the heads of Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler were on Capitol Hill trying hard to persuade Congress not to improve fuel economy standards. The Senate is considering a proposal to raise average fleet-wide mileage to 35 miles per gallon by 2020 from the current 25, a switch that would help slow global warming, improve air quality, protect kids from asthma, and relieve our dependence on petroleum. Several alternative bills set far less meaningful goals. At least two, including one cosponsored by industry go-to boy Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), let car companies off the hook if the new standards prove too difficult to achieve.

    Clearly, neither the Administration nor Congress have the courage nor the conviction to stop climate change. I suggest we use our clout in the marketplace to give them some backbone. By buying highly fuel-efficient vehicles, compact fluorescent lightbulbs, energy-saving appliances and home energy from wind power and other renewable sources, we can show our "leaders" what leadership is all about.

    June 07, 2007

    Shift your spending to prevent breast cancer

    Breasts A comprehensive review of the scientific research into what causes breast cancer was released last month, and the news isn’t good. It’s not surprising, either: Women face daily and widespread exposure to hundreds of chemicals that can cause tumors in our mammary glands.

    Those chemicals include diesel exhaust, chemicals that are put into personal care products, and plastic softeners. Of the 216 specific chemicals that cause mammary gland tumors either in animals or humans:

    -- 73 have been present in consumer products or as contaminants in food
    -- 35 are air pollutants
    -- 25 have been associated with occupational exposures affecting more than 5,000 women a year
    -- 29 are produced in the United States in amounts often exceeding 1 million pounds per year.

    Fortunately, to some degree, being forewarned is forearmed. According to the study’s scientists, who included researchers at the Silent Spring Institute in Massachusetts, and the Texas-based Susan G. Komen organization, limiting routine exposures — our so-called "body burden" — can  "significantly reduce the risk of cancer for many thousands of women."

    How can we protect ourselves from many of these chemicals?

    We can start by shifting our spending to products that contain less harmful ingredients, including:

    • Personal care products that are free of parabens (often found in preservatives) and phthalates (often found in fragrances).
    • Organic consumer products – not just fruits and vegetables, but cosmetics and body lotions and cleansers as well.
    • Fuel-efficient vehicles and energy-efficient appliances to reduce the combustion of fossil fuels.

    We can also minimize the number of products we use over all.

    Individually and collectively, we can make a difference, and we must. Breast cancer is the largest cause of death in U.S. women in mid-life. While other risk factors — family history, age at menarche and menopause, age of first full-term pregnancy — cannot be easily avoided, chemical exposures can.

    A searchable database of all 216 chemicals, including detailed information on 97 of the most widespread, is available at http://www.komen.org/environment and http://www.silentspring.org/sciencereview. The database also summarizes significant research linking breast cancer and diet, physical activity, body size, environmental pollutants and genetics.

    For non-toxic personal care products and energy-efficient appliances, see the Live Green and Shop Green Here pages of www.biggreenpurse.com .

    June 02, 2007

    Greenwash in a Toothpaste Tube

    Will you get closer to Nature if you brush your teeth with Crest’s Nature’s Expressions? The company sure wants you to think so. Its new marketing campaign offers “a hint of nature with the protective power of Crest.” 

    Just how does Crest slip a little Nature into its tubes?  Mostly, by the power of suggestion.

    Crest_3 The company claims pure peppermint oil gives Crest “a natural peppermint twist.”

    The mint and green tea version seems designed to appeal to the millions of people who drink green tea for its many natural healing properties. (Thanks, but I’d rather drink my green tea than brush my teeth with it.)

    The lemon and mint option wins the prize for bragging it’s “natural” the most times: “Introducing a toothpaste with the fresh, clean sensation of natural lemon extract. With a natural twist of citrus, Citrus Clean Mint gives you a natural clean feeling all day and all night.” All those natural claims seem a little unnatural to me.

    Here’s the topper: Crest’s Nature’s Expressions web site provides 13 tips to help you “Add a little Nature to your life.” But out of the 13, none of them encourages visitors to go outside and actually experience the natural world.

    Tip #10 suggests you “hang a picture of your favorite elements from nature – sea, trees, flowers, animals – where your eyes frequently go. For instance, over the telephone.”

    Tip #12 encourages you to put your pillows outside in the sun to freshen up. Hmmm… what about brushing your teeth outside? At least, you’d be getting outdoors.

    The only thing that’s natural – from an advertising point of view -- about Crest’s new toothpaste is the way the company is trying to capitalize on the green marketing frenzy that’s driving commerce these days.

    Thumb_brown Actually...in my circles, we don't call that natural. We call that greenwashing.

    Thumbs down, Crest.

    June 01, 2007

    The Friday Interview: Mary Hunt on Keeping Green Goods Honest

    Hunt_t230 Mary Hunt is an advocate for environmental sustainability standards and the unique voice behind the "In Women We Trust" blog. She’s just become the Communications Director for Channel Logic, a newly formed rep firm and resource for sustainable furniture. Here's why she thinks environmental standards are so important. In Part 2 of her interview, we'll hear her predictions for how fast the industry can become sustainable.

    1. Everyone seems so focused on simply buying the next green product. You seem to have homed in on making sure those products meet standards that keep them "honest" from a green point of view. Why are standards so important?

    It’s all about honesty and trust.

    Consumers aren't stupid, especially women consumers who have been comparison shopping their whole lives. Frankly, they can see the green smoke and aren't "buying" the message that companies are selling. Part of that comes from living through the last 40 years of environmental activism. They've seen laws ignored over and over. The other part comes from the majority of the population having high speed Internet access. In seconds they can tap thousands of product review sites and millions of bloggers voicing their opinion. That puts consumers in control and companies in the position of having to prove themselves way beyond where they ever had to before.

    Channel_logic_5 Credible standards give companies the guidelines and rules that everyone can literally live with as we struggle to dial back global warming. The best standards conduct a Life Cycle Assessment on products. That means that they measure the environmental impact of the entire product life from raw materials to production to reuse. To keep LCA's honest and believable, they need a third party to audit them.

    As they say, you can't manage what you don't measure. If companies don't measure the CO2 coming from the entire life cycle of a product, whether it's made at one location or 10, how will they know if they are being green or brown?

    2. How did you get so excited about standards in the first place? Where did you see the possibility, the potential impact for standards to make a real difference?

    I worked as a media sales rep for Thomas Register of American Manufacturers during the late 80s and early 90s. My job was to help manufacturers with their print ads, catalogs, and websites. TR was industrial yellow pages, which means everything starts with a key word search.

    The process the industrial buyer went through then is exactly the same process the online consumer is going through now. First a buyer used a key word or phrase to "search" for the product or service. Then they would select 3-4 ads to evaluate. Those 3-4 usually came from being biggest on the page, or the top of the list in the case of the online version.  It was pretty much a gut reaction pattern that we saw repeatedly. Bigger ads or top of the list received the most attention. Once the buyer located choices, then they refined the search by the competency factor: Which product/service could back their trustworthy first impression? Who would they call first?

    This is where it got interesting from a social experiment point of view.

    The biggest company didn't always win. When it came to job shops, the “standards” drove the quality cut. The first standard or qualifier was SPC, Statistical Process Control. Did the company use the process to ensure a higher percentage of quality parts? It was interesting to watch the peer pressure happen. As soon as one company claimed SPC on their ad, the next year almost everyone had it.
    That was followed by TQM, Total Quality Management. Not only did the part have to be in spec, but the entire management of that product line had to be done a certain way. The same thing happened. One company would take the leadership role and soon they rest followed.

    Then the global market opened up with ISO, the International Standards Organization. If a company was certified to ISO 9000 standards, it met the demands of a global market. ISO became the top benchmark, but it was tough to get. The certification process was long and expensive. Some companies couldn't play at that level and they lost market share because of it. Yet, sure enough, one by one the serious players got certified.

    ISO has since branched out to include other environmental certifications. That’s the ISO 14000 series. Like the other ISO standards, it's anchored in processes. It doesn't measure issues that affect irreversible and dangerous climate change, however.

    The point is, every time the bar was raised via a stamp or a standard, market peer pressure brought the other companies in line.

    3. In the end, can we really put any hope in "standards," per se? If they require government action to be implemented, won't we be waiting forever? After all, look how long it took for the organic standards to be passed. 20 years? 30 years?

    That's the beauty of this, we don't have to wait decades for the government to implement standards. The government didn't mandate that manufacturers become SPC, TQM or ISO certified, the market drove that. In the same way, the sustainable standards like FSC, SMART, LEED and many more all are being driven by consumer demand and peer pressure among market leaders.

    The EPA set marketing guidelines in the 90’s. Those don’t measure CO2. They just try to help companies know when they are crossing the line and creating “greenwash.” Most people know “Energy Star” as a label they can trust. Energy Star covers only energy expended in your home, however, not the energy expended to make the appliance.  It was created before we knew what caused global warming.
    USDA Organic is taking off as a standard because thanks to sites like yours, women are learning that organic clothes and foods are not only good for the body, but also low on CO2 production as well.

    As long as consumers demand and buy the current labels, companies will follow the money and use standards to become more competitive. We don’t need all consumers to do this. As little as 1% can set off a tipping point of action.

    EcoCentric Mom
    Everbuying led light
    Green by Answers.com
    GSHNetworkMember125

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