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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.
  • « September 2007 | Main | November 2007 »

    October 26, 2007

    Women Want a Better Light Bulb

    Collection_of_cfb What environmental purchase worries you most? If you’re anything like the hundreds of women I’ve met during my speaking engagements this month, it’s compact fluorescent light bulbs. Why? Because they contain a minuscule amount of mercury.

    But let’s back up a minute.

    I’ve criss-crossed the country over the last few weeks as the featured “green living” expert at the Texas Conference for Women, Toyota’s “In the Interest of Women” Conference, and the American Bankers Association Annual Convention, where I spoke to spouses of convention attendees.

    Many of the people I met were startled to learn that women collectively spend eighty-five cents of every dollar in the marketplace. They were even more energized by the idea that they could use their economic clout to force manufacturers to produce eco-products. Which brings us back to the light bulb. Women want a better, safer bulb.

    Tex_conf_2Aba_2Twclogo_2 In every one of the seven seminars I’ve given over the last three weeks, women have expressed reservations about buying energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs.  Some women say they just won’t buy them until the mercury is completely removed. Others said they bought the bulbs, took them home, couldn’t bear to install them, and returned them to the store.

    What women don’t know is how little mercury the bulbs contain, especially compared to the alternative: the mercury emitted by coal-fired power plants when they create electricity to power incandescent light bulbs. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, CFLs contain an average of 5 milligrams – about the amount that would cover the tip of a ballpoint pen. (By comparison, older thermometers contain about 500 milligrams of mercury. It would take 100 CFLs to equal that amount.) Coal-fired power plants generate twice as much mercury to keep incandescent light bulbs burning.

    Neolite Bulb manufacturers have committed to reducing mercury in bulbs by the end of 2007. Neolite, an Energy Star-certified company, already manufactures a bulb that contains only 1 milligram of mercury, yet still uses up to 75% less energy than an incandescent lamp. Efficient LEDs (light emitting diodes) do not contain any mercury at all.

    Of course, you can help prevent any of the mercury in the bulb from escaping into the environment by handling it properly. Be somewhat careful when taking the bulb out of its packaging. Hold it by its base – not the glass -- when screwing and unscrewing it. For more handling tips, see http://earth911.org/mercury/.  Rather than throw CFLs in the trash when they burn out (which won’t be for 7-10 years), contact www.epa.gov/bulbrecycling/  to find a nearby recycling location.

    To save energy, slow climate change, and reduce mercury build-up in the environment, energy-efficient lights win over incandescent bulbs hands down.

    October 12, 2007

    Get the Lead Out ... of Your Lipstick!

    Lips According to new product tests released today by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, lipstick manufactured in the United States and used daily by millions of American women contains surprisingly high levels of lead.

    More than half of 33 brand-name lipsticks tested (61 percent) contained detectable levels of lead, with levels ranging from 0.03 to 0.65 parts per million (ppm). None of these lipsticks listed lead, a dangerous neurotoxin that can cause learning disabilities, as an ingredient.

    “Lead builds up in the body over time and lead-containing lipstick applied several times a day, every day, can add up to significant exposure levels. The latest studies show there is no safe level of lead exposure,” said Mark Mitchell, M.D., MPH, president, Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice.

    According to the tests, which were conducted by an independent laboratory during the month of September, one-third of the tested lipsticks exceeded the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 0.1 ppm limit for lead in candy – a standard established to protect children from directly ingesting lead. Lipstick products, like candy, are directly ingested into the body. Nevertheless, the FDA has not set a limit for lead in lipstick, “which fits with the disturbing absence of FDA regulatory oversight and enforcement capacity for the $50 billion personal care products industry,” said the Campaign.

    Fortunately, the tests also identified lead-free lipstick brands: 39 percent of lipsticks tested had no detectable levels of lead. In fact, some less expensive brands such as Revlon Superlustrous Bed of Roses ($7.49) had no detectable lead levels.

    Unfortunately, it is impossible to tell from product labeling which brands contain lead and which do not. Review complete test results in the full report, “A Poison Kiss: The Problem of Lead in Lipstick,” posted at www.SafeCosmetics.org. Then Use Your Purse to buy the safest possible brand.

    Thumb_brown The following lipstick brands had higher lead levels than others tested:

    -L’Oreal Colour Riche “True Red” – 0.65 ppm
    -L’Oreal Colour Riche “Classic Wine” – 0.58 ppm
    -Cover Girl Incredifull Lipcolor “Maximum Red” – 0.56 ppm
    -Dior Addict “Positive Red” – 0.21 ppm

    October 06, 2007

    Clearing the Air

    Fear of consumer backlash has motivated Walgreens Drugstores to withdraw three air fresheners that contain chemicals which may affect hormones and reproductive development, particularly in babies.

    Walgreens' action was taken after an analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental and health organizations showed that 12 of 14 brands tested contained hormone-disrupting chemicals known as phthalates. Only two, Febreze Air Effects and Renuzit Subtle Effects, contained no detectable levels of these chemicals.

    Products that tested positive included ones marketed as “all-natural” and “unscented.” The three with the highest level of phthalates were Walgreens Air Freshener, Walgreens Scented Bouquet, and Ozium Glycolized Air Sanitizer.

    The federal government does not currently test air fresheners for safety or require manufacturers to meet any specific safety standards.

    “More than anything, our research highlights cracks in our safety system,” said Dr. Gina Solomon, NRDC senior scientist.

    “Consumers have a right to know what is put into air fresheners and other everyday products they bring into their homes,” Solomon added. “There are too many products on the shelves that we assume are safe, but have never even been tested. The government should be keeping a watchful eye on these household items and the manufacturers who produce them.”

    NRDC and its colleagues filed a petition calling for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission to assess the risk air fresheners pose to consumers. Air fresheners are not tested for a variety of chemicals, including phthalates, says NRDC, because the government does not require it.

    “Manufacturers are getting away with marketing products as ‘natural’ when they’re not, and that’s because no one is stopping them,” said Mae Wu, an attorney in NRDC’s health program. “Our research suggests this could be a widespread problem in a booming industry that – so far – has been allowed to do what it wants.”

    TFebrezehough Walgreens removed its products from the shelves, other phthalate-bearing air fresheners remain. You can use your purse to keep the pressure on by switching to a phthalate-free alternative like Febreze Air Effects Air Refresher or Renuzit Subtle Effects. (Don’t forget to add that purchase to your “One in a Million” bottom line!).

    Better yet, stop using air fresheners altogether. To air out a room, open a window, use fresh flowers or try a potpourri made from herbs and dried flowers.

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