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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.
  • « June 2009 | Main | August 2009 »

    July 31, 2009

    Lunch Boxes Should be Safe & Environmentally Friendly

     Lunchbug_jungle-L  As if we parents didn't have enough to worry about! Not even the kids' lunch boxes are safe!! What do you need to know -- and what's my secret tip for getting kids to actually reuse a safe, environmentally friendly lunch box like the one pictured here?

    What You Need to Know: Research commissioned by the Center for Environmental Health in Oakland, California showed that the lining in some kids' lunch boxes contained high levels of lead. Lead can harm children even in minute amounts because it hinders brain development and can cause a variety of behavior and other developmental disorders. Children may be exposed to the lead in lunch boxes if they eat food that's been exposed to the box directly or if they handle the boxes and then put their hands in their mouths.

    Because you can't tell by appearance whether a vinyl lunch box may contain lead, CEH advises parents to avoid buying vinyl lunch boxes altogether. You can test any vinyl lunch boxes you already own using a hand-held lead testing kit. If your hardware store doesn't carry one, you can find one from LeadCheck. Better yet, pack your kids' lunch in a safer alternative:

    Alternatives: 

    Continue reading "Lunch Boxes Should be Safe & Environmentally Friendly" »

    July 28, 2009

    Environmental In-Box: Feelgoodz Flip-Flops

    Flip flop “Mai Pehn Rai” is Thai for “It’s cool, no worries, or take it easy.”  What a spot-on mantra for a company that makes flip-flops.  Meet Feelgoodz, whose "take it easy" style complements perfectly its socially responsible and sustainable business model.

    What is it? Feelgoodz flip-flops are made of 100% natural rubber that's harvested from the Yang Para tree in Thailand, where the flip-flops are also produced.  Biodegradable and 100% recyclable, these comfortable flip-flops come in 5 different color combos and are available worldwide through their website. I particularly like the "Twilight" choice, pictured left, which Feelgoodz has designed especially for brides looking to be comfortable at their weddings!

    What I like: Feelgoodz flip-flops are made from biodegradable natural rubber, hemp, bamboo, and recycled paper; its display hangers are recycled, too.  The company belongs to the Ashoka network, a global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs.  Through their relationship with Ashoka, Feelgoodz has developed a plan to donate 1% of profits to the planet, 1% to the Fair Trade Natural Rubber Program in Thailand, and 1% to the Phitsanulok community that inspired founder Kyle Berner when he worked there several years ago.   I’ve been wearing a pair of the "moon" flip-flops for several weeks, and find the rubber to be very soft and cushiony.  They have not completely molded to my feet just yet, but it is clear from the softness of the rubber that they will.

    Flip flops What could be improved? Because Feelgoodz is a very young company, you can only purchase their products in a handful of retail stores in Louisiana, Hawaii, Oregon, and Maine.  We'd like to see them replace the throwaway flip-flops found in most big-box outlets.  The website is confusing: it shows a great variety of color combos, but only sells five options. Are those coming soon? Hard to say. The company claims the product is recyclable and biodegradable, but where's the proof? If I wanted to recycle my Feelgoodz flip-flops, where would I send them? How long does it take for them to biodegrade? Back up the claims, please.

    Continue reading "Environmental In-Box: Feelgoodz Flip-Flops" »

    July 20, 2009

    Environmental In-Box: Softlips Pure Organic Lip Conditioner

    Lips Are you paying attention to your lips?

    Considering how many times you lick them each day, maybe you should. Many conventional lip products are made from ingredients you'd never DREAM of wiping your tongue on, like pesticides, dyes, and parabens. Lipstick may even contain lead. Ewww!

    Good news: Conventional cosmetic companies like Softlips are extending their product lines to include pure organic lip conditioners in a variety of flavors.

    About the Product: Pure Softlips is USDA Organic Certified. It's made of 100% natural ingredients, 95% of which are organic. You can get it in five different flavors, including Acai Berry, Honeydew, Papaya, Pomegranate, and Peppermint.

    Softlips What We Like: In addition to the fact that Softlips uses certified ingredients, its price is comparable to conventional products (see below) and it's easy to buy in many retail outlets. Pure Softlips is cruelty free (animal testing is not conducted). In addition, the balm is sold in recyclable materials that include a minimum of plastic and are printed with vegetable-based ink. It's not too greasy but still leaves lips feeling soothed. The flavors are pleasant, and the fragrance is not overwhelming.

    There are no dyes or tints in Softlips, so don't expect it to impart anything more than a subtle shine - which is just fine if you're planning to pucker up and don't want to leave any evidence behind.

    Are you are allergic to gluten? Softlips pure organic lip conditioner is gluten-free (other lip glosses may list wheat as an ingredient). 

    What We Don’t Like: Softlips' entire product line needs the same make-over it's given to its "Pure" brand. The company's standard products contain nasty compounds like petroleum, toluene and parabens. That's a no-no for Big Green Purse fans. We hope the company will raise its entire product line to "Pure" standards.

    Plus, five of us in the office tried different Pure Softlips flavors. We all liked the tastes - but we found the applicator tube itself way too small...and not because we have big lips! Softlips could double the size of the applicator, make the product last twice as long, and reduce packaging that comes from having to buy two applicators rather than one.


    Product Comparison:

    Continue reading "Environmental In-Box: Softlips Pure Organic Lip Conditioner" »

    July 17, 2009

    Environmental Action is Easy With Our New Tool Bar

    Toolbarpic1 Waste less time searching the Internet for environmental ideas and links. Use the new Big Green Purse tool bar for direct and easy access to all things green, including:

    * hand-picked links to save you time and money

    * Google-powered search to make finding green product reviews, shopping links, and lifestyle tips fast and easy

    * Alerts to your desktop via our frequent blogposts

    * Easy-to-find info especially on organics, recycling, Fair Trade, and energy.

    We've done the research so you don't have to! Download your tool bar in seconds, and save hours looking for information that's already on Big Green Purse.

    July 16, 2009

    Top Ten Ways to Support Fair Trade

    "Fair Trade" refers to the way products are grown or manufactured. Fair Trade principles ensure that:

    * laborers are paid a decent wage for their work

    * children have not been forced into abusive labor practices

    * farmers use sustainable agricultural practices that minimize pesticide use and promote soil and water conservation, and manufacturers generally reduce use of toxic chemicals and reduce, reuse, and recycle as much as possible

    * producers democratically participate in their own enterprises.

    That makes sense, right? What's sometimes not so obvious is how you can support Fair Trade in your daily life. These ten tips will get you started.

    FTCLogoR 1) Look for the Fair Trade certified label. The label guarantees that the producer has met meaningful, independent standards set by TransFair USA, the only third-party certifier for Fair Trade products in the U.S. market.

    2)  Look for Fair Trade products where you shop. Wegman's, Ben & Jerry's, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Starbuck's, Caribou Coffee, Dunkin' Donuts, Costco, Giant, Sam's Club, Safeway, and Target are among the many retailers that offer a variety of Fair Trade certified products. If you don't see Fair Trade, ask for it. Store managers may not be aware that Fair Trade products exist, or that you want to buy Fair Trade. If you don't see Fair Trade products on store shelves, tell the store manager what you're looking for and why. Ask the store manager to give you a date when you can expect to see the product on the shelves.

    3) Shop online. Equal Exchange sells delicious chocolate and coffee and other foods that are not only fair trade certified, but certified organic as well.  World of Good is an EBay site that offers a wide variety of fair trade certified products.  Ten Thousand Villages works with over 130 artisans to offer fair trade certified jewelry, home decor, clothing and gifts.

    Choose the following Fair Trade products when you shop:

    4) Coffee

    5) Tea

    6) Cocoa and chocolate

    7) Rice

    8) Bananas

    9) Flowers

    10) Sugar

     

    Here's more information on why certifications are so important.

    Don't miss the Big Green Purse shopping principles.

     

    By Sophia Bambalis.

    July 14, 2009

    Get an (Environmental) Move On!

    Moving kit  Moving from one home to another is not a low-impact activity. If you're relocating from one coast to the other, you could use as much as 120 pounds of cardboard and generate 5,000 pounds of climate-changing carbon dioxide. Even moving from one side of your state to another could have a 500-pound carbon impact, given the fuel burned by moving vans and the resources you use to pack up all your stuff. 

    How can you make you move more eco and less yecch?

    • Don't move what you don't need; to unload unnecessary stuff, donate to Goodwill or the Salvation Army; have a yard sale; freecycle.

    • Save newspapers in advance of your move to use as packing paper.

    • Pick up discarded boxes from local stores.

    • Pack things in suitcases or containers you are also moving to save space and reduce the number of throwaway boxes you use.

    • Use the right size truck. A too-larger truck wastes energy. A truck that's too small may need to make too many trips.

    • Recycle boxes and packing materials after you unpack.

    SUPPLIES
     
    These environmentally-friendly packing materials will help make your move greener:

    • Recopack - from rentagreenbox.com: 100% recycled plastic boxes come in 3 sizes that can be rented for 14 days. They're delivered and picked up by a truck that runs on waste vegetable oils and bio-fuel and using dollies made from recycled soda cans
    o $299 for 100 boxes for 2 week period ($99 per extra week)
    o Zip-ties made from 100% recycled plastic eliminate need for packing tape

    Eco box • Ecobox - sells used boxes in various shapes and sizes; they also sell moving "kits" with enough boxes and tape to accommodate anything from a 1-bedroom apartment to a 4-bedroom house. 
    o No minimum order
    o Same day, low cost shipping

    Frogbox • FrogBox - British Columbia and Puget Sound, WA

    o  A lot like Recopack; just local to the Pacific Northwest

    Used cardboard boxes • UsedCardboardBoxes.com
    o Sells all sizes of used boxes, though "brand new" packing tape and bubble wrap
    o Free shipping for any of its kits, ranging from a studio or dorm room to a 10 bedroom home or comparable office space
     

    MOVING COMPANIES

    • Green Wheels Van Lines
    o For personal, corporate, government/military, or international moves
    o Will deliver recycled packing materials to your door
    o Uses alternative energy 
    o Approved as a SmartWay Partner by the EPA
     
    • Green Movers USA
    o Aims to be a network of all moving companies that use eco-friendly practices
    o Awards movers one-four trees, depending on their efforts to reduce waste, save gas, and use alternative fuels

     
    Gogreen moving • Go Green Moving Co.
    o Based in southern California, uses bio-fuel in trucks
    o Provides rentable crates
    o Uses 100% recycled plastic moving pads

    NOTE: Green Van Lines claims it makes the world greener "one move at a time," but there's no evidence on its website that the company uses energy-efficient or alterntively fueled vehicles, or supplies its customers with recycled packing materials that minimize waste.

    Have you moved recently? Let us know what you did to make it eco.

    By Katie Kelleher

    July 13, 2009

    Environmental In-Box: Barely Native Soap

    “Invigorate the way nature intended.”  That’s the motto of Barely Native soaps and after trying the soap myself, I have to say, I feel pretty fresh. 

    Barely native soap What is it? Barely Native Organic Soaps are entirely plant-based bar soaps.  They contain no artificial fragrances, dyes, or preservatives.  The line of 12 soaps is made with ingredients like coconut, palm, sunflower, and safflower oils.  Berries, fruits, or herbs provide natural colors and gentle skin cleansers. 


    What I like:  The soaps are certified USDA Organic products, cruelty-free, and contain no parabens. 

    Barely native soap wrappedThey're wrapped with recycled wallpaper scraps salvaged from material that would otherwise go to a landfill and marked with a very small label.  The pure essential oils make the soaps very fragrant and the natural glycerin retained in the handmade process keeps your skin soft after use.  I used a bar of the Thyme soap and was left smelling great and feeling moisturized.   For ultra-sensitive consumers, Barely Native produces a version sans fragrance and coloring.  If you join the company’s Soap of the Month Club, you can receive a bar of each flavor of soap on your doorstep every month.

    What could be improved? Because Barely Native is a small company, it appears you can only order the soap online.  Plus, it is a bit pricey. One barcosts $5.95. Unless you buy six or more bars of the product, you must pay a five dollar shipping cost, bringing the total for one bar of soap to $10.95. Ouch!

    Continue reading "Environmental In-Box: Barely Native Soap" »

    July 12, 2009

    Can Pepsi Learn From 7-11?

    The Pepsi company has an impressive sustainability effort underway. It's working on improving the packaging of its snack brands like FritoLay so the bags can biodegrade quickly once they're thrown away. Pepsi is reducing the carbon footprint of its production factories and offices. The beverage giant is encouraging employees to adopt personal sustainability goals. I spoke at the FritoLay headquarters for Earth Day, and was impressed at the many steps being taken to save energy and reduce waste. (Full disclosure: They gave out a couple of hundred copies of my book to employees.) Pepsi is also working with entrepreneurs like Terracycle to capture single-serving snack bags from school lunchrooms and recycle them into a variety of other consumer products. Matt Smith, of Frito Lay's Social and Environmental Sustainability department told me that, with guidance from uber-enviro Al Gore, the company wants to be the most sustainable enterprise in the world.

    Ecofina_600-590x393 How, then, does bottled water fit into the equation? Pepsi continues to push bottled water as a greener, cleaner alternative to much cheaper tap water. At my Earth Day presentation, I was amazed to note that virtually everyone who attended brought a bottle of Pepsi's water with them. Yes, it was in the new "Eco-Fina" bottle, which they say is made using 50% less plastic than their conventional AquaFina bottle. Still, it made me wonder: why are thousands of people in the company drinking bottled water every day when they can get healthy water from the tap?

    It's not like bottled water has been a public relations boon for Pepsi. To the contrary, Eco-Fina bottle or no, Pepsi has taken a lot of heat from green mom bloggers, social justice advocates, and consumer groups who feel that bottled water is an environmental nightmare. Pepsi has made some strides in reducing the environmental impact of the bottle, but still: they're selling water, a local resource that is becoming more and more scarce in communities grappling with drought, burgeoning populations and unchecked development.

    Is Pepsi likely to abandon selling a product that generates millions and millions of dollars in revenue each year? Not unless there's a compelling alternative -- or competition. So how about this:

    Get Pepsi to follow the example of cleaning companies like Arm & Hammer, which sells one empty bottle, plus cartridges of cleaning concentrate the consumer can mix with water at home. Couldn't Pepsi sell a reuseable bottle that could be refilled at convenience stores and restaurants as well as at home? If Pepsi is mostly interested in selling water, it can market an in-store dispenser so people can fill up their reusable water bottles rather than purchase a new one each time they're thirsty.

    This idea is not only doable - it's already being done, sort of. Consider 7-11. Every day, millions of people make their own Slurpees at 7-11 with nary a complaint. I haven't met a person yet who is not capable of putting a cup underneath the Slurpee faucet and filling up. Why not figure out a way for people to bottle their own Eco-Fina water in the same way? True, this strategy wouldn't put a dent in the proportion of bottles being sold out of vending machines. But it would severely reduce the number of plastic water bottles being sold at 7-11, Stop and Shop, and thousands of other convenience stores.  Restaurants, meanwhile, could serve water in Eco-Fina-labeled pitchers. Since most of the water Pepsi puts in its bottles is tap water, there's not much difference if it's served in a branded bottle or a branded carafe.

    I'd recommend that Pepsi not drag its heels too long waiting to make a change like this. Otherwise, some entrepreneurs at 7-11 just may take it into their heads to market their own branded refillable bottles, and then sell refills from the tap for the same amount of money they earn for stocking each bottle of Eco-Fina on their shelves (which usually amounts to about half the retail price of the product).

    There's nothing like a little competition to get someone to rethink their approach. 7-11, I hope you're paying attention. Pepsi, you too.

    NOTE: This post is part of this month's Green Moms Carnival selection on food. Water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration...though not very well. 

    July 08, 2009

    Bottled Water Not as Safe as Tap Water, says GAO

    Water sold in plastic bottles is not as safe as tap water because bottled water is allowed to be contaminated by chemicals that cause "reproductive difficulties, liver problems, and cancer."

    Marketing hype and inadequate labeling entice consumers to buy bottled water even though it is far more expensive and usually not as healthy as tap water.

    Bottled water also takes its toll on the environment. At least 3/4 of the millions of plastic water bottles produced each year are thrown away rather than recycled. Plus, producing bottled water actually uses more water and is far more energy intensive than providing the same amount of water to the public via the tap.

    These are among the most damning conclusions reached by the U.S. General Accounting Office upon completion of a thorough comparison of the health, safety and environmental benefits of tap vs. bottled water.

    The GAO attributes the dangers in bottled water to the fact that it is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whose safety requirements are far less stringent than those of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates tap water. The GAO recommended that the FDA adopt EPA's requirements within the year.

    Consumers should not have to wait a year for plastic water bottles to be safe. Take action now:

    * Stop buying bottled water, or any beverage sold in a plastic bottle. Remember the power of the purse: the way you spend your money sends a signal loud and clear to polluters that they will lose market share unless they provide you with safe products and services. 

    * Shift to healthier, safer reusable bottles. Aluminum and stainless steel bottles are better, as are bottles with filters that are free of the chemicals most throwaway water bottles contain.

    * Contact manufacturers and tell them to pull bottled water off the market. Just because a company makes a bottle that uses less plastic doesn't mean that bottle is a good choice.

    Throwaway plastic bottles need to go. 

    July 07, 2009

    Environmental In-Box: Echoes in the Attic Tote Bags & Purses

    Globalization has led to homogenization: Everything looks like everything else...boring.

    Mag bag Not so when it comes to Echoes in the Attic tote bags and purses. These one-of-a-kind designs are created purse by purse from exquisite reclaimed fabrics - and at an affordable price, too. Environmental chic? If this is what it looks like, I'm in.

    What is it? The unique purses and tote bags are made by hand in Canada of fabrics leftover from manufacturing and designer samples. The materials - recycled from upscale companies like Robert Allen Fabrics and Ethan Allen Furniture - are so high end it's hard to imagine that they were once destined for the landfill. The product line includes "hipster" purses big enough for keys, cosmetics, a wallet and a brush; plus diaper, beach, and tote bags when you need to carry more stuff.

    Echoes attic What I like: What immediately jumped out at me was the quality of the "hipster" bag I received as a review sample. Even though the purse is made from "vegan" leather, it feels luxurious. And, at $39, I love the price. That the bags are made using materials that otherwise would be thrown away is another environmental plus. It was packaged simply in one sheet of tissue paper that can be recycled and mailed in a regular envelope.

    What could be improved? The Echoes website is a bit challenging to navigate, making it clumsy to move from the product pages to the online store and back again. Also, in-store distribution right now is limited to Canada, though the bags can easily be bought online. Let's hope some smart retailers in the U.S. discover Echoes and stock up their shelves. Also, I'd like more information about the company's own business practices. How many bags is it producing every year - and how much waste is it diverting from the trash bin as a result? Does Echoes power its production facilities with wind or solar? How does it recycle its own leftovers, if at all? It's terrific that the company is based in North America; does it support any charities, especially in its own community? What motivated the company's two women owners to get their business off the ground?

    Continue reading "Environmental In-Box: Echoes in the Attic Tote Bags & Purses" »

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