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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.
  • « August 2011 | Main | October 2011 »

    September 28, 2011

    Michele Bachmann Wants to Crush EPA. First, She Should Go to China.

    Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota Republican Member of Congress who's running for President, vows she'll cripple the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency if she's elected. Maybe if she spent a week in China like I recently did, she'd change her mind.

    Michele Bachmann I've just returned from a seven-day trip to Beijing, China's capital, and Xi'an, the country's cultural heart and soul and home to its famous terra cotta soldiers. In that entire time, I never saw the sun or sky. Nor was I able to drink the water that came out of any tap.

    Why? The sky was cloaked in grey smog so thick it obscured the tops of buildings, not to mention the heavens above. The air, while not exactly putrid, smelled dank and dangerous -- a result of massive numbers of polluting cars on the road and regional industrial plants that spew contaminants into the air.

    I could have worn a surgical mask like many of the city's permanent residents. Instead, I opted to be a "guinea pig" and see how much the smog would affect me as I went back and forth to various business meetings and tourist destinations.

    Beijing air pollution After just three days in Beijing, I developed a sore throat and itchy eyes, and lost any desire to explore the city's beautiful parks. I could have easily walked distances of a mile or two. Instead, I took the subway to avoid breathing the outdoor air unnecessarily. Back at my hotel, I kept the windows closed, choosing a stuffy room over a polluted one.

    The water coming out of my faucet looked cleaner than the air -- but I would have been a fool to drink it. Water treatment anywhere in China is thoroughly inadequate. The country's drinking water is tainted not just by household waste but from relentless industrial run-off.

    Some government figures estimate that over 70 percent of the nation's rivers have been contaminated by the discharge of heavy metals and other toxins directly into streams and tributaries that feed into China's waterways. Water treatment facilities remove a smattering of contaminants but never clean up the water to the point where it is drinkable. And this creates another problem.

    Independent companies are privatizing the water, purifying and bottling it, and selling it to the public by the tons. What happens to all the empty plastic water bottles? They end up back in the rivers and streams when they're trashed.

    Why is China so polluted?

    In short, because it has neither a power federal environmental protection agency nor adequate laws for such an agency to enforce. Yes, the government gives lip service to reducing pollution and protecting public health. But local activists in Beijing told me that given the physical size of the country, a population of more than 1 billion people, and tens of thousands of "renegade" manufacturing facilities, neither air nor water quality will improve significantly until the government makes a real commitment to strengthen and enforce its environmental laws.

    This is not to say that air and water in the U.S. are perfect, or even good enough. A recent study by Environment America, using data provided by the American Lung Association, reported that nearly half of all Americans -- 48 percent -- live in areas plagued by unhealthy smog pollution. A water quality analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council concluded that 22 million Americans may be drinking water that contains excessive levels of poisonous arsenic, among other chemicals.

    Still, the same Environment America study notes that "air quality has improved significantly in the last decade as a result of policies at the state and federal level." Likewise, the non-profit Environmental Working Group found over 90 percent compliance by water utilities in applying and enforcing standards that exist. Their recommendation: that EPA set even more effective standards so water quality will continue to improve.

    We can continue cleaning up our air or water. Or, we can abolish the EPA and look a lot more like China. I suggest Michele Bachmann go to China before she decides.

    Follow me on twitter @dianemaceachern.

    (NOTE: This article originally appeared at Huffington Post.)

     

    September 10, 2011

    I'm Heading for China...

    Temple Is China a beacon of the environmental future - or a reminder of its past? What are we to think, when in the same conversation, we hear that the country is building one new coal plant a week - at the same time that it is churning out wind turbines faster than any other country on the planet?

    I hope to find out during an eight-day trip I begin later this morning. I'm heading first to Beijing to meet with environmental groups there who are trying to clean up manufacturing and promote renewable energy. In particular, I'm hoping to meet with representatives at Greenpeace who have been studying the impact of manufacturing on Asia's air and water. I also hope to connect with researchers at the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs - they're intensely involved in research and policy efforts to reduce pollution in China's waterways and green manufacturing along the way.

    Terracotta-warriors Then I head to Xi'an, the home of China's famous Terra Cotta Soldiers, to speak to the International Forum on Women and Green Living, sponsored by the Shaanxi Women's Federation.

    Along the way, I'll report back to you on what I'm seeing and hearing.

    What would you most like to know?

    Want to Inspire Your Kids to Go Green At School? Here's How.

      PBSPARENTS_SmallStacked At home, we've taught our kids to turn off the lights when they leave their rooms, recycle cans and bottles, and maybe even scrape their dinner scraps into the compost pile.

    But what happens when our children head off to school? Next to home, kids spend more time at school than anywhere else, at least six hours a day and maybe more if they participate in after-school clubs or sports. How can we, as parents, inspire our sons and daughters to continue to practice in the classroom what they've learned under our own watchful eyes?

    Consider these three suggestions I made to PBSParents.org. Then let us know what's worked for you!

    September 06, 2011

    Green Back-to-School Supplies: Part 1 - Pens, Pencils, Crayons, Markers

    Girl Kids eat crayons. They chew on pencils. They sniff markers. And pens? Sure, kids use them for writing - on their skin, not necessarily paper.

    In other words, as weird as it may sound, you need to treat the tools kids use to compose or color the same way you'd treat the food they eat: with attention to the ingredients they're made from and the impact they're going to have on your kids' health.

    That means looking for supplies free of lead-based pigments, synthetic fragrances, solvents like methyl alcohol and toluene, formaldehyde, and other nasty chemicals you'd never serve as part of a meal or snack. Here are links to responsible supplies that won't make your kids sick when they do take a bite or decide to paint a Picasso on their arm.

    Pens - Pens cross the environmental line in two ways. Their ink usually contains chemicals that have no human health benefit; and they're usually made from throwaway plastic. In fact, a pen is one of those school supplies that subliminally teaches kids it's ok to waste, since we're so used to buying them in packs of 10 or 20 and tossing them into the trash even before they're completely used up.

    DBA pen Fortunately, DBA Pens have come to the rescue. The DBA 98 is 98% biodegradable, made in the USA using wind power, and filled with an ink made from water, nontoxic pigments, vegetable-based glycerin, and sodium benzoate, a food-grade preservative.

    A decent alternative is a refillable pen, like the ones we sell in our Amazon store. While I can't vouch for the safety of the ink, at least a refillable reduces plastic waste. Plus, it's easy to find refillables at most office supply stores.

    Pencils Pencils - Fortunately, most pencils kids use today are made of graphite, not the more dangerous "lead" that they're commonly described as. The most eco-friendly pencils are also made from recycled paper, wood, or cardboard. (NOTE: Some pencils are being made from recycled tires, but consumer reviews thus far indicate that they're not easy to sharpen or use.) Given the fact that a pencil can be used almost completely, and can be more easily recycled than plastic in some communities, it generates less waste than a pen or marker. If kids have an option, using a pencil is better than a pen. Using a reusable mechanical pencil, which replaces the "lead" but not the entire pencil, is a good option for older kids; there's no environmental benefit to using a throwaway mechanical pencil.

    Crayons - I'm a big fan of crayons made from beeswax or soy, rather than the usual petroleum-based paraffin. The colors and texture are rich, and they pose no health or environmental threats to the kids who use them.

    Markers - Look for markers whose low- or no-toxicity has been certified by the Art and Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) or the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Even then, give markers the "sniff" test. If you take off the cap and find the odor overwhelming, don't use the marker, and definitely don't give it to your child: chances are, it contains xylene, toluene or other chemicals that cause nausea, headaches and in some cases have been linked to cancer (why they're still allowed in any kind of marker or product is beyond me!). Choose water-soluble, no VOC markers if you can find them, or colored pencils as highlighters.

    Natural paint for kids Paints - When buying kids' paints, look for no- or low-voc, water-based products, preferably certified non-toxic by an independent third party and made in the U.S. Some good choices:

     - Nature-of-Art's certified non-toxic, water-based acrylic paints. Here's an additional link to everything you want to know about nontoxic paints.

    -Eco-Kids Natural Plant Dye Fingerpaint, made in the U.S.A

    -Clementine Art Natural Paint

     

    Are you a do-it-yourselfer? Give this "make your own fingerpaint" recipe a try (and let me know how you like it, ok?).

     

    Want More? Shop Our Amazon Store.

    We've compiled links to these and other eco-friendly school supplies on our "Back to School" store on Amazon (NOTE: we earn a small commission on purchases here that help pay our research and writing costs.) Have we missed a safe product you love? Let us know.

     

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