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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 2008 | Main | May 2008 »

    April 29, 2008

    President Uses High Gas Prices to Bushwhack Arctic Refuge

    Gas prices are sending everyone into a state of hysteria. But the fact that the cost of gasoline is skyrocketing should come as no surprise to anyone: the planet has a limited amount of petroleum, and people have been using it up as fast as it gets sucked out of the ground, processed in a refinery, and trucked to the nearest pump. That prices are finally approaching $4.00 a gallon is actually a welcome development from an environmental point of view. Finally, drivers are taking the actions they should have been taking ever since the first gas crisis occurred in the U.S. 35 years ago: They're car pooling, walking and biking, using mass transit and finding other ways to drive less.

    Into this scenario, Pres. Bush is advocating, rather than additional conservation -- which generates immediate relief in the pocketbook as well as at the pump -- drilling for more oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Ironically, the migration season for caribou, the animals that use the Refuge for birthing the calves that keep the herd alive, begins this month. Pres. Bush couldn't care less.  In fact, the oil president is using high gas prices as an excuse to exploit the Refuge for what  would amount to 4 million gallons of gasoline a day - the same amount the U.S. could save every day if drivers simply inflated their vehicle tires to the proper pounds per square inch.  It would take ten years to get the equivalent barrels of oil out of the Arctic refuge.

    Alaska Wilderness League is mounting a national campaign to protect the Arctic Refuge from Pres. Bush's oil plan. You can support their work financially as well as by urging your member of Congress to keep oil rigs out of the Arctic.

    Big Green Purse is encouraging consumers to reduce gas consumption through ten steps that will also save $20-$50 every month on gasoline. The key BGP message: you can meet your material needs without driving your budget -- or the planet -- into the ground.

    Consumers will try to complain about price gouging by the oil companies. They'll probably think they should boycott the oil companies for a day. It makes more sense to figure out ways to meet transportation needs without using a car.

    Want to do something about the high price of gas? Forget oil drilling in the Arctic.

    Drive less.

    California Business Women Go Green

    As a guest speaker at the annual Conference of the Professional Businesswomen of California, I shared the stage today with Gary Hirschberg. Gary's the "CE-Yo" of Stoneyfield Farms, the organic yogurt company that revolutionized the making and marketing of organic dairy products. Together, we talked to hundreds of women about becoming "CEOs" - chief environmental officers of their households, the organizations they volunteer for, and the companies where they work.

    Our message seemed like news to most of the audience. The way women spend their money matters; women can use their money to protect the planet; and women need to lead the way because ... who else will? Most of the audience seemed surprised to learn that they, collectively, spend $.85 of every dollar in the marketplace - even though they acknowledge being the chief shoppers for their household. Gary passionately argued for consumer intervention with manufacturers sooner rather than later, given how quickly time is running out on our chance to reduce climate change and protect dwindling water supplies.

    The audience asked informed questions that got to the heart of some of the issues they find most challenging about going green. When one woman asked how she could reduce all the packaging waste her shopping generates, most of the rest of the crowd nodded in agreement. Everyone is tired of throwing away so much paper and plastic when they shop. I reminded folks about the options they have to buy products in concentrated versions or in bulk. Gary noted that, because plastic packaging is made primarily from petroleum, the increasing costs of a barrel of oil may at some point make plastic wrap unaffordable for anything but premium products.

    An equally critical issue for the audience had to do with greenwashing. People want to buy the best green choice, but often can't figure out what it is, given all the superficial claims manufacturers make that their products are "natural" or "biodegradable." I reminded people to look for third-party verification of the manufacturers claims -- organic to substantiate growing processes, Green Seal to verify claims in cleaning products about ingredients -- and noted the up-and-coming availability of life cycle analysis efforts like the SMaRT standard, which looks at the eco-impact of a product from the beginning of the manufacturing process through the product's use and ultimate re-use or disposal.

    During lunch, Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State under the Clinton Administration, spoke of the need for women to help other women understand the critical issues of the day and make changes that will make their lives -- and the world -- a better place. Said Albright, "There's a special place in hell for women who DON'T help each other." That was probably the best applause line of the day!

    April 25, 2008

    Green Pet Care How-To

    Black_cat My cat Midnight has been suffering the last few years from an over-active thyroid. The vet could never tell me what might have caused her condition. A new study suggests that pets like mine and maybe yours are being contaminated with high levels of some of the same synthetic industrial chemicals that researchers have found in people.

    Working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Environmental Working Group (EWG) studied 20 dogs and 40 cats. The researchers discovered that the animals were contaminated with 48 of 70 industrial chemicals tested. Average levels of many chemicals were substantially higher in companion animals than is proportionally typical for people, with 2.4 times higher levels of stain-and grease-proof coatings (perfluorochemicals) in dogs, 23 times more fire retardants (PBDEs) in cats, and more than 5 times the amounts of mercury, compared to the average levels the CDC and EWG found in the people they studied.

    How do our pets get exposed to these toxins? They walk across lawns that harbor pesticide residues. They breathe in indoor air pollutants. They lie on furniture or carpeting that's been treated with fire retardants. Pets play close to the floor, often licking the ground as well as their paws, a habit that greatly increases both their exposures to chemicals and the resulting health risks. And because their lifespans are compressed - dogs develop and age seven or more times faster than children -- pets also develop health problems more rapidly.

    For pets as for people, the result of seemingly harmless actions is a body burden of complex mixtures of industrial chemicals never tested for safety. Health problems in pets span high rates of cancer in dogs and, as with my Midnight, skyrocketing incidence of hyperthyroidism in cats.

    How can you protect your pet?

    · Avoid lawn chemicals. Stick to organic fertilizers if you maintain grass. Keep your pet off lawns that have been chemically treated. Replace your own lawn with native grasses, stones, and other groundcovers that require nothing other than local climate conditions to grow.

    · Eliminate products that pollute indoor air. Replace aerosol air fresheners and fragrance-based cleansers with fragrance-free options. Substitute non-toxic bug repellents for chemical pesticides. Open windows to air out rooms. Simmer cinnamon sticks and cloves in a small pot of water to refresh your home.

    · Clean furniture and carpets with vegetable- based soap and water. Avoid industrial- strength floor cleaners whose left-behind 'shine' contains chemicals that could compromise your pet's health. Ask professional carpet cleaners to use certified eco-friendly cleaning products.

    · Buy an organic cotton towel or throw rug for your pet's bed and for your furniture. Protect your pet from the fire retardants found in most upholstery and carpeting with organic fabrics you can launder in biodegradable detergent.

    Olivegreendog · Choose safer toys. Muttropolis sells toy flowers for cats made from recycled plastic and certified organic catnip. Olive Green Dog sells toys made from non-toxic plastic for dogs, as well as shampoos, soaps, cookies, and more.


    Want a short-cut to more eco-friendly pet supplies? Check out our Amazon store.

    Want to read other pet posts?

    Spoil Your Pup and Protect the Environment

    April 23, 2008

    Help Us Reach Amazon's Top Ten!

    Borders_1_2 Thanks to your support, Big Green Purse is firing people up all over the country! I've been able to share the message at book stores (left, Borders in Ann Arbor) from Michigan to California to Washington state to New York. And that's gotten the attention of the media. Recent features include the front page of the Arizona Republic, an excerpt in Family Circle, a segment on CSPAN's Book TV, and a podcast on U.S. News and World Report. Plus, this week we're partnering with The Home Depot's Eco-Options program and Good Day USA, one of the country's largest syndicated radio shows, to reach millions of people with our green shopping and lifestyle tips.

    We've already broken into the "Top Ten" on's list of eco-books. Will you help us make the Top Ten of Amazon's entire list? Please use this form to urge at least ten of your friends to get their own copy of the Big Green Purse book. Then stand-by: we'll let you know as soon as we make it to the top of the top! Thanks so much.

    Britaontap_3 By the way, we know you love Big Green Purse. But as an added incentive, the person who forwards this message to the most friends and acquaintances will receive the newest Brita faucet-mount water filter, plus a personal phone consultation with me, Diane MacEachern, author of Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World.

    April 22, 2008

    Earth Day Wish List

    With climate change on the upswing and even dogs needing to worry about exposure to toxic chemicals, I’ve come up with five things I’d ask Mother Nature for if I believed wishes really came true.

    * President Bush signs a bill that will cut U.S. greenhouse gases 50% - starting tomorrow. Such bold action would help the U.S. meet recommendations issued by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and many world leaders that America, one of the globe’s largest carbon polluters, reduce its energy emissions significantly in order to avert drastic global warming. In reality, of course, last week, the President once again called only for voluntary actions that have virtually no chance of reducing the country’s carbon footprint even by 2025 – the President’s own date.

    • Wal-Mart Urges Shoppers To Buy 20% Less. As the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart is the scene of more shopping – and consequently the engine behind  more resource consumption -- than any other emporium on the planet. The company does a great job offering consumers organic produce, organic cotton clothes, and concentrated packages that reduce waste. But what if Wal-Mart actually encouraged customers to ask “Do I need it?” before saying “I’m going to buy it”?  The impact on the environment could be world changing; consumer pocketbooks would benefit; and Wal-Mart’s own image would improve. In reality, the company intends to open more stores, not fewer, and there are no plans to tell consumers to cut back.

    • Coal-fired power planets convert to solar energy. Burning coal not only contributes to climate change; power plants fueled by coal also emit the mercury that is polluting lakes and oceans, rendering fish unsafe to eat and endangering the well-being of pregnant women who eat those fish . We could solve a whole host of environmental problems if we stopped burning coal and switched to solar, wind, biomass, and other renewable fuels. The reality, of course, is that utilities are trying to build new coal operations in many parts of the U.S. and a new coal plant is coming on line in China every week. Though solar technology is expanding, it's not happening at nearly the pace needed to displace significant coal generation any time soon.

    • Congress earmarks $1 billion to help farmers go organic. Talk to any farmer and the major obstacle to transitioning to pesticide-free agriculture is the cost of the certification required to meet Department of Agriculture organic standards. Representatives and Senators never seem to find any funds to help farmers take this important step – even though they fork over billions so conventional agribusiness can continue plying the fields with toxic pesticides and herbicides. How about a few bucks to help farmers really go green?

    • Companies ban the use of all phthalates in everything. Phthalates are chemicals called “endocrine disruptors,” compounds that affect the hormones our endocrine glands release into our body to control reproduction, growth and fertility. Phthalates show up in all kinds of personal care products: perfume, air freshener, hair spray, and more. Most companies justify including these toxins by saying that the amount in their product alone doesn’t cause the problem. But because so many companies use phthalates, our cumulative exposure can actually be quite substantial. And when they wash into our water system, phthalates can affect animals, too – you’ve heard of male frogs and fish born with female sex organs? That’s the effect phthalates are having. 

    Actually, this wish may not be so far-fetched.  Thanks to consumer demand for alternatives, Orly, OPI, and Sally Hansen, the country's largest nail polish manufacturers, have promised to remove phthalates from their polish. That’s a good start. Now what about the other personal care products we use?

    What’s your Earth Day wish? Let us know.

    April 21, 2008

    EARTH DAY COUNTDOWN: More Money-Saving Eco Tips

    One of the biggest obstacles to "going green" is the perception that eco-living is expensive. The following choices not only don't break the bank, but actually help consumers save money.

    * Improve fuel economy - Gasoline is at an all-time high of $3.50 a gallon. Improved fuel efficiency means you travel farther on every gallon of gasoline. The cost savings? Consider this: Say you drive 15,000 miles per year. If your car gets an average of 20 miles per gallon, over the course of the year, at an average fuel price of $3.50/gallon, you will spend $2625 on gasoline. However, if your vehicle achieves 35 mpg, driving the same 15,000 miles will only cost you $1701 - a savings of $924. Say you drive that car for ten years. In all likelihood, gasoline will only get more expensive. In ten years, you could save more than $10,000. And if you invested that money over time, your savings increase considerably more.

    Lunch_box * Bring your lunch to work - Lunchtime food packaging wastes enormous energy and other natural resources - think of all the plastic and paper you throw away after you're finished with a take-out salad, sandwich or burger. David Bach, author of Go Green, Live Rich, calculates that, if you spend $9 a day on lunch from the local Subway or sandwich shop, you're spending $45 a week, or $2, 250 a year to eat out. Much of what you're paying for -- the wrapping -- you throw away. The greener, money-saving option: take food from home in reusable containers, including a durable lunch bag. If you save and invest the $2,250 every year, says Back, in 20 years it will amount to $111,000. (Need a lunchbox? Check out these.)

    * Sell your stuff - Someone is willing to pay for what you might be throwing away. By some calculations, 75-90% of what people trash would willingly be used by someone else. Before you toss, try to sell. It's easy to get started on Craig's List or EBay, though holding a yard sale also works to generate income while unloading your "riches" on those who want them.

    * Pay bills online - You'll save money, time, paper and late fees -- as much as $400 a year or more -- by automating your accounts and paying with a click of your mouse rather than having to write a check, seal an envelope, and lick a stamp.

    *  Buy less - Ah, abstinence! Like some of the other behaviors this action is associated with, keeping your money in your purse or pocketbook is among the most sure-fire ways to hold onto it - while not contributing to the excessive consumer demand that fuels climate change and pollution. Just do it.

    Want more ideas? Check out the Top Ten Ways to Afford Going Green.

    April 18, 2008

    EARTH DAY COUNTDOWN - Make the Earth Friendly for Pets, Too

    Cat_2  This Earth Day, it’s important to consider the environment not only for its impact on Mother Nature and our human health, but our favorite furry companions as well. In the first study of its kind, Environmental Working Group (EWG) has found that companion cats and dogs are polluted with even higher levels of many of the same synthetic industrial chemicals that researchers have recently found in people, including newborns. Here are some excerpts from their recent news release:

    The 20 dogs and  40 cats EWG studied were contaminated with 48 of 70 industrial chemicals tested. Average levels of many chemicals were substantially higher in pets than is typical for people, with 2.4 times higher levels of stain-and grease-proof coatings (perfluorochemicals) in dogs, 23 times more fire retardants (PBDEs) in cats, and more than 5 times the amounts of mercury, compared to average levels in people found in national studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and EWG.

    “Like humans, pets are also exposed to toxic chemicals on a daily basis, and as this investigation found, are contaminated at higher levels,” said Jane Houlihan, VP for Research at EWG. “The presence of chemicals in dogs and cats sounds a cautionary warning for the present and future health of children as well. This study demonstrating the chemical body burden of dogs and cats is a wake-up call for stronger safety standards from industrial chemical exposures that will protect all members of our families, including our pets.”

    Dog_2  "This study shows that our pets are susceptible to the absorption of potentially harmful chemicals from our environment just as we are. Perhaps even more troubling is that these chemicals have been found in higher levels in pets than in humans, implying potential harmful consequences for their health and well being and the need for further study," said Dr. John Billeter, DVM, the veterinarian who conducted the animal tests. 

    Just as children ingest pollutants in tap water, play on lawns with pesticide residues, or breathe in an array of indoor air contaminants, so do their pets. But with their compressed lifespans, developing and aging seven or more times faster than children, pets also develop health problems much more rapidly. Pets, like infants and toddlers, have limited diets and play close to the floor, often licking the ground as well as their paws, greatly increasing both their exposures to chemicals and the resulting health risks.

    Under current federal law, chemical companies do not have to prove chemicals are safe before they are used in products, including pet toys and other products for our companion animals. For pets as for people, the result is a body burden of complex mixtures of industrial chemicals never tested for
    safety. Health problems in pets span high rates of cancer in dogs and skyrocketing incidence of hyperthyroidism in cats. Genetic changes can't explain the increases in certain health problems among pets, leaving scientists to believe that chemical exposures play a significant role.

    View the complete research at EWG. 

    April 14, 2008

    EARTH DAY COUNTDOWN: The (Green) Maelstrom

    I feel like I’m caught up in a maelstrom of green, green, green! After spending thirty years slogging through the environmental trenches, we seem to have had an “overnight success.” Protecting the planet is all anyone seems to be talking about these days. In fact, as someone who used to be leading the pack, I know find it hard to keep up!  Companies are frantically setting up recycling programs. Organizations are issuing reports hand over fist. Entrepreneurs are churning out new green gear and gadgets faster than a mouse breeds babies.

    All of which makes for a very exciting time to have a new environmental book out – especially one that aims to make sense of what’s “green” versus what’s being “greenwashed.”  That’s the question I’ve been asked most frequently, especially during the dozens of radio interviews I’ve done since the book’s pub date March 1. Everyone wants to do something to make a difference. Not everyone knows where to start, or what purchases are really worth the money. Words like “natural,” “biodegradable,” and “eco-friendly” throw people for a loop. Do they really mean the product or service deserves Mother Nature’s green star? Not necessarily, and a big part of my job right now involves directing shoppers to certified goods that actually live up to their marketing claims.

    I’ve been impressed that so many people have turned out to my book signings – given that another big concern for people who want to go green is lack of time! Most people don’t realize that being "eco" can actually simplify your life –  sometimes I need to roll out the light bulb example to prove my point (a compact fluorescent light bulb lasts ten times as long as an incandescent, so put one in and forget about it for seven years…).

    Woman_bulb Speaking of light bulbs, perhaps what’s most gratifying about the book is watching the proverbial light bulb go on behind people’s eyes when they realize how much clout their consumer power has. This has been especially true for women, most of whom haven’t realized before that, because they spend $.85 of every dollar in the marketplace, they have the power to tell manufacturers what to make (rather than constantly hear from companies about what they should buy).

    If not just the book sales, but the e-mails, too, are any indication, women are glad to throw off the old cliché about “loving to shop” as they embrace their potential to become the true arbiters of the new green marketplace. What's not to love about that?

    April 13, 2008

    EARTH DAY COUNTDOWN: How You Can Afford to Go Green

    Investing_2_2  Want to go green but think it’s too expensive? Think again. You can actually SAVE $20-$50 every month by choosing products and services that protect the planet. Here's how:

    Choose quality over quantity. Simplify your needs overall. Then, buy clothes, jewelry, toys, tools, furniture and other commodities that are made to last. You may spend a few more dollars up front but save money in the long run when you don't need to replace items that break or wear out quickly.

    Sponge_2  Buy reusables. Compare a sponge to a roll of paper towels. One sponge may cost as little as $.99. A roll of paper towels runs around $1.99. But one sponge lasts as long as SEVENTEEN ROLLS of paper towels. You could save as much as $33 in paper towels before you have to throw the sponge away.  (Meanwhile, keep sponges fresh by washing in the dishwasher with the dishes; microwave on high heat for 30 seconds to kill germs.)

    Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs. The CFLs may cost $2-4 more than the incandescent bulb you're used to. But the CFL uses 66% less energy and lasts ten times as long. So over the course of the lifetime of the bulb, you can save as much as $30-$50 on electricity. Plus - think of all the time you're saving changing light bulbs.

    Sigg_bottle Forget bottled water. When you buy bottled water, you're buying a plastic bottle, a label, the energy to transport the bottle to your store, a bottle cap, and the water inside the bottle -- which, almost half the time, is actually tap water!  And even though water is very cheap when it flows out of your tap, it can cost as much as 10,000 times more when it’s served in a bottle. Buy a reusable water bottle and fill it up at your own tap. If you’re worried about water quality, use the money you save on bottled water to buy a filter for your faucet.

    Save gas. This sounds like a "no brainer," but you'd be surprised how many people waste gas - and money. Pump up your car tires to improve fuel efficiency by 3.3%. Use cruise control for as much as a 14% fuel efficiency gain. Go to Gas Buddy to find the cheapest gas in your driving range. Car pool to share driving costs with others.

    Buy in bulk. You pay nearly twice the price for the same weight when you buy small, individually wrapped servings of a product rather than the bulk size. Laundry detergent, fabric softener, dishwasher detergent, shampoo, soap, conditioner, snacks, soft drinks and many other items offer a bulk or ‘economy’ size. Even buying a regular half-gallon container of juice is cheaper than buying individual juice boxes.

    Power_strip Plug into a power strip. 40 percent of the energy used to power consumer electronics is devoured when the devices are turned off. That’s nearly 5 percent of the total electricity American homes consume. A power strip lets you plug several appliances or lots of office equipment into one efficient outlet you can easily turn off, automatically cutting power to all devices that are plugged into it.

    Take a tax credit. New fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles save gas and earn you tax credits, too. The amount, as determined by the IRS, ranges from $250 to $3150.

    Use Craig’s List or Freecycle. Before you pay full price for furniture, appliances, sporting equipment or lawn and garden tools, go “shopping” online – at clearinghouses that help you acquire the goods you need at no or low cost.

    Donate. Giving your used clothing and household goods to the Salvation Army, your local church, or a local charity for veterans lightens the load at the landfill and earns you a tax write-off for your charitable donations.

    April 10, 2008

    EARTH DAY COUNTDOWN - Big Green Purse Meets Green Biz!

    Logo_gbizradio_2  Under the visionary leadership of Joel Makower, has been the leading chronicler of green business trends for years. The company tracks new eco developments in the corporate arena, offers impartial analysis of green products and services, and helps corporations understand the benefits that protecting the environment can have for their bottom line.

    I recently sat down with Joel to discuss my new book, Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World. We focused particularly on the growing clout women have in the economy, and the opportunities that creates for business and industry. The interview has been posted on Green Biz Radio. You can listen (or download the MP3) file here.

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