My Photo

Or receive updates by email:

Delivered by FeedBurner


AddThis Social Bookmark Button
Get Our Newsletter:
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.
  • « April 2008 | Main | June 2008 »

    May 31, 2008

    Hot, Flat and Crowded: Tom Friedman Heats Up

    Hot_flat_and_crowded_full Global warming is overheating the planet. Globalization is heating up politics and radicalizing local economies. And overpopulation is putting pressure on the planet, economies and politics, making for a dangerous equation whose solutions aren't entirely clear. In his new book, Hot Flat and Crowded: Why we need a green revolution and how it can revitalize America, to be published this fall by Farrar Strous Giroux, Thomas Friedman argues that a true green revolution - one where "companies change or die" - must take place if we're going to get ourselves and the earth out of this mess.

    Speaking at BookExpoAmerica, Friedman provided an early bird view of the book and his belief that "Since 911, America has lost its way."  "Bad habits" like increasing our dependence on petroleum and ignoring the geopolitical implications of our efforts to dominate oil-rich countries have "weakened our ability" to solve the world's biggest problems: global climate change, the rise of petrodictatorships, and the increasing vulnerability of disadvantaged populations - not just around the world but in the U.S. as well.

    Friedman seems to believe that the U.S. is the only country capable of leading the world to a more peaceful and environmentally secure place. However, to do so requires us - citizens, consumers, politicians, CEOs - to accept that the time has come for far-reaching solutions involving massive energy supply breakthroughs. Rather than continue to focus on the Code Red alerts being issued by the Department of Homeland Security, Friedman argues we need to alert Americans -- and the world -- that we're living in a "Code Green" situation that demands our immediate and bold attention.

    In other words, Friedman is calling for a truly green revolution, not the "green party" he says we're currently having. "It's a revolution when someone gets hurt," he says. "Companies need to change or die or the revolution will never make a difference."

    In fact, changing the way we live and work is at the heart of Friedman's message. "If we want things to stay as they are -- if we want to maintain our leadership in the world and sustaina a habitable planet -- things will have to change...and fast!"

    May 25, 2008

    Take the Drive Smarter Challenge

    Burning_money_2  Presumably, you're not the kind of person who would take a big pile of money out to your driveway and set it on fire, just to watch it burn. But when you burn gasoline, that's essentially what you're doing. And with gasoline prices now bouncing around $4 a gallon, that pile of money you're burning is getting a whole lot bigger. 

    Big Green Purse lists ten ways you can conserve gas today and save at least $20-$50 every month at the pump. But you can save even more by taking the Drive Smarter Challenge, a new initiative from the Alliance to Save Energy.

    Promochallenge What's terrific about the Challenge is that it puts you in the driver's seat -- literally. The website simulates you driving, then suggests up to six fuel-efficiency actions you can easily take. If you do (or say you plan to), the website immediately calculates your savings in money, gasoline, and greenhouse gas emissions.

    I took the challenge as if I were driving my son's 2001, 6hp Toyota Avalon. By the end of my "road test," I was informed I could save $433  (about 110 gallons of gasoline at the $4/gallon price, for almost 10 weeks of free gas) if I followed six simple recommendations like pumping up my tires and lightening the load in my trunk.

    Plus, when I forwarded the site to a friend, I got a coupon for $10 off a Bosch Oxygen Sensor, which will help my engine run even more efficiently.

    Beware: the website takes a longish time to load (at least on Explorer 6.0) and seems to re-load every time you switch screens. But those inconveniences are well worth the cost-savings you'll enjoy if you take the Challenge.

    Thumb_green Thumbs up to the Alliance to Save Energy for giving us this ingenious tool!

    By the way, you can credit gas savings to your One in a Million balance sheet.

    May 21, 2008

    Grilling Green

    Does Memorial Day launch your summer barbecue season? Try these ideas for a barbecue Mother Nature herself would love.

    In the Market for a New Grill?

    Sportprofwhiteleft Go solar. A solar stove cooks more slowly and won't get you the grilled flavor you expect from the barby. But it can't be beat for a clean-cooking cookout. (Models start at less than $200.)

    Choose gas or electric. Most grills use either natural gas, propane, charcoal, or electricity. Of these options, charcoal causes the most trouble, emitting more carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and soot than any of the others. If you already use natural gas to heat your home or power your appliances, you may be able to hook up a gas line directly to your grill. The convenience of not needing to refill propane tanks may outweigh the cost of the hook-up. Otherwise, choose a propane grill, which burns cleaner than charcoal. (Electric grills are another clean, though less common option. If your energy source is windpower, an electric grill will generate the least pollution of all the options apart from solar.)

    Still Cooking With Charcoal?

    Use lump charcoal instead of briquettes. Briquettes may contain coal dust and other additives. Look
    for hardwood briquettes from forests certified by the Rainforest Alliance's SmartWood program, or lumps made from coconut husks. Cow boy Charcoal, sold at Lowe's, Trader Joe's and under the Whole Foods 365 brand, makes chunk charcoal out of wood leftover from furniture making and construction.

    Trade in your lighter fluid. These toxic petroleum distillates produce volatile organic compounds that Chimney_charcoal_3 create smog. No sense ruining your skewers or burgers with an air quality alert, is there?

    Try a chimney charcoal starter. Tuck crumpled newspaper or dryer lint into the bottom of the canister, load charcoal on top, and light with a match. You'll be able to pour hot coals onto the fire grate in about 15 minutes. Alternatively, use an electric starter ($10).

    One_in_a_million_module Are You Part of the One in a Million Campaign? Shifting your spending from lighter fluid to either an electric starter or a chimney charcoal starter counts towards your $1,000/yr goal. If you switch from a charcoal grill to one that's gas or solar powered, count those dollars, too!

    May 20, 2008

    Why Recycling Is Worth It

    Still wondering why you should bother recycling your aluminum cans? Just ask Greg Wittbecker. He's the director of Corporate Metal Recycling for Alcoa and a big proponent of boosting the paltry amount the U.S. recycles (52% of cans) to 75%.

    Can_pile_2  What's the big deal? Greg says it's all about energy and waste disposal.  "If we could recover and recycle 75% of the aluminum cans being currently tossed into landfills – 600,000 metric tons of aluminum – we could save 1286 megawatts of generated electricity. That’s the amount produced by two coal fired power plants, and consumed by two aluminum plants," says Greg. "Replacing this production with recycling would keep 11.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from being generated and released into the atmosphere." It would also reduce the amount of mercury going into the environment, since power plants emit polluting mercury when they burn coal.

    Why is recycling so efficient? According to Alcoa, recycling a ton of aluminum uses just 5% of the energy required to make virgin metal. Every ton of recycled aluminum that Alcoa uses saves about 14,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that the average American household consumes 920 kilowatts of electricity per month. Consequently, using 1 ton of recycled aluminum as opposed to 1 ton of virgin aluminum would make enough conserved energy available to power an American household for over 15 months.

    Despite the compelling energy savings that accrue from recycling aluminum, we Americans are not recycling as much as other countries. Compared to our 52%, consider how well the nations below are doing:
    • Brazil 94.4%
    • Japan 90.9 %
    • Germany 89 %
    • Global Average 63%
    • Western Europe 57.7%

    Why the diff? On top of the "throw it away" mentality common among American households, many communities don't make it easy for citizens to do the right thing. More towns and cities need to offer curbside recycling programs or convenient recycling centers. Retailers that sell canned beverages could help, too, by setting up recycling centers on their premises. Eleven states already put deposits on canned beverages to insure that the cans are returned to the manufacturer. The rest should follow suit.

    Can_recycle_2  To find locations where you can recycle nearby, check out earth911. And don't forget to contact your city administrator or solid waste manager to urge them to make community recycling easier for everyone in your community.

    May 14, 2008

    Want More Market Share? Urge Women to Buy 20% Less

    One thing the Marketing to Women conference definitely was not about was reducing consumption.

    Virtually every presentation given during the two-day confab of manufacturers, marketers and advertising mavens focused on how to get women to buy more...and more...and more. Stephanie Ouyoumjian, Director of Strategy at Publicis, encouraged companies to "have a conversation" with women to build market share. "Every 1% of getting her to talk leads to additional millions in sales," she reported. Laura Keely, Director of Consumer Promotion Marketing for Kimberly-Clark, said the key was "relevance." Women will buy more products if they feel they're relevant emotionally, psychologically, and practically. Gigi Carroll, Senior Vice President of advertising agency Draft FCB, reported on the "millenial" woman - the one younger than 30 for whom having abundant choice is a critical marketplace motivator.

    My perspective was substantially different. I took the stage with three basic recommendations I urged marketers and manufacturers to seriously consider.

    1. Encourage women to buy 20% less. You could have heard a pin drop when I suggested promoting reduced consumption as a way to solidify market share with America's most powerful shoppers. As I explained, the intercept research I conduct by talking one-on-one with women across the U.S., tells me that consumers are tired of being bombarded with messages to "buy, buy, buy." And certainly, from an environmental point of view, our rampant shopping can't continue without the planet tanking under the burden of resource depletion, increased air and water pollution, and above all, more climate change. The company that boldly launches a campaign to "buy less first, then buy from us" will be the break-out company of the next two decades.

    2. Be real. Consumers are becoming skeptical of green marketing claims as companies increasingly "greenwash" their products in order to profit from women's interest in using their purse to protect themselves and the planet. I suggested that manufacturers and advertisers tell it like it is: if they're in transition to a greener, cleaner profile, say they're only part way there, not that they've arrived. Ideally, a company will become sustainably certified so that it can back up its marketing hype by showing that it is truly reducing its environmental footprint. From what I know of the producers attending the M2W conference, none is certified yet.

    3. Talk honestly about cost. I find it ironic that companies encourage women to "buy, buy, buy" without telling them how to manage their budgets so they can do so. Green products and services, at least, will save women money in the long run, even if it costs them a little more up front. Manufacturers need to acknowledge this economic reality - and explain why it's worth it.

    Companies that want to provoke a conversation among women, as Publicis' Ouyoumjian suggested, need to give them something valid to discuss. Urging women to buy less, buy products that are certifiably green, and that offer long-term financial gain is a good place to start.

    May 12, 2008

    Marketing to Women Key to Protecting the Environment

    M2w_logo_2 Lest anyone doubt that marketing to women is a fast-track way to protect the environment, just review the presentations made at last week's M2W (Marketing to Women) conference in Chicago by Frito-Lay, Motorola, Glam Media (the fastest growing women-oriented site on the Web) and more. Women have the clout to put companies on notice: when it comes to reducing climate change, restoring our air and water, and protecting the health of our kids and families, we can -- and will -- use our purse to pull manufacturers in a cleaner, greener direction.

    Let's do the numbers:

    Purse_money_2  Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases, and we're buying more than cheese doodles and diapers:

  • 91% of New Homes
  • 66% PCs
  • 92% Vacations
  • 80% Healthcare
  • 65% New Cars
  • 89% Bank Accounts
  • 93% Food
  • 93 % OTC Pharmaceuticals

    American women spend about $5 trillion annually, which amounts to over half the U.S. GDP. But we're not just buying at supermarkets and shopping malls. Women represent the majority of the online market, too.
  • When it comes to making their money matter, nearly 50% of women say they want more green choices.

  • 37% are more likely to pay attention to brands that are committed to environmental causes.
  • 25% of all products in a woman’s shopping cart nowadays are environmentally friendly.

    These numbers don't only apply to married women who are managing two paychecks (theirs, and their husband's). According to the research, single women are more influential today than they were ten years ago (In 1998, only 69% of women between 18 and 24 were involved in home electronics purchases. By 2008, that number has grown to 91%, in part driven by the prevalence of personal electronics such as cell phones and computers.)
  • What's more, "prime time" women - those aged 50-70, according to marketing maven Marti Barletta - "will control the majority of the purchasing power in the U.S." within the next two decades - giving them unprecedented opportunities to become the drivers of new pollution-free products (Mary Hunt has been charting some of these trends over at

    Women are past the point of letting manufacturers tell them what to buy. We can -- and should -- tell companies what to make - based on the purchases WE make day after day.

    May 11, 2008

    A Mother's Day Question: What Do You Have in Common with Your Daughter...or Your Own Mother?

    Susan The words, “You look just like your mother!” have taken on new meaning in the chemical age in which we live. According to the nonprofit research institute Environmental Working Group (EWG), we mothers pass the pollutants that have built up in our bodies along to our daughters while they are still in the womb. Consequently, our daughters begin life with a “body burden” of potentially cancer-causing chemicals that continue to accumulate throughout life.

    Chances are great that our daughters will pass on to our grandchildren some of the same chemical molecules they inherited from us. The estimated age by which a daughter will purge 99 percent of the inherited chemical varies depending on the chemical. It will take a day to excrete the phthalate plasticizers that soften up cosmetics, paint and plastics, but a year to dump mercury. Our daughters will be at least teenagers but perhaps senior citizens before they’re rid of the common flame retardants and stain-proofing chemicals we pass along. They would be 166 years old before they’re free of their inherited lead.

    Meanwhile, their own body burden continues to increase. According to EWG’s test results, chemicals that persist in the body were found at higher levels in mothers than daughters, showing how chemicals can build up in the body over a lifetime. Mothers had an average of 1.5 to 5.2 times more pollution than their daughters for lead, methyl mercury, brominated flame retardants, and the Teflon- and Scotchgard-related perfluorochemicals PFOA and PFOS.

    The EWG study, which was done on four mothers and their daughters, found that each of the eight women's blood or urine was contaminated with an average of 35 consumer product ingredients, including flame retardants, plasticizers, and stain-proof coatings. These mixtures of compounds found in furniture, cosmetics, fabrics, and other consumer goods, have never been tested for safety. The mothers and daughters in this study join 64 other people tested in six EWG biomonitoring programs conducted between 2000 and 2006. In total, EWG biomonitoring has found 455 different pollutants, pesticides, and industrial chemicals in the bodies or cord blood of 72 different people — including 10 newborn babies with an average of 200 chemicals in each child.

    "EPA studies show that children from birth to age two are 10 times more sensitive to cancer-causing chemicals than adults," said Jane Houlihan, EWG's vice president for research. "Scientists have found that chemicals' toxic effects can be passed down for four generations, by causing permanent genetic changes that can be inherited. A stew of toxic chemicals is not the legacy mothers want to hand down to their children."

    We monitor the pollution in our air, our water, and even our fish. Isn't it time we started paying attention to the pollution in our bodies?

    Related Post: What's in YOUR body, Mom?

    May 03, 2008

    Will New Eco Clothes be on Target?

    One of the biggest complaints women have about "going green" concerns the challenge of dressing "green," and that means more than the color. Apart from the occasional organic cotton nightgown sold at Wal-Mart, or the jackets and vests Patagonia remakes from recycled soda bottles, it's been hard to find eco-friendly clothes at an actual store -- where you can feel them, compare them and try them on. Most "green" clothes shopping has had to be done on-line, an experience that leaves very little to be desired when choices are limited, sizes are unpredictable, and the delivery lag sometimes seems interminable.

    Target All this might change significantly in May, when Target, the national big box retailer, and award-winning couturier Rogan Gregory, launch their Go International line, first at Barney's, then in Target stores nationwide.

    The Target/Gregory/Barney's collaboration is generating a lot of buzz. Designers aren't the only ones who are surprised that the upscale Barney's and the everyone-scale Target are in cahoots. Shoppers in the market for good-for-the-earth clothes have often been put off by their out-of-this-world prices.  The Rogan Go collection will range between an affordable $15 and $45. To buy styles by Gregory, who also designs green apparel for Edun, the clothing company owned by Bono's wife Allie Hewson, adds an added plus to the "cool" column.

    What Big Green Purse will be watching for is the impact Gregory and Target have on retailers like Macy's, JCPenney, Bloomingdale's, and Lord & Taylor. Until now, any woman looking for a suit, dress, blouse or pants made from organic cotton, hemp or bamboo - materials being used liberally in Gregory's designs -- has been consistently disappointed if they've shopped at traditional outlets. Will Target's bold move inspire other retailers to expand their eco-offerings?

    There's a good chance -- especially if women who normally favor Macy's over Target not just shop at  the big box retailer, but flaunt their purchase in Macy's and other stores.

    Gregory_2 Says Gregory, right, "In order to make any real impact, you have to reach the mass market. Sustainability can't be a cult taste; it can't be a luxury. And Target has been a great partner, in fact, because they pull this whole organic thing into the mainstream."

    For more information on eco-clothing options, visit Big Green Purse.

    May 02, 2008

    The Big Green Purse Message Gains Ground

    Is the Big Green Purse message gaining ground? Given the many book store signings, Earth Day events, and green conferences I've attended lately, I've got reason to hope.

    Crowd3earthday2008_2  More than two hundred people turned out at the Arizona League of Conservation Voters Earth Day celebration at the Phoenix Desert Botanic Garden. What a great event! Moms, dads, kids, plus captive owls, raptors, tortoises, as well as ancient Indian artifacts provided a great backdrop for the conversation we had about ways to use consumer clout and individual behavior to protect the environment.

    6 At the Global Green conference at New Jersey's Liberty Park, the Manhattan skyline created a spectacular setting for the eclectic gathering of folks who came to the Big Green Purse tent looking for ways to go green. Ed Begley, Jr. was there, too, inspiring everyone with his stories about bicycling to the Oscars and using income from his days as a tv star to buy solar collectors for his roof.

    The annual conference of the Professional Businesswomen of California had their first "green" panel this past week; I was honored to participate, along with Gary Hirschberg, founder and "CE-YO" of Stonyfield Farm Yogurt. The house was packed with women (and a few good men) looking for tips on ways to reduce packaging, save energy, and make their money matter.

    And during the noon hour yesterday, I spoke to over 300 HP employees worldwide via the company's very high tech global video conferencing system. HP's Debbie Ledbetter already distributes green living tips to the company's employees every two weeks. Those who attended my presentation got a free copy of Big Green Purse and the opportunity to connect with their colleagues around planet protection issues.

    Next week, I'll be on the road again, addressing the M2W (Marketing to Women) annual conference about why companies need to mean what they say if they say they are green. I'll try to get the point across again at the Sustainable Brands conference the first week of June. And mid-July, it's off to BlogHer '08 to speak with the biggest confab of women bloggers in the world. Stay tuned!

    May 01, 2008

    Put Breast Cancer on Your Big Green Purse Agenda

    Soe2008cover_thumb Dr. Janet Gray, a scientist at Vassar College and director of the school's Science, Technology and Society program, recently collaborated with the Breast Cancer Fund to issue a report on the dangers women face from environmental factors that cause breast cancer. I interviewed Dr. Gray and reviewed the report; here are the highlights:

    *  Breast cancer strikes more women in the world than any other type of cancer except skin cancer.

    * In the U.S., a woman's lifetime risk of breast cancer increased steadily and dramatically during the 20th century.

    * Today, a woman's lifetime risk of breast cancer is one in eight.

    * The increasing incidence of breast cancer over the decades following World War II paralleled the proliferation of synthetic chemicals.

    * An estimated 80,000 synthetic chemicals are used today in the U.S.; another 1,000 or more are added each year. Complete toxicological screening data are available for just 7 percent of these chemicals.

    * Many of these chemicals persist in the environment, accumulate in body fat, and may remain in breast tissue for decades. Many have never been tested for their effects on human health.

    Thanks to reduced use of hormone therapy, breast cancer rates for women over 50 may be declining.  Nevertheless, 216 chemicals and radiation sources have been linked to breast cancer and all women remain susceptible. Of particular concern are the agents known as endocrine disruptors. These are chemicals that mimic our natural endocrine system and ultimately disrupt the work it does to regulate growth, reproduction and other human health conditions.

    Dr. Gray says that consumers can protect themselves by avoiding products that contain endocrine disruptors like phthalates, parabens, growth hormones in meat and dairy products, and bisphenol A. Increasingly, marketplace choices offer phthalate-free perfumes, soaps, shampoos, lotions and even nail polish. Parabens, a preservative, are being replaced by ascorbic acid. Cows that graze on organic feed and in free-range conditions will be free of artificial hormones. Consumers can avoid bisphenol A by choosing stainless steel water bottles rather than hard plastic, and glass over plastic or metal cans for the food they buy.

    These "big green purse" options will not only protect women individually. The way women spend their money sends a direct message to manufacturers. Saying "no" to breast cancer by choosing the safest products and services will pressure companies to say "no" to these same chemicals before they're even added to the product.

    Download a complete copy of the report here.

    EcoCentric Mom
    Everbuying led light
    Green by