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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.
  • « January 2009 | Main | March 2009 »

    February 27, 2009

    Please don't squeeze the Charmin - or use it for anything else!

    Charmin, Kleenex Cottonelle, Quilted Northern and Scott are among the toilet papers and tissues that do the most harm to forests and the environment, according to a new report by Greenpeace.

    The non-profit research group evaluated dozens of brands of toilet paper, facial tissue, paper, towels and napkins according to three criteria:

    1) How much recycled content they contained - using 100% recycled content helps protect forests because it significantly reduces the demand for trees, especially trees coming from native forests.

    2) How much of that was post-consumer waste - to get the top ranking, at least 50% post-consumer waste needed to be used in manufacturing the product.

    3) How the paper was bleached - the top-ranked products are not bleached using chlorine, which can create the toxic byproduct dioxin.

    According to Greenpeace, Americans could save more than 400,000 trees if each family bought a roll of recycled toilet paper—just once.

    The group has produced a pocket guide you can use when you shop to buy the most eco-friendly option.

    Brands that ranked high on the Greenpeace list include:

    Green forest * Green Forest

    * 365 Whole Planet (available at Whole Foods)

    * CVS Earth Essentials

    * Seventh Generation

    * Trader Joe's

    * Cascades

    Of course, when it comes to napkins and towels, use cloth, and avoid the paper debate altogether.

    Want to be "almost" meatless? These cookbooks will help.

    My recent post on Ten Reasons Why You Should Eat Less Meat generated a resounding request for recipes.

    My favorites come from colorful cookbooks that either eschew meat completely or use it primarily as an accent rather than as a main course.

    Super natural Super Natural Cooking will get you whipping up meat-free stews, salads, entrees and desserts with such flair your friends and family will think you've gone to "natural" cooking school. Written by Heidi Swanson, the gourmet behind the website, Super Natural Cooking covers everything from burgers, pancakes and chocolate cookies made with mesquite flour to sweet potato spoon bread and black tea spring rolls.

    I'm particularly fond of the "spring minestrone," a light soup made from shallots, garlic, asparagus, snow peas, green peas, medium grain brown rice and vegetable stock. Shop at local farmer's markets, which are just beginning to fill with many of these early-season vegetables, Serve with a loaf of whole grain bread or the seed-crusted amaranth biscuits detailed in the cookbook.

    Meat_MED If you're still eating meat, but less, Almost Meatless is the cookbook for you. The Vegetable Ragu Lasagne uses only 6 ounces of ground turkey in a casserole that serves eight. The Grecian Frittata derives its protein from eggs - and its interest from artichoke hearts and kalamata olives (it is "Grecian," after all). Written by Pennsylvania food writers Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond, the recipes also include seafood and chicken, plus just a smattering of meat for those who want the taste but perhaps not the bulk that meat adds to a meal. Crab Pad Thai, made with the usual rice noodles, roasted peanuts and bean sprouts, gets very yummy when enhanced with lump crab meat.

    If neither of these concepts tickles your taste buds, don't despair. Ten Speed Press has published many others you can choose from, divided into categories like "healthy cooking" and "star chefs."

    Here are a few more cookbooks I keep in my kitchen

    Purple Rice? Orange Chocolate? Vanilla Sugar?

    If your mouth isn't watering yet, it should be.

    Alter eco products These foods, produced by Alter Eco, the Fair Trade food company, are not your run-of-the-mill staples. Their exotic flavors and textures transform mundane meals into delicious dining experiences you'll want to repeat over and over again.

    What makes them so special?

    Taste, for one. The full natural grains are flavorful and robust. The molasses-infused sugar crystals bring an unexpected richness to cookies and other baked goods. And the chocolate? Each of the bars tickles a different set of taste buds (Just when I decided Dark Velvet was my favorite, I took a bite of Dark Mint. The tie was broken - by the crystalline orange flecks infusing Dark Twist). 

    Texture, for another. This is food you feel when you chew. No melt-in-your-mouth M&M types here. It actually feels like you're eating, not just getting through your supper.

    Purple rice And, of course, the color. If you're tired of looking at bland white rice, you'll delight in not just Alter Eco's purple variety, but their coral red jasmine rice and black quinoa, too.

    The fact that they're grown on sustainably run co-operatives where workers are paid a decent wage - the foundation for fair trade agriculture - is icing on the cake (made with the company's own sugar, of course).

    Thumb_green Thumbs up, Alter Eco!

    February 19, 2009

    Ten reasons why you should eat less meat

    You don't need to be a complete vegetarian for your diet to help protect the planet. Just eat less meat. Here's why:

    1.  Save the rainforest. World Wildlife Fund estimates that, every year, an area of the world's rain forests larger than the state of New York is destroyed to create grazing land. In latin America, says the United Nations, some 70% of forests in the Amazon basin have been cut down to raise cows.

    2.  Refresh the air. If you've ever driven by a feed lot, you've probably had to hold your nose. No wonder. About 1.4 billion metric tons of solid manure are produced by U.S. farm animals each year - 130 times the quantity produced by people.This figure includes pigs and chickens as well as cattle, but cattle are the single largest source.

    3. Keep water clean. Two-thirds of the beef cattle raised in the U.S. are fattened up using hormones like steroids, testosterone and progesterone. When the cows pee, they can pollute surface and ground water with all these chemicals, affecting the ability of frogs and fish to reproduce, too.

    4. Save water. It takes 600 gallons of water to produce one hamburger patty. Just one.

    5. Feed more people. It takes about 2 pounds of grain to produce a quarter-pound of burger meat. Why not convert that grain (and the resources used to grow it) into food more people can eat?

    Cow sign  6. Stop climate change. "Hamburgers are the Hummers of food" when it comes to climate change, say scientists. Switching from steak to salad could cut as much carbon as leaving the car home a couple of days a week. Food is the third largest contributor to the average household's carbon footprint after driving and utilities. If people simply cut their meat intake from the average 90 kg/year to 53 kg/yr, meat-associated carbon emissions would drop by 44 percent.

    7. Be nice. Many livestock and dairy cattle are raised in cruel and inhumane conditions where they must be injected with antibiotics so they'll fatten up and seem healthy.  The Union of Concerned Scientists reports that about 70% of all antibiotics made in the U.S. are used to fatten up livestock. 

    8. Avoid drugs. In addition to hormones and antibiotics, conventional meat producers routinely process their products using chemical additives and preservatives like phosphates and sodium nitrites. That makes them pinker, but not necessarily healtheir. Sodium nitrites may react with amino acides to form carvinogenic nitrosamines; various studies have found a link between high processed-meat consumption and colon cancer, possibly attributable to prservatives like sodium nitrite.

    9. Live longer. Speaking of health, eating a lot of meat can increase the likelihood of heart attacks and high blood pressure.

    10. Save money. Meat is usually the most expensive item you put in your shopping cart. Buy less meat, and shift the savings to organic fruits and vegetables.

    Here's a good rundown on what it costs in water, energy and resources, to eat a hamburger (and fries) at a fast food restaurant.

    February 18, 2009

    Buying in Bulk Just Saved Me $20!

    Given how jittery the economy is, it's easy to get the jitters yourself when it comes to going green.

    Isn't it great to know, then, that choosing the greenest option when you shop can actually be the most economical way to shop, too?

     Black catThis was brought home to me in spades this morning, when I was stocking up on cat food. Now, there's nothing particularly 'green' about the food I feed my cat Midnight - nothing organic or free range or locally grown. But I had a choice between the package it came in. I could either buy individual four-pound bags, or one large 10-pound bag (which is far less energy and resource intensive to produce).

    When I looked at the price difference, it was easy to make up my mind: one 10-pound bag actually cost $20 less than three four-pound bags! Twenty bucks! I couldn't believe it.

    Buying in bulk - whether it's cat food, snack food, or wholesome fruits and vegetables - helps protect the planet because the larger packages use less paper and plastic during manufacture and generate less trash. Generally speaking, one out of every eleven dollars we spend shopping goes to cover the cost of packaging. Given these tough economic times, I'd rather save that money buying in bulk.

    Bulk Buying Tips:

    * Buy the largest size available. This is not only true for food. Cleaning products also come in a variety of sizes; the biggest ones will be cheapest.

    * Skip snack packs, which are an excess of cardboard, paper, and plastic wrap. Use reusable containers if you need to divvy up snacks for kids.

    Bulk food * Shop the bulk bins. Many grocery stores and food coops sell dry goods in bulk. They supply plastic bags you can fill up, or you can use your own reusable bags (the price differential if your bag is cloth will be minuscule and not worth worry about).

    February 16, 2009

    "Green" Cell Phones Can Help Fight Climate Change

     If you're in the market for a new cell phone, consider one of these "green" models that are being  featured at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

    Motorola green phone * Motorola's MOTO W233 Renew - constructed of plastic made from recycled water bottles; can be completely recycled. Cost: $9.99 with a two-year contract; buy through T-Mobile. Comes in packaging made of 100% recycled paper; includes prepaid shipping envelope so you can easily recycle your old mobile phone. PLUS: Motorola pays to offset the carbon emissions created during manufacture and distribution, along with the first two years you use it. (Its carbon offset payments are going to support methane gas capture at a landfill in New Bedford, MA).

    Sony_erricsson_greenheart_phone1 * Sony Ericsson's GreenHeart - made with recycled biodegradable components; the charger uses a fraction of the electricity common chargers draw. NOTE: Sony Ericsson stood out in the 2008 Greenpeace Electronics Guide for banning hazardous chemicals in its products since the beginning of the year. In particular, the company's T650i mobile phone and Pli PDA came out on top in Greenpeace’s Searching for Greener Electronics survey.

    Samsung solar phone * Samsung's Blue Earth solar-powered phone - made from recycled plastic and just darn pretty. According to the company, the phone and its high-efficiency charger contain none of the toxic chemicals often used in electronics, such as brominated flame retardants, beryllium or phthalates. My favorite feature? An "eco walk" function that lets you count your steps with a built-in pedometer so you can  also calculate how much less CO2 you're using by walking as opposed to driving. 

    * ZTE, a Chinese manufacturer, and Digicel, a Latin American service provider, have teamed up behind what they say is the first solar-powered mobile phone. This is still in design, but when it's on the market, it's expected to appeal particularly to the 2 billion people in the world who have limited or no access to steady electricity supplies.

    * Nokia released the 5630 Xpress Music Phone, along with a preloaded application called "we:offset" so users can measure their carbon emissions. Want to pay for the pollution you create? The company provides a link to an easy online form just for that purpose.

    Though I welcome these product developments, I hope they don't encourage any of you to shelve a perfectly good phone if you don't have to. We're adding more e-waste to trash than any other form of garbage. The longer we use the phones we have, the less electronic garbage we'll have to clean up in the not-so-distant future.

    February 08, 2009

    Fill Your Heart with Organic Chocolate

    Any day is a good day to eat chocolate as far as I'm concerned. But on no day is it so special as on Choc bar Valentine's Day, when heart-shaped boxes full of cocoa-based delicacies can keep people (well, me) happy pretty much all day.

    That's particularly true if the cocoa is produced organically. Cocoa powder is derived from cacao seeds that grow in pods on the cacao tree. The tree's botanical name, Theobroma cacao, means "food of the gods," nomenclature with which I wholeheartedly agree. Cocoa "beans" are only called that once they're removed from the tree. What does any of this have to do with the environment? The cacao tree grows in the rainforest. Ideally, cacao trees will be grown on small farms, in the shade, to keep rainforests intact and reduce pesticide use. 

    Even better is organic cocoa that is also produced according to Fair Trade principles, ensuring that farmers are paid a decent wage for their work and no child labor is involved. In countries like Cote d'Ivoire in West Africa, children are being used like slaves to produce cocoa, with profits going to fund the country's civil war.

    Online, at natural foods stores and food coops, and increasingly at local grocery stores, you can find organic, fair trade cocoa and chocolate. Here are some brands to look for:

    * Dagoba

    * Divine Milk Chocolate

    * Endangered Species Organic Chocolate

    * Equal Exchange

    * Green & Black's

    * Theo

    Alter Eco

    But which of these tastes best?

    I asked the moms over at Green Moms Carnival for their faves. Here's what they recommend:

    Jess Trevelyan, who blogs at The Green Phone Booth, raves, "I love Divine first and foremost for the flavor (both dark and milk).But also cause the HQ is here in DC so I can support a local business."

    Lynn Miller of, has her favorite, too. "Diane, I love Green & Black's and Divine. Divine is fair trade from Ghana and is based here in DC. Black's is often on sale at places like Giant (yay!).

    Anna over at, did some serious research on the subject. "I went to the NYC chocolate fair this year and reviewed many of the organic chocolates," she reports. "I preferred dark chocolate with about 70-85 percent cacao. What I liked about the show is that the chocolate was not all
    offered at your local health food shops or was not made into bars. See the bark one or toffee one. I especially liked the foodie chocolate where it was infused with an herb or food ingredient. Try rosemary and chocolate some time. It is amazing." See Anna's articles, including "Organic Chocolate Never Tasted So Good."

    Got an organic or fair trade chocolate you love? Let us know!

    Sending Flowers For Valentine's Day? Go Local, or Make Them Organic

    Red roses For Valentine’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries or other special occasions, giving flowers often seems like a gift from Mother Nature herself.

    But when flowers are doused in pesticides and transported long (i.e., energy-intensive) distances, their eco-appeal quickly evaporates. The health impact conventionally-grown flowers has makes them even less desirable.

    Consider this: Seventy percent of U.S. flowers are imported from Latin America, where growers in Columbia, Ecuador and other countries use pesticides that have long been banned in the U.S. A 2002 survey of 8,000 Colombian flower workers revealed exposure to 25 carcinogenic or highly toxic pesticides that are not used in the United States.

    Often, women flower growers suffer impaired vision, asthma, and miscarriage or give birth to babies marked by lower birth weights and higher blood pressure. Thirty-five out of 72 Ecuadoran children tested by the Harvard School of Public Health experienced organophosphate pesticides in the womb while their mothers grew flowers. These children later suffered both higher blood pressure and poorer spatial ability than kids who escaped prenatal exposures. Overall, according to a study by the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF), two-thirds of Colombian and Ecuadorian flower workers suffer work-related health problems ranging from impaired vision and neurological problems Some women give birth to stillborn infants, or see their children die within a month after birth.

    Meanwhile, the International Labor Organization estimates that 20 percent of flower workers in Ecuador are children, who are more vulnerable to chemical hazards than adults because their immune systems and vital organs are still immature. According to Environmental News Network, roses can contain as much as 50 times the amount of pesticides that are legally allowed on the food we eat. The U.S. requires imported flowers to be bug-free, but unlike edible fruits and vegetables they are not tested for chemical residues. So even if you’re not growing these flowers yourselves, you may still be bringing the chemicals used on them into your home.

    Fortunately, shoppers have a whole bouquet of alternatives to conventionally grown flowers and plants.

    Buy local – Check to find flower growers in your area, who can use less pesticides and less energy to get flowers to your door. Farmers markets also sell flowers, greens and plants that can make wonderful botanical gifts.

    Buy certified organic flowers. First, read this explanation from the International Labor Rights Forum to understand why it's important to choose flowers that have been sustainably certified.

    VFA_hdr_logo Veriflora requires organic farming practices, ecosystem protection, minimal energy use and packaging, and fair labor and community development practices.

    Organic Bouquet $49.95/dozen roses; 877-899-2468

    Diamond Organics organic flower sampler is actually a beautiful basket of organic fruit, almonds, and cookies in addition to a sprinkling of flowers. At $110, pricey - but precious. (888-ORGANIC).

    California Organic Flowers grows flowers in season; Anemones, Protea, Narcissus and Dutch iris are available now through March for $44.95; 530-891-6265.

    Storefronts: Whole Foods, food coops, natural food stores and other socially-responsible retailers are increasingly carrying organically grown flowers and plants. If you don’t see them when you shop, ask for them.

    Beware Florverde: Colombia's flower exporters trade association says it certifies its members for improving worker safety and welfare. Nevertheless, almost 40 percent of the toxic chemicals applied by Florverde farms in 2005 were listed as extremely or highly toxic by the World Health Organization. If you needd to buy flowers, choose those that are certified organic or sold under the Veriflora label.

    Boring 2009 Gas Guzzlers Should Stay in Showroom

    Forget the auto industry bail-out.

    Given the cars it's offering us consumers this year, we'd be doing ourselves and this failing industry a favor if we shuttered all the showrooms and got on our bikes.

    The vehicles are boring, their prices are through the rough, and the “green” gas mileage they oromised falls far short of what you’d expect in a shrinking oil economy.

    A two-hour tour of the Washington auto show last night was all it took to reveal how out-of-touch this industry is with reality.

    Despite its claim that the show was “driven by the environment,” almost every vehicle I saw was clunky, expensive and a gas guzzler. After eyeballing a lot of stickers, I was shocked at almost all of them: price tags in the high $30-50K range for family sedans, and for that, mpg ranges scraping the bottom of the barrel (high teens/low twenties). I consider a fuel efficient car to get at least 30 mpg. Only a few models achieved such a modest goal, including the Toyota Prius (the car I drive), the Mercury Hybrid, the Smart Car, and the Mini-Cooper. (BTW, Mini-Cooper wins the contest on cool websites, hands down!). GM is still selling Hummers, for goodness’ sake.

    Chevy volt The Chevy Volt, the all electric vehicle GM promises to make available by 2011, was named Green Car Vision Award Winner by Green Car Journal. The only surprise there is that the Volt is actually a pretty spiffy car and looks like it would be fun to drive as well as cheap (well, the fuel would be cheap; we don’t know what the car will cost yet).

    If I were rich, I would have been excited by the Fisker. For a cool $85,000, you can get “the world’s first eco-chic car created in equally eco-friendly facilities.” This was the only car in the entire show concerned about its “karma” (their word, not mine). In fact, they have a model called the “Karma” that burns no fuel for the first 50 miles, then uses a lithium ion battery to operate like a normal hybrid vehicle. Fisker claims the Karma can average fuel economy of 100 mpg (2.4L/100km) per year - almost FIVE TIMES AS MUCH as most of the other vehicles in the show.

    It took forever to find the “Green Car Pavilion” part of the show — because it was about as far away from the conventional autos on display as it could be and still be included in the mix. I’d link to it if only there were a link for it on the Show’s website. There’s not.

    As Congress debates a billion dollar bail-out package to help prop up this failed industry, show organizers said that ”The mission of the Washington Auto Show is to operate as the “Public Policy Show,” unique on the global industry circuit because of its proximity to the U.S. Congress, international diplomatic corps and Federal agencies.”

    Given the cars they displayed and their disdain for the economic and environmental realities we face, I can only imagine that their idea of “facilitating a dialogue between industry leaders and public policymakers” means they’re lobbying to do business as usual.

    February 06, 2009

    Octuplets? Outrageous!

    Is anyone else dismayed or distressed by the story of the California mother of six young children who recently gave birth to eight more babies?

    The six boys and two girls only weighed in at between 1 pound, 8 ounces, and 3 pounds, 4 ounces. They were born the end of January, ten weeks premature, and will be in incubators for at least the next two months.

    The births have been greeted by a frenzy of media coverage, essentially turning the mother and all her children into overnight celebrities. According to various news reports, the mother is already negotiating with Hollywood to sell her story - which forces me to ask, "Did she do it for the money?"

    She certainly could not have done it because having fourteen children under the age of seven is as easy as a walk in the park. As a mother of two kids who are almost three years apart in age, I can testify that raising any child is a challenge, let alone 14. This mother's life is more complicated than many, given the fact that she does not appear to have a partner who will share the financial and social challenges she will face raising all these children. The family previously filed for bankruptcy; it's not clear if the mother is employed, but even if she is, it will be hard if not impossible for her to return to work with so many children to care for. Sure, the neighbors will pitch in. I suspect it will never be enough.

    Baby hand What about the octuplets' health? Most medical professionals worry that extreme multiple births pose unnecessary risks to the infants involved. After birth, they may suffer respiratory illness, brain damage, or worse.

    "When we see something like this in the general fertility world, it gives us the heebie-jeebies," said Michael Tucker, a clinical embryologist in Atlanta and a leading researcher in infertility treatment. Tucker added that in his opinion, "if a medical practitioner had anything to do with it, there's some degree of inappropriate medical therapy there."

    Apart from obvious questions like how one mother could breastfeed eight babies, I'm wondering generally about the care of all these kids. Who's going to change all those diapers?

    Speaking of diapers, what kind of impact are all these people going to have on the environment?

    At a time when the world is focused on reducing carbon emissions, conserving water, and economizing on resources, this one family is multiplying its immediate impact on the planet by 14 times. Let's go back to the diapers a minute. The average baby uses 10,000 diapers in her lifetime. These eight babies will generate a pile of dirty diapers 80,000 strong. Shouldn't this woman have been more responsible when it came to controlling the size of her environmental footprint?

    Obviously, I wish this mother and her family well. But as she fields tv-of-the-week movie deals and corporate offers to clothe her kids, I can't help but worry about the impact the spotlight on the octuplets will have on others who are considering having children.

    Though much of the world is focused on population control, here in the U.S., large families are being made to seem increasingly glamorous.

    Brangelina Brad Pitt's and Angelina Jolie's growing family regularly makes the cover of People magazine. Everyone wants to know: is Angie pregnant AGAIN? How many more kids will they have before they finally say stop? Stay tuned.

    Jon & Kate Plus Eight have turned having a big brood into a cottage industry, complete with their own tv show on the Learning Channel and related product endorsements.

    Could there be a correlation between all this on-camera glitz and the fact that the number of women having three babies is at its highest level since 1990; fourth births are at their highest level since 1980?

    Yes, it's fun to ooh and aah over the miracle of eight babies being born at one time. But we do those kids, their siblings, and other children in the world a disservice if we don't also take the opportunity provided by the occasion of their births to reaffirm a commitment to reasonable population growth.

    EcoCentric Mom
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