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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.
  • « May 2009 | Main | July 2009 »

    June 29, 2009

    Environmental In-Box: Bon Ami Cleanser

    “Bon ami” in French means “good friend,” and when it comes to cleaning your kitchen and bathroom, Bon Ami Cleanser is just that.  This non-scratching, earth-friendly product has been available in just about every supermarket and hardware store for decades.  If you've never heard of it, it's time you did.

    Bonami What is it?

    Bon Ami’s Cleanser is made from sodium carbonate, calcium carbonate (limestone), and feldspar.  The mildly abrasive limestone and feldspar cleanse without scratching, while the sodium carbonate conditions hard water. To use, just wet the surface you want to clean, sprinkle on the Bon Ami powder, and wipe with a wet sponge. I use Bon Ami on everything from kitchen countertops to living room walls to the bathtub. You can also use it to shine appliances and clean outdoor furniture.  

    What I like:  Bon Ami contains no chlorine, dye, perfume, bleach, or phosphorus.  Because the product is free of unhealthy additives it is especially appealing to people who suffer from chemical sensitivities.  Not only is the cleanser itself biodegradable, but the packaging consists of more than 75% recycled material, including 60% post-consumer waste. 

    What could be improved? Hmmm. I'm thinking...

    Continue reading "Environmental In-Box: Bon Ami Cleanser" »

    June 24, 2009

    Where Can You Recycle Cellphones? Everywhere.

    Cell phone Recycling cell phones is one of the easiest ways you can protect the planet.

    • Leave it behind when you buy a new phone. Sprint, Verizon,T-Mobile, AT&T, Nokia, and Motorola all participate in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Plug in to e-cycling” program and will accept any cell phone or PDA at any of their retail outlets.

    • Take it to Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Staples, Office Depot, or Radio Shack. Most outlets will have a box you can drop your phone in with absolutely no hassle.

    *  Send it to Collective Good, a company that refurbishes the phones, re-sells them, and shares the profits with the charity of your choice. Address:

    Collective Good International
    Include Charity Code
    Boulder, CO 80303-1350

    Why bother? Every week, 3 million cell phones are thrown away. More than 1 billion used mobile phones clutter our shelves, take up space in our drawers or worse – are decaying in landfills.

    Cell phones are constructed with a host of heavy metals - like antimony, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel and zinc – that can pollute ground water and potentially cause cancer. Recovering those metals for re-use keeps them out of the environment and makes them available for reuse in other electronics manufacturing.

    Have an APPLE I-Phone or IPOD you need to unload?   Apple’s Recycling Program provides prepaid mailing label you can download from the company website.

    Recycle used phone batteries, too. The Rechargeable Battery Recycling Coalition links to 50,000 locations, including Target, Lowe's Home Depot and Office Max. 

    Want more ways to recycle your phone? Here are 50, courtesy of VOIP.

    Research by Rachel Goglia

    What impact does mining have on the environment? Duhhh...

    Waste from gold and other kinds of mining pollutes the planet. Miners often use arsenic, a toxic metal, to leach gold from rock, creating a nasty slurry that contaminates drinking water and kills wildlife when it's released into the environment.

    Anyone who thinks dousing our waterways or landscapes with such toxic pollution deserves to have his or her head examined -- even if that head is perched on the neck of a Supreme Court Justice.

    In a ruling decried by environmentalists, public health officials, and fishermen in Alaska, the Court voted 6-3 Lake to allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers -- the same folks who built the failed levee system in New Orleans, ahem -- to permit Coeur Alaska, Inc., a gold mining company, to dump its tainted slurry into Lower Slate Lake. The lake lies just north of Juneau, Alaska.

    The Supreme Court didn't just say this was okay. In an Orwellian analysis, they actually ruled that the Clean Water Act -- legislation designed to keep our waterways clean and the wildlife that lives in them safe -- instead permits just the opposite. It boggles the mind - well my mind, anyway. Evidently not the minds of the six Justices who supported this opinion.

    Notably, the Supreme Court's decision reverses a May 2007 ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which found the mining company's permit in clear violation of the Clean Water Act.

    "If a mining company can turn Lower Slate Lake in Alaska into a lifeless waste dump, other polluters with solids in their wastewater can potentially do the same to any water body in America," said Trip Van Noppen, president of the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice, which brought the suit.

    "The good news is that the problem is reversible. It was caused by a Bush administration rule reversing thirty years of successful regulation under the Clean Water Act. We call on President Obama to act immediately to repeal this rule."

    "The purpose of the Clean Water Act is to keep America's waters safe for drinking, fishing, and swimming," added Tom Waldo of Earthjustice, who argued the case on behalf of three conservation groups. "The Clean Water Act was intended to halt the practice of using lakes, rivers, and streams as waste dumps. Today's decision does not achieve these purposes."

    What's the magnitude of this decision? Coeur d'Alene Mines Corporation's Kensington gold mine near Juneau is now permitted to pump over 200,000 gallons per day of a toxic wastewater slurry directly into Lower Slate Lake in the Tongass National Forest. The dumping, which will take place over ten years, will eventually deposit 4.5 million tons of solids in the lake, killing nearly all its aquatic life.

    Earth Justice said this rule change can be reversed with a new rule issued by the Corps and EPA, by legislation, or by revising the informal EPA memo. A bill already introduced in this Congress by Representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Dave Reichert (R-WA) would, if passed, accomplish this task. The Clean Water Protection Act, H.R. 1310, has 151 cosponsors.

    Contact Earth Justice to find out how you can help.

    June 22, 2009

    Environmental In-Box: Marmoleum, the Eco-Friendly Flooring

    When it comes to choosing flooring for your home, you might not even know eco-friendly options exist.  But for over 100 years, Forbo has been manufacturing Marmoleum, an all natural linoleum. Katie Kelleher reports:

    What is it? Marmoleum is made into flooring sheets or tiles from a compound of linseed oil, rosins, cork flour, limestone and wood flour that’s adhered to a nontoxic jute backing.  These ingredients create a tough environmentally-friendly product that becomes harder and more durable over time.  Naturally occurring anti-bacteria and anti-static properties are added to the mix to help the flooring resist dust and inhibit the growth of germs that cause disease.  You can buy it online or find a local distributor by entering your location information into the website.

    Marmoleum_click_178x124 What I like:  Forbo sought to minimize its environmental impact long before it was trendy, and has the third-party certifications to prove it.  Marmoelum has received a Platinum certification from the SMART Sustainable Products Standard.  It has also been certified under the ISO 14001, a global environmental management standard for sustainable practices.  Additionally, Marmoleum’s health and wellness claims have been certified by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. No greenwashing here.

     Plus, Marmoleum is a cinch to clean. Stains do not penetrate Marmoleum due to its Topshield protective layer; it is best cleaned by vacuuming, sweeping, or using a mop and the company cleaning solution.

    Marmoleum Click offers consumers design flexibility, additional health benefits, and money-saving benefits, too: the flooring “clicks” together in a fit that requires no adhesives that can emit nasty fumes   With its 24 color choices and many design possibilities, Marmoleum is equally appropriate for residential or corporate settings.(It was installed in our company kitchen when the offices were renovated.) The website's Marmoleum Click Floorplanner lets you create a virtual room, including furniture, to test out your favorite floor design. 

    Also, the flooring is comfortable to walk on, thanks to the softening effect of the natural jute fiber backing.  Marmoleum Click can last upwards of 30 years without being replaced. 

    What could be improved? Because Marmoleum is made from natural ingredients, the color of the floor may vary from the sample or could change over time.  Also, the flooring cannot currently be recycled once it's been used. On the plus side, it will decompose in a landfill without releasing harmful chemicals into the ground, water or air. Also, the company strives to maximize materials recycling during manufacturing to minimize waste.

    Continue reading "Environmental In-Box: Marmoleum, the Eco-Friendly Flooring" »

    June 21, 2009

    Ford Fusion Hybrid: Good Choice for Family Looking for High MPG

    Ford's 2010 Fusion Hybrid delivers the goods:

    * It meets my minimum standard for high fuel efficiency for a family car by getting 37 mpg on the highway, 41 in the city, and 39 mpg overall, goals achieved thanks to the car's gasoline engine boosted by an electric battery.

    * It's roomy enough to seat three adults comfortably in the back, for total seating capacity of 5 overall.

    * The in-car GPS system can direct you to the nearest, cheapest gas station or the most direct route, saving you money on gas and reducing the amount of gas you use.

    What's the downside - apart from driving a fossil-fuel burning car at all? It's expensive, around $28,000 base price and as much as $32,000 for a "fully loaded" car that includes skylights, leather seats, a Sirius radio system, and GPS.

    I test drove the vehicle for three days, morning, noon and night, and in the rain. Here's what I had to say:

    Intrigued? Here's a good explanation of how the Fusion Hybrid technology works.

    USA Today compares the Ford Fusion hybrid to its Camry and Nissan Altima counterparts here.

    For a cheaper hybrid option, you might want to compare the Fusion to the new Prius and the Honda Civic hybrids.

    Want a hybrid minivan? Sign this petition urging Toyota to bring its Sienna hybrid minivan to the U.S.

    Don't forget to check fuel efficiency ratings for all vehicles at

    These eco-friendly suggestions will help you save money using less gas driving the vehicle you currently have.

    June 18, 2009

    My Green Guilty Pleasure: The New York Times and a Bunch of Magazines

    Ok, I admit it. I'm killing trees, wasting energy, and polluting water.

    Well, maybe not me directly. But my decidedly not green habit -- ok, let's call it addiction -- to The New York Times, Fast Company, Natural Home, Outside, Sierra, Glamour, and Ladies Home Journal puts me squarely in the box labeled "PAPER WASTER."

    Why do I do it? Why get actual physical editions of publications I could easily read on-line with nary a twig cut or an iota of CO2 generated?

    NHMayJune08 First and foremost, I do it for the content. Every day, I open the New York Times to some news or feature I never would have thought to explore myself. To slake my thirst for green business models, Fast Company's frequent profiles of successful eco entrepreneurs keep me inspired; plus, the regular "Made to Stick" column by the Heath brothers does a yeoman's job of reminding me to keep things simple and surprising. I live vicariously through the scrumptious pages of Natural Home; maybe I won't be installing an environmentally-friendly counter made of recycled glass in my kitchen any time soon, but I love fantasizing about the possibilities.

    I subscribe to Outside because the writing is so darn good (and I'm an avid hiker, biker, white water rafter, and eco-traveler). Plus, it's something I can share with my very adventurous twenty-something son. I subscribe to Glamour because it's something I can share with my very fashion-conscious college-age daughter (stereotypes? yes...sigh). And honestly, it reminds me there are other options out there besides granny underpants. Flipping through Glamour also keeps me focused on how much work we still need to do to green the clothing industry, especially for business and professional women. Then it's back to Sierra, which not only connects me to the organization I served as national Director of Communications early in my career; it keeps me up to date on environmental policy and green consumer news. And truth be told, the issue that highlights Sierra Club's national and international outings gets me daydreaming about backpacking for hours on end.

    As for Ladies Home Journal? My mission is to help women use their marketplace clout to protect themselves, their families, and the planet. How better to get a reality check than by perusing a publication that reaches millions of women every month, often with messages that are very clearly the opposite of mine?

    Apart from the joy I get reading great content, I should probably cop to the visceral pleasure I feel when I read words printed on paper. After ten or so hours sitting at a computer, I need to switch off. I can take the newspaper or magazine with me to my back porch, my window seat, or my bed, and just...relax. I know, the Kindle is portable, too. But it's still electronic. And pressing the forward button on an illuminated book box is just not the same as turning a page. 

    Of course, there are loads of publications I read on-line, along with dozens of blogs and websites. And you can be sure I try to be as eco friendly as possible with the publications I do receive, recycling rather than throwing them away or passing copies along to neighbors and friends. I support organizations that plant trees, and I try to plant at least one tree myself every Earth Day. 

    Greenmoms1  Is this enough? Maybe, maybe not. But for the moment, it will have to do, even if I do feel just a little bit guilty every time one of my favorite pubs shows up on my doorstep. Fortunately, as the saying goes, misery loves company. I've got a lot of company this month, as the rest of the bloggers in the Green Moms Carnival reveal their 'sins' and unload their guilt, too. Enjoy -- and please, let me know: 

    What's your green guilty pleasure? 

    June 16, 2009

    Stinky or Sweet? Dealing With the Pits

    Guys worry just as much as women do about B.O. Surprisingly, far less attention has been paid to “green” and healthy deodorants for the men in our lives than for ourselves. Safe deodorants are important regardless of gender. Parabens, a preservative used to keep some deodorants fresh, increasingly are showing up in breast tumor tissue. Synthetic fragrances, especially those in spray-on deodorants, can increase the incidence of acne, headaches, and respiratory problems. Aluminum, another ingredient common in conventional anti-perspirants, has been linked to Alzheimer’s Disease and painful swelling (per an interview with senior analyst Sean Gray at Environmental Working Group. Conventional deodorants may also contain phthalates, which are considered a reproductive toxin in the state of California.

    Safer products for women have been around for years, primarily in response to their strong consumer demand. Guys can have a similar impact on manufacturers, by choosing the safest products available. These deodorant options, all of which are highly rated for health and safety by Environmental Working Group, are a good place to start:

    Crystal Crystal deodorant:   This clear, rock-like product uses mineral salts to reduce the bacteria that cause body odor.   Just moisten the crystal and rub it under your arm; it dries immediately.  The line has a product specifically for men. Added  Benefit: the Crystal company is the top rated natural or conventional deodorant according to the analysis of Environmental Working Group. The company also supports "The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics" and pledges that any products it makes will "meet the standards and deadlines set by the European Union Directive 76/768/eeC to be free of chemicals that are known or strongly suspected of causing cancer, mutation or birth defects." Here’s some additional useful background on crystal deodorants.

    Tom’s of Maine Unscented Deodorant stick: makes four different deodorants from ingredients like hops, chamomile, and lemongrass.  You can purchase the deodorant fragrance-free, or scented with calendula, woodspice, or honeysuckle rose.  Tom’s is  available at most grocery and drug stores, including  Rite Aid and Walgreens, but can also be purchased online.

    Aubrey Organics uses herbal extracts and vitamin E in their Men’s Stock Natural Dry Herbal Pine deodorant.   The deodorant comes in spray form (but not an aerosol can) and can be purchased directly from the company's website as well as in natural foods and Whole Foods stores.

    Want more information on safe personal care products? Here you go.

    (Research by Katie Kelleher)

    June 15, 2009

    "Green" Shampoos and Lotions for Guys

    When it comes to shampoos and lotions, guys need to pay attention to the same health, safety and environmental issues as we girls do.  Personal care products often contain synthetic fragrances, phthalates, parabens, and antibacterial agents. All have been linked to health problems ranging from increased respiratory illness and reproductive failure to breast cancer and antibiotic resistance. Additionally, many name brand soaps and shampoos contain sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) or sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES), concoctions that can increase the frequency of canker sores and irritate the skin. Scientists are concerned that both  SLS and SLES  have been found to harbor very low levels of 1,4-dioxane, a human carcinogen. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration encourages manufacturers to remove 1,4-dioxane, but it is not required by law.

    Carrots The way you spend your money is your first line of defense against products like these that could pose a threat. Using your consumer clout also sends a clear message to manufacturers to clean up the ingredients they want you to buy. The following lotions, soaps and shampoos give you some greener, safer options to choose from – and dangle a bright green “carrot” in front of businesses to encourage them to be better:


    Anthony Logistics for Men Glycerin Hand & Body Lotion:  This fragrance-free lotion is made with sea kelp, shea butter, aloe vera, glycerin, chamomile, and vitamins A, B5, C, and E.  It is available at Nordstrom, Bath & Body Works, and Sephora or via the Anthony Logistics website. $10. 

    WildWays Studio Hand Balm Just for Men: This sandalwood-scented hand and body lotion contains water, cold-pressed oils (hazelnut, coconut, avocado, and wheat germ), shea butter, aloe vera, vitamin E, verbena, beeswax, and sandalwood essential oil.  Available through the WildWays website for $10.

    Aubrey mens Aubrey Organics Ultimate Moist Unscented Hand & Body Lotion: Coconut, macadamia nut, and sunflower oils give this lotion its moisturizing oomph. Their “Men’s Stock” Daily Moisturizer mixes aloe vera and calendula oil with other plant-based ingredients to moisturize. Aubrey Organics has signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics.


    Tom’s of Maine: Several of Tom's “body” bars do double duty as moisturizers and deodorizers. A moisturizing body wash does the job in the shower. Tom’s of Maine is widely available in conventional grocery and drug stores.

    Zum soap Zum Soaps: You might be inclined to eat this soap rather than wash with it, once you get a load of the delicious ingredients it's made with (hint: olive oil, goat’s milk, honey, rosemary…). If your store doesn’t stock it (see left), ask for it. 

    Vermont Soap Works:  These full-bodied soap bars are infused with organic oils like palm, coconut, olive, and orange, then scented with peppermint, hemp and woodspice.


    Aubrey Organics: Aubrey’s Men’s Stock Ginseng Biotin shampoo consists primarily of certified organic plant-based compounds that are not tested on animals. Available online, in natural foods stores, at Whole Foods markets, at the Vitamin Shoppe, and General Nutrition Centers.

    Ahava Mineral Shampoo for Men:  This Isreali company utilizes the
    mineral salts of the Dead Sea in its cosmetic line.  Oil free, alcohol free, hypoallergenic, and not tested on animals, the mineral compound are mixed with gingko and ginseng.  The shampoo is also said to have anti-dandruff properties.  It is available at Bath & Body Works or through Ahava’s website.

    Gaia Made for Men Shampoo:  This shampoo is low-foaming, vegan, cruelty -ree and made without soap, sulfates, mineral oils, petrochemicals, parabens, propylene glycol, or artificial fragrances.  It is scented with a blend of certified organic orange, certified organic chamomile, certified organic spearmint, and certified organic aloe vera.

    Whole foods premium body care logo NOTE: Whole Foods Market is working with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and Teens for Safe Cosmetics to create a “Whole Body Premium Standard” to ensure the safety of personal care products. To date, Whole Foods has identified more than 300 ingredients unacceptable for Premium Body Care. These include parabens, polypropylene and polyethylene glycols, and sodium lauryl and laureth sulfates. Look for the Whole Foods Premium Body Care Logo when you shop.

    Research by Katie Kelleher

    Environmental In-Box: Planet Matters Water Filtration Bottle

    What's stopping you from using a reusable water bottle? Worries that tap water isn't safe to drink? The inconvenience of carrying around a clumsy bottle that doesn't fit in your purse, briefcase, or cup holder? Concerns about BPA in plastic water bottles?

    Planet matters bottle Planet Matters claims it tackles all three issues head on with its water filtration bottle. Big Green Purse intern Rachel Haas took at look at the product claims, compared it to similar bottles, and wrote this review.

    What Is It? Planet Matters uses a unique water filtration system to provide clean water that is affordable, convenient, and safe to drink.  In addition to reuseable water bottles, the company produces canteens, water pitchers, water pumps, water bags, emergency packs, in-line filters, and replacement filters.The reuseable products are designed to replace throwaway plastic water bottles. Throwaway plastic bottles have become the bane of the environment as well as our pocket books, given that they are made from scarce petroleum, do not biodegrade, and cost many times more than tap water.  

    The Product:  Planet Matters uses an Ionic Absorption Micron Filter to remove up to 99.99% of the contaminants and pollutants found in fresh water—including giardia, cryptosporidium, DDT, and heavy metals like cadmium and lead. One 18-oz water filtrtion bottle can clean up to 50 gallons of water before the filter needs to be replaced. The bottle itself is BPA-free and made of #4 low density polyethylene, so it will not leach Bisphenol-A into your drink

    What I like:  The bottle easily fits in your hand or in the cup holders in your car. If you are on the go, the hand strap is convenient to wear on your wrist or tie on your big green purse. The water flows through the cap easily and tastes great. Because it is so portable, I can drink filtered water anywhere at anytime. I also love the design—the green insulator sleeve on the bottle is attractive and makes it easy to grip. 

    What could improve: A cap on the bottle protects the items in my purse or bag from getting wet and keeps the bottle free of dirt and other contaminants. However, the bottle spout closes too easily—I had trouble consistently keeping it open when I was drinking water. A minor design improvement could fix this with no impact on performance, I'm sure. Also, it's not clear that Planet Matters has set up a system to recycle its filters. Thanks to consumer demand led by Beth Terry at, consumers can recycle the filters they use in Brita water pitchers with Preserve, a company that turns them into toothbrushes, table ware, and kitchen appliances. Contact Planet Matters to encourage them to set up a similar filter recycling program.

    Continue reading "Environmental In-Box: Planet Matters Water Filtration Bottle" »

    June 14, 2009

    Biodegradable Golf Balls and Tees Offer Best Options - But Don't Forget to Take Care of the Greens, Too

    Golf seems like such an innocuous sport, but it can have a pretty significant environmental impact. Leaving aside the considerable quantity of pesticides, fertilizers and water used to keep greens green, consider lowly golf balls. These small spheres are practically indestructible so they can withstand the force of a powerfully swung club. They don’t crack up when they’re hit; you can imagine how long they take to decompose if they’re lost in the woods. It’s estimated that more than 100 million golf balls end up in rivers, lakes, streams, forests, and meadows each year. That’s a lot of balls for Mother Nature to contend with.

    Golf balls Enter the biodegradable golf ball. Dixon ($39.95 per 12-pack; pictured left) has developed a biodegradable ball that decomposes in water and leaves no residue behind.  Another benefit: each Dixon pack includes a return mail pouch so you can easily recycle old balls for new ones. EcoGolfBalls are cheaper at $10 for a pack of 12, and also degrade quickly in water. Wilson Eco-core golf balls are molded around recycled rubber tires, though they don’t biodegrade. All three brands come in recyclable packaging made from recycled materials.

    What about other golf gear?

    Golf Tees: Biodegradable golf tees are becoming the rage for golfers concerned about their eco-impact. Dixon, Ecogolf, and  Golf Tee XT  all make biodegradable tees. Ask the pro shop to order them if they’re already not in stock. You can also check local sporting goods stores and Wal-Mart, as well as online.

    Wilson_7147714 Golf Bags

    Currently the only eco bag on the market is the Wilson Staff Eco-Carry, made from recycled plastic soda bottles. It's lightweight and durable, given the fibers are essentially respun plastic fabric.

    Clothing: Pickings are slim in the eco-friendly golf wear department. All Apparel & Accessories sells a variety of reasonably priced polos for men and women made from 100% organic cotton.  Spreadshirt offers men’s and women’s tees in a polyester/organic cotton blend. Dixon sells caps made from organic cotton. At least as far as we can tell, nobody’s making plaid golf pants out of recycled fibers.

    What about golf courses themselves? Golf Digest does a good job here of enumerating the specific environmental challenges conventional golf courses post.  Featured quote:  "THE PESTICIDES THAT GOLF COURSES USE, AND THE ONES THAT PEOPLE THROW ON THEIR LAWNS, PERHAPS ARE NOT AS SAFE AS WE BLITHELY ASSUME THEM TO BE."

    Meanwhile,Audubon International has created a Cooperative Sanctuary program to help golf courses conserve water, minimize chemical use, and protect wildlife.

    Want to see who’s doing it right? Check out  Greenopia’s list of the seven most eco-friendly golf courses.

    (Research assistance by Katie Kelleher)

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