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.
  • « December 2009 | Main | February 2010 »

    January 29, 2010

    Is the iPad just more e-waste?


     When Apple debuted its much-awaited iPad on Wednesday in San Francisco, one of the first attributes founder Steve Jobs touted was the gadget's eco-friendly specs.  But how "green" can an electronic device like this really be?

    Greenpeace recently released its analysis of electronics manufacturers: Nokia and Sony Ericsson came out way ahead of the pack; Apple didn't fare nearly as well. This excellent review from Inhabitat details the plusses and minuses of Apple's overall approach to sustainability.

    As for the iPad, we like that it  contains no arsenic, mercury, PVC, or BFR (brominated flame retardant), nasty toxic chemicals linked to cancer and other human health problems.  Jobs also claims the iPad is "highly recyclable" and features an energy-saving battery that can run for 10 hours on a single charge. That's all good.

    On the other hand, the gadget plays into a larger environmental problem: planned obsolescence, one that is not unique to Apple but perhaps best typified by it.  In order to rake in the highest profits possible, electronics companies usually design their products with a lifespan in mind. That's the amount of time the product will function before it breaks or ceases to be compatible with current systems.  It's also the amount of time before a new-and-improved incarnation (or "generation" in Apple-speak) is released.   There's a reason the iPhone has been dubbed "a slam dunk of planned obsolescence" by CrunchGear's Seth Porges.  Did you purchase one only to have a cheaper, better-equipped version be released not long after you bought the original?

    We can already see the iPad's trajectory. Within a year or two (if not sooner), the components on this geeky darling will no doubt start to wear out. Functionality will suffer. And not long after, Apple will unveil a newer, sleeker, shinier version that will be so irresistible, you'll feel you just HAVE to have it.

    Then what do you do with the "old" iPad? Many people will simply trash theirs. No wonder global e-waste (which also includes televisions, fax machines, computers and copiers) is forecast to reach 53 million metric tonnes by 2012.

    Yes, the iPad is cool. It is hip. And for all the "early adopters" out there who are driving Apple's markets, it's probably nigh on irresistible.

    But that sure doesn't make it green.  

    Meanwhile, are you inspired to recycle? Start here.

    January 28, 2010

    "Clean" Coal and Nukes Should Not be Part of Obama's Energy Future - or Ours.

    President Obama tackled energy in his State of the Union address on Wednesday night, but not in the way that many (including myself) had hoped.

    Obama Not only did Mr. Obama push for "building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country," but he endorsed "opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development" and "continued investment in...clean coal technologies."

    Does the President actually believe offshore oil drilling makes sense and that coal and nuclear can be safe, healthy and non-polluting? Or, as the country's uber politician, is he trying to maintain a balancing act in order to avoid alienating members of Congress who are beholden to the fossil fuel and nuclear industries for their campaign contributions?

    If it's the latter, we should all remind the President of his campaign promise to rid the nation of "politics as usual." If it's the former, President Obama's science, environmental and health advisors need to make a beeline to the Oval Office so they can brief their boss on the industries he's touting. Why?

    Clean coal and nuclear are myths, the products of aggressive industry public relations far more than reality.  Says analyst Richard Coniff, “Clean” is not a word that normally leaps to mind for a commodity some spoilsports associate with ... acid rain, black lung, lung cancer, asthma, mercury contamination, and, of course, global warming. Even if the carbon is captured and sequestered or impurities are "scrubbed" away, the pollutants that result from burning coal never truly disappear." 

    * The very act of mining coal destroys the environment.  Mountaintop removal mining is decimating both the natural and human landscape of Appalachia, for example.

    * Offshore oil drilling pollutes the oceans, threatens marine animals and plants, and trashes beaches and coastlines.

    As for nuclear energy, I have a hard time imagining any scenario that can lump "radioactive waste" and "clean" in the same sentence. There's a reason no state wants to become a repository for the waste from nuclear power plants: they can't guarantee it won't eventually make its way into our air, water, and soil -- or be stolen by terrorists and converted into a bomb.

    Now, to be fair, the president did strongly endorse renewable energy:

    "We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century," he said, noting that "Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation's supply of renewable energy in the next three years."

    I applaud the Administration's commitment to "put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bill." Likewise, I support his decision to "invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power... and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America."

    But rather than link these winning strategies to losers like coal, oil and nuclear, why not expand his vision for our future to include cost-effective and non-polluting options like mass transit, telecommuting, and stricter building standards to reduce energy demand from space heating and lighting? 

    If we want an energy future we can believe in, that future cannot continue to depend on fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

    President Obama said it best: "If we confront without fear the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then someday years from now our children can tell their children that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, "something worthy to be remembered."

    January 25, 2010

    Want to save energy? Cuddle up under eco-friendly bedding & blankets.

    DreamsacksOutside, the temperatures are dropping. Inside, what do you do? Turn up the heat -- or  stock up on cozy blankets and bedding, especially if they're made from natural fibers like organic cotton, wool, and hemp? 

    What makes these materials more environmentally friendly?

    Natural fibers breathe more easily than synthetic fabrics, wicking away moisture if you sweat, and creating a layer of insulation when you generate your own body heat. Plus, organic and natural comforters and quilts do not contain 'finishing' chemicals like formaldehyde, a toxin that can irritate the skin, nose, eyes, and respiratory system (babies are especially sensitive). Plus, more environmentally-friendly covers will usually be colored with plant-based or low-impact dyes.

    Some options:

    Coyuchi environmental bedding is Fair Trade and made from 100 percent organic cotton, minus any solvents or resins.

    Loop Organic provides a variety of hypoallergenic blankets and bedding that are also made with high quality organic cotton fibers free of toxic chemicals.

    Sleep & Beyond makes classic organic comforters hand-filled with a USDA and WOOLMARK certified organic merino wool fiber called WoolGanique. The natural fiber allows the comforter to regulate and maintain stable body temperatures while keeping moisture away from your skin.

    Dreamsacks/Bamboo Dreams blankets and bedding woven from organic bamboo fibers also adjust to your body temperature so they can be used year-round.

    I've also found organic cotton and bamboo sheets at various J.C. Penney's and Target stores. If you don't see them while you're shopping, ask the store manager to stock up.

    Note: Bedding made from organic fibers is more expensive. You can afford it by saving money on energy when you turn down your thermostat.  According to the Midwest Alliance, for every degree you lower your heat in the 60-degree to 70-degree range, you'll save up to 5 percent on heating costs!

    Check out more home energy-saving tips and resources here.

    January 22, 2010

    Eco-Friendly Tips Will Reduce Your Car’s Environmental Impact

    fuel-efficiency, save gas High-tech electric and hybrid vehicles are all the rage right now. But you don't need to shell out big bucks for a new "eco" car if you give your own driving habits an environmental tune-up: 

    Learn how to drive as efficiently as possible.  Take note of these gas-saving tips and driving techniques and you'll visit the pump less often. Plus, you'll save $20-$50 a month on gasoline (photo credit).

    • Carpool and use mass transit as much as possible. When you share the ride, you reduce your costs - and your impact on the air your breathe and the water you drink.
    • Walk, bicycle. Well, these are more "non" driving tips, aren't they? But they do help you guzzle less gas; and manufacturing a bike or a pair of walking shoes uses far less resources than producing a car!

    January 21, 2010

    Green Vehicles Net Top Honors at Auto Show

    Fsn10_models_detailflip_apppkg Two gas-saving vehicles were recently awarded the top honors at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

    The Ford Fusion Hybrid was named Car of the Year while Truck of the Year went to the Ford Transit Connect

    The Fusion Hybrid, pictured above, is notable both for its fuel efficiency and for details like its environmentally-friendly interior fabric.  An efficiency rating of 41 miles per gallon places it among America's most fuel-efficient mid-size sedans: the average US passenger car mpg rating hovers in the low 20s.  Read about my impressions when I test-drove the Fusion.   

    2010-ford-transit-connect The Transit Connect, a commercial cargo van, achieves a fuel-efficiency rating of 22 city/25 highway miles per gallon, placing it on par with most large cars.  While this may not seem like a lot, it's significant when compared to similarly-sized vehicles on the market: the least-efficient cargo vans top out around 13 city/25 highway miles per gallon.


    Here's the low-down on more green vehicles being featured at the show.

    How Green are the Cars At the 2010 Auto Show?

    George_clooney The 2010 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) has been bragging about how green its vehicles are this year, so we decided to review the lot for ourselves (and you, of course!). Here’s what we found (you'll have to read the whole story to get why George Clooney snagged our best photo slot).

    NAIAS is showcasing what it calls the most recent advances in automotive technology at Detroit’s Cobo Center through January 24th.  Although NAIAS is featuring plenty of gas guzzlers, it is also highlighting dozens of electric, hybrid, and fuel-efficient vehicles.  On the ground floor, a 37,000 sq. foot exhibit called the “Electric Avenue” has been devoted solely to electrics.

    Here are the highlights:

    Chevy Volt


    Price: TBA estimated $30,000-$40,000

    Production Begins: 2010

    Although the Volt appeared as a concept car previously, Chevrolet’s much-hyped hybrid electric is on display in anticipation of its launch later this year.  Drivers can travel up to 40 miles per charge on the Volt’s electric battery before the car switches to gasoline, at which point the car can go up to an additional 600 miles without a refill.  Personally, I believe the Volt is a game-changer.  Why? Click here to see what I told Fox News

    Continue reading "How Green are the Cars At the 2010 Auto Show?" »

    January 19, 2010

    Can You Recycle Your Car?

    The North American International Auto Show is shining the spotlight on new cars. But what should you do with an old car you can't really re-sell? Before you contact the junk yard, consider this:

    Junked car Manufacturing a car creates pollution you probably never thought about. Extracting and transporting the raw materials that go into components like seats and the steering wheel generates twenty-nine tons of solid waste and 1,207 million cubic yards of air emissions. In fact, while the majority of pollution is generated by driving, a third is incurred in car manufacture. Disposing of tires, lead-acid batteries, air conditioners, upholstery, and other materials adds to the trash pile, reports Katie Alvord in Divorce Your Car: Ending the Love Affair with the Automobile. (Photo credit)

    Manufacturers are taking notice by increasing the amount of recycled materials they weave into new-car production:

    * Ford Motor Company integrated recycled material into the cloth seating of the 2008 Escape. If it expanded the program, InterfaceFABRIC, the materials supplier, estimates that Ford could save at least sixty thousand gallons of water, 1.8 million pounds of carbon dioxide equivalents, and the equivalent of more than 7 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually.

    * Mazda and Toyota recycled used bumpers to make components for new ones.

    * Cadillac's SRX uses 50 percent recycled tire rubber for its radiator side baffles, a process that in 2004 kept two thousand scrap tires out of landfills.

    * Both Honda and Toyota recycle the battery packs in their hybrids to capture everything from the precious metals to the plastics and the wiring. reports that Toyota even puts a phone number (for recycling information) on each battery and pays dealers two hundred dollars for each battery pack.

    * Ten percent of the plastic in a new Mini Cooper consists of recycled material.

    According to Ward's Motor Vehicle Facts and Figures, at least 84 percent of an average car's material content gets recycled; automotive recycling ranks as the sixteenth-largest industry in the United States. Recycling those vehicles provides enough steel to make nearly thirteen million cars, while also providing jobs for 46,000 people.

    You can keep the cycle going:

    Make sure to recycle your own motor oil. If you change the oil yourself, take it and the oil filter to a recycling center. If you have it changed, double-check that the service center recycles all used oil.

    Have your tires changed at a shop that recycles them. Recycled rubber may become asphalt, playground material, athletic track, furniture, or apparel (like purses and jewelry).

    Donate your car to a local non-profit. In my suburban Washington, D.C. community, organizations like  Good Will and the local public radio affiliate will pick up your car for free and repair it or recycle the parts, giving you a tax benefit when you do. Habitat for Humanity does the same.

    Close the loop. Remember that the best way to ensure that recycling works is to buy goods made from recycled materials. The soles of my Simple Shoes are made from recycled rubber tires. You can also find a variety of tools and garden gear made from recycled rubber, plastic and steel.   

    January 04, 2010

    She shifted $1,000 of her budget to eco-friendly goods...and chickens!

    If you’re looking for ways to live a greener life, take some pointers from Fran Martin.

    Snookey Fran is the newest member of the One in a Million campaign, a feat she achieved by switching more than $1,000 of her household budget to products and services that offer the greatest environmental benefit. The campaign doesn’t ask people to spend MORE money. Instead, it encourages consumers to throw their marketplace clout behind non-toxic, eco-friendly alternatives that often end up saving people more money in the long run.

    Who is Fran?

    Fran, who is married, 67, and the mother of grown children, has lived in Butler, PA for the past 43 years. Her husband trains and breeds Labrador retrievers; “We have two,” she says. Fran is retired, but works part-time conducting food demonstrations where “I really push the organic products whether it is my demo of the day or not.”

    "At home I am an avid cook - everything from scratch,” says the One in a Million devotee.  “After the Women for a Healthy Environment conference last year, and after reading Omnivore's Dilemma, I extended my organic garden and got two hens so I could have organic eggs.  I erected a hoop house in October to have a winter garden which proved to be quite successful.  The only red meat we eat is venison, and I can and freeze everything possible.”

    “I also made homemade mouthwash and fabric softner,” she said.

    How did she shift $1,000?

    Here are the actual eco budget shifts Fran made between October 2008 and December 2009:

    Organic Grains, Beans - $40
    Organic Coffee - $208
    Organic Dairy - $155
    Organic Nuts –  $52
    Organic Pasta - $21
    Household Products (like eco-safe laundry detergent, dish soap, and cleaning soap) - $115
    Nontoxic Health/Beauty Products - $66
    Organic Chicken Feed - $26
    Beverages - $23
    Soymilk (2 cases) - $25
    Meats/Fish - $123
    Snacks - $8
    Veg/Fruit - $90
    Organic garden fertilizer and soil amendments: $75
    Stopped using clothes dryer almost completely: undetermined energy savings

    Total: at least $1,025


    When I asked Fran why she made the shifts, here's what she said:  
    * What inspired you to join the One in a Million campaign? I attended the Women’s Health and the Environment Conference in Pittsburg and heard you describe the difference we can make based on how we spend our money. I thought, “I can do that.”
    * What change was unexpectedly easy to make? Keeping track of my purchases!
    * What proved to be most challenging? Finding the best prices (ed. Note: This is true for many people, but a little bargain shopping can make organic food and recycled products very affordable)’
    * What's your next step? Continue to purchase present organic products and add new ones as I find them.

    Great job, Fran! Thanks for sharing your success with us.

    Join Us!

    And for all of you who are inspired to make your own spending shifts, get started here.

    How "Organic" Is Organic Dry Cleaning?

    Organic drycleaners Are "organic" dry cleaners popping up in your neighborhood?

    Are they legit, or another greenwashing scam? Here's the low-down:

    What Makes A Dry Cleaner Green?

    It's not PERC.

    Just because a dry cleaner claims to be "organic" doesn't mean it's free of toxic chemicals. That's because, scientifically speaking, any chemical is considered to be organic if it contains carbon. So even cleaners that use a solvent like perchloroethylene (PERC), which has been classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a probable human carcinogen, can claim to be organic. An ad for "green" dry cleaners doesn't necessarily mean much, either, since there is no standard definition for what makes cleaning green.

    Hydrocarbon solvents are in the same boat. Hydrocarbon solvents are petroleum-based, says Sierra Club, and contribute to greenhouse gases by emitting volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Solvents to avoid are: DF2000, PureDry, EcoSolve, Shell Solution 140 HT and Stoddard.

    And that GreenEarth method you may have seen around? It does not necessarily translate into 'green-for-the-earth.' GreenEarth cleaners replace PERC with a silicone-based solvent called methyl siloxane or D5, which is similar to the base ingredients used in deodorants and shaving creams. The solvent itself is currently considered safe for the environment because it degrades to sand, water, and carbon dioxide, says the Union of Concerned Scientists, but it has caused cancer in lab animals in EPA studies. In addition, it is manufactured using chlorine, which can generate harmful dioxin emissions.

    The good news?

    Safe, non-toxic alternatives do exist. And they are just as effective as traditional dry cleaning, minus the negative impacts on the environment.

    • Wet-cleaning replaces PERC with carefully controlled amounts of water and special non-toxic biodegradable detergents. Computer-operated equipment helps ensure that your delicate fabrics are cleaned without the risks to human health or the environment.
    • Carbon dioxide (CO2) cleaning relies on high pressure to convert carbon dioxide gas into liquid that acts as a carrier for biodegradable soaps. When the washing is complete, the pressure is released, turning the CO2 back into a gas to be used again and again. One drawback: the requisite machinery is expensive, so this method costs more than PERC-based dry cleaning.

    If you want to locate the nearest reliably green cleaner, check out this national directory published by Occidental College. It is slightly out of date, but will give you a start, at least, on locating a more eco-friendly dry cleaner.

    The U.S. EPA also offers a nationwide list of CO2 and wet cleaners that was compiled in 2003.

    Handwash Keep in mind that not all "dry clean only" garments need to be professionally dry-cleaned. Green living expert and editor Annie Bond provides safe, eco-friendly instructions on hand-washing silk, wool and rayon clothing here. My daughter regularly washes her wool sweaters on the cold, delicate cycle in the washing machine, then line dries them. Cheap, effective.

    The most obvious solution of all? Transition your wardrobe to wash-and-wear clothing that requires no dry cleaning. You'll save money on cleaning bills and breathe easier knowing you're reducing your exposure to questionable chemicals.

    BONUS: Discover easy, simple ways to clean out your closet this season, and how your wardrobe transition can make a world of a difference, here.

    Recycle old holiday lights and replace them with LEDs.

    Xmas leds Incandescent holiday lights might be pretty...when they're lit. Half the time, they don't light up because somewhere along the strand one of those fragile little bulbs has broken or burned out. If you're 'green,' your first inclination might be to try to find the broken bulb and repair it. Two hours later, you might still be looking for the broken bulb! Meanwhile, the light strands that do work are gulping energy at an exorbitant rate, especially compared to their LED counterparts.

    The solution? Replace your old incandescents with new LEDs. You can do so without worrying about waste by recycling the incandescents here for free. When you do, you'll earn a discount coupon worth 15% off the price of the new LED lights you buy. Act now, since the recycling program and discount coupon are only available through February 2010.

    How should you package the lights?

    Please DO NOT:

    1. Include any packing material or anything other than the lights themselves

    2. Send the lights in outer packaging such as retail boxes

    3. Include any apparatus used to wind up or store the lights

    4. Use any size box that is larger than what is needed to accommodate the lights.

    5. Put your light sets in plastic bags or any other interior packaging.

    Please DO:

    1. Use cardboard boxes or other packaging that can easily be recycled.

    2. Coordinate with your friends, neighbors, co-works, social groups, church groups, or other organizations when possible to collect lights and send in one bulk shipment (this reduces shipping costs for everyone and reduces environmental impact of shipping.)

    3. Compact your light sets into the smallest space possible.

    BTW, it's easy to recycle CFLs (compact fluorescent lights), too. Here's how.

    EcoCentric Mom
    Everbuying led light
    Green by