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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.
  • « February 2010 | Main | April 2010 »

    March 29, 2010

    Plastic Activist Shifts $1114 to Green Goods

    Beth terry Beth Terry is best known for taking a stand against plastic over at her inspired blog Fake Plastic Fish. But living plastic-free is not the only way this Bay Area accountant and activist makes a difference. She's shifted her spending to organic produce and natural products like toothpaste and laundry powder, too. She bought a bicycle instead of a car, and gives gifts like fair trade organic chocolate.


    Beth took the One in a Million Challenge last year, as you can see from her balance sheet below. But the spending shifts she's made weren't temporary. They're a way of life that I hope will inspire you to do the same!



    Total ................................................................. $1114.59 


        **NOTE:  "None of this includes cash spent at the Farmer’s Market or elsewhere. These are just credit card expenditures." Wondering how Beth made these shifts and avoided plastic? She bought laundry powder in a recyclable carboard box, rather than liquid laundry detergent in a plastic jug. She uses cotton mesh baggies to collect produce, rather than plastic bags. She also buys milk in a cardboard carton rather than a plastic bottle. (BTW, ACV stands for apple cider vinegar. TJ stands for Trader Joe's, though Beth has recently shifted to Tom's because the aluminum toothpaste tube is recyclable. In the last year, Beth also shifted from detergent powder to Laundry Tree soap nuts.)



    One_in_a_million Feeling inspired? Please join Beth and the almost 5,000 other consumers who have already taken the One in a Million Challenge! It's easy -- Fill out this balance sheet, keeping track of the shifts you make over time until you have shifted $1,000. Then send us your sheet, along with a picture so we can add your lovely face to our growing wall of One in a Million members. We'll feature you in Big Green Purse, so you can help inspire others - though we hope you'll urge your friends and family to take the challenge, too.


    March 17, 2010

    Discovery's New Series Shows What "Life" is All About

    Discovery cheetah Think life is boring? You won't after you watch the Discovery Channel's amazing new series called -- what else? -- "Life."

    Narrated by Oprah Winfrey, each of the eleven episodes features magnificent never-before-seen footage of animals and plants living naturally in the environment: as predators, prey, and even parents. The program is a sequel of sorts to the blockbuster "Planet Earth" series Discovery aired a few years ago. But its focus on the animate world, as opposed to the geologic forces that underpin it, put it in a class of its own.

    Discovery frog You'll find yourself holding your breath as you watch a seal try to escape the jaws of a school of hungry sharks. You'll ooh and aaah at the tiny rainforest frogs that transport their pollywog babies to safety by climbing up treacherous trees to find their safe haven: a bromeliad filled with water where the pollywogs can grow into adults.

    Will the baby ibex outrun a fox on the hunt? You know the law of the land is "eat or be eaten." Still, the ibex is so cute... And in fact, most of the animals are endearing. Unfortunately, some of them end up dead. Parents will want to exercise caution in letting very young children watch the show. But for viewers who can take a real dose of reality tv, watching this series will be as gripping as sitting through "The Bourne Ultimatum" and far more rewarding than environmental fantasies like Avatar.

    If you know anyone who still doubts whether our environment merits protection, sit them down Sunday nights at 8 p.m. ET when the series airs. You might have a hard time getting them in the chair, but once you do, they won't want to leave.

    March 08, 2010

    Stay-At-Home Mom Shifts $1,600 of Household Budget to Protect the Environment and Her Family

    Erin Peters knows a thing or two about "green" shopping.

    Erin 2 The stay-at-home mother of three young boys lives with her family in Raleigh, North Carolina. She writes The Conscious Shopper blog, where her motto is "Go Green. Live Better. Save Money." She's also the newest member of our One in a Million campaign, joining almost 5,000 other folks who have shifted at least $1,000 of their household budgets to the greenest products and services available.

    One thousand dollars sounds like a lot of money. But since we're talking about shifting our spending, rather than adding to what we already spend, it's something most of us can afford. Plus, if a million people do it, we could send a message worth a billion dollars to manufacturers that we want them to make our health and the environment a priority.  Here's how Erin made the shift:

    Every month I spend about $600 on local and/or organic groceries for my family of five. Over the past year, I've also spent:

    $400 on a winter CSA membership
    $60 on Charlie's Soap laundry detergent
    $54 on Seventh Generation dishwasher detergent and dish soap
    $16 on recycled paper towels
    $10 on trash bags made with recycled content
    $45 on recycled toilet paper
    $72 on Tom's of Maine toothpaste
    $30 on Preserve toothbrushes
    $60 on organic make-up
    $7 on Crystal deodorant
    $173 on thrift store clothing and Simple Shoes
    $27 to set up a worm bin
    $52 on recycled printer paper

    $1606 - Total

    Erin's shifts did not happen overnight. 

    "For a long time, I had a misconception that living green was expensive and therefore out of reach for my family," she said. "Then one day, I got frustrated with the feeling that I was buying inferior and unhealthy products and that I wasn't spending my money in accordance with my values. I decided just to go for it and see if I could buy organic, non-toxic, and fair trade products without blowing my family's budget.

    "At that time, our budget was extremely tight, but I found that by living more frugally and doing the green things that save money, I was able to shift our savings to our food and clothing budget. Without affecting our overall budget at all, I was able to go green!"

     Erin said some shifts were pretty easy. "I love buying fresh foods from the farmer's market and through our CSA. I love that my family is eating healthier, but I also enjoy meeting the farmers and hearing their passion. Knowing where our food comes from is such a wonderful feeling," she says.

     But there are still some challenges - like clothing. "In my past life," Erin admits, "I was a Target-clothing addict. I've learned to enjoy thrift store shopping, but there are some items (like shoes) that I prefer to buy new and the price difference of eco-friendly clothing versus Target clothing is a hard one for me. Mostly, I get over that hurdle by not going to Target. Out of sight, out of mind."

    Conscious challenges Erin is taking what she's learned as a green budget shifter and launched a campaign to encourage others  to make small behavior changes, too. It's called The Conscious Shopper Challenge, and it provides weekly goals to help people go green in a year without spending a lot of money. "We start with "trimming your waste-line" (reducing your trash production), then we work on energy, water, transportation, shopping, food, and finally looking "beyond your front door," explains Erin.

    "I think a lot of people have the same misconception that I used to have: that going green means big expensive changes like buying a new car or putting solar panels on the roof. But I've learned that there are so many small things each individual can do, and those small things add up to make a big difference.

    "I hope The Conscious Shopper Challenge will show people how easy and affordable it can be to go green while providing a strong supportive community to go green with. But beyond that, I hope people will feel inspired to be conscious shoppers, aware of how their decisions in the marketplace affect other people and the planet."

    Feeling inspired? Check out even more inspiring One in a Million stories here. Why don't you join us? It's easy. Start here.

    March 07, 2010

    We Don't Wait for Our Child to Get Hit By a Car Before We Tell Her to Look Both Ways When Crossing the Street

    "Look both ways before you cross the street." That's the Precautionary Principle in a nutshell.

    Child crossing street The Precautionary Principle was hammered out at the historic Wisconsin Wingspread conference in 1998 by scientists, researchers, and citizens. The principle is grounded in the simple belief that we should not wait to protect ourselves or the environment until we have absolute proof that certain products or activities can cause us harm.

    To the contrary, the principle declares: "When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken, even if some cause-and-effect relationships are not fully established scientifically."

    Industries use scientific uncertainty as a way to avoid cleaning up their act. Companies often magnify the importance of uncertainty to persuade citizens, legislators, and regulators that they, too, should delay action. Think how much farther along we'd be at solving the climate change crisis if the energy industry hadn't fought every proposed carbon dioxide regulation with the cry, "There's not enough proof that CO2 causes global warming!"

    At the same time, budget crunches and competing priorities mean that important studies that could document environmental impacts often are shunted aside. Ironically, the longer we wait to address a problem, the greater the costs become - to the environment, to our health, and to the economy.

    The Precautionary Principle has four tenets.

    1) We -- consumers, governments, manufacturers -- have a duty to respond to early warnings. We must act before harm occurs, not after the fact. We don't wait for our child to get hit by a car to tell her to look both ways when crossing the street. People shouldn't need to contract cancer or asthma to get access to safe ingredients, or for companies to remove products like Bisphenol-A from baby bottles or control the air pollution coming out of cars.

    2) Consumers should not bear the "burden of proof." Under our current system, you and I and, essentially, our environment, have to prove that we've been harmed before the government is willing to intercede on our behalf and before industry is willing to change the way it does business.  Under the Precautionary Principle, manufacturers would need to demonstrate safety.

    Can this approach work for industry? It's taken hold in Europe. Starting with chemicals already known to cause cancer and birth defects, cosmetics companies are being required to reformulate their products to contain safer ingredients. Here in the U.S., the nonprofit Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is urging manufacturers to follow suit. Putting the burden of proof not on you and me but on producers should become the law of the land.

    3) It is our responsibility to explore alternatives to toxic substances and activities. What good does it do us to know, or even suspect, something will harm us if we don't choose a safer alternative? Increasingly, we have real choice in the marketplace: more organic foods, more fuel-efficient vehicles, more recycled products, less plastic, less stuff overall. When we opt for the most environmenally friendly products and services available, we provide powerful incentives to manufacturers to shape up..

    4) The Precautionary Principle requires democratic participation. Companies should not be allowed to decide our fate in their corporate board rooms. It's up to us to provide guidance as well as accountability by participating in public hearings, writing letters to companies, voting on ballot initiatives, electing responsive public officials, and, of course, using our Big Green Purse in the marketplace to favor products that offer us the healthiest, safest options.

    Greenmoms1 In fact, often, our first line of defense is the way we spend our money -- or choose to keep it in our pockets. If you're stymied by all the confusing green labels, start with products that meet independent standards for health and environmental sustainability. For suggestions of products to avoid and choices to make, read this month's Green Mom's Carnival on the relationship between the environment and cancer, hosted by Tiffany at NatureMoms

    (photo credit)

    March 05, 2010

    Paint Your Home "Green" To Stay Healthy and Protect the Environment

    SW-grassbrush Whether you're redecorating your living room, covering up the screaming Pepto pink you once painted the bedroom, or just doing a little touch-up, there's more at stake when you repaint your home than color, What you choose affects your health and the environment, too. Here's how:

    Conventional paint contains toxic chemicals called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that go airborne as soon as you open the can and start rolling the walls. VOCs contribute to smog when they hit the outside air. Indoors, VOCs in conventional paint have been linked to respiratory and nervous-system disorders, and contribute to the fact that indoor air can be ten times more polluted than it is outside. You know that headachey, cranky feeling you get when a room is being painted? It's usually due to the VOCs.

    Fortunately, virtually every paint company in business has now developed a no-VOC, environmentally friendly paint. Most of these work like a charm. They roll on smoothly without polluting the air, and because they're water-based, they clean up easily with soap and water. I recently re-painted my entire home indoors and out with no-VOC paints, and I couldn't have been happier with the finished colors or the fact that I could work and sleep in my home while it was being painted with no ill effects.

    Note that no-VOC paints can be somewhat more expensive than the conventional options. I justified the added cost with the peace-of-mind I had knowing my family wasn't getting sick breathing polluted air.

    Some brands you should be able to find easily online or in your community include:

    Continue reading "Paint Your Home "Green" To Stay Healthy and Protect the Environment" »

    March 04, 2010

    Join a CSA for Delicious Organic, Locally Grown Food

    1266950783_b95e04abcb If you're looking for delicious natural, organic food, consider signing up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.  CSAs are a great way to enjoy fresh, seasonal produce all summer long while supporting your local farmers. If you're interested, the time to sign up is now.

    Here's how CSAs work: A farmer sells a certain number of "shares" in winter and early spring, before the growing season really kicks in.  Customers pay for their share upfront, then receive a box of seasonal produce each week for the duration of the season.  CSAs typically include vegetables, but may also include fruit, flowers, eggs, or dairy products.

    Why participate in a CSA?

    • Eating food grown close to home is one of the best ways to shrink your environmental footprint.  Rather than being flown across the country (or even the world), your CSA produce may have been grown mere miles away from your door, thus saving a tremendous amount of transportation energy.
    • Local, seasonal produce is more nutritious than its mass-produced supermarket counterparts.  Because the goods won't be traveling a long distance, farmers can give priority freshness and taste rather than shipping and shelf life when selecting which crops to grow.  The result? Vibrant, vitamin-packed fruits and vegetables.
    • CSAs help to build a sense of community. You will get to know your farmer and might be given the opportunity to tour the farm.
    • CSAs bolster your local economy and help keep small family farms afloat.  Faced with competition from giant agricultural conglomerates, the family farm is becoming increasingly rare these days.
    Are all CSAs organic? Many CSAs are USDA certified organic, but not all of them are.  Make sure to talk to your local farmer about their pesticide use, because many opt to not use chemicals on their crops even if they cannot afford the complicated and expensive organic certification process.

    To find a CSA program near you, visit

    These cookbooks are filled with delicious recipes that will help you figure out what to do with all the veggies you get from your CSA.

    EcoCentric Mom
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