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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.
  • « September 2011 | Main | November 2011 »

    October 25, 2011

    It's Time to Ban BPA

    It is time to ban Bisphenyl-A. In fact, banning Bisphenyl-A is long overdue.

    MomdaughterThis toxic chemical, also known as BPA, can make kids sick. Previous studies have indicated that BPA can cause baby boys to be born with short penises that could ultimately make reproduction difficult when the boys become men. A study released yesterday in the journal Pediatrics links the toxin to behavioral and emotional problems in toddler girls.

    That study tracked 244 moms in Cincinnati and their 3-year old children. The study concluded that children of mothers whose urine contained high levels of BPA were more likely to be hyperactive, aggressive, anxious, or depressed. The behavior of girls appears to be more affected than the behavior of boys in this case, perhaps because BPA mimics the female hormone estrogen, which is thought to influence behavioral development.

    Moms, pediatricians, and many consumer groups have been up in arms against BPA for years. The toxin, which helps harden plastic like the kind used for baby bottles and no-spill sippy cups, is also used to line the inside of food and soda cans. Women, using the power of their purse, were able to successfully pressure the manufacturers of baby bottles and sippy cups to eliminate BPA; many reusable water bottle makers have followed suit.

    Unfortunately, most canned foods and drinks still come in cans tainted with BPA.

    It’s time to rid all food packaging of this dangerous chemical. BPA should not be allowed in food packages produced in the U.S., and it should not be allowed in food packages imported into the U.S., either.

    Eleven states, including California, Minnesota and Maryland, have already put their own bans in place, while France has prohibited BPA use in food packaging, as well. The U.S. should institute a nationwide ban as soon as possible.

    That decision is up to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA is already in the process of determining whether BPA should be eliminated from baby bottles - even though industry, in response to consumer pressure, has already taken that step. FDA should widen its focus to include any container used to package food and drinks.

    What you can do now:

    You can protect yourself and your family by:

    * choosing fresh food or food and drinks packaged in glass bottles, not cans or plastic bottles

    * use reusable water bottles that clearly say "BPA free"

    * make sure your kids only use cups, bottles, and toys clearly marked "BPA free"

    Related Posts:

    How to Protect Your Family from Bisphenyl-A

    BPA Banned from Baby Bottles. What About Other Chemicals and Other Products?

    Fresh Food Wins Again

    Little Girls Are Worrying About Bras When They Should Still be Playing with Play Dough



    October 24, 2011

    Woman Inspired to Build a Hoop House to Grow More Food

    One of the ways we can eat healthier food that doesn't harm the environment is by growing our own fruits and vegetables. My dear friend Carol is a real inspiration in that department.

    Sitting with hoop houseCarol, who lives in Arlington, VA, has transformed her backyard into a beautiful oasis brimming with gorgeous flowers and a wonderful variety of edible plants, all of which she grows using no toxic chemicals.

    Normally, in our part of the world (mid-Atlantic), the growing season ends right about now - late October/early November. Carol decided to build a  "hoop house" to protect some vegetables from frost and extend her growing season by a couple of months. (She finished it just in time for Food Day!)

    When I asked her about it, here's what she said:

    (Diane) You're an avid gardener! Your flower beds are gorgeous, and you already grow an abundance of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and other vegetables. Given how much time you put in during spring and summer, I'd think you'd want a rest come fall! (Carol) I LOVE to garden.  It was Becky's idea (Carol's daughter) to keep me happy in the late fall and early spring - plus the heat, mosquitoes, and gnats are   better when it's cooler outside! 

    So why did you decide to build a hoop house, which some people also call a cold frame?  It's supposed to extend the growing season by about two months - one at each end. 

    How did you figure out what materials you would need and how big to make it?  I searched hoop houses on the Internet, watched several videos, and decided to start with a small hoop.  This was my favorite on how to build a hoop house and raised bed. 

    Nuts and bolts Did you actually construct it all yourself?  Yes, it was a challenge - having grown up at a time when girls took home ec and boys took shop.  But I did OK.  Home Depot cut one of the three pieces of 8 foot lumber in half at no charge, so I could have two  pieces 8 feet long and two 4 feet long for the raised bed.  Home Depot also sold 10 foot pvc pipes, which they cut into 8 foot sections for free.  I bought the plastic in a roll there, too, as well as the screws.  I bought the screws (wood screws and screws with wing nuts) too short, but I was able  to walk to the hardware store and get what I needed - including a special drill bit so I didn't have to screw them in by hand.  

    Cold frame 1Building the raised bed was by far the hardest part of the job.  I had to drill 28 holes, then  re-drill them because the holes were too small.  Then I had to go to the hardware store twice for the right screws.

     Wow! That's so impressive! What will you be planting in it? I am hoping to have a month or two more of cold weather crops:  lettuce, arugula, kale, Swiss chard.   I want to pick up some spinach seedlings at the farmers market this weekend to put in there, too. 

    Finished housePlus, I moved some warm weather plants - basil, dill, cilantro - to protect them. Otherwise, they'll die in a week or so from the cold weather.



    Carol kneelingGreat! I can't wait for my next dinner invitation!





    In honor of Food Day, 10 Radical Ways to Make Food Better

    Food should be the healthiest, safest thing our society produces and we consume. But it's not.

    FoodDay_logoStackedIn honor of national Food Day, I'd like to suggest 10 ways we can revamp our food system to make it healthier for people and the planet, and more delicious, too! What do YOU think we should do?

    1) Help more farmers grow organic food. Right now, U.S. agriculture policy provides price supports and subsidies to farmers who use pesticides and insecticides - and penalizes those who don't.  Shouldn't it be the other way around?

    2) Charge more for food that's grown using pesticides and herbicides. Organic food can cost as much as 30% more than food that's been raised using all kinds of chemicals that pollute our air and water and make us sick. Organic food is more expensive because there's less of it, and it's more labor intensive to grow because (see 1 above) organic farmers don't get paid not to use pesticides and herbicides. Given the cost to society of cleaning up the environmental and human health problems created by pesticide use, shouldn't there be a "HEP" (health/environment penalty) imposed on conventional food that would help bring its price more inline with the price of organics? 

    3) Require all restaurants to compost food. In fact, not just restaurants, but hospitals, government buildings, school cafeterias - any institutions that throw away massive amounts of food -- should be required to compost food waste rather than throw it away, turning it into organic fertilizer for use locally. FYI, you could be composting your own kitchen waste, too!

    China 0214) Define "natural." A lot of food is marketed as natural, even though it's been highly processed, is overpackaged, and doesn't bear one iota of resemblance to the food it originally came from. Working with biologists and botanists, let's define what "natural" really means - and prohibit flagrant misuse of the word by marketers who know we want to eat natural food, even if that's not what they're selling.

    5) Stop wrapping food in plastic. Plastic wrap, plastic boxes, plastic clam shells, plastic bags, plastic bottles: these days, it's hard to find food that's NOT wrapped in plastic. What's the big deal? Plastic doesn't biodegrade, and there's some research indicating that chemicals in the plastic can leach into the food itself. How can you avoid the plastic? Buy fresh food, fill your own safe containers from bulk food bins, and choose food packaged in glass jars or wrapped in paper.

    6) Get rid of BPA in the lining of canned foods. Bisphenyl-A has been linked to a variety of health disorders. This new study suggests that pregnant women exposed to BPA could give birth to girls with behavior disorders. It's time to ban the use of BPA in any food container, including soda cans, baby bottles, and plastic food containers.

    7) Make cooking a required class for all high school students. When I was growing up, girls in middle school were required to take "home economics" (the boys got away with "shop"). These days, both of those classes are optional - which means many kids opt out. Yet I'd argue that one of the reasons why fast food is so popular is because so many people don't actually know how to cook. Why not make cooking class a requirement in senior year of high school, regardless of whether kids are heading off to college or to live on their own? The semester-long curriculum would focus on nutrition, locally grown food, organic agriculture, and composting, along with how to make a decent omelette or a delicious salad. 

    8) Prepare more of your own food. If you don't know how, here are a few good cookbooks to get you started.

     9) Grow your own. If you have a pot, a patch of sun, and a patio, you can grow cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and herbs. With a 10x10 plot of land and some good compost, you can grow plenty more. These 10 tips will get you going.

    10) Sit down at the table when you eat. Preferably, with friends or family. One of the reasons we may not mind eating junky food so much is that we don't give ourselves enough time to enjoy our meals. If you get up a few minutes earlier, can you actually eat a nice breakfast instead of snarfing down some kind of McMuffin on the run? If you get your kids and spouse or partner involved in the cooking, can you all pull together a meal of what Food Day sponsor the Center for Science in the Public Interest calls "real" food? Yes, time is of the essence. But delicious food is the very essence of life! 

    Surely you must have other ideas for ways we can make our food system better for us and healthier for the planet. Please share, and Happy Food Day!



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    October 20, 2011

    IMPORTANT! Your Quick Help is Needed to Protect America's Arctic Wilderness

    Polar_bearsThis year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will make some big decisions about the future of America's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. For the first time, a new management plan for the Arctic Refuge could include a recommendation for Wilderness protection for the Refuge’s critical Coastal Plain – the strongest level of protection  for the Arctic Refuge’s polar bears and natural areas - and the place that that has been in Big Oil’s sights for decades.

    This plan will guide how the Arctic Refuge will be managed for the next 15 years or more. The Obama administration has asked for input from all Americans on this plan.  To make sure the final version includes this important recommendation, we must demonstrate overwhelming support for protecting the Refuge’s Coastal Plain. If we speak with a loud and united voice, we’ll be sending a strong message that the Fish and Wildlife Service can’t ignore.

    The Alaska Wilderness League is working on your behalf to achieve that goal. How? by collecting one million signatures on a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Salazar in support of protecting America's wilderness in the Arctic Refuge. Can you add your name and help Alaska Wilderness League meet its goal?

    What it means to be an American...

    Alaska wildernessThere are some places in this country that define what it means to be American – the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Alaska is one of those places. For the past 50 years our country has remained committed to protecting one of our last wild places. 

    Some places are just too extraordinary to drill, and the Arctic Refuge is one of them.

    A Wilderness recommendation could protect this unparalleled area and the abundant wildlife that depends on it – including polar bears, musk oxen, caribou and millions of birds from around the globe. 

    So please, speak out!

    If we all speak out, we can make sure that the critical Coastal Plain is given the strongest possible protections from Big Oil and harmful development.

    Please take a minute RIGHT NOW and write to Secretary Salazar of the U.S. Department of Interior. He is the one who will recommend to President Obama whether YOUR wilderness in the Arctic Refuge will be protected - or degraded by oil production and development.

    Thank you!


    October 19, 2011

    China Then and Now: Field Notes from My Recent Trip

    Subway in ChinaIn 1983, I stepped off a somewhat rickety Air China plane onto the tarmac of the Beijing International Airport -- and practically needed a flashlight. Only one light burned in the airport terminal, and passengers were met not by taxi cabs and relatives driving cars but by friends and family ready to transport them home...on bicycles.

    When I returned this past September, I felt like I'd landed in the middle of the most modern metropolis on earth. The dank terminal I remembered had been replaced by a gleaming mini-city, complete with automated teller machines (ATMs) and fancy shops and restaurants. I sped to the phalanx of taxis waiting outside the arrival doors via bright and shiny high-velocity trains, with destinations announced in English as well as Chinese.

    What People Eat, How They Dress

    Once in Beijing, I had my choice, not just of rice and dumplings, but of McDonald's hamburgers, Kentucky Fried Chicken strips, and sandwiches from the Subway just around the corner from my hotel. I was curious about food quality, given the news reports that have swirled around everything from contaminated dog food from China to tainted milk. My unease increased on my second day in Beijing, when the newspapers reported the use of gutter oil by some restaurants. "Gutter" oil is so named because it is reclaimed by dredging the drains behind restaurants. It is supposed to be recycled into other uses, but some cooks reuse it in their own kitchens, regardless of what it contains. Reading that report made me shudder! Fortunately, there were many excellent restaurants in Beijing and especially Xi'an, where I enjoyed a feast of delicious traditional dishes, including a variety of stir-fried meats and vegetables.

    The television in my room offered a variety of channels in English; 28 years ago, there were few hotel room tvs, and no offerings in anything other than Mandarin. The dress code had changed, too. Whereas most people - men and women alike - were still wearing "Mao" suits in the early eighties, today, women stylishly head off to work in short skirts and stilettos, while men wear Dockers, jeans, Oxford shirts or full Western-style suits and ties.


    China 138Meanwhile, the parks brimmed with people not only doing traditional tai chi, but jitterbugging in groups and salsa line dancing, too - something I would never have witnessed in the much stricter political climate that reigned 28 years ago. Before and after work, people exercised in public without the least bit of self-consciousness. It was quite common to see men, women and kids using outdoor stationary bicycles and other gear made from steel to withstand the elements. Elsewhere, groups of friends were challenging each other to games of mah jong, cards, badminton, and hackey-sack, the latter played with a large sturdy shuttle cock rather than the balls more common in the U.S.

    What About the Environment?

    Environmentally, some things have changed for the better, but most have changed for the worst. A new subway system, built to accommodate the hordes of tourists that descended on Beijing for the 2008 summer Olympics, now whisks hundreds of thousands of people around the city with ease. But almost as many commuters have the means to drive their own cars to work, and air pollution in the China 118region suffers as a result. In fact, during the entire week I was in Beijing and Xi'an, the other city I visited, I never saw blue sky or the sun, thanks to the smog that obscured the heavens.

    Water quality has not improved in the city, either: you couldn't drink H2O from the tap three decades ago, and you can't drink it from the tap today. According to scientific reports, as much as 70% of China's rivers have been polluted from industrial discharges as the country's factories work non-stop to meet global consumer demands that were negligible when I originally visited.

    It doesn't seem like using plastic is given a second thought. All drinking water is factory-processed and bought or served in plastic bottles. I never saw anyone using their own reusable water bottle - what would be the point? You'd still have to fill it up from a plastic jug!! That said, many people were drinking their own tea and coffee from reusable mugs. In fact, the airport and some public spaces offered safe water dispensers where you could fill up for free.

    A plastic bag ban went into effect on June 1, 2008. Initially, it was targeted at supermarkets and shopping malls; this year, the ban was extended to book stores, restaurants, and drugstores. The Beijing News reported that the number of plastic bags produced and used in China has dropped by more than 24 billion a year since the ban occurred, saving 600,000 tons of plastic or 3.6 million tons of petroleum. Yet it didn't seem to me that the ban was being enforced. All of the purchases I made, whether in drugstores, supermarkets, large stores, or from roadside vendors, would have been packaged up in throwaway plastic bags if I hadn't brought my own reusable one. 

    In 1983, I remember many more vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables, and cooks boiling pots of fresh noodles on the street to serve on glass plates. People would sit down at benches to eat, then return the plates for washing to the cook. Today, as in the U.S., food shoppes and supermarkets are filled with plastic-wrapped food. I was amazed to see everything from a single roasted chicken leg to a clump of cooked noodles shrink wrapped in plastic to extend their shelf-life. Organic food doesn't seem to have made many inroads in China yet. I only saw one grocery store offering organic fruits and vegetables, and it was on the outskirts of Beijing.

     Friendly People!

    No matter where I went, people seemed warm, friendly and eager to practice English with me. In Tian'an Men Square, a beaming couple approached me with a camera. I thought they wanted me to take their picture. But no - they each wanted their picture taken with me! I traveled throughout Beijing on my own, and never felt nervous or threatened. Of course, I was never, ever alone, either. Every subway car was packed, every street corner crowded, every restaurant filled. If I were a permanent resident, I might eventually feel like I had no room to myself. As a traveler, it was somewhat reassuring to have a lot of company, even if it was the company of strangers.

    Here are a few more photos from the trip, all taken with my trusty Nokia smart phone.

    China 124Here I am in the old part of Beijing, outside a small shop that sold beautiful tea pots and many varieties of tea.







    China 147This is my favorite building in Beijing, the ancient Temple of Heaven.  It's where the emperors used to pray for abundant harvests.







    China 166I found the Buddhist temples particularly inspiring. Despite the presence of tourists like me, many people were there to pray and light incense and candles.






    Have you been to China? Please share your stories!

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