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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.
  • « April 2012 | Main | June 2012 »

    May 29, 2012

    Safe, Effective, Non-toxic Sunscreens Protect Against Sunburn & Skin Cancer

    Burned feetSunburn season officially kicked off Memorial Day weekend. Are you prepared? After all, you don't want to get skin cancer like me, do you?


    To be protected, you need to reduce your exposure to two kinds of sun rays:

    1) UVA, which causes wrinkling and ageing, and

    2) UVB, which can cause basal cell (what I got) and squamos cell carcinoma.

    Most people rely on some kind of sunscreen or sun block to keep them safe. But according to the EWG Sunscreen Guide compiled by Environmental Working Group, a non-profit research institute that analyses sunscreens and sun block every year right before summer begins, only about 25% of the 1800 products analyzed deliver great protection from the sun without using dangerous chemicals you probably don't want to apply to your skin.

    I've linked to some of the sunscreens that pass muster for safety and effectiveness below. In case you can't remember brand names, here are the ingredients you should look for when you shop:


    * Read the label of any product you're considering carefully. Choose a sunscreen that contains the active ingredient of zinc oxide (NOTE: EWG also recommends titanium dioxide or 3 percent avobenzone, but Marie Veronique Organics, one of EWG's highest rated sunscreen manufacturers, makes a convincing case here for sticking with zinc oxide-based products).

    • Avoid oxybenzone, a hormone disruptor,  and vitamin A (retinyl palmitate or retinol), which may actually increase the risk of skin cancer or other skin problems.

    • Use creams or lotions, not sunscreen sprays or powders.

    • Use an SPF of at least 30, and apply it at least 20 minutes before you need protection.

    • Buy sunscreens that do NOT contain bug spray. Apply bug repellant separately if needed.

    EWG says "the major choice in the U.S. is between “chemical” sunscreens, which break down in the heat and sun, penetrate the skin and may disrupt the body’s hormone systems, and “mineral” sunscreens (like zinc), which often contain micronized- or nanoscale particles of those minerals."

    After reviewing the evidence, EWG determined that mineral sunscreens offer the safest choice currently. They are stable in sunlight and do not appear to penetrate the skin. Plus, they protect against UVA, a leading contributor to skin cancer. If you don't like mineral products, EWG recommends you use a sunscreen containing 3 percent avobenzone and without oxybenzone, but scientists recommend parents avoid using oxybenzone on children due to penetration and toxicity concerns


    Among the best sunscreens EWG recommends are the following, which you can find online, in our own Amazon store, or possibly in your local drugstore or supermarket. All of those listed below have an SPF of at least 30.

    Marie VeroniquesMarie Veronique Organics  - Moisturizing Face Screen SPF 30

    Badger - Lighlty Scented Lavender Sunscreen and Baby Sunscreen with Chamomile and Calendula

    Blue Lizard - Australian Sunscreen, Face

    Burt's Bees - Baby Bee Sunscreen Stick

    California Baby - Everyday/Year-Round Sunscreen Stick and No Fragrance Sunscreen Stick

    Seventh Generation - Baby Sunscreen

    (Here is the complete list of EWG's Sunscreen recommendations)


    Even before you buy sunscreen, think about ways you can protect yourself from the sun.Why? Because people who use sunblock alone may be more likely to get skin cancer, since they actually spend more time out in the sun than those who don't use sunscreen. If at all possible, avoid direct sunlight, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun is most intense.

    That doesn't mean you need to stay inside! It's summer, after all, and a great time to enjoy the outdoors. If you're at the beach, take shelter under a shady umbrella when you're not in the water. If you're out gardening, biking, walking, or picnicking, wear long-sleeved cover-ups and capris to protect your arms and legs. If you're strolling about, don a hat and sunglasses to protect your face, neck and eyes.


    Here's are some clothes that are cool and sheer but still effectively prevent powerful sun rays from damaging your skin.


    May 17, 2012

    How To Pick a New Clothes DryerThat Saves Energy and Money

    Clothes pileWhen my 15-year-old clothes dryer conked out recently, I knew I wanted to replace it with the most energy-efficient dryer available that would meet my family of three's laundry needs. We probably do three full loads of laundry a week, plus towels and sheets. It's not as much as when the kids were little and I was washing their cloth diapers at home, but it is still a significant amount of laundry. 

    Dryer Alternatives

    Dryer rackRack - In the warm weather, I use this large dryer rack for almost everything except sheets and towels. You can see a variety of other rack options here. The advantage of a dryer rack is that it's absolutely free to operate, since it uses the sun and wind to dry clothes. Where I live, in suburban Washington, D.C., I can use my rack about eight months of the year, from around the middle of March to the middle of October. I just set it up on my sunny back porch; it only takes a couple of hours for most clothes to dry. I could probably use the rack longer if I wanted to use it indoors, but it can take two or three days for my clothes to dry on the rack indoors. Most of the time, that's too long.

    Clothesline - I would gladly put up a clothes line if my yard were closer to my laundry room. Many people in my neighborhood use an outdoor clothesline; it's certainly what I grew up with as a kid. But my washer and dryer are on the second floor of my house, and my yard is way below the house. It would be somewhat backbreaking to lug my laundry basket all the way down to a clothesline in the yard.

    Gas vs. Electric?

    Natural gas dryers are generally more efficient than electric; they also generate fewer climate change  emissions than electricity if the electricity is supplied by burning coal. Unfortunately, I didn't have much choice here, as the old dryer was electric and it would have cost a fortune to run a gas line up to my second floor to power a new dryer.

    So my question became, which electric dryer would be most efficient? Normally, I'd compare the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy STAR appliance ratings to help me choose the most energy-efficient option. But unlike for clothes washers, dish washers, refrigerators, and many other electric appliances, there's no Energy STAR rating for this category.

    My appliance retailer gave me some wise words of advice. "If you want to save energy," he said, "don't buy a bigger machine than you really need." The bigger the dryer, the more energy it would use. "But don't buy one that's too small, either," he warned. "Otherwise, you'll be running your dryer twice as often to dry the same amount of clothes."

    DryerAfter looking at various options and manufacturers, I chose this General Electric electric dryer. At 6.8 cu.ft., it is sizable but not as large as the 7.5 cu.ft. and even 9.0 cu.ft. models. No matter. It came with all the essentials:

    ^ An Auto Dry function that monitors air temperatures to set drying times

    ^ Very simple controls

    ^ 4 heat selections (Cottons Regular Heat; Easy Care Medium Heat; Air Fuff No Heat; and Delicates to protect heat-sensitive fabrics and lingerie, all of which have proven more than adequate for our drying needs)

    ^ A humidity detector, which senses when the laundry is dry and will shut off automatically

    ^ a Dewrinkle cycle if I want to dry the clothes lightly so they end up less wrinkled

    The only feature that we might have wanted but didn't get is a "cool down setting" which continues to tumble the clothes but not blow hot air around them.

    Another advantage was the price. The machine I bought cost less than $500 installed, which was much cheaper than bigger models with more bells and whistles.

    Other Ways to Save Energy Using a Clothes Dryer?

    We're pretty happy with this dryer. But we still look for ways we can save energy and money drying our clothes. Here's how:

    * Dry drier clothes. The wetter your clothes are when you take them out of the washing machine, the longer it will take to dry them. We use the spin cycle on our machine to get as much water out of our laundry as possible before we toss it in the dryer.

    * Use the moisture sensor option, rather than timed dry. This way, the machine shuts off automatically when the clothes are dry.

    * Air dry as much as possible. We generally hang shirts, blouses, pants and jeans over the shower rod in the bathroom rather than toss them in the dryer. They dry with fewer wrinkles and don't shrink, so they end up lasting longer than if we tossed them in with everything else.


    NOTE: You can find a variety of clothes lines and rack dryer options in our Amazon store here.



     Dry Your Clothes for Free

    Tell Tide to Come Clean and Ditch the 1,4-Dioxane

    May 16, 2012

    Here's a Fun and Easy Way to Find Out About New Green Products

    Here at Big Green Purse, we believe that women can help create a healthier, safer world by shifting spending to greener products and services. But finding out what those products and services are can be time-consuming and overwhelming. Our website gives you the low-down on what's available, but sometimes it makes a difference if you can actually see your green options and give them a try yourself.

    EcoMom---300-x-250-Rectangle-32Thankfully, EcoCentric Mom has come to the rescue!  This new monthly product delivery service focuses specifically on finding healthy, natural and organic products for babies, moms, and moms-to-be. I'm delighted to report that I've signed on to be one of their two "Green Living Experts!"

    Here's how it works: Once you sign up, every month you will receive a box full of new products to try. You can choose from three box options:

    The Mom Discovery Box is for any mom, from the first timer to someone whose kids may have already left the nest. Each month your box will contain products that range from skin care; make-up; healthy home; organic non GMO foods, snacks and treats; fair trade; nutritional and wellness products; spa/pampering.

    The Mom-to-Be Discovery Box products will range from skin care, make-up, organic whole food and prenatal vitamins to non-GMO foods and treats andproducts specifically developed for mom-to-be. Once your baby has arrived, you can move to the Ecocentric Mom Discovery Box and continue to pamper the new eco mom you've become.

    The Baby Discovery Box is for newborns to 18 months. Each month you'll be introduced to items ranging from diapers and wipes, skin creams and washes, and non-toxic BPA-free toys to feeding products, organic 1st foods and organic cotton clothes.

    You can get more information and sign up here!

    Says Rebecca Attanasio, EcoCentric Mom's founder, "If anyone can make a difference, we believe a mom can.  Let's face it...moms are an unstoppable driving force and when it comes to the well-being of our children...we're a power to be reckoned with.  Make your voice heard by only purchasing food and Thumb_greenproducts from clean, natural and safe brands."

    That's the Big Green Purse message in a nutshell! Thumbs up, Ecocentric Mom!!


    May 15, 2012

    Now's the Time to Consider Sun-blocking Blinds to Keep Your Home Cool This Summer

    SunriseGiven how crazy the climate's gotten, we may be in for a very long, hot summer. In the heat of the moment, your first thought might be to crank up your air conditioner to stay cool. But that's an expensive proposition that will use a lot of energy and wreak havoc on your electricity bill. Before you get to that point, why not take a look at your windows, especially those that let in the most sunshine, and consider ways to shade them and keep the sun and heat out?

    First things first. Weatherize. If you didn't do this in the winter to keep cold air out, definitely do it now to keep hot air out and your nicely cooled air in. You can find a variety of weatherization kits in our online Amazon store or at your local hardware store.

    Second, plant trees. Trees planted strategically on the sunniest sides of your home can significantly reduce the amount of solar light getting through your windows. Plus, they add value to your landscape.

    Double celled shadeNext, cover up. Chances are, your windows are only single panes of glass, maybe doubles (triple-paned glass is the most efficient, but it's not commonly found in most houses and apartments). That means that there's not much of a barrier between the inside and the outside of your house. Curtains or shades  add an extra layer of insulation and increase the energy efficiency of each window covered. The thicker the curtains, the more energy you'll save, especially if you mount the curtains as close to the window as possible. Otherwise, hot air will end up escaping around the curtains and into your room - and vice versa with cold air.

    For energy-efficient shades, skip single louvered panels, whether made of aluminum or vinyl. Instead, aim for shades constructed in a cellular or honeycomb pattern. Here's a picture of the double-honeycomb shades I have on most of my windows. Triple combed shades are the most efficient available, but they weren't on the market 25 years ago when I bought my shades.)

    Honeycomb shades work by creating an insulating pocket of air in each cell that separates the window air space from the room air space.  When not in use, the blinds fold up into a thin band at the top of my window. When down, they provide an effective barrier to the outside air, but still let enough light in that the room can be bright if I use them during the day. You can see more honeycomb options at Levolor and many other online retailers.

    Roller shades, made from heavy-duty fabric, can also reduce window energy loss. To get the most out of the shade, mount them on a track that runs inside the window frame. When the shade is down, very little energy will seep into or out that window.

    Window quilt 1You can also cover your windows with insulated window quilts, like the ones I have on my french doors (right). The quilts affix to the window frame with velcro; they're extremely effective at blocking outside air. The downside is that they let absolutely no light through so you won't want to leave them up during the day. I actually made my own for my previous home, and they worked quite well. If you want to make your own, you can find instructions here.

    Shade windows from outside. The most sunlight comes through south and west facing windows, so these should be your priorities for exterior awnings or overhangs. A wide variety are available, including those that can retract in winter to let the sun in.

    Install storm windows. Storm windows add another layer of glass to your permanent windows. Ideally, your storm windows would attach so that you can still open the window and let air in when you want. I have storm windows on the glass of my front door. In the spring and fall, when the air is pleasant and cool, I lower the storm window so this fresh air can come through the screen and into my home.

    Replace old inefficient windows. According to the Environmental  Protection Agency, Energy-STAR certified windows lower household energy bills from 7 - 15 percent. Federal tax credits to defray the cost of new windows have expired; check with your state and county to determine if you can take advantage of local tax credits to help cover your purchase.


    Related Posts:

    These Energy-Saving Tips Save More Than Energy (Think CO2 and $$$)

    Top 10 Ways to Save Energy and Money at Home

    May 11, 2012

    If you get flowers for Mother's Day, here's how to make them last.

    RosesAre you getting or giving flowers for Mother's Day? Whether you buy them from your local florist, have them delivered, or arrange flowers you've cut in your own garden, these recommendations, provided courtesy of Organic Bouquet, will help you keep them happy in their vase for as long as possible. 

    When the flowers arrive (or when you're arranging them for your mom)...

    · Prepare a solution of warm water and a flower food packet, or mix 2 tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice and 1 tbsp sugar per quart of water.

    · Fill a vase with the solution to within 1-2 inches of the rim.

    · Remove any leaves and foliage that would fall under the water line.  With roses, I use garden shears to remove excess foliage so I don't cut myself on the thorny stems. I can use regular kitchen shears on flowers like tulips, lillies, and mums.

    · Cut each stem at about ½ inch from the bottom, at a 45 degree angle, with a sharp single blade knife or floral clippers.

    · Place the flowers into the vase one at a time so you can make a beautiful display. Never just take flowers out of their wrapping and plop them into the vase - you want the flowers to have enough room for buds to open and the blooms to breathe a little.

    - Display the arrangement in a cool location between 65-72 degrees and away from direct sunlight and heat or dehumidifying sources. Definitely put them someplace where you can easily see and smell them!

     Once your flowers are arranged...

    · Top off the water level daily

    · Clean the vase, change the flower food solution and re-cut the stems every two days (well, I do it every three days).


    · Roses have an outer layer called “guard petals” that keep the bloom tight and protect the flower during shipping. They may appear discolored or bruised – simply remove these petals and the rose will blossom over the next few days.

    · Lilies will bloom over the course of several days. Remove the pollen to avoid staining. Pollen dust can be removed from the flower petals by lightly brushing with a pipe cleaner. Cut off expired lily blooms as blooms closer to the tip continue to open.

     Related Posts

    Send organic flowers for special holidays


    Still Shopping for Mother's Day? Stop.

    South africa 415Maybe this is blasphemy, but in our house, we don't give presents on Mother's Day. (Father's Day, either.)

    I decided long ago that I didn't want my kids stressing to buy me clothes, appliances, or new fangled gadgets that I didn't really need or couldn't really use. What I DID want was their time. I wanted to spend as much of the day together as possible doing something fun and focused on us as a family.

    When my kids were little, that meant breakfast in our PJs, picnics at the local park, bike rides to the playground, dinner they made (with a little fatherly help!), after-dinner board games, and my right to unlimited hugs and kisses throughout the day.

    Now that they're 21 and 24, I can't really get them to play board games any more, and the days at the playground are a thing of the past. But we will sit down for brunch and dinner together. They'll make sure I have fresh flowers, which are guaranteed to make me smile. And they'll humor me by answering my nosy questions about their busy lives and giving me those hugs and kisses upon demand.

    How could a new toaster or a set of towels or any of the other things people buy for their mothers on Mother's Day compare?


    A Mother's Day Question: What Do You Have in Common with Your Daughter...or Your Own Mother? This post explores the toxic chemical links that mothers and daughters share, and recommends ways to reduce exposure to toxic substances.

    What's In Your Body, Mom?   This post describes my early exposure to fire retardants that were accidentally fed to dairy cows in my state, and how those chemicals may remain in my breast milk.






    May 03, 2012

    Climate Change Affects Our Health, Our Homes, Our Families and Our Future

    Climate impacts dayIt's easy to dismiss climate change as a big, confusing, uncertain issue that affects other people living in other parts of the world. But as the blogposts in this month's Green Moms Carnival show, the build-up in our atmosphere of heat-trapping "greenhouse" gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) is hitting very close to home, seriously impacting our health, the health of our kids and families, the food we eat, even our pets. Read these posts, then continue to Connect the Dots on Saturday, May 5, Climate Impacts Day, when thousands of communities around the world will call for urgent action to stop climate change.

    Why We Care About Climate Change

    Karen warns at Best of Mother Earth that "we can look forward to extreme temperatures, super infectious diseases spread by insects that thrive on warmer temperatures, poor air quality and more. This is frightening!"

    Sounds stupid, right? That's what Beth at My Plastic Free Life thinks, especially after reviewing the film "The Age of Stupid." "Set in the year 2055, after the effects of global climate change have basically wiped out most of humans and other animals on earth, a lone archivist records a message, illustrating it with a handful of the billions of stories he’s collected in a massive database he calls the Global Archive, before transmitting the entire collection into outer space as a cautionary tale to future civilizations," reports Beth. "The big question: Why didn’t we save ourselves when we had the chance?"

    Lisa of Retro Housewife Goes Green is wondering the same thing, especially since she lives in Oklahoma's Tornado Alley, that part of the country that has seen a significant uptick in tornadoes and other extreme weather events over the last few years. "Oklahoma was a poster child for extreme weather last year, we had a record drought, broke the state record for most snow to fall in 24 hours, broke the record for coldest day, had the warmest July on record for the whole U.S., record windspeed, record wildfires, the largest earthquake reported in the state, and more." Writing while facing another possible tornado just a few days ago, Lisa says, "This all hits home with me as I listen to the thunderstorm outside that has rocked the state and even dropped some damaging tornadoes. And I also think back to last year and all of the extreme weather, including the horrible drought that hurt the state so very much and caused me some sleepless nights worrying about the wildfires my dad, a volunteer firefighter, was out fighting."

    On the Big Green Purse blog, I highlight impacts that directly affect my kids - like worsening poison ivy. Most people don't realize that poison ivy and its nasty cousins poison oak and sumac, are all getting much more dangerous because the plants are growing faster and bigger, and the toxic oil in their leaves is becoming more intense, thanks to hotter global temperatures. I offer some ways to avoid poison ivy and to deal with it once you get it, since in the short-term we'll have to contend with it showing up more often in our yards and parks.

    Choc strawberryLori at Groovy Green Livin' sounds the alarm on an impact I care about almost as much as poison ivy: the availability of chocolate!

    Chocolate is a heat-sensitive crop, Lori's research shows. Even a small increase in temperature will affect the crops. A report Lori cites shows why there are big problems to come for the cacao tree:

    …an expected temperature rise of more than two degrees Celsius by 2050 will render many of the region’s cocoa-producing areas too hot for the plants that bear the fruit from which chocolate is made, says a new study from the Colombia-based International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

    "Warming temperatures and changes in the precipitation pattern will mean rapid declines in growing conditions over the coming decades. Not good news for the cacao tree and in turn bad news for chocolate suppliers and lovers on a global level."

    Sugaring-with-mommy-2011-224x300Abbie at Farmer's Daughter reports on the impact climate change is having on another beloved food: maple syrup. "In my lifetime alone, the maple sugaring season has moved from March to February. Maple sap runs when it’s below freezing at night and warms up during the day. If we wait to tap trees until March we will have missed our chance. It is clear that spring has moved to earlier in the year and we have to adjust, tap early, or risk not being able to make maple syrup for a whole year...It’s a New England tradition, my family’s tradition, and yet I worry that some day we may lose it entirely." Abbie is especially concerned about projections that indicate we could lose maple trees and maple syrup entirely by 2100.

    Chocolate and maple sugar are two foods we may not be able to produce any more if climate change worsens. But what about the impact producing some foods has on making climate change worse? Katy of Non-Toxic Kids and Moms Clean Air Force identifies three significant ways factory farming contributes to global warming and suggests some very simple yet highly effective choices you have that can make a real difference.

    Tiffany at Nature Moms loves traveling but worries that climate change could destroy some of our most beloved national parks before her family has a chance to visit them. "Climate change is melting the glaciers that make an appearance in some (national parks), which not only affects the beauty of these areas, it also means less water is making its way down to lower areas. Plants and animal life that rely on this water start to become endangered or extinct. Water sources that hikers need to survive start to dry up, making the area inhospitable. Scenic waterfalls dry up earlier and earlier and may eventually be gone for good. Can you even imagine Yosemite without its grand waterfalls???"

    Do you have pets? Ronnie at Moms Clean Air Force does, and she thinks climate change is making them sick. "I’m worried that my pets (two dogs and one cat) are gravely suffering because our planet is getting too warm for them." Ronnie reviews some of the available scientific research, but her own observations are most convincing. Her dogs are thirstier, hotter, and getting ticks much earlier than usual. She's pretty sure her cat has contracted feline asthma as a result of the increased air pollution associated with climate change.

    Stephanie at Good Girl Gone Green bemoans the impact climate change has on much bigger animals: polar bears. "When I think of polar bears, I picture a piece of ice with one stranded on top," she writes. "Some might say it is a depressing way to think of them, but what is even more heartbreaking is that polar bears may not be around in 50 years. Extinct. Poof. Gone."


    What can we do?

    Given the reluctance of some people to accept that climate change is actually happening, it's important to be able to explain why it occurs. Dominique Browning's Moms Clean Air Force interview with climate scientist Dr. Heidi Cullen provides a clear explanation and offers suggestions on how you can deal with so-called climate "deniers."

    Harriet of Climate Mama works with the Climate Reality Project to raise awareness. For Climate Impacts Day, she's organized family and friends to visit the proposed site of a natural gas pipeline that would carry gas derived through hydraulic fracking through a state park. She and her colleagues are also holding a "teach in" on fracking to raise awareness between this controversial practice and links to earthquakes and water pollution as well as climate change. 

    Anna at Green Talk admits that in her household, wasting food is one way her family contributes to climate change. She's not alone. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “The amount of food waste generated in the US is huge. It is the third largest waste stream after paper and yard waste. In 2008, about 12.7 percent of the total municipal solid waste (MSW) generated in America was food scraps. Less than three percent of that 32 million tons was recovered and recycled. The rest - 31 million tons – was thrown away into landfills or incinerators." Why does it matter? "The decomposition of food and other organic waste materials under anaerobic (without oxygen) conditions in landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas (GHG) 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Landfills are the largest human-related source of methane in the United States, accounting for 34 percent of all methane emissions.” Her solution? Only buy what you intend to eat. And compost!!

    For more ways to reduce food waste, check out the suggestions in this guest post from Aviva at The Scramble. Making a list and labeling left-overs are two simple steps that can lead to big savings and far fewer throw-aways.

    Mary at In Women We Trust acknowledges that, in the face of overcoming a challenge as daunting as stopping climate change, it's easy to feel like you've hit a "great green wall." Mary is inspired by people in eleven nations in Africa who are working together to stop the Sahara Desert from creeping further south and turning all of Africa into an arid wasteland. "They aren’t doing it to lower Green House Gases," acknowledges Mary. "They are doing it to survive, but at the same time, it is helping to lower GHG levels. Even the most die-hard denier can’t argue with the saving of a continent – especially when it’s producing such quickly appreciated results."

    At Big Green Purse, I've focused on the many ways consumers can use less energy as an important way to generate less carbon dioxide. They range from smart energy-saving driving tips to the top ten ways to save energy and money at home.

    Never let it be said that, despite the seriousness of the challenges we face from climate change, we don't keep our sense of humor! Deanna at The Crunchy Chicken offers a tongue-in-cheek run-down on the top five benefits of climate change. My favorite? #3: "Tropical weather without vacation prices." Says Deanna wryly, thanks to climate change, we'll have tropical weather all year long wherever we live - no need to tough out ten months of dreary winter or spend a fortune on a Caribbean vacation in January!"

     Finally, thanks to Moms Clean Air Force for this cartoon and reminding us that the carbon emissions from our vehicles contribute significantly to climate change. In case you can't commute in a toddler-mobile, here are some other ways you can burn less gas!


    What impacts worry you? What solutions do you have? Please take a minute to let us know. Thanks!

    As Climate Change Heats Up, Poison Ivy Gets Worse

    Poison ivy is getting more poisonous, and climate change is to blame.

    Poison_ivy_rashWhat's the connection? Climate change is occurring because burning oil, coal and other fossil fuels releases gases like carbon dioxide (CO2). CO2 builds up in the atmosphere, trapping heat that causes temperatures on the ground to rise, creating a "greenhouse" effect on the earth.  Poison ivy, and its equally annoying "cousins," poison oak and poison sumac, are all growing bigger, spreading faster, and becoming more toxic in response to this "greenhouse effect." 

    You may have already noticed that there's more poison ivy in your yard or in the parks where your kids play. Dr. Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, told National Public Radio last year that "the poison ivy plant of, say, 1901, can grow up to 50 to 60 percent larger as of 2010" because there's more CO2 in the atmosphere today than there was a hundred years ago.

    "As a result of that change," says Dr. Ziska, "we see not only more growth but also a more virulent form of the oil within poison ivy. The oil is called urushiol, and it's that oil that causes that rash to occur on your skin when you come into contact with it."

    Because greenhouse gases are on the rise, poison ivy is likely to get worse in the coming years. It's just one more reason why it's so important to do everything we can to use less energy and switch to renewable energy sources that don't emit carbon dioxide.


    Poison_ivy_whole_full1) Learn to recognize the plant, and where it grows. It prefers shady, wooded areas and open forests. (I usually get some poison ivy every year in the shadier parts of my yard.) You might recognize the leaf, but do you know what it looks like as a bush? Remember that the plants can change color during the season, varying from green to bright red. Poison ivy and oak have leaflets of three petals, while poison sumac has leaflets of seven to thirteen. Sometimes the plants have clumps of berries visible, and sometimes they do not. These pictures will help you identify poison ivy, oak and sumac.

    2) Dig it up. If you see it in your yard, use a long-handled shovel to dig it up. Make sure to wear a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, pants and boots to avoid any skin exposure. Dispose of the dug-up ivy in a large paper bag (like a paper shopping bag or leaf bag); don't put poison ivy in your compost pile!

    3) If you're walking in the woods, stay on maintained trails. Chances are, if you or your kids go bushwhacking through an untamed woods, you'll run into poison ivy somewhere along the way.

    4) Wash your clothes as well as your skin. Urushiol, the toxic oil in poison ivy, can stay on clothes and rub off on your skin. You should wear protective clothing when dealing with this plant, then remove the clothes carefull and wash in hot water.

    5) Keep your pets leashed when in the woods. Your dog won't actually get poison ivy, but the urushiol oil can rub off on its fur, then transfer to you when you pet it. Keep your dog leashed when walking in woods where poison ivy could be lurking.


    1) As quickly as possible after exposure, wash the exposed area with soap and water. You have only eight to ten minutes before the oil will be absorbed through your skin and into your system. Wash your pet, too. Wear gloves, use a grease-cutting soap, and don't forget the paws!

    Tecnu2) Try Tecnu. I keep a bottle of this in my car as well as in my medicine chest at home. I have found it to be very effective at neutralizing poison ivy, but using it as soon after exposure as possible is key. You can find Tecnu in most CVS stores, or order it now from the Big Green Purse store here.

    3) Try an oatmeal bath. When I was pregnant with my first child, I got a horrible case of poison ivy. My baby wasn't in any danger, but I was really miserable. My doctor recommended I create a poultice out of oatmeal, or take an oatmeal bath. The bath was somewhat soothing; it was certainly more effective on my skin than calomine lotion, which is what many people typically use for poison ivy relief. You can probably find oatmeal baths at your local drugstore; they're also easily available in our store.

    Please share any other ways you've treated poison ivy. Thanks.


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