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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.
  • March 18, 2012

    Clean and Green Dry Cleaning Methods Reduce Your Exposure to Toxic Chemicals

    "Dry" cleaning is one of those things that sounds like a much better idea than it is. You might have an inkling of that when you step into a dry cleaners to drop off or pick up your laundry and get an overpowering whiff of ...yeah, what IS that smell?

    Thumb_brown.bmpIt's actually a toxic solvent called perchloroethylene, or PERC. I get an instant headache if I'm exposed to it after as little as ten minutes; I don't know how the cleaners themselves can tolerate it.  It's also known to cause nausea and dizziness, has been linked to reproductive problems, including miscarriage and male infertility, and been blamed for disorders of the central nervous system. Bringing clothes that exude PERC into homes and cars can leave behind a residue that can rise above levels that are considered safe to breathe. How "clean" is that?

    PERC poses an environmental threat, too. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the chemical generates toxic air pollution and hazardous waste in many of the communities where it's used. In fact, says NRDC, three-quarters of PERC-using dry cleaners in the U.S. are estimated to have contaminated soil and groundwater where they're located. 


    If you'd prefer not to bring PERC into your home, beware of cleaners that claim to be "organic" or green but aren't. "GreenEarth" is the brand name for siloxane D5, a silicone-based chemical the manufacturer says degrades into sand, water and carbon dioxide. However, the EPA is still assessing whether siloxane could cause cancer. A 2003 study showed an increase in uterine tumors among female rats that were exposed to very high levels of these chemicals.

    Also avoid petroleum-based solvents, sometimes marketed as Stoddard, DF-2000, PureDry, EcoSolve, and Shell Solution 140 HT. Yes, they contain organic chemicals, but they're the "volatile organic chemicals" or VOCs that cause some of the same problems attributed to PERC.

    The good alternatives?

    "Wet" cleaning: This method uses water and specially formulated, nontoxic, biodegradable detergents to clean sensitive fabrics such as wool, silk, linen, and rayon. It is one of two processes considered environmentally preferable by the Environmental Protection Agency. It does not create toxic air or water pollution, nor does it appear to have negative health effects.  Just be sure that, before you turn your special fabrics over to shops that offer wet cleaning, you discuss the fabric with them to make sure wet cleaning is appropriate.

    Laundress* Liquid carbon dioxide (CO2): EPA also considers this method preferable to dry cleaning, but it's more difficult to find because the equipment it uses is expensive. Some CO2 cleaners also use a Solvair machine, which adds the toxic solvent glycol ether to the process; ask the cleaning company to explain their entire process before you do business with them.

    * Find safer cleaning companies. Go to to find the safest dry cleaners near you.

    * Do it yourself? The Laundress has developed non-toxic and biodegradable cleaning agents you can use at home to launder your own fine and sensitive fabrics.


    What else can you do to avoid PERC?

    * Buy "wash and wear" clothes you can launder at home. Before you buy new clothes, check the label on the inside seam for laundry directions. If it says "dry clean only," you might want to reconsider.

    * Treat stains and dirt when they occur. For most fabrics other than silk, you can treat stains with soda water and a little gentle liquid soap, saving you the trouble of having to wash the entire garment.

    * Wear cotton camisoles and t-shirts under hard-to-launder fashions. The underwear will absorb sweat and body odor and help extend the life of your more delicate sweaters and blouses.

    * If you do need to go to a traditional dry cleaners, expose your clothes to the fresh air. Put the windows down if you're driving home with the clothes in the car. Once home, take the clothes out of the plastic bag they came in and hang them outside.


    Related Posts:

    Dry Your Clothes for Free


    For more great ideas on how to keep toxins out of your house, don't miss this month's Green Moms Carnival, hosted by Lori Popkewitz Alper at Groovy Green Livin.



    November 15, 2011

    Do Natural Scents Make You Happy?

    Dishliquid1_25oz_clementineFNFSeventh Generation, the green cleaning products company, has used natural plant oils to create three new scented dishwashing liquids: lavender and mint, lemongrass and clementine zest, and fresh citrus and ginger (they still offer their "free and clear" option). In honor of their new products, they asked me to think about favorite scents that bring back fond memories.

    For me, those scents - and the memories associated with them - are seasonal. Walk into my house right now and here's what you'll smell: cinnamon sticks and orange rind simmering in a small pot of fresh apple cider. Take a whiff. Mmm... I don't know about you, but one whiff of that for me and ... I relax. I kick off my shoes, snuggle up on the couch with my cat, and enjoy the autumn.

    At Christmas time, it's fresh boughs of pine and fir, which I stick liberally into holiday baskets or strew on the red and green table runner I put out the beginning of December and leave until New Year's Day.

    In February, my amaryllis and narcissus bulbs start blooming, their scent so sweet they can infuse an entire room.  In Easter, the lillies do the same. My  spring and summer tulips and daffodils DON'T smell, but plenty of other flowers, bushes and herbs do. In fact, I always have pots of rosemary growing on my back porch just so I can roll a few sprigs between my fingers whenever I want to breathe in that wonderful, ennervating smell.

    Then there's lavender. When I was writing the Big Green Purse book, I holed up in a writer's colony at Point Reyes Station, California to complete the bulk of the research. Only one thing made the daily grind tolerable: the smell of lavender that wafted through my open windows. As luck would have it, my small writer's cabin was surrounded by fields of this beautiful flower, and they were all abloom. I started and ended every day breathing in that scent as deeply as I could. Maybe it's why I was able to finish the book under an impossibly tight deadline.

    If you've never had the pleasure of wandering through such fields, your luck could change. Seventh Generation is offering sweepstakes trips for two to Italy, France, and Vermont to give people like you a chance to see where the company gets its plant-based essential oils. As they would say, they come from "fields, not factories." Do me a favor, will you? If you win, take a big deep breath...and think of me!


    Do you have a favorite smell? Does a particular fragrance trigger a memory - happy or sad - that stops you in your tracks? If you could bottle the oil from one plant, what would it be?


     I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Seventh Generation blogging program, for a gift card worth $50. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”

    August 05, 2010

    Five Steps to a Greener, Cleaner Drain

      Let's face it, clogged or slow moving drains are a bit of a drag. They leave a mess in the sink and actually stink if you wait too long to clean them up. 

    Most people hastily grab the nearest (and nastiest) drain cleaners they can find, hoping for instant gratification. But you're not "most" people, are you? You'd like to find an alternative to sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, the active ingredient in common drain cleaners. Sodim hydroxide can burn skin and aggravate the respiratory system if it's not handled properly. It can also induce vomiting and cause stomach problems if kids accidentally swallow it, so it needs to be stored safely, preferably under lock and key.

    A wide variety of alternatives claim to be eco-friendly because they use enzymes or "natural" bacteria, but to tell you the truth, those products haven't worked for me. Here's what does: 

    1) Pour a kettle full of boiling water down the drain.

    Drain snake 2) Get a thin, flexible wire plumber's snake (straighten out a metal coat hanger if you don't have a snake handy) and thread it down the drain until it reaches the clog.

    3) Work the snake back and forth and up and down to loosen as much of the stuck material as possible.

    4) Pour a half-cup of baking soda into the drain. Follow with a cup of vinegar and immediately plug the drain. The vinegar will interact with the baking soda to dissolve whatever materials are still clogging the drain.

    5) Flush with two kettles full of boiling water, one right after the other; probe with the snake to make sure the clog is gone.

    Continue reading "Five Steps to a Greener, Cleaner Drain " »

    November 11, 2009

    House Cleaning? Use a Fly Swatter, Not a Sledge Hammer

     Sledgehammer The way we're being told to clean our homes these days, you'd think we were all living in breeding grounds for small pox, typhoid fever, leprosy, or some other awful disease that practically kills on contact.

    We're not.

    We ARE living in a world that we share with billions of "germs," most of which are perfectly harmless. In fact, many doctors believe that living with germs keeps us healthier by helping us build up a resistance to their ill effects. 

    Wve report This perspective seems to be routinely ignored by the cleaning products industry. A report by Women's  Voices for the Earth, a non-profit Montana-based research group, investigates the link between toxic chemicals found in disinfectants and human health. Disinfectant Overkill: How Too Clean May Be Hazardous To Our Health analyzes the impact of "cleansers" that commonly contain chlorine bleach, ammonia, triclosan and other anti-bacterials, ammonium quarternary compounds, and nano-silver. Their conclusion?

    "Some of the most common antimicrobial chemicals used in cleaners could have
    serious health consequences. This is especially true for cleaning workers, young children and women who, despite progress on gender roles, continue to do 70% of housework in the average home."

    Furthermore, "The overuse of antimicrobials contributes to the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which some scientists say could leave the public with fewer tools in the fight against infectious diseases."

    WVE suggests this analogy to understand the impact today's common cleansers have on us and the environment: 

    "Suppose you have a pesky fly in your house. One option is to reach for a flyswatter. Assuming you get a direct hit on the fly, your problem is neatly and efficiently solved. But imagine if all you have handy is a sledgehammer. Again assuming you get a direct hit, you will certainly take care of the problem fly. However, you are likely to put a hole in your wall in the process.

    The sledgehammer might be supremely effective at killing flies, but are the side effects (i.e. holes in your wall) worth it?. The same is true for antimicrobial products; they are often too strong for the average daily need. Occasionally they may be warranted, just as a sledgehammer has its place and purpose. But on a daily basis, simple soap and water or other non-toxic cleaners will do the trick without causing potentially harmful side effects."

    WVE does not argue we should stop cleaning. On the contrary, "Disinfectant Overkill" makes a convincing, science-based case for using safe solutions to keep germs at bay.

    Wondering where to start? These eco-friendly tips will help keep your hands clean.

    These DIY recipes for home cleansers are cheap to make and work effectively on any surface in your home.

    June 29, 2009

    Environmental In-Box: Bon Ami Cleanser

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

    Bonami What is it?

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

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

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

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

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