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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.
  • October 05, 2009

    Environmental In-Box: Cast Iron Cookware

        Cast iron pan For top-notch cooking without the worry generated by non-stick cookware, I turn to cast iron. Here's why:

    What I Like:

    * You get "non stick" without the nonsense of PFOA, the nasty chemical that makes Teflon easy to clean but also health threatening.

    *Once cast iron is seasoned (a simple process), it cooks beautifully. I make lots of sticky stuff in my pans, like omelets, sautes, and stir fry. I use just a little bit of oil to lubricate the surface, then gradually heat the pan. It cooks like a dream.

    *The pan can be cleaned with hot water and a scrub brush only. No soap, please - these pans need to remain "seasoned" to work properly, so you never want to try to remove all the oil that bakes into their surface.

    *Finally, cast iron really holds the heat. If I'm cooking a soup or stew, I can turn the heat completely off ten minutes early and the heat in the pot will keep the ingredients bubbling along. That also makes it a great serving dish. You won't have to worry about food cooling down once it's put on the table if you serve it in a cast iron pot. NOTE: If you don't like the black hue of cast iron, you can pay a little more for enamel covered iron ware that will look very pretty on your table.

    The downside? Cast iron is heavy. You'll need two hands and a little bit of muscle to lift a full cast iron pot. I'm no Amazon and I can manage it, so you probably can, too. Also, to avoid rust you should dry cast iron with a towel, rather than let it air dry.

    Product and price comparison:

    Lodge is probably the best-known cast iron manufacturer, as well as the cheapest. Several other brands sell enameled cast iron, including Le Creuset. Staub, and Mario Battali Cookware. Here's what several consumers had to say about the various enameled cast iron lines available. If you don't care about the color of the pans, the most economical choice is the plain cast iron from Lodge. Otherwise, shop sales (or ask for the fancier enameled cast iron for a birthday or holiday gift). NOTE: Scanpan now produces Green Tek, a PFOA-free cookware line it claims is environmentally friendly. This looks promising, but the manufacturer's claims have no third-party validation, and I haven't tried it myself yet. Stay tuned.

     How many purses? 

    Purse Purse Purse Three. No question.

    July 20, 2009

    Environmental In-Box: Softlips Pure Organic Lip Conditioner

    Lips Are you paying attention to your lips?

    Considering how many times you lick them each day, maybe you should. Many conventional lip products are made from ingredients you'd never DREAM of wiping your tongue on, like pesticides, dyes, and parabens. Lipstick may even contain lead. Ewww!

    Good news: Conventional cosmetic companies like Softlips are extending their product lines to include pure organic lip conditioners in a variety of flavors.

    About the Product: Pure Softlips is USDA Organic Certified. It's made of 100% natural ingredients, 95% of which are organic. You can get it in five different flavors, including Acai Berry, Honeydew, Papaya, Pomegranate, and Peppermint.

    Softlips What We Like: In addition to the fact that Softlips uses certified ingredients, its price is comparable to conventional products (see below) and it's easy to buy in many retail outlets. Pure Softlips is cruelty free (animal testing is not conducted). In addition, the balm is sold in recyclable materials that include a minimum of plastic and are printed with vegetable-based ink. It's not too greasy but still leaves lips feeling soothed. The flavors are pleasant, and the fragrance is not overwhelming.

    There are no dyes or tints in Softlips, so don't expect it to impart anything more than a subtle shine - which is just fine if you're planning to pucker up and don't want to leave any evidence behind.

    Are you are allergic to gluten? Softlips pure organic lip conditioner is gluten-free (other lip glosses may list wheat as an ingredient). 

    What We Don’t Like: Softlips' entire product line needs the same make-over it's given to its "Pure" brand. The company's standard products contain nasty compounds like petroleum, toluene and parabens. That's a no-no for Big Green Purse fans. We hope the company will raise its entire product line to "Pure" standards.

    Plus, five of us in the office tried different Pure Softlips flavors. We all liked the tastes - but we found the applicator tube itself way too small...and not because we have big lips! Softlips could double the size of the applicator, make the product last twice as long, and reduce packaging that comes from having to buy two applicators rather than one.

    Product Comparison:

    Continue reading "Environmental In-Box: Softlips Pure Organic Lip Conditioner" »

    July 13, 2009

    Environmental In-Box: Barely Native Soap

    “Invigorate the way nature intended.”  That’s the motto of Barely Native soaps and after trying the soap myself, I have to say, I feel pretty fresh. 

    Barely native soap What is it? Barely Native Organic Soaps are entirely plant-based bar soaps.  They contain no artificial fragrances, dyes, or preservatives.  The line of 12 soaps is made with ingredients like coconut, palm, sunflower, and safflower oils.  Berries, fruits, or herbs provide natural colors and gentle skin cleansers. 

    What I like:  The soaps are certified USDA Organic products, cruelty-free, and contain no parabens. 

    Barely native soap wrappedThey're wrapped with recycled wallpaper scraps salvaged from material that would otherwise go to a landfill and marked with a very small label.  The pure essential oils make the soaps very fragrant and the natural glycerin retained in the handmade process keeps your skin soft after use.  I used a bar of the Thyme soap and was left smelling great and feeling moisturized.   For ultra-sensitive consumers, Barely Native produces a version sans fragrance and coloring.  If you join the company’s Soap of the Month Club, you can receive a bar of each flavor of soap on your doorstep every month.

    What could be improved? Because Barely Native is a small company, it appears you can only order the soap online.  Plus, it is a bit pricey. One barcosts $5.95. Unless you buy six or more bars of the product, you must pay a five dollar shipping cost, bringing the total for one bar of soap to $10.95. Ouch!

    Continue reading "Environmental In-Box: Barely Native Soap" »

    July 07, 2009

    Environmental In-Box: Echoes in the Attic Tote Bags & Purses

    Globalization has led to homogenization: Everything looks like everything else...boring.

    Mag bag Not so when it comes to Echoes in the Attic tote bags and purses. These one-of-a-kind designs are created purse by purse from exquisite reclaimed fabrics - and at an affordable price, too. Environmental chic? If this is what it looks like, I'm in.

    What is it? The unique purses and tote bags are made by hand in Canada of fabrics leftover from manufacturing and designer samples. The materials - recycled from upscale companies like Robert Allen Fabrics and Ethan Allen Furniture - are so high end it's hard to imagine that they were once destined for the landfill. The product line includes "hipster" purses big enough for keys, cosmetics, a wallet and a brush; plus diaper, beach, and tote bags when you need to carry more stuff.

    Echoes attic What I like: What immediately jumped out at me was the quality of the "hipster" bag I received as a review sample. Even though the purse is made from "vegan" leather, it feels luxurious. And, at $39, I love the price. That the bags are made using materials that otherwise would be thrown away is another environmental plus. It was packaged simply in one sheet of tissue paper that can be recycled and mailed in a regular envelope.

    What could be improved? The Echoes website is a bit challenging to navigate, making it clumsy to move from the product pages to the online store and back again. Also, in-store distribution right now is limited to Canada, though the bags can easily be bought online. Let's hope some smart retailers in the U.S. discover Echoes and stock up their shelves. Also, I'd like more information about the company's own business practices. How many bags is it producing every year - and how much waste is it diverting from the trash bin as a result? Does Echoes power its production facilities with wind or solar? How does it recycle its own leftovers, if at all? It's terrific that the company is based in North America; does it support any charities, especially in its own community? What motivated the company's two women owners to get their business off the ground?

    Continue reading "Environmental In-Box: Echoes in the Attic Tote Bags & Purses" »

    June 22, 2009

    Environmental In-Box: Marmoleum, the Eco-Friendly Flooring

    When it comes to choosing flooring for your home, you might not even know eco-friendly options exist.  But for over 100 years, Forbo has been manufacturing Marmoleum, an all natural linoleum. Katie Kelleher reports:

    What is it? Marmoleum is made into flooring sheets or tiles from a compound of linseed oil, rosins, cork flour, limestone and wood flour that’s adhered to a nontoxic jute backing.  These ingredients create a tough environmentally-friendly product that becomes harder and more durable over time.  Naturally occurring anti-bacteria and anti-static properties are added to the mix to help the flooring resist dust and inhibit the growth of germs that cause disease.  You can buy it online or find a local distributor by entering your location information into the website.

    Marmoleum_click_178x124 What I like:  Forbo sought to minimize its environmental impact long before it was trendy, and has the third-party certifications to prove it.  Marmoelum has received a Platinum certification from the SMART Sustainable Products Standard.  It has also been certified under the ISO 14001, a global environmental management standard for sustainable practices.  Additionally, Marmoleum’s health and wellness claims have been certified by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. No greenwashing here.

     Plus, Marmoleum is a cinch to clean. Stains do not penetrate Marmoleum due to its Topshield protective layer; it is best cleaned by vacuuming, sweeping, or using a mop and the company cleaning solution.

    Marmoleum Click offers consumers design flexibility, additional health benefits, and money-saving benefits, too: the flooring “clicks” together in a fit that requires no adhesives that can emit nasty fumes   With its 24 color choices and many design possibilities, Marmoleum is equally appropriate for residential or corporate settings.(It was installed in our company kitchen when the offices were renovated.) The website's Marmoleum Click Floorplanner lets you create a virtual room, including furniture, to test out your favorite floor design. 

    Also, the flooring is comfortable to walk on, thanks to the softening effect of the natural jute fiber backing.  Marmoleum Click can last upwards of 30 years without being replaced. 

    What could be improved? Because Marmoleum is made from natural ingredients, the color of the floor may vary from the sample or could change over time.  Also, the flooring cannot currently be recycled once it's been used. On the plus side, it will decompose in a landfill without releasing harmful chemicals into the ground, water or air. Also, the company strives to maximize materials recycling during manufacturing to minimize waste.

    Continue reading "Environmental In-Box: Marmoleum, the Eco-Friendly Flooring" »

    June 15, 2009

    Environmental In-Box: Planet Matters Water Filtration Bottle

    What's stopping you from using a reusable water bottle? Worries that tap water isn't safe to drink? The inconvenience of carrying around a clumsy bottle that doesn't fit in your purse, briefcase, or cup holder? Concerns about BPA in plastic water bottles?

    Planet matters bottle Planet Matters claims it tackles all three issues head on with its water filtration bottle. Big Green Purse intern Rachel Haas took at look at the product claims, compared it to similar bottles, and wrote this review.

    What Is It? Planet Matters uses a unique water filtration system to provide clean water that is affordable, convenient, and safe to drink.  In addition to reuseable water bottles, the company produces canteens, water pitchers, water pumps, water bags, emergency packs, in-line filters, and replacement filters.The reuseable products are designed to replace throwaway plastic water bottles. Throwaway plastic bottles have become the bane of the environment as well as our pocket books, given that they are made from scarce petroleum, do not biodegrade, and cost many times more than tap water.  

    The Product:  Planet Matters uses an Ionic Absorption Micron Filter to remove up to 99.99% of the contaminants and pollutants found in fresh water—including giardia, cryptosporidium, DDT, and heavy metals like cadmium and lead. One 18-oz water filtrtion bottle can clean up to 50 gallons of water before the filter needs to be replaced. The bottle itself is BPA-free and made of #4 low density polyethylene, so it will not leach Bisphenol-A into your drink

    What I like:  The bottle easily fits in your hand or in the cup holders in your car. If you are on the go, the hand strap is convenient to wear on your wrist or tie on your big green purse. The water flows through the cap easily and tastes great. Because it is so portable, I can drink filtered water anywhere at anytime. I also love the design—the green insulator sleeve on the bottle is attractive and makes it easy to grip. 

    What could improve: A cap on the bottle protects the items in my purse or bag from getting wet and keeps the bottle free of dirt and other contaminants. However, the bottle spout closes too easily—I had trouble consistently keeping it open when I was drinking water. A minor design improvement could fix this with no impact on performance, I'm sure. Also, it's not clear that Planet Matters has set up a system to recycle its filters. Thanks to consumer demand led by Beth Terry at, consumers can recycle the filters they use in Brita water pitchers with Preserve, a company that turns them into toothbrushes, table ware, and kitchen appliances. Contact Planet Matters to encourage them to set up a similar filter recycling program.

    Continue reading "Environmental In-Box: Planet Matters Water Filtration Bottle" »

    June 08, 2009

    Environmental In-Box: Paper Notepads, Folders, Calendars & Binders

    Even though you try to live a paperless life, every now and then you just might need a notebook or binder Ecojot to help you stay organized. When you do, take a look at the very earth-friendly solutions offered by EcoJot.

    Why Am I So Impressed? This Canadian company makes its products from 100% post-consumer waste - which means it's really recycling the paper you recycle. All the inks and glues are vegetable-based and biodegradable. No new trees are used in EcoJot's papermaking process. Manufacturing is powered by biogas captured from a nearby landfill. And the focus is on using local materials as much as possible.

    What I Especially Like: EcoJot's website is a model for transparency. Not only is it easy to navigate; it also provides extensive information on the eco qualities of its product (i.e., saying its paper is "100% post-consumer waste" is much more informative than saying the paper is "recycled.") Plus, the artwork that adorns the covers on the calendars, agendas, journals and workbooks is whimsical and fun. If you have to write down your "to do" list, putting it in an EcoJot journal might make it a little less painful.

    What Could Improve? Even though online shopping is all the rage, I'm a big fan of being able to walk into a local store and get the product I need. From what I can tell, EcoJot is still not widely available in the U.S., so buying it when you're out shopping could be a problem. Help improve its availability by asking store managers to put EcoJot on their shelves. As much as I like EcoJot's transparency, we're taking their word for it when they tout their eco-credentials. I'd like to see third-party verification of their eco claims. Plus, there are no product prices on the website. They're probably available in the downloadable catalogue, but that file is large and takes time to download - especially when someone is looking for quick price comparisons.

    Continue reading "Environmental In-Box: Paper Notepads, Folders, Calendars & Binders" »

    June 01, 2009

    Environmental In-Box: Terralina Skincare Products

     "At Terralina, we believe that what goes onto your skin, goes into your body. We formulated our natural and luxurious line of skincare products with your health in mind."

    Gina Sound too good to be true? That's what I thought when I first met Gina Garrubbo, the company's co-founder (pictured here at right with her co-founder and business partner, Patricia Bazan Garrubbo).Gina is a passionate champion of toxin-free skin care products and corporate responsibility. When she told me about Terralina's claim that the products were "98.5% natural," it sounded too good to be true. Then I visited I was bowled over not just by the nature of the product, but the entire environmental philosophy of the company. 

    Why am I so impressed?

    Terralina The product: Terralina offers a natural-based moisturizer, toner, cleanser, and body lotion.

    What I like: This may be the most transparent skin care site on the Internet. Not only are all product ingredients listed; the site also contains a glossary of terms to help you understand why you don't want to put acrylates on your body, but aloe vera might be ok. Bookmark this page for future reference, no matter what skin care products you buy!

    What could improve? I suppose the product line could be expanded to include an eye cream, or maybe a hand cream. As far as the existing products go, they're pretty complete.

    Continue reading "Environmental In-Box: Terralina Skincare Products" »

    May 25, 2009

    Environmental In-Box: Seeds of Change Chocolate

    Today begins a new feature on Diane's Big Green Purse: the Environmental In-Box product review.

    Every Monday morning, I'll review at least one of the products I've been sent during the previous week. I'll award three green purses to products that merit your consideration, two purses that are almost there, one purse to a product that's on the right track but has a long way to go. Plus, I'll give a "thumbs down" to goods that don't live up to their own claims.

    If you're familiar with the product yourself, please leave a comment. If you want me to review your product, please send me an e-mail first - there's no sense mailing me something I might not be interested in. But a note of caution: There's no quid pro quo here. Just because you send a product to review does not mean I will feel obligated to make glowing comments. I particularly abhor unverified claims, even the hint of greenwashing, and superlatives like "best," "greenest," "healthiest," or "first." Let the product speak for itself. And if you can't back up your eco-claims, please go back to the drawing board - or at least check out these labeling standards for some additional guidance.

    Here's what's in my In-Box today:

    Seeds of change chocolate Seeds of Change Chocolate - Seeds of Change built its reputation by preserving heirloom and traditional seed varieties. The company also produces certified organic foods "inspired by cultures and flavors from around the globe." Now they've turned their talents to chocolate. That's a very smart move in my humble opinion, given the environmental impact producing chocolate has -- as well as the fact that, in my household, chocolate is considered its own food group.

    The Product: Seeds of Change certified organic chocolate comes in six flavors: organic milk chocolate; organic milk chocolate with puffed grains (like a crisp); organic dark chocolate; organic dark chocolate with cherries and vanilla; organic dark chocolate with coconut; and organic dark chocolate with mango & cashew.

    What I like: The plain dark chocolate, with 61% cacao, is scrumptious - a great melt-in-your-mouth texture and full bodied flavor that lasts a long time. The milk chocolate is rich, smooth and creamy.

    What could improve?  I wasn't as wild about the bars that had cherries or mangos in them - the fruit pieces are so tiny, they felt gritty between my teeth. Plus, the bits are too small to impart much flavor; I never could taste the mango or cherry, though the coconut flavor comes through just fine. Overall I would have preferred larger pieces of fruit that seemed intentional, rather than an afterthought - think Cadbury's Fruit and Nut bars, where you can taste everything individually, but the flavors then meld into total deliciousness (however, Cadbury's bars aren't organic, a definite negative).

    Continue reading "Environmental In-Box: Seeds of Change Chocolate" »

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