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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.
  • August 05, 2013

    Getting a Green Clean from Maid Brigade

    Don't you love it when someone else cleans your house?

    I sure do - unless, of course, they "clean" it using products laden with nasty chemicals that leave my rooms smelling like antiseptic and that leave me with a big headache. I've tried a lot of so-called green cleaning services over the years, but generally have found that, unless I provide my own healthy, non-toxic cleansers, most housekeepers use conventional stuff that's full of phthalates, pesticides, formaldehyde and other toxins.

    Maid Brigade That's why I was intrigued when Maid Brigade, a self-proclaimed green cleaning company, approached me with an offer to clean my house top to bottom in exchange for a no-holds-barred review of their service. In other words, they would do the dirty work; I would tell you how they measured up.


    Continue reading "Getting a Green Clean from Maid Brigade" »

    July 07, 2011

    Fracking: A Clear and Present Danger

    Gas mask I don't like to exaggerate the impacts of the many environmental issues we face. But  it's impossible to overstate how dangerous fracking is. Fracking stands for "hydraulic fracturing," a highly polluting process for tapping underground pools of natural gas. It involves drilling a hole a mile deep and thousands of feet long, then pumping down millions of gallons of water laced with sand, salt and chemicals to crack rock shale that contains the gas. Wherever it happens, it pollutes drinking water, makes people and animals sick, and ruins property values. This special Green Moms Carnival raises several red flags about fracking. Read them all to understand why fracking matters to you - and why you must help stop it.

    Lori of Groovy Green Livin' asks "What the heck is fracking?" You won't like her answer anymore than she did. It's like a "mini-bomb or earthquake exploding underneath the ground" that leaves behind extremely toxic waste water. "The quantities of fracking fluids used in a single well contain so much benzene and other toxic chemicals that they could potentially contaminate more than the amount of water New York State consumes in a day.  Water is so contaminated with methane and other chemicals from fracking that it can become discolored, bubble and could actually catch on fire at the kitchen tap....The chemicals from fracking can cause chronic illness, loss of sense of smell and taste, animals hair to fall out, severe headaches and cancer."

    Continue reading "Fracking: A Clear and Present Danger" »

    February 16, 2010

    What Does "Natural" Mean?

    Carrots defines natural as "not artificial" or "having undergone little or no processing and containing no chemical additives." When I think of "natural" I think of things "as Nature made them" - a tree, a flower, an apple, a bunch of carrots. I can recognize natural products in more or less their original form and can usually figure out whether they're good for me or instead pose some kind of threat (think "natural" poison ivy).

    Cheese puffs Businesses have long appreciated how much they have to gain by marketing their goods as "natural." It's why they've plastered the word all over products that, ironically, couldn't be farther from their natural "natural" cheese puffs, crayola-colored gummy worms, ice cream that contains partially hydrogenated soybean oil and cocoa processed with alkali, and cleansers, soaps, toothpaste, and make-up that contain lye or lead.

    Gummy worms Products like these slide by as "natural" because no law prevents any manufacturer or retailer from claiming they are (unlike the label "organic," which is strictly defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and whose use is policed by both the federal government and consumer groups.) That's why I and many other consumer advocates encourage shoppers to ignore words like natural, earth-friendly, or something else equally appealing but ambiguous. There's no way to know what they really mean.

    NaturalSeal_Homecare_150px The Natural Products Association wants to clarify the debate. The group, which represents more than 10,000 retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors of natural foods, dietary supplements, and health/beauty aids has issued a Natural Products Association Standard and Certification for Home Care Products like household cleaners, laundry detergents, and concentrated and ready to use hard-surface cleaners (they've previously issued a similar standard for personal care products). Only products certified under the standard can bear the NPA natural home care seal, which is supposed to signal to consumers that the product can be trusted.

    Can it? Or is the standard just a clever attempt by companies better known for harsh and toxic ingredients to greenwash their products and cash in on the "natural" craze?

    Continue reading "What Does "Natural" Mean?" »

    October 13, 2009

    We Need Meaningful Standards to Protect the Planet -- and Us, too.

    Skeptical woman We've all seen the product claims that SOUND like they mean environmental protection. But do they?

    * Products labeled "natural" may contain some biological ingredients, but they may also include synthetic dyes and fragrances.

    * "Hypoallergenic" has no medical meaning. The word was invented by advertisers who used it in a cosmetics campaign in 1953.  Says the Food and Drug Administation, "There are no federal standards or definitions that govern the use of the term hypoallergenic. [It] means whatever a particular company wants it to mean."

    * "Biodegradable" should mean that, when a product is exposed to air, moisture, bacteria, or other organisms, it will break down and return to its natural state within a reasonably short time. However, no government entity verifies the accuracy of a biodegradable claim; the term is often used simply to provide a marketing edge to a product that otherwise has no real environmental attributes.

    * "Free range" implies that a meat or poultry product, including eggs, comes from an animal that was raised in the open air or was free to roam. But a vendor can give his livestock as little as five minutes of fresh air and still make the claim. Free range...or free rein to greenwash you, the concerned ecoshopper?

    * "Fragrance-free" suggests a product has no natural perceptible smell; however, synthetic ingredients may have been added to mask odors -- and the dangerous phthalates that create them.

    What's the point of this litany?

    Currently, no government standards define specific "eco" terms like the ones above. Companies are free to use these words to gain a marketing advantage regardless of their accuracy. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) prohibits deceptive advertising and has issued guidelines encouraging manufacturers to substantiate environmental claims, but the agency rarely enforces its own rules.

    This is a problem because consumers who want to protect themselves and the environment are increasingly reading product labels -- and walking away confused. Should they buy the "green" cleaner -- even though the label also says "Warning - Hazardous" because it actually contains toxic chemicals that can irritate the lungs or eyes?  Lipstick promises to make you beautiful. Should you use it, even though it  may contain lead? And what's with those "fuel efficient" hybrids that get less than 20 mpg?

    Greenmoms1 How much easier these choices would be if products were required to meet meaningful standards set by independent third parties, a point Mary Hunt over at In Women We Trust has been arguing for years, and a point being made again this month by the members of the Green Moms Carnival, which Mary is also hosting.

    You could avoid most greenwashing traps and label ambiguities if companies adopted comprehensive standards guaranteeing that their products were fully "sustainable" - that they protected public health and the environment throughout their entire commercial "life cycle." That includes the extraction of raw materials through their manufacture and use to final disposal or reuse in a new product.

    Ideally, such standards would be set at the federal level. But if you've been watching the health care debate, you know how tough passing new regulations can be. That's why there's so much interest in Wal-Mart's recent jump into the sustainability arena. The retail giant is planning to develop a sustainability index against which it will judge the vendors that supply products to its stores.  Want to do business with Wal-Mart? You'll have to be able to vault over their bar.

    How high that bar turns out to be remains to be seen.  Given Wal-Mart's role as the world's retail superpower, the higher we can convince them to set the bar, the better off we'll all be.

    To that end -- and in honor of Blog Action Day -- now would be a good time to contact Wal-Mart and urge the company to set the most meaningful environmental standards possible.

    July 08, 2009

    Bottled Water Not as Safe as Tap Water, says GAO

    Water sold in plastic bottles is not as safe as tap water because bottled water is allowed to be contaminated by chemicals that cause "reproductive difficulties, liver problems, and cancer."

    Marketing hype and inadequate labeling entice consumers to buy bottled water even though it is far more expensive and usually not as healthy as tap water.

    Bottled water also takes its toll on the environment. At least 3/4 of the millions of plastic water bottles produced each year are thrown away rather than recycled. Plus, producing bottled water actually uses more water and is far more energy intensive than providing the same amount of water to the public via the tap.

    These are among the most damning conclusions reached by the U.S. General Accounting Office upon completion of a thorough comparison of the health, safety and environmental benefits of tap vs. bottled water.

    The GAO attributes the dangers in bottled water to the fact that it is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whose safety requirements are far less stringent than those of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates tap water. The GAO recommended that the FDA adopt EPA's requirements within the year.

    Consumers should not have to wait a year for plastic water bottles to be safe. Take action now:

    * Stop buying bottled water, or any beverage sold in a plastic bottle. Remember the power of the purse: the way you spend your money sends a signal loud and clear to polluters that they will lose market share unless they provide you with safe products and services. 

    * Shift to healthier, safer reusable bottles. Aluminum and stainless steel bottles are better, as are bottles with filters that are free of the chemicals most throwaway water bottles contain.

    * Contact manufacturers and tell them to pull bottled water off the market. Just because a company makes a bottle that uses less plastic doesn't mean that bottle is a good choice.

    Throwaway plastic bottles need to go. 

    May 02, 2009

    Are there any "good" paper towels?

    Making paper is one of the most polluting industries on the planet. It uses huge amounts of water and energy. It may use chlorine to bleach the paper white, and that chlorine may create dioxin, one of the deadliest toxins on earth. Some paper manufacturers discharge dirty water, often laden with dangerous chemicals, back into rivers and lakes. Never mind how many trees are cut down to make paper, how much paper is used to package other paper, or how much air pollution is generated transporting paper from the manufacturer to the retailer.

    Needless to say, given these impacts, I'm not a big fan of paper that's produced just to be used once and thrown away. What's in that category? Paper towels. Paper napkins. Paper face tissue. Disposable wipes made from paper. Toilet paper (well, okay, I tolerate toilet paper). 

    Why not use cloth? In every category except toilet paper, cloth offers a cheaper and more eco-friendly option. Cloth towels and napkins can easily replace their paper counterparts and save consumers hundreds of dollars a year. When they wear out, they can be used as rags and wipe-up cloths. A cloth towel or napkin has a useful life of years, compared to the seconds a paper towel has value.

    Marcal tissue Why the rant? Because I just received an e-mail from the Marcal paper company extolling the virtues of their "Small Steps Save-a-Tree" Paper Towel Design Contest. The contest is urging "artists and tree lovers of all ages" to submit original drawings that show their love for trees. The winner of the contest will be flown to California to "hug a giant tree." The winning drawings will be used to promote Marcal products - throwaway paper products.

    Now, Marcal is more virtuous than many other paper companies. It makes all of its paper products from recycled paper as opposed to pulp from virgin forests. It does not use chlorine to bleach its paper, and it adds no dyes or fragrances.

    The problem is, it still makes paper designed to be used once and thrown away. Which begs the question: apart from toilet paper, should Marcal (or any company, for that matter), be in the throwaway paper business at all?

    Campaigns like the Small Steps Save-a-Tree Design Contest make consumers feel good about using throwaway products. That's wrong. Marcal and other companies would do the planet a world of good if they encouraged consumers to use cloth instead of throwaway paper.

    By the way, what do you think the carbon footprint will be of the person they fly to California to hug that tree?

    February 08, 2009

    Boring 2009 Gas Guzzlers Should Stay in Showroom

    Forget the auto industry bail-out.

    Given the cars it's offering us consumers this year, we'd be doing ourselves and this failing industry a favor if we shuttered all the showrooms and got on our bikes.

    The vehicles are boring, their prices are through the rough, and the “green” gas mileage they oromised falls far short of what you’d expect in a shrinking oil economy.

    A two-hour tour of the Washington auto show last night was all it took to reveal how out-of-touch this industry is with reality.

    Despite its claim that the show was “driven by the environment,” almost every vehicle I saw was clunky, expensive and a gas guzzler. After eyeballing a lot of stickers, I was shocked at almost all of them: price tags in the high $30-50K range for family sedans, and for that, mpg ranges scraping the bottom of the barrel (high teens/low twenties). I consider a fuel efficient car to get at least 30 mpg. Only a few models achieved such a modest goal, including the Toyota Prius (the car I drive), the Mercury Hybrid, the Smart Car, and the Mini-Cooper. (BTW, Mini-Cooper wins the contest on cool websites, hands down!). GM is still selling Hummers, for goodness’ sake.

    Chevy volt The Chevy Volt, the all electric vehicle GM promises to make available by 2011, was named Green Car Vision Award Winner by Green Car Journal. The only surprise there is that the Volt is actually a pretty spiffy car and looks like it would be fun to drive as well as cheap (well, the fuel would be cheap; we don’t know what the car will cost yet).

    If I were rich, I would have been excited by the Fisker. For a cool $85,000, you can get “the world’s first eco-chic car created in equally eco-friendly facilities.” This was the only car in the entire show concerned about its “karma” (their word, not mine). In fact, they have a model called the “Karma” that burns no fuel for the first 50 miles, then uses a lithium ion battery to operate like a normal hybrid vehicle. Fisker claims the Karma can average fuel economy of 100 mpg (2.4L/100km) per year - almost FIVE TIMES AS MUCH as most of the other vehicles in the show.

    It took forever to find the “Green Car Pavilion” part of the show — because it was about as far away from the conventional autos on display as it could be and still be included in the mix. I’d link to it if only there were a link for it on the Show’s website. There’s not.

    As Congress debates a billion dollar bail-out package to help prop up this failed industry, show organizers said that ”The mission of the Washington Auto Show is to operate as the “Public Policy Show,” unique on the global industry circuit because of its proximity to the U.S. Congress, international diplomatic corps and Federal agencies.”

    Given the cars they displayed and their disdain for the economic and environmental realities we face, I can only imagine that their idea of “facilitating a dialogue between industry leaders and public policymakers” means they’re lobbying to do business as usual.

    January 01, 2009

    Clean Coal? Not Really...

    Reality logo The subway billboards are stark, stunning and attention grabbing.

    Against a black backdrop, bright yellow letters shout:

    "Burning coal is the dirtiest way we produce electricity."

    "There are no homes in America powered by clean coal."

    "CO2 emissions from coal-based electricity are greater than emissions from all the cars and trucks in America."

    The video version features a bright yellow canary dropping dead - an unmistakable stand-in for the "canary in the coal mine" that lets miners know when mine gases have become so toxic that they're about to expire.

    It's a briliant campaign, intended to debunk the quickly growing myth that "clean" coal can solve our energy problems.

    Says the sponsoring group,, "Coal cannot be called 'clean' until its CO2 emissions are captured and stored safely." That's not likely to happen any time soon. There are roughly 600 coal plants producing electricity in the U.S. Not one of them captures and stores its global warming pollution.

    "Clean" coal? I don't think so.

    December 15, 2008

    Green Coupons Make Eco-Shopping Cheap

    Whether you're wrapping up your holiday shopping or browsing for general household goods, take advantage of online coupons to save you big bucks on green gear for yourself, family and friends.

    These three blogs specialize in linking to coupons for green products and services. NOTE: not every item on every site will be "green." Read product descriptions before you buy to avoid greenwashing (yes, it even happens with coupons! See "," below).

    GreenCouponCodes - This site is very easy to use. Every entry offers the same practical information: an overview of the product, the discount offered (highlighted in bright red ink), shipping information, and an easy click through to the product itself. You'll find a wide variety of items in categories that include health and beauty, organic garden, personal finance, batteries, and light bulbs. The only coupon category that didn't make sense to me was "auto." The promo promises coupons for "green auto parts at Juiced Hybrid," but I could never access that particular site.

    Pristine planet Pristine Planet - Whether you're looking for divine organic chocolates, organic cotton baby gear, holiday candles or gourmet gift baskets, you should be able to find a discount coupon at Pristine Planet. Many merchants listed here - like Gifts for the Garden and EcoHomeGear, offer discounts as high as 20%.

    Ecobunga EcoBunga - EcoBunga calls itself the guide to "green giveaways and deals," so look not just for discounts but freebies, too. Sweepstakes and contests offer everything from EMX Race Bikes (hmm... I guess that's "green" - better than racing a car?!), to adventures to exotic natural habitats, to things more mundane but perhaps more essential: BPA-free baby bottles. On the coupon side, recent promotions included a $10 discount on Seventh Generation chlorine-free diapers, and 40% off Pangea Organics Holiday Gift Boxes.

    Mambo Sprouts is another online coupon resource, offering printable coupons from the web as well as coupon books. Recent offerings included $1 off a package of Equal Exchange  Fair Trade Coffee and $1 off Bio-Kleen eco-friendly cleaning products.

    Thumb_brown.bmp NOTE: Beware a site called OrganicCoupons. Despite the name, it doesn't seem to focus much on organics. Recent promotions included a trip to NBC's Universal Studios, discounts for Omaha Steaks, and a price break on "a fantastic mid-size SUV." Those sure don't sound like organic options to me.

    November 28, 2008

    How to Separate "Green" from "Greenwashing" When You Shop

    In their eagerness to cash in on consumer demand for eco-friendly products and services, many companies are calling their goods "green" despite their decidedly un-environmental qualities. When you shop, these 5 steps can help you distinguish what's green from what's being greenwashed. 

    1) Read the label. Look for meaningful claims, not words like "natural" or "planet friendly" that aren't  backed up by standards or third-party verification (see below). When it comes to cleansers and other household goods, avoid products labeled "caution," "warning," "danger," and "poison," all of which indicate the item is hazardous to you and the environment. Ignore products that are inherently contradictory, like "organic cigarettes," or "most energy-efficient Hummer." Leave goods boasting irrelevant claims - like something is "CFC-free," true but misleading since CFCs have been banned since the 1980s.

    FSC logo ES_Logo         Usda_seal


     2) Look for third-party verification. In the absence of universal sustainable standards, if a company says its product is good for the earth, your first question should be, "Who else says so?" Reliable eco claims are backed up by an independent institution or nonprofit organization that has investigated the manufacturer's claim so you don't have to. Look for labels from groups like Forest Stewardship Council, Energy Star and the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Organic.

    3) Choose fewer ingredients. A long list of ingredients often indicates the presence of questionable chemicals that may be harmful to you or the environment. This is especially true for personal care products, food, and cleansers. Simplify what you buy. Needless to say, buying less is the greenest option of all.

    4) Pick less packaging. Choose goods that come wrapped as simply as possible. For starters, buy in bulk, favor concentrates, and pick products in containers you can easily recycle (hint: glass, cans, paper and cardboard are more easily recycled than plastic). Carting home your packages in your own bags helps reduce packaging, too.

    5) Buy local. Avoid the higher energy costs involved in transporting goods long distances. Supporting local farmers and businesses also increases the likelihood that U.S. environmental and health laws and regulations will be followed.

    Bottom Line: Ignore boasts that a product is eco-chic, earth-safe, or planet-neutral. Follow the steps above to ensure that when you buy green it is green.

    Want more greenwashing tips? Visit Green Home Huddle.


    EcoCentric Mom
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