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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.
  • January 22, 2009

    Why Did Mom Shift $1,000 to Green Cleaners and Organic Food?

    Here's another One in a Million success story! Carolyn, a Phoenix, Arizona wife and mother of two sons aged five and seven, spent the last year shifting her spending to greener cleaners and organic food. Here's why:

    Carolyn Family "Early in 2008 I read an article in the Arizona Republic about the One in a Million campaign and it matched my own thinking so well that I went right into the computer and registered.

    I feel that, even though I can't solve all the problems on my own, I should do whatever I can and if other people do the same the cumulative effect could really make a difference. I tell my husband this is my way of taking care of great grandchildren I won't be around to take care of directly.

    I focused my spending shift on food and cleaners because it was an area of my spending I hadn't really made any changes in yet. Also, I have been trying to green my life for awhile so I'd already done many of the obvious changes. For instance, among other things, I had already replaced all the light bulbs in my house (and my parents house) with compact fluorescent bulbs, I'm a vegetarian (which reduces a bunch of green house gasses) and we had replaced the 25 year old energy sucking air conditioner with a new high efficiency unit.

    Though I was trying to have my family eat healthy, I hadn't really evaluated our food (or our cleaning supplies) for their environmental impact. The shift was kind of tough at first, I found that some of the places I had been shopping weren't going to work out for things I was used to buying there because the greener alternatives they had available were just way to expensive. So I had to go hunting, sometimes trying new stores altogether, sometimes looking at stores I already went to for things that I didn't normally buy there.

    I have to say that Target and Trader Joe's have really come to my rescue on more than one instance. Trader Joe's has such good prices on so many organic things and Target is constantly increasing their inventory of environmentally friendly cleaners as well as organic food. Shopping habits aren't easy things to change, but now I'm not going back, this has become my new normal routine. I haven't decided on our green goals for the new year yet, but I am so pleased with what we have done so far that I definitely want to make additional changes to keep us getting greener all the time."

    How did Carolyn shift her spending?

     Date            Item                                    Money Spent
    all year        organic foods                              $ 755
    all year        non-toxic cleaners                       $ 350

    Total …………………………………………….. $ 1,105 (or more)

    Want to join the campaign? Sign up here; you'll get a handy balance sheet you can download to help you keep track of your environmentally friendly choices. The idea isn't to spend more money; it's to shift money you already spend to greener products and services. Once you've shifted $1,000, send us your story so we can share it with others.

    Thanks to One in a Million, over $3 million in spending shifts have already occurred.


    December 30, 2008

    GrandMa Shifts Almost $20,000 to Green Goods; Saves $400/yr just on lighting

    Subee If you're one of those people who want to "go green" but think they can't afford it, meet Sue H. of Dewitt, Virginia.

    This "One in a Million" grandmother of two has found that shifting her spending to products and services that offer the greatest environmental benefit actually saves her money - especially when it comes to energy.

    The One in a Million campaign inspires consumers to shift at least $1,000 of their existing household budgets to greener goods. The idea isn't to spend more money, just to make "green" a priority when you do shop. In many cases, the new purchases are not only better for the planet. They're great for your pocketbook, too.

    Here's how Sue shifted her spending: 

    04/'07:  Bought an '07 Honda Civic                     $17,500
    04/'07  Bought a front loading washer                 $  1,000
    '06 thru '08:  cfl bulbs, 50                                  $     200
    01/'07:  Installed water htr blanket                      $      20
    01/'08:  Put up weather stripping                        $      10
    01/'08:  Hung 8 pr. thermal drapes                      $    500
    05/'08:  Bamboo flooring in bathroom                  $    400

    Total:                                                              $19,130

    Sue says she's "pretty much a typical 60ish woman" with three grown children, two grown step-children, and seven grandchildren. Retired, she sews, does some crafting, reads and gardens. When I asked Sue what inspired her, here's what she said.

    "The green thing?  It really began for me in the 70's when we planted our first garden.  I started getting "Organic Gardening" and that got me even more interested.  Then there were a number of years when I really let stuff slide.  I was divorced in 1979, with two kids, and working for the first time in my life. 

    I've gotten more interested and active in our environment over the years since I had to retire.  It began with supporting various charities that espouse what I think is important.  I've browbeaten most of my family about it.  My mother, who lives with my older sister, began recycling about 3 months ago.  Same deal with my daughter and her family.  My husband has been hard to persuade, too, and I frequently go through the "trash" can in the kitchen to fish out stuff that goes in the recycle can.  But, we're getting there.  In the last few years, I've even convinced him to give up the 10-10-10 fertilizer we'd been using on the garden.  We've gone organic with that, as well as using Neem oil for the bad bugs instead of Sevin spray.

    The hardest part for me has been to actually DO it instead of just bitching about how Earth is changing, and placing blame with politicos and big business and the oil companies.  Oh, they are culprits, but so am I.  The easiest was the cfl bulbs.  That's something that anyone can do.  Do it one at the time or one room at the time.  By the way, my monthly budget electric bill has come down from $152 to $116.  That's over $400 a year.  For some people, that's the final shot in the arm.  That money thing will get people nearly every time.

    I know I can't do much, but I truly believe if everyone would do just ONE thing, the world we live in would get better pdq! 

    P.S.  I've gotten my two four & 1/2 year old granddaughters each a copy of "Michael Recycle" for Christmas this year."

    If Sue can do it, so can you! Shifting your spending not only saves you money - it gives manufacturers an incentive to reduce pollution, keep air and water clean, and protect our world for our kids and grandkids. Why don't you join us today? It couldn't be easier!

    Meet more One in a Million women.

    November 24, 2008

    By Shifting Spending to Bamboo, Organics and Green Cleaners, Mom-to-Be Becomes "One in a Million"

    HoneyLynn, a soon-to-be-mother who joined the Big Green Purse campaign back in March, has shifted almost $2,000 of her household spending to products and services that benefit the environment as part of her commitment to live a greener life. Here's her story:

    Honey Summer 2008  "Over the last 4-5 years, I have really become committed to environmentally conscious living, but have realized that it doesn't and can't on a practical level, happen overnight. So, slowly I have shifted our household's spending to more environmentally conscious products. Whenever I need to replace or or buy something new, I take the time to seek out environmentally friendly alternatives, and if it costs a little more than I thought and we don't need it right away, then I save up to make the purchase (no credit card purchases here). 
    "The idea of seeing exactly how much of our household spending was directed to environmentally friendly products, was what inspired me to get involved in the One in a Million campaign. Regarding the biggest lesson, like I mentioned above, is that sometimes it takes a little research (thank goodness for the Internet) to find environmentally friendly alternatives, but it is worth it. Also, those skeptical partners out there eventually come around. My husband half-jokingly gives me a hard time about being an Eco-nut, but over the last four+ years, I have noticed that when he does the shopping by himself, our reusable shopping bags are filled with the organic groceries and Eco-friendly products that we have become accustom to purchasing. It has become a part of our lifestyle.
    "We live in Mankato, MN which is in south central MN, so sometimes it is difficult to find the products that we are looking for locally, so I will order on line when necessary. We just bought our first house this past July and have committed to using Eco-friendly products and services as we make the place our own. We don't have any pets, but we are expecting our first child in April and our close friends and family already expect that our child will be one of the 'greenest' around.

    "Most definitely I will continue to shift our spending!"

    One_in_a_million HoneyLynn became "One in a Million" when she pledged to shift at least $1,000 of her household budget to more eco-friendly products and services. The idea is not to spend more money. Rather, the campaign inspires consumers to swap out conventional products for ones that are greener and cleaner. If a million women make the shift, we'll create a billion-dollar incentive for manufacturers to "go green." Already, thousands of women have joined the campaign.

    If you're interested,visit Big Green Purse online and download a balance sheet to help you keep track of your budget shifts. When you reach (or exceed) your $1,000 pledge, email us your story, and we'll post it, just like HoneyLynn's.

    Take a look at HoneyLynn's Balance Sheet to see how she shifted her spending:

     Date                   Item                                                          Money Spent

     3/28             Aveda Men’s Shampoo & Women’s Facial Bar             49.22
     3/28             Organic Spinach, Yogurt, & Cereal                              16.00
     3/31             Groceries from Local Food Co-Op                                36.91

    4/5                Groceries                                                                  58.00
    4/12              Electric-Wind Energy                                                  28.00
    4/13              Bamboo hangers & spatula                                         12.00 
    4/13              Groceries                                                                   19.00
    4/15              Cosmetics-Honey Bee Gardens                                   15.44
    4/18              Groceries                                                                   29.73
    4/18              Blue Canoe-Yoga Clothes                                            57.00
    4/19             Groceries from local Food Co-Op                                   48.92
    4/21             Klean Kanteen                                                             34.70
    4/26             Bamboo Hangers                                                            4.00
    4/27             Groceries                                                                     18.00
    4/27             Thrift Store Clothing Purchase                                        37.00

    5/03              Groceries                                                                    20.15
    5/04              Bamboo Cooking Utensil                                                3.00
    5/04              Groceries & Purchase of shares in Co-Op                    138.09
    5/10              Groceries                                                                    25.50
    5/10              Bamboo Hangers & Dishwasher Detergent                       9.38
    5/15              Shopping at local Co-op                                                  9.16
    5/17              Bamboo Hangers & Tom’s Deodorant                               8.23
    5/17              Groceries                                                                     20.58   
    5/25              Groceries                                                                     29.31
    5/25              Apothena-organic facecare                                             79.95
    5/26              Bamboo Hangers                                                            4.00
    5/31             Groceries                                                                      24.97

    06/7             Groceries                                                                      35.34
    06/7             Bamboo Hangers                                                             4.00
    06/7             Bamboo Hangers & Toms Toothpaste                                8.18
    06/7             Local Honey                                                                    5.59
    06/7             Nurture My Body-Organic Hair Care                                 27.00
    6/15             Laundry Detergent & Bamboo Hangers                            17.00
    6/15             Farmer’s Market                                                            10.00
    6/15             Groceries                                                                      24.30
    6/16             Klean Kanteen                                                               33.00
    6/16             Alima Cosmetics                                                            15.00
    6/17             Bamboo Socks                                                                6.00
    6/21             Bamboo Hangers                                                             4.00
    6/21             Groceries                                                                      19.63
    6/21             Aveda-Makeup Brushes                                                  99.51

    7/01             Rain Barrel                                                                   200.00
    7/05             Bamboo hangers & Eco-friendly mop                                40.00
    7/05             Groceries                                                                       30.75
    7/05             Farmer’s Market                                                             15.00
    7/08             Bamboo Hangers & Compostable Dusters                          9.00
    7/10             Bamboo Hangers & Toothpaste                                         7.70
    7/12             Farmer’s Market                                                             48.00
    7/13             Groceries                                                                       34.65
    7/17             Composter & Compost Scrap Keeper                             151.00
    7/18             Farmer’s Market                                                             19.00
    7/18             Groceries                                                                       21.80
    7/18             Local Food Co-op                                                           29.15
    7/24             Cleaning Products & Bamboo Hangers                             30.54
    7/25             Farmer’s Market                                                             16.00
    7/25             Groceries                                                                       35.93

    8/03             Groceries                                                                       41.10
    8/05             Local Food Co-op                                                            45.88
    8/10             Bamboo Hangers                                                              4.00
    8/15             Groceries                                                                         6.82
    8/17             Groceries                                                                         4.76
    8/18             Groceries                                                                         3.99
    8/22             Groceries                                                                       13.10
    8/27             Groceries & Bamboo Hangers                                          10.26
    8/28             Groceries, Hangers, & Dish soap                                     10.26
    8/30             Cleaning Product                                                              3.29
    8/29             Groceries                                                                       15.52

                        Total                                                                          $1,992.29


    September 24, 2008

    Another "One in a Million" Shifts Spending to Used Car, Organic Make-up

    One_in_a_million The One in a Million campaign is inspiring thousands of women to shift $1,000 of their household budget to products and services that offer the greatest environmental benefit.
    Meet the latest "Millionaire":  Christine G. from Pittsburgh, PA shifted almost $5,000 in the following ways:
    *  Used Car - $4,700
    *  Organic Makeup - $23.00
    *  Used books for herself and gifts - $103.00
    *  Organic lotions and shampoos - $54.00
    Total Shift:  $4,881.00
    Here's her story:
    " I am recently married, have one spoiled dog name Meeko, a husband Steve who supports the green effort I'm trying to undertake in my own little corner of the world (and who really likes me not buying the unnecessary items at all!). I am in charge of a safety program on the job and have started to incorporate "green living" into safety talks and communications out to the people in the field who work with the same program, though I do not manage any employees directly.
    "I was looking for a "new to me vehicle" and I did not want to buy new and lose value as soon as I drove off the lot.  I look at buying a used vehicle as recycling, but did not look at the mpg as the price was soooo right.  The mpg is no worse than the vehicle I have replaced by buying this used vehicle.
    Re what inspired Christine to become One in a Million? "I want to do my part - once I thought about what "organic" and "free trade" and "shade grown" and all the other phrases really mean, I realized that it's not only good for the planet in the big picture, it's good for me in the immediate future."
    Will she continue to shift her spending? "I do continue to buy greener products and services, though I'm also just not buying as much unnecessary items as I have in the past - and I finally found Bon Ami!!, so I'll be cleaning a little greener, too."
    "I am the major purchaser for the household. I am looking for bamboo flooring in anticipation of when we'll need it in the future for a remodeling project. I'm interested in solar panels or at least sky-lights. I am buying organic groceries as much as possible (milk, parents have a farm so fresh free-range eggs are no problem, local farmer's market fruit and veggies instead of imported and treated from who knows where with who knows what) as well as H&B items (shampoo, cosmetics, sunscreens, etc.)."
    "I will think green before any purchase and purchase to the greenest of my ability - be it gently used, flea market, donation store, hand me overs, etc.  I'm trying to work "green" into everything I can."
    Thumbs up, Christine!Thumb_green

    September 16, 2008 makes shopping for sustainable products a little easier.

    Newgreenzerlogo If you've been hankering to use your big green purse to buy green goods but haven't been able to find the goods, Greenzer may be just what you're looking for.

    The recently launched website lists over 15,000 products that have been evaluated based on specific green attributes and environmental certifications. You can browse, compare and shop from more than 65 merchant partners who, while perhaps not ecologically perfect, offer a significant improvement over the standard or conventional option.

    Co-founder Jeremy Arditi says Greenzer chooses its products based on four criteria:

    * Green labels and certifications (to include products rated, labeled or certified by groups like the Environmental Protection Agency, Energy Star, the Forest Stewardship Council, Green Guard and EPEAT);

    * Green attributes (e.g., organically grown, solar-powered, post-consumer recycled, cruelty-free);

    * Green categories (focusing on product options that are inherently greener than conventional alternatives. Think rechargeable batteries, compact fluorescent light bulbs, and reusable water bottles).

    * Green companies and brands that have made it a priority to conduct their business in an environmentally beneficial way (such as Seventh Generation or Bi-O-Kleen).

    Shopping categories range from apparel & accessories and babies & kids to electronics, home & garden, office products and travel. Regardless of the category, shoppers can compare both the eco-qualities and the price of the options they're considering. Some categories, like computers, give individual products a "greenzer score" based on aggregates of several leading data sources that track the environmental performance of products and brands. However, all products listed on Greenzer have met the company's minimum green filtering criteria.

    One feature unique to Greenzer is its "Green Face Off." Sometimes, a conventional product is paired with its eco alternative. Sometimes two eco options appear side-by-side. The face-offs compare costs, environmental impacts and a sense of "the big picture" -- what you, and the planet, have to gain or lose depending on what you buy.

    Thumb_green Ultimately, it would be ideal to see third-party certification for all products listed. In the meantime, this is a great step in the right direction.

    Thumbs up, Greenzer!

    September 10, 2008

    "One in a Million" Mom Shifts $1,000 to Greener Food, Bedding, Biking

    One_in_a_million Thousands of women have joined the "One in a Million" campaign. Participating couldn't be easier. They simply pledge to  shift $1,000 of their annual household budget to products and services that offer the greatest environmental benefits. That doesn't mean spend MORE money. It means spend money differently to make a difference.

    Deborah H. from Nashville, Tennessee and the mother of two boys, is the latest "One in a Million" winner. Here's how she shifted over $1,000:

    * Joined a Winter CSA -    $704.50

    * Bought Bamboo Sheets - $ 93.77

    * Joined a Spring CSA -    $400.00

    Total ...................   $1,198.27

    Why did she do it?

    "I joined One in a Million because I received an e-mail from the women's list-serve at my church (Christ Church Cathedral in Nashville, TN) about the good things your group was doing.

    "Thinking about the campaign has impacted how I buy. We use bamboo sheets on our beds, we recycle, and we belong to a CSA. My husband bikes to work when he can. We car pool with another family for school and we donate extra funds to our electric company for green energy.

    Avalon_acres "The winter CSA we belonged to was through Avalon Acres in Tennessee.  Every two weeks we received all of our brown eggs, meats and baked goods through them. We helped to support an Amish family through the winter. This spring we are involved in a CSA through Delvin Farms in Nashville. We are receiving every other week fresh vegetables and fruits from the farm."

    By shifting her budget to more eco-friendly products, Deborah is using her big green purse to encourage farmers and manufacturers to reduce pollution, protect the landscape, and help her live a healthier, safer life. If a million women follow Deborah's lead, they'll make a billion dollar impact in the marketplace and send an unmistakable environmental message to industries.

    Thumb_green Thumbs up, Deborah! And congratulations!!

    For more One in a Million stories, see here, here, here and here.

    Want to join us? Sign up here.

    September 08, 2008

    Going Back to School? Go Green To Save Hundreds of Dollars

    Globe_money Parents can save oodles of money by taking an "eco cheap" approach to back-to-school shopping.

    Where to start?

    * Ignore the huge supply lists that come home in kids' backpacks. Over at the blog Green Talk, "Thrifty is the New Green for Back to School Supplies" reminds parents to check their "voluminous" stashes of pens, pencils, crayons and paper leftover from last year before buying new. SAVINGS:  $25-$50/child

    *  Use last year's backpacks and lunch boxes. (Mindful Momma notes in "The Price We Pay for Back 2School Cool that kids do just fine with gear they've used before.) SAVINGS:  $50-$125/child, depending on backpack.

    *  Shop yard sales and thrift stores for back-to-school clothes. SAVINGS:  $100 - $250/child, depending on your usual clothes budget.

    * Borrow sports equipment and rent musical instruments. Is your daughter trying hockey for the first time? Not sure if your son is a budding violinist or just likes to hear the bow scratch? Borrow skates or rent the violin until you're sure a purchase makes sense. SAVINGS:  $50 - $250.

    Total Savings: $225 - $675 per child.

    For more great ideas that save money and spare the planet, drop in on the Green Moms Carnival over at SurelyYouNest.

    July 29, 2008

    ANTIBACTERIAL SOAP IS TOXIC: Could harm fetus and infants; Pollutes breast milk

    Dial_soap_75_oz_pump6210 Thinking about buying some handy 'germ fighting' dish soap or bathroom cleanser? Think again. In all likelihood, those cleaners contain triclosan, a toxic pesticide that's marketed as an "antibacterial agent" but is powerful enough to threaten children's health and pollute mothers' breast milk.

    According to a study by researchers at the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG), triclosan has been:

    * linked to cancer in lab animals

    * targeted for removal from some stores in Europe for its health and environmental risks

    * recommended against use at home by the American Medical Association

    Thumb_brownbmp_2  Triclosan's human health and environmental impacts are serious:

    * It may disrupt the thyroid hormone system, which is essential for proper growth and development, particularly for brain growth in utero and during infancy.

    * It breaks down into very toxic chemicals, including a form of dioxin; methyl triclosan, which is acutely toxic to aquatic life; and chloroform, a carcinogen formed when triclosan mixes with tap water that has been treated with chlorine.

    * It pollutes the environment. Scientists surveying 85 U.S. rivers and streams found traces of triclosan in more than half. Studies done at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada show that triclosan exposure endangers frogs and other aquatic wildlife.

    Even though there is no evidence that triclosan is keeping homes cleaner, the toxin is showing up in the most unlikely products: toothpaste, shower curtains, cutting boards, and mattresses as well as liquid hand soap, dishwashing detergent, and window cleaner. It is touted by leading brands like Softsoap, Dial and Bath & Body works. EWG's research shows it is an ingredient in almost half of 259 hand soaps.

    "It¹s time to ban triclosan from all personal care and household products," says EWG Staff Scientists Rebecca Sutton, PhD.

    Dr. Stuart Levy, director of the Center for Adaptation Genetics and Drug Resistance at the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, says "No current data demonstrate any health benefits from having antibacterial-containing cleansers in a healthy household."

    The Environmental Protection Agency is trying to determine whether and how to regulate triclosan and other antibacterial agents. Their review could take months, even years.

    In the meantime, here's how you can protect yourself:

    * Worry less about germs. Dr. Levy and other medical professionals note that people who are exposed to household germs usually develop stronger immune systems and are healthier overall. Aim to be clean, not germ-free.

    * Read product labels. If you see the words "antibacterial," "kills germs," or "triclosan," find an alternative.

    * Talk to store managers. Tell them you're refusing to buy antibacterial products because they threaten human health and the environment.

    * Shift your spending to safe, eco-friendly cleansers:

    Bonami *  Bon Ami

    Baking soda, vinegar and water

    Greenworks All Natural Cleaner

    * Method Non-Toxic, Fragrance-Free All Surface Cleaner

    For triclosan-free toothpaste, consider UltraBrite Advanced Whitening or Tom's of Maine, both of which are available in most grocery and drug stores. For other alternatives, consult the Safe Cosmetics Data Base.

    For liquid hand soap, try Kiss My Face Self-Foaming Soaps.

    June 17, 2008

    Organic Food, Prius Help Businesswoman Become "One in a Million"

    For anyone out there who wonders how your shopping dollars can help protect the environment, look no further than Kat Schon. The co-owner of a small business in Portland, Oregon, Kat has shifted not just one, but thousands of dollars into products that help protect the planet. And she’s done it at work as well as at home.

    Kat_with_flowers_2Simply what Kat does at her company, Portland Store Fixtures, could qualify her for star status in the Big Green Purse “One in a Million” campaign, our effort to engage a million women in shifting $1,000 of their household budget to more eco-friendly options. Portland Store Fixtures sells new and used fixtures for anyone interested in running a retail establishment. The company’s mantra is:

    “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Give those “experienced” fixtures a chance to shine.” 

    Kat and her partner Penney are always on the look-out for gently worn display cases, fabrics, and even mannequins that another proprietor can put to good re-use. Since 1998, they’ve helped hundreds of stores get up and running, often by using recycled materials.

    To keep her staff of seven fueled, Kat has organized a weekly organic food delivery to the office. “We signed on with a company called SPUD that efficiently delivers food and allows us to pick what foods we will receive every week.  We pick organic, locally grown fruit and vegetables because it keeps the dollar local and out of the gas tank.”

    Plus, says Kat, “We shop organically and have done so for the last two years.  We also buy (personally and for the business) non-toxic cleaners, recycled products and reuse everything!  We sell used store fixtures so we really take the "reuse" part seriously.  Our invoices, letters and faxes are all on already printed on one side paper.  And then we will use them for scrap paper!”

    Kat estimates she’s shifted $28 per week for the local organic food delivery, and $200 per week for more eco-friendly grocery and cleaning products.

    But the purchase that really propelled her into the “One in a Million” pantheon?

    She recently bought a $22,000 Prius, the gas-saving hybrid car that can get as much as 50 miles out of every gallon of gas.

    Thumb_green Thumbs up, Kat! You're really One in a Million!

    June 07, 2008

    Eco-Gadgets That Deliver a Good Workout, Too

    Bruce Hathaway, an editor at Smithsonian magazine and eco-tech guru par excellence, wrote this guest post on cool home energy saving gadgets for Father's Day or any day (NOTE: add shipping & handling to all quoted prices). Thanks, Bruce!

    Bogogeneral2t Bogo (Buy One Give One) Solar Flashlight This well-made orange (or pink) light throws a nice even beam over a wide area, so it's better than most flashlights as a reading or task light. And if you buy one for $25, the SunNight Solar company will donate the same flashlight to someone in need. You even get to choose from a long list of charitable organizations and countries. Notes the SunNight Solar Web site, "Two billion people living in the developing world rely on kerosene lanterns, candles and single-use battery flashlights for light at night. [These] options are expensive, dangerous and harmful to the environment.” The Bogo light helps solve the problem. A new improved solar flashlight called the Super Bogo is also available, for $30.

    Radio Freeplay Summit handcrank/solar-powered radio I listen to the radio a lot, sometimes all day. Listening through our stereo system uses about 60 watts an hour, quite a bit of power. This little radio has terrific FM reception and excellent sound quality. And you'll get excellent upper-body exercise crank-charging it, especially if you hold it above your head when you crank. It takes about 45 minutes to achieve a full charge. I crank my radio while on my exercise bike and even carry one along and crank it while walking; it boosts my pulse rate by 15 beats a minute, often just enough to get up into all-important aerobic levels.  This radio also has a solar panel on top so you can charge it in the kitchen window. Freeplay sells several radios; in my experience, the Summit offers the best reception and sound. $79.00, or $64.75 at Batteryjunction. By purchasing Freeplay products you’ll be supporting the Freeplay Foundation, which distributes radios and other hand crank devices to people in need in developing countries. Freeplay is also the company that developed the hand-crank power supply for the One Laptop Per Child program.

    Blender GSI Vortex hand-crank Blender Agent 007 would no doubt agree that a martini--or a magarita--made in an off-grid, hand-crank blender tastes a lot better than one made in an on-grid electric blender. And being out of breath from the cranking will heighten the booze buzz. The GSI Vortex Blender does the job, and again you'll benefit from good upper-body exercise turning the crank. It is noisy, though not much noisier than many electric blenders. You can buy the GSI Vortex for $79.95 at, or $59.95 plus at

    Fan Caframo 797 battery-powered Compact Desk Fan Ultra quiet, variable-speed, this fan runs on four D cell batteries. $28.50 at Wholesale Tool. I bought a half dozen of them for various places around the house; the nice breezes allow us to turn off the energy-hog AC when we don't really need it.

    Sundancesolar_2004_5562557_2  Rechargeable Battery Charger  The off-grid way to use these fans is with rechargeable batteries, charged in a solar charger. My favorite solar charger is the Universal Solar Battery Charger, which charges multiple cells at once; it is waterproof and has a convenient carrying handle. $24.95. Several models of D-cell solar chargers are available, some with light meters and charts telling how long it will take the batteries to charge. See the options at or Google "solar battery chargers." For rechargable batteries, go to and buy Tenergy D-cell 10,000 mAh Ni-MH rechargables; the more you buy, the better the price.

    Watt_monitor Kill-A-Watt Power Use Monitor You’ve likely heard of vampire power loss, the electricity that appliances like TVs, computers, plug-in blenders and fans, and remote controlled stereo receivers waste, even when you’ve turned them “off” with the remote. This little device will tell you how much that vampire is costing you as well as the planet. In our case, two TVs and a stereo receiver were draining away a total of about 75 watts a day, every day. My wife and I staked that vampire dead by putting the TVs and receiver on power-strips which we can manually turn off without losing station presets.  Buy a Kill-A-Watt Monitor online for as little as $17.99.

    Crank_light_2  Freeplay SherpaXrayLED Clear Body hand-crank flashlight In one respect, this is the geek-giddiest green gadget of all. The transparent case lets you see the crank gears, wires and generator circuit board in action. It also emits a nice even light, so it's good for various tasks or reading. It features both a high beam and a power-saving beam that will shine for 20 hours when the flashlight is fully charged. That takes about 40 minutes of vigorous cranking—another good upper-body workout. Available from for $22.95. For a more powerful hand-crank flashlight, try the Freeplay Jonta, $42.95. For a cheaper option, consider the Garrity Power Lite 3 LED Crank Light (Titanium Silver/Black). You can buy one at many hardware stores or at Amazon for about $9, and it has a lifetime guarantee. That’s important because several of the solar and hand-crank flashlights and radios on the market are cheaply made and likely to fail or break. REI and L.L. Bean guarantee the reliability of the products they sell.

    Moon_spot_2Hollywood Moon Spot This is the niftiest little table spot lamp I’ve ever seen, and incredibly its LED bulb uses only 1.2 watts. That’s just another indication to me that LEDs, even more so than compact fluorescents, are the energy-saving lightbulbs of the future. Unfortunately, the Moon Spot costs $96. You can see it and other nice lights at

    Pedal Powered Prime Mover Remember how nutty it seemed when you heard about the guy who powered his TV and cooked his pancakes by a generator hooked up to his exercise bike? Well, nutty it’s not, although a very little girl once asked me, "When you’re watching a Western and you pedal a little slower, do the horses also run slower?" A very interesting inventor in Los Gatos, California, David Butcher, sells plans for a do-it-yourself, power-generating exercise bike. $50. (NOTE: If you have trouble with this link, search "David Butcher" or "pedal powered" on the Internet.)

    Solar Powered Firefly Magic Firefly Lights These come on and go off slowly and really do look like fireflies. Seven electronic fireflies cost $67.95; get twelve for $87.95.

    Does it make a diff? Even if hundreds of millions of people use all these off-grid gadgets, the resulting reduction in greenhouse gasses will only be a fraction of what it needs to be. But using them has raised my awareness of more important things to do. For example, each night before I leave my office I go around for one minute and turn off photocopiers and lights in the reception area and the office kitchen. During the day, whenever I leave the men's room or the printer room I turn off the lights. I’ve also pointed out to the manager of the ten-story building where I work that hundreds of lights burn unnecessarily evenings and weekends.

    But more than that, I’m realizing that the most effective energy-saving gadget I have is my keyboard. I can use it to write to companies like Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) and L.L. Bean to let them know there’s going to be a huge market for exercise equipment that also generates power, or solar and wind-powered appliances. Most important, I can write to my U.S. Senator and Congressperson and ask them to enact legislation that will promote mega energy-saving technologies. That means more than solar and wind. Turning the wasted heat that comes out of industrial smokestacks in the U.S. into electricity could replace more than 400 greenhouse- gas-emitting coal power plants! Denmark already generates more than half its electricity by using this wasted heat. A big problem, however, is that complicated Federal laws stand in the way. For more information, see Recycled Energy Development.

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