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Why My Purse is Green

Because I believe…

  • the fastest, most effective way to stop polluters is by pressuring them in the marketplace
  • women can be the world’s most powerful economic and environmental force if we intentionally shift our spending to the best green products and services
  • women have the power right now to solve many of our most serious environmental problems by using our green purses to make a difference
  • women must act – intentionally, collectively, and with the full force of our purse power behind us – if we hope to leave our children and grandchildren a better world.
  • November 03, 2010

    Politics Shmolitics. You Can Still Make a Difference Based on How You Live and What You Buy.

    Happy sad 3 My apologies to any of you who are elated with the results of yesterday's elections. And my condolences to any of you who think that the world has come to an end.

    I'm in neither camp.

    Though I still canvas, and phone bank, and vote for candidates I support, I've come to terms with the limitations our political system imposes on any candidate who is "lucky" enough to be elected. The reality is, we live in a polarized world run by people who are convinced that creating more polarization is more important than creating civil society or protecting the planet. Yes, it would be grand if our political leaders could collaborate and compromise, not in the name of power, but in the name of the people. But is that going to happen? As we have been reminded, ironically, ever since the last major "candidate for change" was elected two years ago -- and repudiated yesterday -- not any time soon.

    Rosie Nevertheless, we are not helpless. If anything, yesterday's elections have reinforced how important it is for you and me to continue to make meaningful changes that offer direct and measurable benefits. I'm talking about turning off our own lights, or insulating our own homes, or buying products that save energy or contain no toxic chemicals, actions which may seem insignificant, but are not.

    Can we make a difference, even if our elected officials don't?

    Continue reading "Politics Shmolitics. You Can Still Make a Difference Based on How You Live and What You Buy." »

    January 21, 2009

    At Green Ball, Obama's Cabinet Pledges Support for Clean Energy

    I'm usually not one for hobnobbing with the hoi poloi.  But it was hard not to get into the groove last night at the Environmental and Clean Energy Ball in Washington, D.C., where many Obama cabinet appointees dropped by to dance, savor chocolate truffles and talk about their hopes in Obama-nation.

    Jackson-190 Lisa Jackson, who's been tapped to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was the first Obama pick to grace the podium. I had a long chat with Lisa late last year at the Glamour magazine shoot we both did in New York in October. At the time, she was chief of staff to New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine after having completed a stint as the state's top environmental regulator. She spoke then of the frustration of trying to reduce pollution in a state riddled with out-of-date manufacturing facilities. Tonight, she told the cheering throng how thrilled she was to be taking the helm at EPA and pledged to work with us all to set a new, cleaner energy course for the U.S. BTW - Lisa personifies the new brains Obama is bringing to government. She graduated summa cum laude from Tulane University's School of Chemical Engineering and has a Master's Degree in chemical engineering from Princeton.

     Stephen-chu_v100 Department of Energy Secretary nominee Steven Chu, another brainiac (Nobel-prize winning physicist, director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), was all smiles as he told the audience he shared our goals to reduce climate change and develop  more clean energy resources. Chu is famous in my crowd for saying "Coal is my worst nightmare." We couldn't agree more.

    Margo Oge, EPA's Director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality, echoed the sentiments of her colleagues and the crowd with an enthusiastic endorsement for a greener, cleaner future.

    Newly elected New Mexico Senator Tom Udall - not a member of the Obama cabinet but still a Democrat with a solid environmental protection track record - pledged his support for an energy future based more on solar and wind than fossil fuels. Sen. Udall has been appointed to two key committees - Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Environment and Public Works - where he can make good on those goals.

    Then there was a surprise. General Wesley Clark, former Democratic presidential candidate and former Supreme Commander of Allied Forces for NATO, stepped on to the podium. Anyone who's been following the debate on energy and national security knows that Clark has become a vocal advocate for reducing American dependence on petroleum. He made it clear that he sees the next four years as an opportunity to craft new energy policy that could help restore America's economy as well as our standing in the world.

    Emcee Jan Hartke, a long-time personal friend and colleague and now an official at the Clinton Foundation's Climate Initiative, spoke as forcefully as any of the guests about the new environmental opportunities our nation faces. Jan and I have worked together in Washington on and off for the last 20 years. "This is the first time I have real hope," he said. Don't we all!

    December 07, 2008

    Green Moms Urge Obama to Adopt Prevention Agenda

    When it comes to protecting the environment, it seems like we’re always playing “catch up.”

    We’re trying to catch up on shutting down toxic waste sites. Catch up on eliminating dangerous chemicals from our personal care products. Catch up on – and this is a really big one – removing all the climate-changing carbon dioxide we’re emitting into the atmosphere.

    It’s a frustrating game, since we never really manage to get caught up. America’s environmental legislators and regulators are mostly focused on clean up – trying to solve a problem after it’s occurred. No one, it seems, remembers the sensible adage, “First, do no harm.”

    So… what would happen if the game changed? What transformations could occur if, instead of focusing on cleaning up problems after the fact, we made it a priority to prevent them in the first place?

    Obama change That’s the topic Green Moms Carnival grapples with this month. Understanding the importance of preventing problems before they occur, and enthusiastic about the presidential election of “change” candidate Barack Obama, we are urging the President-Elect to adopt a prevention agenda as the guiding principle for his environmental policies.

    How? Beth Terry at Fake Plastic Fish urges the President-Elect to “change the fundamental basis on which prosperity is measured. Is the American Dream the pursuit of newer and bigger houses and cars and the latest gadgets? Higher consumption of the earth's resources? Is that what healing the economy means?”

    Beth thinks a better approach is to encourage deeper American values, like voluntary simplicity, sustainable living, and connections among people over material wealth. “The world cannot afford for us to continue trashing the planet as we have been,” she notes, reminding Obama that he is in a unique position to “change the course of our imaginations and help us redefine how we measure prosperity.”

    Over at The Not Quite Crunchy Parent, MC Milker reminds Mr. Obama of the need for standards to make it easier for consumers and manufacturers alike to raise the environmental bar. Says MC, “It just requires someone in authority … to stand up and say, “Hey, let’s get some clarity around this issue.” Mary Hunt at In Women We Trust urges the next president to  “Please put Accountability and Transparency into the green market by invoking sustainable product standards - consumers demand it, investors need it and manufacturers will take the easy way out if you leave it up to them (which is what they are doing right now).”

    Mary also reminds us all that “An ounce of preventative education is worth a pound of bail out cure when it comes to creating a stable economy and green jobs.” Her informative post about the efforts of the L.A. Community College District to save energy on nine campuses could help instruct the president-to-be on effective ways to build or retrofit thousands of energy-efficient buildings to prevent additional CO2 build-up, help companies save money, and protect natural resources.  

    The Crunchy Chicken also encourages Mr. Obama to focus on “investing in green and renewable energy, the accompanying jobs that would be created and the resulting impact on climate change, air quality and environmental health. It's a one-two-three punch that is low-hanging fruit to some really tough problems.”

    Alline Anderson muses at Ecovillage Musings about the need to keep the trains running – Amtrak trains, in particular. “Remember that our country is vast, and that ecologically-sound, dependable, economical transportation is needed beyond the Northeast Corridor… America needs our train service back.” Urges Alline: “Please do not follow the pathetic example of your predecessor George W. Bush, who in his final budget sought to cut Amtrak's subsidy by more than a third, or $500 million. Please be the change that we all seek. We are counting on you.”

    When you talk about prevention, you have to talk about preventing danger to children. Says Anna Hackman at Green Talk, "Mr. President-Elect, we need to stop the exposure of toxic chemicals by updating the 1976 Toxic Substance Chemical Act (TSCA). A law that grandfathered 62,000 chemicals presumed to be safe... It is a re-run not worth watching.”

    Asks Anna, “Please explain to me why manufacturing companies are not required to provide health and safety studies prior to chemicals coming onto the market? 20,000 new chemicals have come onto the market since TSCA was enacted.” Enacting the Kid-Safe Chemical Act would “put the burden of proof on the chemical companies to prove that a chemical is safe before it is allowed on the market.

    Green and Clean Mom's Sommer Poquette also argues in favor of the Kid Safe Chemical Act, noting in a letter addressed to President Obana, "You have children. I have children. We have that common bond and wanting to keep them safe and healthy is certainly your priority and mine. When your wife was pregnant did you ever test her umbilical cord for toxins after either of your daughters were born? We didn’t for my two children but if we had, we might have been surprised to find that there could have been over 300 industrial chemicals that were pre-polluting our babies in their safe wombs. Really who would think that a child is not safe inside their mother’s womb?"

    Talking about food is the issue nearest and dearest to Karen Hanrahan. At Best of Mother Earth, she writes, "Our nation needs to shift the way we eat. To me, this begins with the seeds we plant and the way we farm them. It continues into priistine manufacturing practices  and with policies that supports and reeducates families about getting back to eating locally and seasonally."

    Michelle ("Green Bean") of Green Phone Booth agrees. "If the world switched to an organic agricultural system that relied on compost and cover crop, we could sequester up to 40% of current carbon emissions. But that is just the tip of the quickly melting ice berg. Rebuilding our food system would preserve open space, reduce toxins in the air, ground and water, nurture biodiversity, secure our food from terrorism, reduce obesity, and create tens of millions of green jobs," she writes.

    Jennifer Taggart at The Smart Mama encourages President-Elect Obama to lead by example – starting with the White House. How about cleaning the residence with non-toxic chemicals? Drinking from reusable water bottles? Serving locally grown and organic food? 

    Heather at EnviroMom also volunteers to give the White House a green mansion makeover. While you’re thinking about scrubbing down the Lincoln bedroom with baking soda and vinegar, Heather encourages you to answer two interesting questions: 1)” What are some things you would be willing to change if our President-elect requested it (assuming that you respect him and believe in his reasoning)?  2) “If our government did issue 'environmental guidelines' -- you know,  kind of like the food pyramid -- would you follow them?” 

    Micaela at Mindful Momma wraps it all up with a comprehensive list of "hopes and dreams" that would go a long way towards helping the Obama Administration think preventively about protecting the planet, including a reminder to uphold and strenghten organic agriculture standards, make food safety a top priority, and ensure the safety of children's toys, drinking bottles and personal care products.

    Greenmoms1 Do you have your own questions to pose? We invite you to comment on any or all of these blogs; then head on over to The Prevention Agenda forum and add your ideas to the list. We'll be pulling together some recommendations prior to Obama's inauguration, and welcome your suggestions.

    November 21, 2008

    Ted Stevens May Be Gone, But Arctic Refuge Still in Peril

    Alaska Republican Ted Stevens has finally been ousted from the U.S. Senate, but that's not necessarily good news for people who care about protecting wilderness and wildlife..

    Polar bears The victorious Democrat who beat Stevens, Mayor Mark Begich of Anchorage, strongly favors drilling for oil in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, despite the potentially devastating environmental consequences. 

    Reported the LA Times, Mark Begich settled in Wednesday as Alaska's newest U.S. senator-elect by doing what almost no other Democrat in Washington would ever do: declaring his support for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge...

    Begich said he was confident he would be able to act as a powerful new advocate on Capitol Hill for opening up Alaska's northernmost wildlife refuge to oil drilling. The idea has been blocked for years because of concerns it would threaten caribou, migrating birds, polar bears and other wildlife whose survival depends on the Arctic coastal plain and nearby waters.

    "For the last 28 years, there hasn't been a Democrat sitting in the caucus talking about ANWR," he said. "My goal is to educate them about how big ANWR is to this state."

    ...The Alaska Wilderness League criticized similar statements Begich made Wednesday morning about Arctic drilling during an interview with National Public Radio.

    "It's surprising that on his first day as senator-elect, Mr. Begich chose to directly contradict his own party platform and the position of President-elect [Barack] Obama," the league's executive director, Cindy Shogan, said in a statement. "It seems that in Alaska, the only party is the oil party."


    Awllogo-web Join the Alaska Wilderness League and add your voice to the thousands of Americans who believe we must protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. As President-elect Obama has said, we can't drill our way out of our addiction to oil. But we can protect wilderness and wildlife -- and we must.

    October 12, 2008

    Eco Door-knocking for Obama Worth the Effort in Virginia

    Lcv_canvas_003_3 With the presidential race getting down to the wire, I took to the streets of Alexandria, VA today to knock on doors and talk to undecided voters about the environmental differences between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain.

    It was easy to draw a distinction between the two candidates. Sen. McCain's lifetime rating on environmental issues is only 26%, compared to Sen. Obama's 96%. The League of Conservation Voters (LCV), which compiles the ratings, gave us more talking points and a leave-behind "door hanger" full of information about Sen. Obama's alternative energy proposals. Armed with lists of undecided voters and their addresses, I, my husband, and other volunteers fanned out to canvas the area and build momentum for an Obama victory.

    Talking about Democrats in northen Virginia is not usually a piece of cake. I canvassed Republican neighborhoods in Arlington, VA for John Kerry four years ago and sometimes felt worried for my life. In one instance, guys in a big truck sporting a rifle in a rack across the back window pulled up to me, called me a "communist" and yelled at me to get out of their town. 

    The setting today couldn't have been more bucolic. The Indian Spring neighborhood I was assigned was punctuated by streets with names like Morning View Lane and Carriage House Court. Kids rode bikes and played ball as fathers took advantage of ideal fall weather to wash their mini-vans or SUVs and moms gardened. Many families have already decorated their houses for Halloween, festooning trees with ghosts and goblins and lining walkways with big orange pumpkins.

    Knocking on the first door can be the hardest. You just never know if people are going to snarl at you or welcome you with a big smile and happily announce they're on your side. Given the hateful rhetoric that's marked McCain rallies in recent days, I was half expecting someone to let their dogs loose on me. But the high pitch that's characterized political gatherings doesn't seem to have permeated the neighborhood I visited today.

    I approached several houses before someone finally answered. The woman, a voter just about my age, was polite but noncommittal. We were supposed to find out if voters were strongly in favor of Obama, leaning that way, still undecided, leaning towards McCain, or strongly in McCain's camp. Most people didn't want to say: only two people I talked with admitted they were voting for Obama; one woman thanked me profusely for helping to get out the vote. A man working on his car gave me a friendly smile but said he was voting "the other way." I thanked him for listening -- then was heartened to see an "Obama/Biden" lawn sign just a couple doors down.

    In several cases, voters told me that I was the "fifth" or "sixth" Obama supporter to knock on their door. I apologized for the intrusion and explained that LCV organizers are not allowed to talk with the Obama campaign about tactics or they'd be violating federal election law. LCV was glad to hear Obama's volunteers had preceded us; they seemed to think it was necessary to approach the neighborhood multiple times to ensure voters get the Obama message.

    When all the volunteers completed their assignments, we rendezvoused at a nearby Starbucks to report on our success and share stories. LCV staff couldn't have been more appreciative of our effort. We're not sure if we made a difference or not -- but we'll be back next weekend to canvas some more. Doing something feels a lot better than doing nothing. With the polls showing that Virginia has become a key battleground state, maybe this 'something' will help make history three weeks from now. 

    NOTE: Door-to-door canvassing is part of a national effort by the League of Conservation Voters to persuade undecided voters to support Obama and ensure that the Democrat's advocates actually get to the polls.

    To sign up to canvas, contact the League of Conservation Voters.   

    August 30, 2008

    How "Green" is Sarah Palin? Not very (unless you count her experience).

    Before women get too excited about the nomination of Sarah Palin to the GOP Presidential ticket, they should pause long enough to take a look at her record. Political pundits have focused on her cred as a social conservative. But where does she stand on the environment? This summary compiled by tells all:

    * She favors oil drilling on the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the calving ground for thousands of migratory caribou. The Refuge is considered sacred wilderness by environmentalists, biologists and millions of Americans. Even McCain opposes drilling here. Her response? Bring on the derricks!

    * She opposed a statewide ballot initiative to prohibit or restrict new mining operations that could affect salmon in the state's streams and rivers.

    * She sued the Interior Department over its decision to try to protect the polar bear by listing it as a threatned species. 

    * She opposes a windfall profits tax on oil companies, even though most of their profits come from drilling on public land that you and I and every American citizen own.

    * She faces an immediate conflict of interest in developing national energy policy: her husband is an oil production operator for BP on Alaska's North Slope.

    * She believes intelligent design should be taught along with evolution in science classes.

    Says Carl Pope of the Sierra Club, "Senator McCain has lost any chance of having a balanced or moderate ticket with this choice and has instead opted for the same, business-as-usual reliance on the outdated oil companies that has been the hallmark of the Bush-Cheney administration. On the third anniversary of the hurricane that knocked loose oil rigs and spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf Coast that is bracing for another hit, McCain is sending a terribly indifferent message by selecting a candidate who only repeats Big Oil's talking points."

    The only thing "green" about Palin is her level of national and foreign policy experience.

    June 25, 2008

    Eco-Unity Event Urges Environmentalists to Vote for Obama

    Obama_2  Washington, D.C. "greenies" turned out in droves last night to demonstrate their support for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

    The event was billed as a "unity" event, and former EPA Administrator Carol Browner -- a one-time Hillary supporter -- urged the crowd to follow her lead and get behind the Democratic nominee. The enviros, partying just a stone's throw from the U.S. Capitol building, didn't need much convincing, especially given Republican candidate John McCain's recent flip-flop on oil drilling. The once ardent advocate of protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other sensitive environmental areas from petroleum exploration now says it's time to rush headlong into drilling as a way to reduce the high price of gas. Hmmm, what about conservation? Or getting those auto companies to increase fuel efficiency? (Full Disclosure: I'm on the board of the Alaska Wilderness League, and have helped protect the refuge from oil drilling for almost 20 years.)

    Carol_browner "John McCain will not be good for the environment," Browner, right, told her boisterous audience. "If anyone tells you they think McCain will be a good president, you only need to say one word in reply:  NO!!" 

    Sen. John Kerry, the Massachusetts Senator who was the Democratic nominee four years ago, also took the stage to encourage environmentalists not just to vote for Sen. Obama, but to work for him. His suggestions were seconded by former U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, who minced no words as he held the microphone. "You can make the difference," he said. "We have no time to lose, so let's get started."

    May 01, 2008

    Put Breast Cancer on Your Big Green Purse Agenda

    Soe2008cover_thumb Dr. Janet Gray, a scientist at Vassar College and director of the school's Science, Technology and Society program, recently collaborated with the Breast Cancer Fund to issue a report on the dangers women face from environmental factors that cause breast cancer. I interviewed Dr. Gray and reviewed the report; here are the highlights:

    *  Breast cancer strikes more women in the world than any other type of cancer except skin cancer.

    * In the U.S., a woman's lifetime risk of breast cancer increased steadily and dramatically during the 20th century.

    * Today, a woman's lifetime risk of breast cancer is one in eight.

    * The increasing incidence of breast cancer over the decades following World War II paralleled the proliferation of synthetic chemicals.

    * An estimated 80,000 synthetic chemicals are used today in the U.S.; another 1,000 or more are added each year. Complete toxicological screening data are available for just 7 percent of these chemicals.

    * Many of these chemicals persist in the environment, accumulate in body fat, and may remain in breast tissue for decades. Many have never been tested for their effects on human health.

    Thanks to reduced use of hormone therapy, breast cancer rates for women over 50 may be declining.  Nevertheless, 216 chemicals and radiation sources have been linked to breast cancer and all women remain susceptible. Of particular concern are the agents known as endocrine disruptors. These are chemicals that mimic our natural endocrine system and ultimately disrupt the work it does to regulate growth, reproduction and other human health conditions.

    Dr. Gray says that consumers can protect themselves by avoiding products that contain endocrine disruptors like phthalates, parabens, growth hormones in meat and dairy products, and bisphenol A. Increasingly, marketplace choices offer phthalate-free perfumes, soaps, shampoos, lotions and even nail polish. Parabens, a preservative, are being replaced by ascorbic acid. Cows that graze on organic feed and in free-range conditions will be free of artificial hormones. Consumers can avoid bisphenol A by choosing stainless steel water bottles rather than hard plastic, and glass over plastic or metal cans for the food they buy.

    These "big green purse" options will not only protect women individually. The way women spend their money sends a direct message to manufacturers. Saying "no" to breast cancer by choosing the safest products and services will pressure companies to say "no" to these same chemicals before they're even added to the product.

    Download a complete copy of the report here.

    March 13, 2008

    New EPA Clean Air Standards Show Why Consumer Action is so Critical

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - the federal guardian of clean air - has issued new standards to control smog that scientists and environmental organizations are criticizing for not going far enough. EPA's action offers a stark reminder that, in the absence of meaningful regulations, consumer action is critical if we're going to reduce air pollution now and in the future.

    According to the New York Times, 345 counties currently violate the new standards EPA has set to reduce smog and clean up the air. Bringing those counties into compliance would prevent 900 to 1,100 Asthma premature deaths a year and result in 5,600 fewer hospital or emergency room visits. Even with these benefits, groups like the Association of Clean Air Agencies worry that the standards are still too low.

    The timetable for meeting the smog standards could be decades, reports the Times, depending on the severity of the problem in each city. Industries like the electric utility industry are expected to resist  reducing the pollution from power plants to meet EPA's clean air directives. In tones that harken back to the debate around global warming, the Edison Electric Institute, a utility trade association, is challenging the scientifically-accepted cause-and-effect relationship between smog and human health -- even though millions of people already suffer increased asthma, heart attacks, and other ailments from polluted air.

    While consumers should contact their member of Congress to support stricter standards, they shouldn't wait for more government action to take steps to protect their air. Smog results directly from burning fossil fuels. Consumers can help improve the air in their cities and towns by reducing the amount of energy they use. If every household installed just one compact fluorescent light bulb, for example, it would have the equivalent benefit of taking 800,000 cars off the road.

    Consumers can also use programmable thermostatsand energy efficient appliances, take mass transit or carpool, and buy electricity generated by windpower or biomass.

    February 25, 2008

    None of the Candidates is Talking About Environmental Health

    Who would do a better job protecting the environment as president? Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or John McCain?

    Thumb_green Hillary_smile_2 A glance at the records the three senators have racked up over the last three years makes it pretty clear that either of the Democrats would be a greater advocate for the planet than the Republican. The League of Conservation Voters releases a voting scorecard that rates all members of the House and Senate in every Congressional session. In the109th Congress (2005-2006), Obama_2 Barack Obama voted to protect the environment 96% of the time; Hillary Clinton did so 89% of the time. So far in the 110th Congress, Obama has supported the environment 67% of the time, while Hillary has a 73% favorable rating (both of the candidates missed several votes, presumably while they were out campaigning, which counts against them in the tally).

    Thumb_brownbmp Mccain Meanwhile, Senator John McCain racked up a mere 41% positive approval rating in the 109th Congress; so far, in the 110th, he's got zero. That's right: in 2007 on no issue did he vote to protect the environment, according to the LCV scorecard. So the choice between the candidates -- or at least between the parties the candidates represent -- is very clear.

    But what happens when you look specifically at the issues? Among all candidates, the entire debate right now essentially revolves around their positions on energy policy, and specifically on global warming. (You can read a quick summary of each candidate's positions over at New American Village, along with links to each of the candidates' web sites.)

    While our energy future is clearly a priority, it's startling that none of the candidates' environmental proposals consider citizens' exposure to toxic substances, water pollution, or air pollution - the issues that connect human health and the environment. Where do any of the candidates stand on reauthorizing Superfund legislation to clean up toxic waste sites? Closing loopholes in the Clean Air and Clean Water Act to decrease threats to our health as well as that of wildlife? Quelling the rise in asthma rates, especially among kids? Initiating research to understand what appear to be the increasing links between environmental health and breast cancer, autism, and learning disabilities?

    These issues aren't on any candidate's agenda - but they should be, especially given the importance of the women's vote in the 2008 election. Women and children are disproportionately impacted by environmental degradation (e.g., women suffer more heart attacks than men in cities with poor air quality). The candidate who breaks away from the party line on energy to address the links between pollution and human health could muster a real advantage as the race tightens and voters look for ways to distinguish among their choices.

    EcoCentric Mom
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