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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.
  • September 19, 2013

    What's so bad about fracking? Here's what you need to know.

    Don't Frack NY rally If you've been wondering what fracking is and whether it's good or bad, you're not alone. It's a complicated, high tech process whose advocates say it produces abundant clean energy. As an environmentalist as well as a consumer, though, I've been concerned about the impacts fracking is having on drinking water, clean air, and farmland. To try to chip away at my confusion, I electronically interviewed expert Maya van Rossum (pictured left). Maya is the Delaware Riverkeeper, the spokesperson for and leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN), a nonprofit environmental organization working to preserve, protect and restore the Delaware River Watershed, an area that extends into four states: New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Here's what she had to say.


    Maya, in a nutshell, can you explain what fracking is and why it worries you?


    Fracking is the process of discharging massive volumes of water under high pressure into a drilled well in order to fracture the shale found under ground. The fracking process requires 5 to 9 million gallons of water for each well frack. Often this water comes from aquifers, streams and rivers. To that fresh water has been added toxic chemicals. Water that stays underground after the fracking has occurred is highly toxic, but the water that comes back to the surface is even more toxic.


    The toxified fluid trapped underground can make its way to our freshwater aquifers, threatening drinking water supplies. Toxified water that gets back to the surface of the earth is often stored in open pits or transported to other sites by truck or piping. In all of these activities, failures happen, contaminating streams, farmlands, our air and our communities.

    Continue reading "What's so bad about fracking? Here's what you need to know." »

    May 09, 2013

    Mother's Day: Shopping Spree or Shopping Shift?

    Mother's Day has become a gigantic shopping event. Next to Christmas and Valentine's Day, consumers spend more money for Mother's Day than they do for any other holiday in the year. This year, according to the National Retail Federation's annual Mother's Day survey, Americans will spend $20.7 billion! That amounts to an average of almost $170 per mom, an 11% increase over last year.

    Mom dana dan As a mom myself, I love the attention I get on Mother's Day. Who wouldn't want to be surrounded by family, showered with love, and coddled with breakfast in bed, a luxurious morning just reading the paper, and no rushing around to do chores?

    But as the founder of Big Green Purse, where I advocate using consumer clout to change the world, I consider Mother's Day a tremendous opportunity - not to buy a lot of stuff, but to take a stand against excessive consumerism and in favor of the products and services that offer the greatest environmental benefit.


    One of the most powerful and eco ways to use your money is to keep it in your purse or pocket! Most people have enough "stuff" - in fact, many of us are so overwhelmed by clutter that it adds to the stress of managing our households when we get more things we have to find a place for.

    Years ago, when our two children were still toddlers, we established a "no gifts on Mother's Day" rule (we do the same thing on Father's Day). I truly appreciate my kids' desire to treat me special on Mother's Day, but for me that means that we have brunch or dinner together, maybe go for a hike or have some other family outing, and tell funny stories about my most memorable/ridiculous "mom moments." When my son and daughter were in elementary and middle school, Mother's Day was also a "no bickering" day. There was no better gift than the 24 conflict-free hours they gave me that one day of the year!

    Continue reading "Mother's Day: Shopping Spree or Shopping Shift?" »

    November 02, 2012

    I am Voting for Barack Obama because We are Greener than We were Four Years Ago.

    Are we “greener” than we were four years ago?

    Barack_Obama Yes, we are, and Barack Obama deserves a lot of the credit.

     Despite strident anti-environmental opponents on Capitol Hill, President Obama has managed to use the power of his office – deployed primarily through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Department of the Interior – to make our air and water cleaner, to reduce our reliance on foreign oil, to protect our public lands, and to attack the climate change that causes extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy.

    Is his job done? Not by a long shot. But are we making progress? Definitely. I’m supporting the President for a second term because I think he offers our best hope in this election to continue to make progress in the future. 

    This all became extremely clear to me earlier this week, as Hurricane Sandy was ripping away part of my roof. While I huddled in my basement listening to the terrifying wind and the torrential rain, I found myself getting mad, not just about what it would cost me to repair the damage, but about the reasons behind this catastrophic storm. Meteorologists, scientists, environmentalists, public health professionals, concerned citizens, and yes, President Obama, have all made the link between burning fossil fuels like coal and oil and extreme weather events like Sandy, let alone Hurricane Katrina and many others. And they’ve tried to throw the weight of their various offices behind solutions that would help wean us from fossil fuels.  

     Meanwhile, conservative forces in Congress and many state houses around the country have blocked legislation that would reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and opposed efforts to increase energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources like solar and wind. Bolstered by their conservative colleagues on Capitol Hill and pressured by Tea Party activists, Republican challenger Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, his running mate, have dismissed climate change, have literally said they “love” coal, and would strive to cripple the EPA if they were elected to office.

     Maybe to some people, this is just “talk.” But as someone who has worked in Washington, D.C. to promote environmental protection during the Carter years, the Reagan years, the Bush 1 years, the Clinton years, the Bush 2 years, and now the last four years of the Obama Administration, I can say, and say unequivocally, that environmental policy consistently fares worse under Republican administrations than under Democratic ones. As Sandy has shown, the planet very much faces a climate change tipping point. Obama is on one side, Romney on the other. For me, siding with Obama is a no brainer.

    Has Obama accomplished nearly enough? No.

     Do I wish more change had happened? Of course.

     But we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    Continue reading "I am Voting for Barack Obama because We are Greener than We were Four Years Ago." »

    August 18, 2012

    How Can Reusing One Cup Save 24 Trees?

    Here's the clearest explanation I've seen of why it's so important to use a reusable mug, cup or water bottle, courtesy of Shane at Environmental Booty and her client, Factory Direct.


    October 19, 2011

    China Then and Now: Field Notes from My Recent Trip

    Subway in ChinaIn 1983, I stepped off a somewhat rickety Air China plane onto the tarmac of the Beijing International Airport -- and practically needed a flashlight. Only one light burned in the airport terminal, and passengers were met not by taxi cabs and relatives driving cars but by friends and family ready to transport them home...on bicycles.

    When I returned this past September, I felt like I'd landed in the middle of the most modern metropolis on earth. The dank terminal I remembered had been replaced by a gleaming mini-city, complete with automated teller machines (ATMs) and fancy shops and restaurants. I sped to the phalanx of taxis waiting outside the arrival doors via bright and shiny high-velocity trains, with destinations announced in English as well as Chinese.

    What People Eat, How They Dress

    Once in Beijing, I had my choice, not just of rice and dumplings, but of McDonald's hamburgers, Kentucky Fried Chicken strips, and sandwiches from the Subway just around the corner from my hotel. I was curious about food quality, given the news reports that have swirled around everything from contaminated dog food from China to tainted milk. My unease increased on my second day in Beijing, when the newspapers reported the use of gutter oil by some restaurants. "Gutter" oil is so named because it is reclaimed by dredging the drains behind restaurants. It is supposed to be recycled into other uses, but some cooks reuse it in their own kitchens, regardless of what it contains. Reading that report made me shudder! Fortunately, there were many excellent restaurants in Beijing and especially Xi'an, where I enjoyed a feast of delicious traditional dishes, including a variety of stir-fried meats and vegetables.

    The television in my room offered a variety of channels in English; 28 years ago, there were few hotel room tvs, and no offerings in anything other than Mandarin. The dress code had changed, too. Whereas most people - men and women alike - were still wearing "Mao" suits in the early eighties, today, women stylishly head off to work in short skirts and stilettos, while men wear Dockers, jeans, Oxford shirts or full Western-style suits and ties.


    China 138Meanwhile, the parks brimmed with people not only doing traditional tai chi, but jitterbugging in groups and salsa line dancing, too - something I would never have witnessed in the much stricter political climate that reigned 28 years ago. Before and after work, people exercised in public without the least bit of self-consciousness. It was quite common to see men, women and kids using outdoor stationary bicycles and other gear made from steel to withstand the elements. Elsewhere, groups of friends were challenging each other to games of mah jong, cards, badminton, and hackey-sack, the latter played with a large sturdy shuttle cock rather than the balls more common in the U.S.

    What About the Environment?

    Environmentally, some things have changed for the better, but most have changed for the worst. A new subway system, built to accommodate the hordes of tourists that descended on Beijing for the 2008 summer Olympics, now whisks hundreds of thousands of people around the city with ease. But almost as many commuters have the means to drive their own cars to work, and air pollution in the China 118region suffers as a result. In fact, during the entire week I was in Beijing and Xi'an, the other city I visited, I never saw blue sky or the sun, thanks to the smog that obscured the heavens.

    Water quality has not improved in the city, either: you couldn't drink H2O from the tap three decades ago, and you can't drink it from the tap today. According to scientific reports, as much as 70% of China's rivers have been polluted from industrial discharges as the country's factories work non-stop to meet global consumer demands that were negligible when I originally visited.

    It doesn't seem like using plastic is given a second thought. All drinking water is factory-processed and bought or served in plastic bottles. I never saw anyone using their own reusable water bottle - what would be the point? You'd still have to fill it up from a plastic jug!! That said, many people were drinking their own tea and coffee from reusable mugs. In fact, the airport and some public spaces offered safe water dispensers where you could fill up for free.

    A plastic bag ban went into effect on June 1, 2008. Initially, it was targeted at supermarkets and shopping malls; this year, the ban was extended to book stores, restaurants, and drugstores. The Beijing News reported that the number of plastic bags produced and used in China has dropped by more than 24 billion a year since the ban occurred, saving 600,000 tons of plastic or 3.6 million tons of petroleum. Yet it didn't seem to me that the ban was being enforced. All of the purchases I made, whether in drugstores, supermarkets, large stores, or from roadside vendors, would have been packaged up in throwaway plastic bags if I hadn't brought my own reusable one. 

    In 1983, I remember many more vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables, and cooks boiling pots of fresh noodles on the street to serve on glass plates. People would sit down at benches to eat, then return the plates for washing to the cook. Today, as in the U.S., food shoppes and supermarkets are filled with plastic-wrapped food. I was amazed to see everything from a single roasted chicken leg to a clump of cooked noodles shrink wrapped in plastic to extend their shelf-life. Organic food doesn't seem to have made many inroads in China yet. I only saw one grocery store offering organic fruits and vegetables, and it was on the outskirts of Beijing.

     Friendly People!

    No matter where I went, people seemed warm, friendly and eager to practice English with me. In Tian'an Men Square, a beaming couple approached me with a camera. I thought they wanted me to take their picture. But no - they each wanted their picture taken with me! I traveled throughout Beijing on my own, and never felt nervous or threatened. Of course, I was never, ever alone, either. Every subway car was packed, every street corner crowded, every restaurant filled. If I were a permanent resident, I might eventually feel like I had no room to myself. As a traveler, it was somewhat reassuring to have a lot of company, even if it was the company of strangers.

    Here are a few more photos from the trip, all taken with my trusty Nokia smart phone.

    China 124Here I am in the old part of Beijing, outside a small shop that sold beautiful tea pots and many varieties of tea.







    China 147This is my favorite building in Beijing, the ancient Temple of Heaven.  It's where the emperors used to pray for abundant harvests.







    China 166I found the Buddhist temples particularly inspiring. Despite the presence of tourists like me, many people were there to pray and light incense and candles.






    Have you been to China? Please share your stories!

    Related Posts:

    Michele Bachmann wants to crush EPA. First, she should go to China.

    June 30, 2011

    What the Heck is Fracking? And Why Don't You Want It Anywhere Near Your Water?

    It sounds like it could be a new dance ("Let's do the frack!"). Or maybe it's a cool way to clean your house ("I really fracked my floor this week; it looks great now!")

    Fracking But it's not. Fracking is short for "hydraulic fracturing," explains Chris Bolgiano in this Bay Journal article. "It involves drilling a hole a mile down, then thousands of feet horizontally, and pumping down millions of gallons of water laced with sand, salt and chemicals to crack the shale. Gas is forced up, along with roughly 25 percent of the contaminated wastewater, often hot with radioactivity."

    Chris adds, "Fracking chemicals include formaldehyde, benzene, and others known to be carcinogenic at a few parts per million. Municipal plants can’t handle fracking wastewater, and it’s stored in open pits until trucked elsewhere. If enough fresh water can’t be sucked from streams on site, trucks haul it in.

    Continue reading "What the Heck is Fracking? And Why Don't You Want It Anywhere Near Your Water? " »

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