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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 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.

    August 28, 2008

    Check out Maggie's Organic for Back-to-School Fashions

    Even after you've cut your shopping budget to the bone, you may still need to get a few things to cover your kids as they head off to school. If so, take a look at Maggie's Organics.

    Maggies_boys_socks_3The company integrates certified organic cotton or wool in all its products and manufactures according to fair trade principles. They sell a terrific collection of socks, scarves, tights, loungewear, legwarmers, tees, baby clothes, new sock monkeys and fashionable tops.Maggies_girls_tights_2

    Conscious of energy consumed by transporting products across the globe, Maggie's has developed supply chains as close to home as possible. The company uses a minimum amount of packaging to save energy during transportation and to reduce waste.

    Thumb_green Thumbs up, Maggie!

    August 27, 2008

    Taming the Back-to-School Shopping Beast

    For the last two weeks, I’ve been trying to keep the “shopping beast” under control. My “kids” – a daughter heading off to college for the first time, and a son returning to college to continue his studies – have been beating the drums for stuff they think is “essential” to their academic experience. They’re not talking about books, or even paper and pens so they can take notes. They’re thinking new iPods, new wardrobes, new computers, new sheets, pillows and towels, and anything else preceded by the word – you guessed it – “new.”

    Fortunately, both my freshman and my junior know they have to make a pretty good case for “new” when they’re talking to me.

    Go shopping in your closet first,” I told them. “Look around your room. Then make a list of what you actually need.”

    (I tried not to mention the same refrain they’ve heard over and over again: “In my day, I packed one suitcase and a manual typewriter, headed off to campus, and did just fine.”)

    My daughter emerged from her room with a pile of gently worn clothes that she eventually took to Mustard_seed Mustard Seed, our local thrift store, and exchanged for “new” (to her) sweaters and skirts. She seemed content to pack up the boots and shoes she already wears. We agreed that she needed new bedding to fit the extra-long twin mattress she’d be sleeping on at school, plus fluffy pillows and a fresh comforter to make her dorm room cozy.  In place of a new laptop, she got a new laptop case. I couldn’t begrudge her a few picture frames (though something tells me my smiling face won’t grace them). And she has no choice but to bring her own desk lamp, hangers, and even rugs, since the university doesn’t furnish them. I’m insisting she take a reusable water bottle and her floor length robe (yes, it’s a co-ed dorm…enough said?). She and her roommate have agreed to share a refrigerator and microwave, both of which they can rent from student services. I refused to buy her a tv, and she opted to save her own money rather than spend it on more electronics. “Besides,” she noted practically, “we don’t get cable.”

    As I look at the stuff she’s been setting aside, I'm satisfied to see that the pile is relatively small. By inventorying what she already has, sharing what she can, realizing she has most of what she needs, and buying just a couple of things to fill the gaps, she’s heading to college feeling confident about the comfy cocoon she’ll be able to create for herself. Meanwhile, I don’t worry that we’ve either broken the bank or left a horrible carbon footprint in our wake.

    My son also managed to get a grip on his “needs.” He finally concluded that while his computer hard drive was irreparably fried, his “old” printer and monitor could easily last another year. We happily bought him a new pair of tennis shoes, which he will wear until, like the last pair, he completely wears Mug_2 them out. He will reuse the furnishings he acquired when he first headed to college a couple of years ago, including a fabulous travel mug from Hudson Trail Outfitters that keeps coffee hot for a solid two hours. His book bag is still in good shape, as is his calculator, so no additional purchases there. He did get a new electric razor, having somehow lost his other one half-way through the summer, but no complaints from me on that score. “With the electric, I won’t have to throw away all those disposables or use shaving cream,” he argued. Music to my ears.

    Their personal gear under control, we turned our attention to the practical. They still needed supplies like paper, pencils, pens and binders, as well as shampoo and soap. Trips to Staples and Target were equally frustrating. The only available pencils were made by Ticonderoga, a company that recently received an “F” from Forest Ethics for the clearcutting it practices in California's Sierra Nevada forests. There was no recycled notebook paper to be seen.

    Woody_pen Fortunately, I can mail order sustainably certified #2 pencils from Forest Choice and pens (left) made from sustainable wood scraps from The Green Office. I'll call Greenline Paper for that recycled item. We’re stuck with PVC plastic binders; I’ve seen some options made from recycled cardboard, but didn’t think they would stand up to the drubbing they’d take given my students’ rough-and-tumble lives. Besides, the kids really didn’t like them.   

    As for personal care products, both kids are particular about what they put Burtsbees_2 on their bodies. My daughter tends towards Burt's Bees, which she'll be able to find as easily on campus as here at home. My son, true to his gender, uses very little beyond basic bar soap and (Tom's) toothpaste. Plus, he avoids any product containing anti-bacterial agents.

    I couldn't send either child off without an energy-conservation care kit: energy-saving power strips for all their electronics, a four-pack of mini compact fluorescent light bulbs they're welcome to share with roommates (and bring home at the end of the year), and umbrellas so they can walk even when it rains.

    "But, Mom," my daughter wondered, "What about the cookies?"

    Oops. Better break out the organic sugar and flour for those.

    August 22, 2008

    Should you use up cosmetics you already have before buying new, safer products?

    When do you use up products you already have, and when do you either try to return them or just opt to throw them away?
    I got that question today. Here it is in full, along with my answer:
    "I would like your opinion. Before I heard you on Martha Stewart on Sirius, I was purchasing my normal stuff.  I would do recyclable as much as possible, didn't know much about free trade or organic or all that.  Then I bought your book. Now, I've read your book and would like to do what I can to protect myself and the environment.  What would you suggest I do with several unopened cosmetics, or the rest of already opened cosmetics?  I've got half bottles of shampoo and conditioner that I would gladly replace with organic.  I've got unopened bars of Neutrogena soap and unopened bottles of Neutrogena acne wash.  I've got unopened Neutrogena cosmetics (powder, under eye concealer). Should I use up what I have already opened?  Dumping it and just recycling the bottles doesn't sound right. If you would share your opinion, I'd appreciate it."
    Here's how I responded:
    "Is there any chance of returning the unopened products? The easiest would be to take them back to the store where you bought them. I called the Neutrogena customer service line ( ) and they said that as long as the products are unopened, the store should take them back, even if you don't have a receipt.
    "Re: the opened and half used shampoo, conditioner and soap, I would go ahead and use them up, since if you throw them away you have probably a worse effect because you're dumping more concentrated materials down the drain or in the dump than diluting them somewhat with water. Also, these are products that don't usually penetrate your skin. There is the least health risk in using soaps that only stay on your body for minutes, as opposed to products like make-up and deodorant that are designed to penetrate the skin over time.
    "With the opened cosmetics, honestly, I have an old cosmetics bag that I've unwanted dumped lipstick, blush and mascara into. I no longer want to put these products on my body, but I don't want to throw them away either. Someday, I'll include them in my city's hazardous waste pick-up. They don't really qualify as hazardous material, but that just seems better than tossing them in the trash (though, if you didn't want to bother with that, you could double bag them and throw them away. Most things don't degrade in a landfill, so they'd probably remain intact, especially since they're also in a case)."
    Anyone have any other ideas?

    July 25, 2008

    Sustainable Seafood is Coming to a Supermarket Near You

    Fishing_boat  Consumer demand for seafood has been depleting fish and shrimp populations for decades. The Marine Stewardship Council has helped protect marine animal populations by creating standards retailers and consumers can follow to choose wild-caught fish from better-managed fisheries. Wal-Mart and Whole Foods are among the retailers that sell MSC-Certified seafood.

    "Farming" fish and shrimp has helped meet consumer demand, but at a cost. The fishmeal salmon eat, for example, is often loaded with dangerous PCBs. Farmed salmon can contract sealice, which can spread to wild salmon. Shrimp aquaculture can destroy the mangrove swamps that protect barrier islands and coastlines from hurricanes.

    Now some retailers - including Whole Foods Market, Wal-Mart, and Wegman's -  are using their marketplace clout to demand seafood that's farmed more sustainably. Their goal: protect sensitive marine habitats, reduce or ban antibiotics, treat waste water, and mimize or eliminate the use of toxic chemicals. Whole Foods will also require its suppliers to pass independent, third-party audits to ensure they are meeting sustainable seafood standards.

    Here's a good overview from the Washington Post.

    Seafood_alliance_2Meanwhile, the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions is working with fishermen, retailers, environmental organizations and consumer groups to increase understanding of the nation's fisheries and make more sustainable seafood available in the marketplace. As a result of its work with the Alliance, the Giant supermarket chain said it has recently started selling Pacific long-line cod, which is relatively abundant, and that it will stop selling shark, orange roughy and Chilean sea bass until their populations rebound.

    Greenpeace_2  Greenpeace recently issued a state-by-state scorecard to let consumers know whether their grocery store has instituted a sustainable seafood policy. Check out your favorite grocer here.

    V1_3   USE YOUR PURSE:  Most grocers are falling far short in offering shoppers sustainably raised or caught fish and shellfish. Don't hesitate to let the manager at your favorite fish counter know you expect retailers to support sustainable seafood standards. And do your part by buying seafood that's sustainably certified.

    June 03, 2008

    Manufacturers Must Tell Consumers to Buy 20% Less; Sustainable Certification Key

    [PRESS RELEASE - 6/3/08] MONTEREY, CA -- Best-selling author and international environmental lifestyle expert Diane MacEachern today said that manufacturers that aspire to be green must start telling their customers to consume 20% less. MacEachern also said that companies must certify the entire environmental lifecycle of their products and services if they are to be trusted as sustainable businesses.

    Speaking to representatives of more than 500 national and international companies, MacEachern said it was critical that producers and retailers acknowledge the connection between consumption and such serious environmental problems as global climate change, air and water pollution, exposure to toxic chemicals and rainforest destruction.

    "Any company that wants to honestly wear a green mantle must tell shoppers to buy less first," noted MacEachern, publisher of and author of Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World."

    MacEachern laid down her 20% less challenge during a plenary speech to the 2008 Sustainable Brands conference in Monterey, CA. The 20% less recommendation is the cornerstone of a five-step approach that also urges companies to submit their products and services to lifecycle analysis (like the SMaRT standard being spearheaded by the Institute for Market Transformation to Sustainability) in order to reduce environmental impact from the beginning of the production process to the end.

    "Consumers need a way to distinguish a green brand from one that merely "greenwashes" in order to make a buck," MacEachern noted. "Companies that undergo lifecycle analysis by an independent party and ultimately get their products certified sustainable will not only become more environmentally responsible. They'll also enjoy substantial marketplace advantage, as certification will make it easier for consumers to choose them over their competitors."

    MacEachern said this will be especially true among women, who make 85% of all retail purchases and who are essentially the CEO's - the chief environmental officers - of their households and the CPO's - chief purchasing officers - of a growing number of companies. Though a recent survey indicated that at least 50% of consumers want more green choices, additional studies show that many shoppers question whether green purchasing will really help protect the planet, given eco-benefits that manufacturers claim but don't prove.

    MacEachern's Green Purse Platform includes:

    • 20% Less: Urge customers to consume 20% less
    • Lifecycle Analysis: Submit products and services to life cycle analysis to verify product eco claims
    • Walk the Walk: In addition to marketing green products to consumers, companies must reduce the size of their operational footprint in meaningful and measurable ways, such as using wind power, eliminating use of dangerous chemicals, and maximizing use of recycled materials
    • Tell It Like It Is: Companies need to be more honest with consumers about the environmental benefits their products offer. Companies will never be perfect, and they mislead consumers when they imply that they are.
    • 2% for the Future: MacEachern proposes setting up a transition fund capitalized by contributions of 2% of a company's profits. The fund will provide much needed capital to businesses that are eager to transition to more sustainable products and services but receive no government support to do so. For example, MacEachern noted that the recent farm bill includes no money to help pesticide-dependent farmers transition to organic agriculture. An independent fund could help underwrite such activity.

    MacEachern says that consumers love the idea of a 20% less campaign. "It reminds women of the movie, "Miracle on 34th Street," she says.

    April 21, 2008

    EARTH DAY COUNTDOWN: More Money-Saving Eco Tips

    One of the biggest obstacles to "going green" is the perception that eco-living is expensive. The following choices not only don't break the bank, but actually help consumers save money.

    * Improve fuel economy - Gasoline is at an all-time high of $3.50 a gallon. Improved fuel efficiency means you travel farther on every gallon of gasoline. The cost savings? Consider this: Say you drive 15,000 miles per year. If your car gets an average of 20 miles per gallon, over the course of the year, at an average fuel price of $3.50/gallon, you will spend $2625 on gasoline. However, if your vehicle achieves 35 mpg, driving the same 15,000 miles will only cost you $1701 - a savings of $924. Say you drive that car for ten years. In all likelihood, gasoline will only get more expensive. In ten years, you could save more than $10,000. And if you invested that money over time, your savings increase considerably more.

    Lunch_box * Bring your lunch to work - Lunchtime food packaging wastes enormous energy and other natural resources - think of all the plastic and paper you throw away after you're finished with a take-out salad, sandwich or burger. David Bach, author of Go Green, Live Rich, calculates that, if you spend $9 a day on lunch from the local Subway or sandwich shop, you're spending $45 a week, or $2, 250 a year to eat out. Much of what you're paying for -- the wrapping -- you throw away. The greener, money-saving option: take food from home in reusable containers, including a durable lunch bag. If you save and invest the $2,250 every year, says Back, in 20 years it will amount to $111,000. (Need a lunchbox? Check out these.)

    * Sell your stuff - Someone is willing to pay for what you might be throwing away. By some calculations, 75-90% of what people trash would willingly be used by someone else. Before you toss, try to sell. It's easy to get started on Craig's List or EBay, though holding a yard sale also works to generate income while unloading your "riches" on those who want them.

    * Pay bills online - You'll save money, time, paper and late fees -- as much as $400 a year or more -- by automating your accounts and paying with a click of your mouse rather than having to write a check, seal an envelope, and lick a stamp.

    *  Buy less - Ah, abstinence! Like some of the other behaviors this action is associated with, keeping your money in your purse or pocketbook is among the most sure-fire ways to hold onto it - while not contributing to the excessive consumer demand that fuels climate change and pollution. Just do it.

    Want more ideas? Check out the Top Ten Ways to Afford Going Green.

    March 02, 2008

    Now is the Time for "Nau"

    When you create a company literally from the ground up, you have the opportunity to “make it right,” especially when it comes to environmental sustainability.

    070604_nau_ian_01_2 Nau, a new clothing line that debuted in February, 2007, strives to make it right in every aspect of its operation, from the creation of sustainable fabrics to the way shoppers get their products home.

    How does it all work? Nau's philosophy revolves around three criteria: beauty, performance and sustainability. Though many designers focus on one or two of these (usually, beauty and performance), Nau believes it is the first apparel manufacturer to take all three into account when it is creating its classic lines: sweaters, tops, skirts, dresses, vests, pants, jackets and various accessories for women and men.

    Working intimately with its partner mills, Nau has created the vast majority of the fabrics it uses in its collections, innovating with materials like corn-based PLA and recycled polyester. Their elegant but limited color palette minimizes the impact of dyes laden with toxic chemicals. Yes, they manufacture in Asia (as well as Canada), because producing their products close to the fabric source saves energy on transportation. No, they don’t copyright their fabrics, to encourage other manufacturers to use them if they wish.

    As they boast on their website: “Sustainability touches all aspects of our products, from their subtle, timeless color choices to the ease with which they can be cared for to the extensive list of things they don’t have in them.”

    070604_nau_ian_01_2  I met Ian Yolles, Nau’s VP for Brand Communications, at the 2007 Good and Green marketing conference in Chicago, where he was dressed in a very chic long-sleeved black shirt made from a corn-based polymer called PLA. I was so impressed with Nau's philosophy, I went online and ordered several items to see if the product lived up to the plan. My Nau merino wool sweater has since become the centerpiece of my winter wardrobe.

    Ian and I got together again over the phone recently to discuss sustainability and the clothing industry. Here’s a snapshot of that conversation.

    What does the word “Nau” mean, and why did you choose it for the name of your company?

    We wanted a name that would resonate with our customers. The word nau (pronounced “now”) is a Polynesian word of welcome and inclusivity, and is a key concept in the Maori language of New Zealand. The word is at the heart of the Maori welcome, which translates to “Welcome! Come in!” We seek to live up to our name by building and supporting inclusive communities of thoughtful, dedicated individuals.

    How would you describe Nau’s couture?

    108_nau_pr_sharp_lq_01 We offer stylish, “classic” designs that are intended to be fashionable for years, not just one quick season. Five and even ten years from now, you’ll still want to wear Nau’s sophisticated-looking shirts, sweaters, and pants (photo credit, right: Daniel Sharp).

    It’s easy for a company to say it’s sustainable. How does Nau practice what it preaches?

    We create new fabrics that reduce the environmental impact creating clothing can have. We manufacture close to the source where our fabrics are made, which reduces energy in transporting fabrics. We rely on third-party laboratory and testing facilities
    to verify that our fabrics contain no harmful chemicals from our restricted substances list. We build small stores so we don’t have to stock a lot of inventory, and encourage shoppers to have their choices shipped to them – at a 10% discount – so we don’t have to build bigger stores that use more energy and other resources. We also offset all carbon emissions from shipping and business travel, and purchase renewable energy credits for our stores and headquarters.

    Your clothes are extremely chic! But they may also be more expensive than many women think they can afford.

    Our price points are on par with our direct competitors, like The North Face or Patagonia. And we offer several incentives that reduce the cost: a store shopper gets a 10% discount if she opts to have a product shipped to her, rather than take it home on the spot. People can shop our sales. Regardless of what someone buys, the company donates 5% of the purchase price to a charity the shopper chooses. Plus, our clothes are built to last. Durability is a huge part of the equation. Unlike “fast fashions,” that are cheap and quickly disposable, Nau clothes will endure. So you may pay more for individual items, but potentially you’re buying fewer clothes over the long haul. In fact, our clothing is designed to be functional for a wide variety of activities across multiple settings, reducing the number of different items you need in your wardrobe. 

    This idea of buying clothes to last is unusual, given today’s trends toward shorter and shorter fashion seasons.

    If people are serious about sustainability, they need to rethink their approach to what they buy. Nau gives consumers the opportunity to opt for quality, and when they do, they protect the environment, too.

    Thumb_green_5  Thumbs up, Nau.

    NOTE: Nau's spring line has just become available, but you can still get great bargains on various winter designs. And if what you order doesn't fit, just pop it back in the bag it came from for an easy return.

    EcoCentric Mom
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