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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 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 05, 2008

    Cheapest, Fastest Oil Fix? Pump Up Your Tires!

    If you have a car, stop whatever you're doing and go check the air pressure of your vehicle's tires.

    Tire_gauge Apart from keeping your car in park, pumping up your tires to their proper "PSI" - pounds per square inch - is the fastest, cheapest way to reduce the amount of gasoline you use. Tires have a tendency to lose pressure over time or when the weather changes substantially; a car driving on underinflated tires needs more gas to move. You can gain 3.3% in fuel efficiency by inflating your tires. And with gasoline costing over $4/per gallon, every 3.3% gain means money in your pocket.

    That gain also affords an immediate way to increase our supply of oil. As Barack Obama has noted in his vision for an energy independent America, if we all pumped up our tires to their proper PSI, the U.S. could easily gain from conservation  (i.e., using less fuel) three times as much oil as we could reap from far more costly and environmentally dangerous off-shore oil drilling. And that oil is available TODAY, not ten or twenty years hence - the time it takes to develop oil fields and convert petroleum into gasoline.

    "Efforts to improve conservation and efficiency happen to be the best approaches to dealing with the energy crisis — the cheapest, cleanest, quickest and easiest ways to ease our addiction to oil, reduce our pain at the pump and address global warming. It's a pretty simple concept: if our use of fossil fuels is increasing our reliance on Middle Eastern dictators while destroying the planet, maybe we ought to use less," writes Michael Grunwald in Time.

    Thumb_green Tire gauges are cheap. You can buy one for $10-$15 at your local auto supply store; or look here.

    If you don't know how to check your tire pressure, this video offers a good explanation.

    You can easily save $20-$50 a month on gasoline if you pump up your tires and take other simple steps. Here are the top ten ways to beat high gas prices and increase America's oil supply.

    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.

    April 29, 2008

    California Business Women Go Green

    As a guest speaker at the annual Conference of the Professional Businesswomen of California, I shared the stage today with Gary Hirschberg. Gary's the "CE-Yo" of Stoneyfield Farms, the organic yogurt company that revolutionized the making and marketing of organic dairy products. Together, we talked to hundreds of women about becoming "CEOs" - chief environmental officers of their households, the organizations they volunteer for, and the companies where they work.

    Our message seemed like news to most of the audience. The way women spend their money matters; women can use their money to protect the planet; and women need to lead the way because ... who else will? Most of the audience seemed surprised to learn that they, collectively, spend $.85 of every dollar in the marketplace - even though they acknowledge being the chief shoppers for their household. Gary passionately argued for consumer intervention with manufacturers sooner rather than later, given how quickly time is running out on our chance to reduce climate change and protect dwindling water supplies.

    The audience asked informed questions that got to the heart of some of the issues they find most challenging about going green. When one woman asked how she could reduce all the packaging waste her shopping generates, most of the rest of the crowd nodded in agreement. Everyone is tired of throwing away so much paper and plastic when they shop. I reminded folks about the options they have to buy products in concentrated versions or in bulk. Gary noted that, because plastic packaging is made primarily from petroleum, the increasing costs of a barrel of oil may at some point make plastic wrap unaffordable for anything but premium products.

    An equally critical issue for the audience had to do with greenwashing. People want to buy the best green choice, but often can't figure out what it is, given all the superficial claims manufacturers make that their products are "natural" or "biodegradable." I reminded people to look for third-party verification of the manufacturers claims -- organic to substantiate growing processes, Green Seal to verify claims in cleaning products about ingredients -- and noted the up-and-coming availability of life cycle analysis efforts like the SMaRT standard, which looks at the eco-impact of a product from the beginning of the manufacturing process through the product's use and ultimate re-use or disposal.

    During lunch, Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State under the Clinton Administration, spoke of the need for women to help other women understand the critical issues of the day and make changes that will make their lives -- and the world -- a better place. Said Albright, "There's a special place in hell for women who DON'T help each other." That was probably the best applause line of the day!

    March 23, 2007

    A Year Without Toilet Paper?

    Toilet_paper_2 A family living in New York City is making news because they're giving up toilet paper for a year. They're also foregoing new clothes, foods not grown within a 250-mile radius of Manhattan, and all forms of carbon-fueled transportation. That means they don't take cars or cabs and they don't ride elevators, though they do use push-powered scooters -- even when it snows.

    They call it No Impact living, and it's pretty much the complete opposite of what Big Green Purse advocates.

    Now, I confess. I do a lot of what "No Impact Man" (you'll have to read the article) does, though not to such an extreme. No, I haven't given up toilet paper. But I walk as much as possible. About 80% of the food I buy is locally grown. I use my own reusable mug when I'm out and about to avoid throwaways. I take my own shopping bags to the grocery store.

    But this is where the Man and I part company. I want to simplify my life and reduce my environmental impact, and I sure wish the rest of the world would, too. But the chances of 300 million Americans giving up toilet paper are slim to none. The chances of some greater percentage of the population switching to toilet paper made from recycled paper are much greater. And it's by using that consumer clout to buy the right products that we force manufacturers -- the entities that do the most damage to the environment -- to reduce pollution, stop global warming, and right a whole host of other environmental wrongs.

    "No Impact Man" is to the eco-lifestyle movement what Greenpeace is to the environmental movement: far enough out on the fringe to make what is truly impactful -- in this case, shifting significant dollars in the marketplace to force manufacturers to clean up their act -- seem simple and safe by comparison.

    Thanks, Man. And let me know when you need a roll of (recycled) toilet paper.

    EcoCentric Mom
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