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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.
  • February 01, 2011

    Eco-Friendly, Pet-Safe De-Icers So You Won't Break Your Neck

    I just tried to take my dog for a walk - and almost broke my neck. Even though I can barely see the ice, I sure can feel it. It's turned my steps into a treacherous one-way down ramp, and my driveway into an Olympic luge. I should have bought some de-icer yesterday. But when I went to the store, I couldn't figure out which product was both better for the environment and safer for my pooch, too. This morning, I researched the options. Here's what I found.

    Safe paw It's one thing to protect yourself from fallen snow; here are the top ten tips for that. Banishing ice is much harder - literally. If it's thick, you have to chop it up before you can shovel it off. If it's thin, like the ice I'm dealing with today, you've got three choices:

    * Scatter something like sand or grainy kitty litter to create traction. The downsides? Neither actually melts ice, and both leave a big mess you'll have to clean up later so it all doesn't wash into the storm drains. Plus, you have to wait until after the ice forms. If you throw it down before hand, the ice will simply bury it, and you'll have to do it again later so it stays on the surface and actually creates resistance when you walk on it.

    * Just stay inside until the temperatures heat up and the ice melts on its own. Probably for most of you, that's not really an option!

    * Treat with an environmentally-friendly de-icer that's safer for pets, too. Upsides? You can pre-treat to prevent ice from building up, and treat again as the ice forms to keep your steps, driveway or sidewalk from getting too slick. Downsides? It's confusing to figure out which de-icer to buy. Some de-icing products are bad for wood (like my wooden steps). Some can't be applied to new concrete. Most salt-based de-icers can stain carpet and flooring when tracked into the house. Some products say they're eco-friendly, but turn out to contain ingredients like rock salt, urea, or sodium or magnesium chloride - chemicals that can burn plants and irritate pets that walk on them. Plus, they can claim they're "natural" or "eco friendly" because the use of those words isn't regulated by the government.

    Thumb_green Here are the best options I've found to date. All of them can be purchased online. Many of them may be sold in your local hardware or pet store; if they're not, ask the store manager to stock them so other shoppers can buy them, too.

    Safe Paw Ice Melter- This de-icer is the only one recommended by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a non-profit organization focused on environmental research and advocacy. It's 100% salt free and leaves minimal or no residue when it degrades. The green pellets make it easy to keep track of where you apply it. 

    Storm ice melt Storm Team Plus Liquid Ice Melt -  The advantage of Liquid Ice Melt is that it can be used on wood and all kinds of other surfaces, including concrete, asphalt, and even satellite dishes. If you order online, you'll need to buy a pack of four 1-gallon jugs, which can get expensive, and a sprayer if you don't already have one. Either share the cost with neighbors, or ask your local hardware store to stock and sell individually. Ice Melt Pellets are also available, but they can't be applied to wood or new concrete.

    Ice-clear-lg Ice Clear Liquid De-Icer - I haven't tried this, but it looks worthwhile. The ingredients are derived from agricultural products and contain no salts. It comes with a sprayer for easier application.

    Whatever de-icer you use, keep in mind that you will use less if you:

    1)   Apply before the snow and ice fall. Pretreat surfaces an hour or two in advance of precipitation.

    2)    Shovel snow and ice before they have a chance to accumulate. Once snow is deep, don’t throw de-icer on top of it. Wait until the snow stops falling, then shovel down to bare cement before applying de-icer again.

    3)  Shovel off the slush as the snow and ice melt. Otherwise, they'll refreeze and you'll have to apply all over again.


    August 10, 2010

    Students Start Food Fight So They Can Have Re-usable Lunch Trays.

    Trays Kids are going green, and not just at home. A cadre of student activists at Piney Branch elementary school in Takoma Park, MD, are agitating to replace the throw-away polystyrene lunch trays used in their public school cafeteria with reusable, washable ones. They've raised over $10,000 towards the purchase of a dishwasher to clean the trays. Officials who oversee the school in Montgomery County, MD have thus far refused to allow the kids to even test out a reusable trays program, saying it is too expensive. But the kids are fighting on.

    Full disclosure: Both my kids attended Piney Branch, which is located near the Washington, D.C. border about three blocks from my house, and educates students in the third, fourth and fifth grades. But my son and daughter left long before more environmentally aware kids formed "The Young Activists Club" and launched their inspiring reusable tray campaign.

    The kids are concerned because the polystyrene in the trays is a "known neurotoxin and suspected human carcinogen," they say on their website.

    "But there's more," they say. "It turns out polystyrene has a high carbon footprint as it's made from fossil fuels. In addition, unlike other types of plastics such as beverage bottles (PET, #1) and milk jugs (HDPE, #2), its recycling level is virtually zero. It is not biodegradable, either. This means polystyrene that is littered will end up eventually in our watersheds and the world's oceans where it can have devastating impacts on water life.

    Continue reading "Students Start Food Fight So They Can Have Re-usable Lunch Trays." »

    May 31, 2009

    ZipCar Comes to the Rescue (and Saves Me a Lot of Money)!

    2002 Prius1 My 2002 Prius can't be beat for everyday driving. I regularly get 40-45 mpg, saving me hundreds of dollars every year on gas. It's got a lot of pep, so highway driving is a snap. And its terrific turning radius and compact size make it a dream to park, whether at the mall or on a city street.

    But given its compact size (it seats four comfortably, five only if the person in the middle back seat has short legs), it's not the vehicle you'd willingly use to pick up your daughter -- and all her stuff -- from college, the challenge I faced recently.

    Zipcar_header Fortunately, I'm a member of ZipCar, the car company that lets you rent vehicles by the hour or the day. ZipCar, whose motto is "Wheels When You Want Them," is gaining in popularity because it makes using a car so cheap compared to owning one.  According to the company's calculations, owning a car like a Ford Fusion can cost you almost $800 a month, once you figure in parking, insurance, vehicle registration, gas, maintenance, new tires, and other related expenses. Even if you drive a lot (though not every single day), you could be paying as little as $322 a month using a Zip Car. You can join for $50 a year

    Element Using my zippy membership, I was able to rent a Honda Element for the 7 hours I needed to retrieve my daughter from school.  I simply reserved my car a day in advance, walked two blocks in my neighborhood, and found the car clean and ready to go. I swiped my membership card over a scanner embedded into the windshield. The car doors unlocked, and I found the key in the ignition. Off I went, easy as pie, for a little more than $11/hr.

    I chose the Honda Element over a wide range of other options because it offered the most room for the greatest amount of gas mileage. I drove 242 miles on about a tank of gas, for an average fuel economy of around 22 mpg - not quite as good as the Ford Escape Hybrid SUV (which wasn't an option, either at ZipCar or at any of the conventional car rental companies I checked), but better than most conventional SUVs. I filled the gas tank up using the gas card in the glove compartment, so it didn't cost me anything.

    Interested? If you live here or go to school here, you can rent a ZipCar. If your city's not on the list, send the company an e-mail and let them know you'd like to Zip. They're opening new locations all the time - maybe you can get them to consider your neighborhood. You can also search "car share" on the Internet to see similar options other companies may be offering in your community.

    Thumb_green Thumbs up, ZipCar!

    By the way, don't miss these Big Green Purse tips on saving gas and choosing fuel-efficient vehicles.

    February 27, 2009

    Purple Rice? Orange Chocolate? Vanilla Sugar?

    If your mouth isn't watering yet, it should be.

    Alter eco products These foods, produced by Alter Eco, the Fair Trade food company, are not your run-of-the-mill staples. Their exotic flavors and textures transform mundane meals into delicious dining experiences you'll want to repeat over and over again.

    What makes them so special?

    Taste, for one. The full natural grains are flavorful and robust. The molasses-infused sugar crystals bring an unexpected richness to cookies and other baked goods. And the chocolate? Each of the bars tickles a different set of taste buds (Just when I decided Dark Velvet was my favorite, I took a bite of Dark Mint. The tie was broken - by the crystalline orange flecks infusing Dark Twist). 

    Texture, for another. This is food you feel when you chew. No melt-in-your-mouth M&M types here. It actually feels like you're eating, not just getting through your supper.

    Purple rice And, of course, the color. If you're tired of looking at bland white rice, you'll delight in not just Alter Eco's purple variety, but their coral red jasmine rice and black quinoa, too.

    The fact that they're grown on sustainably run co-operatives where workers are paid a decent wage - the foundation for fair trade agriculture - is icing on the cake (made with the company's own sugar, of course).

    Thumb_green Thumbs up, Alter Eco!

    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 04, 2008

    What's Convincing Companies to Go Green? Consumer Demand.

    What should you do if you want companies to go green?

    Demand it, of course.

    It's a strategy that makes perfect sense, given that companies themselves say consumers are the biggest drivers of the sustainability changes they're willing to make. In a recent study conducted by Ernst & Young and reported on by Mary Hunt at In Women We Trust, executives from the finance, consumer goods and manufacturing industries acknowledged that consumer demand was a far greener "carrot" than environmental regulation, legislation, or competition, among other factors.

    Readers of Big Green Purse won't be surprised. Our mantra is all about ways you can make your money matter to protect yourself and the planet. But it's great when the very targets of our spending decisions acknowledge how much power we really have!

    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 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 11, 2008

    Recycling your bottles and cans? Get a reward from RecycleBank

    Everybody may be talking about recycling these days, but not everybody is doing it. Most communities still don't have access to curbside recycling programs, so consumers who want to recycle must schlep their cans, bottles, paper and plastic to a sorting center, an inconvenience that can become a major obstacle for someone whose time is already tight. Curbside recycling makes the process easier, but still, there's no guarantee someone is taking complete advantage of the opportunity to separate their recyclables from the rest of their trash. It's easy to get careless and just toss everything into the garbage, especially given how much confusion clouds issues like which plastics or magazines can be recycled and which ones have to be landfilled.

    Rb_logo   Enter RecycleBank, an innovative program that boosts community recycling rates by rewarding people for recycling as much as they can.

    Here's how it works:

    RecycleBank arranges with a municipal government or the company that hauls its trash to encourage citizens to recycle more and to actually monitor how much of their trash they're recycling. Participants receive a large trash container that's embedded with a computer chip so that the sanitation workers  picking up a participant's recycled goods can weigh, measure and scan each container before emptying it. The scanned data is stored in the participant's account. For every pound recycled, the participant earns 2.5 RecycleBank points.

    That's where the rewards come in. RecycleBank points can be redeemed against new consumer purchases from a variety of local and national sponsors, including Kraft, Coca-Cola, and Target, as well as neighborhood restaurants and other businesses. But there's another, and perhaps more important, reward: participants can also see what the environmental benefit of their individual recycling amounts to in terms of oil and trees saved. Anyone asking, "Does what I recycle really make a difference?" will get a strong "YES!!" every time they put their container of recyclables out for pick up.

    Ideally, such a program would also encourage less consumption, whether products can be recycled or not. And hopefully, participants will use their rewards to favor the greenest products and services available.

    For the moment, RecycleBank's Monique Hartl says the company's goal is to raise recycling rates in communities nationwide. With 300,000 households already participating, they're well on their way.

    Thumb_green Thumbs UP, RecycleBank!

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