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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.
  • July 02, 2008

    Best Electronics Create Least E-Waste, Climate Change

    Ewaste8 Greenpeace has just issued its annual electronics guide. Given that women buy 14% more electronics than men, the guide can help female consumers make their money matter by favoring the mobile phone, computer, TV and games console manufacturers that have the best policies and practices on toxic chemicals and equipment take-back. Consumers can also favor electronics companies that do the best job reducing their climate change impact.

    According to the Greenpeace website, "Companies are scored on disclosure of their greenhouse gas emissions, commitment for absolute cuts in their own emissions and support for the mandatory global emissions reductions that are needed to tackle climate change. On energy efficiency, a selection of each company’s product range is assessed to see how far they exceed the current de-facto global standard, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star. Energy Star sets minimum standards for energy efficiency for many types of electronic products. The overall percentage of renewable energy in a companies total energy use is also assessed.

    The climate impact is important, since the information and communications technology sector currently accounts for two percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, equal to the aviation industry. Notes Greenpeace, "As one of the most innovative and fastest growing industries, the biggest electronics companies must show leadership in tackling climate change by reducing both their direct and indirect climate change footprint."


    Philips scores well on chemicals and energy criteria, but scores a zero on e-waste since it has no global take-back polices. Greenpeace recommends that Philips establish an effective global take-back program to reduce the environmental impact of its e-waste. 

    Thumb_green The best performers on energy efficiency are Sony Ericsson and Apple, with all of their models meeting, and many exceeding, Energy Star requirements. Sony Ericsson stands out as the first company to score almost top marks on all of the chemicals criteria. With all new Sony Ericsson models being PVC-free, the company has also met the new chemicals criterion in the ranking, having already banned antimony, beryllium and phthalates from models launched since January 2008.

    On the other hand, according to the Greenpeace analysis, Apple "missed a big chance" to advance its score by not improving the environmental performance of the new version of the iPhone.

    Thumb_brownbmp_2  Some companies that promote their "green" policies come up short when measured against global standards of measuring impacts on climate change. Dell scored relatively poorly and Toshiba, Samsung and LGE scored close to, or zero, on climate change criteria.

    Among the games console makers, Microsoft dropped to second bottom of the Guide with a low score on climate criteria. Nintendo’s score increased slightly over last year with some improvement on toxic chemicals and climate policy. However, even Nintendo’s relatively energy efficient Wii console does not meet Energy Star standards that cover minimum energy efficiency standards for PCs and consoles.

    Notes Greenpeace, with most companies now scoring less than 5/10, only a company that phases out toxic chemicals, increases the recycling rate of e-waste, uses recycled materials in new products and reduces its impact on climate change can seriously hope to make the claim of being green. Companies that undergo life-cycle analysis of their entire production, distribution, and reclamation policy have the best shot at meeting this goal.

    Read a snapshot of the report here.

    Or peruse the full Guide to Greener Electronics report.

    July 01, 2008

    Sun-Smart Skin Care

    My family is really susceptible to skin cancer. My father's had it, my brother's had it, and I've had it - several times. Needless to say, I'm a borderline fanatic when it comes to wearing sunscreen.

    Coolibar_2 My daily face lotion contains SPF15, and if I'm at the beach I always use at least SPF 45, along with a hat, sunglasses, a breezy long-sleeve shirt and light pants. Yes, it took a while to get over wanting a "summer tan." But there's nothing like a few bouts of skin cancer to put vanity into perspective, especially considering the facts:

    Every year, more than 800,000 Americans are affected by basal cell skin cancer alone. The percentage of women who are younger than 40 when they develop the disease has tripled in the past three decades, says the National Women's Health Resource Center; the same age group has quadrupled its rate of squamous cell skin cancer. More than 77 percent of cancer-causing exposure occurs after the age of 18. (By the way, tanning beds are no safer than the sun. Using tanning beds before age 35 increases your risk of the even deadlier skin cancer, melanoma.)

    The sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays appear to trigger most lip cancer, too. What's more, too much sun can prematurely age your face and make you look as pinched as a prune. UV rays even take their toll on eyes, causing cataracts and other ailments.

    UVA is the most abundant source of solar radiation; it penetrates beyond the top layer of human skin. UVB is a factor, too. The hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. (9 a.m. - 3 p.m. during standard time) pose the greatest risk, and that's true whether it is sunny or cloudy

    What Can You Do?

    • Follow the "shadow rule." Avoid the sun during the late morning and early afternoon when the sun is strongest - and when your shadow is shorter than you are.

    Ca_baby • Use enough sunscreen. Apply one ounce of sunscreen (about the amount that fills your palm or a shot glass) at a time. Larger people will need more. If you're swimming or sweating a lot, apply sunscreen immediately after drying off. Don't miss ears, around the eyes, neck (all the way around), hands, feet, toes, and backs of knees.

    • Use the right SPF. Different skin types need different SPF (sunburn protection factor) ratings. The American Academy of Dermatology advises choosing a sunscreen with at least SPF 15. If you are fair, burn easily and often suffer bad sunburns, choose higher SPF numbers such as 30 or 45. But don't stay in the sun longer. An SPF 45 "probably provides 3 to 4 percent more protection than a SPF 15," says Dr. Susan C. Taylor, MD, a Philadelphia dermatologist and the Founding Director of the Skin of Color Center at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York. According to Dr. Taylor, even though skin pigment, or melanin, in the "average" African American gives protection equivalent to SPF 13, brown- and black- skinned people should still use sunscreen with at least SPF 15.

    • Apply early and often. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends applying sunscreen 15 to 20 minutes before going outside to let your skin absorb it, then reapply every two hours. Because no sunscreen is truly "waterproof" or "sweatproof," reapply after 40 minutes of sweaty activity or swimming.

    • Dress for the occasion. Wear protective clothing, such as a wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirt, and long pants. Protect your eyes with wraparound sunglasses that provide 100 percent UV ray protection. Beach umbrellas and other kinds of shade help, but UV rays can still bounce off sand, water, and porch decks. Use sunscreen whenever outside.

    What to Buy?

    • First, throw away last year's lotions, as some ingredients lose effectiveness over time.

    • Pick the best product. According to Environmental Working Group, 54 percent of sunscreens become unstable when exposed to light and might not offer the advertised protection. The group recommends the "best" sunscreens here.

    • Consider self-tanning lotions and sprays. However, you can still burn in the sun, as these only contain an SPF of 4. Use a sunscreen every two hours with an SPF of at least 15.

    Thumb_green If you want to cover up, consider these two "thumbs up" options:

    Solarweave® is a revolutionary fabric specially manufactured to block more than 97.5% of all UVA and UVB radiation. Available in bathing suit cover-ups, long-sleeve shirts, t-shirts, pants, and hats.

    Coolibar clothing comes packaged with a hang tag that includes an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (or "UPF") rating. Some clothes claim to block 98% UV. Available in tunics blouses, hoodies, pants, and cover-ups.

    Want to learn more? See our Personal Care Page, or visit the National Women's Health Resource Center .

    June 27, 2008

    Recycling CFLs is Finally Easy to Do!

    Home_depot If you like the idea of energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs but worry about the mercury they contain, now you can worry a lot less. The Home Depot is selling bulbs that have cut the amount of mercury most bulbs contain in half. And when you’re finished with the bulbs, you can recycle them – along with any other CFLs you have – at any of the company’s 1,973 stores.

    Collection_of_cfb Simply bring in your expired, unbroken CFL bulbs, and give them to the store associate behind the returns desk. The bulbs will be handled by an environmental management company that will coordinate CFL packaging, transportation and recycling to maximize safety and ensure environmental compliance.

    “With more than 75 percent of households located within 10 miles of a Home Depot store, this program is the first national solution to providing Americans with a convenient way to recycle CFLs,” said the company’s Ron Jarvis, senior vice president, Environmental Innovation.

    What’s the appeal of CFLs? They  use up to 75 percent less energy, last longer and cost less over time than incandescent bulbs. The average household can reduce its energy bills by $12 to $20 a month by using CFLs. The bulbs were once accused of emitting a harsh, glaring light. But many bulbs generate a softer, yellower light now, increasing the appeal of using them for any room in the house.

    In addition to recycling CFLs, The Home Depot plans to introduce more dimmable compact fluorescents within the year. Home Depot’s bulbs contain 2.3 to 3.5 milligrams of mercury, which is below the National Electrical Manufacturers Association recommendation of 5 milligrams or fewer. It is a small amount, equivalent to the volume of the steel ball in the tip of a ballpoint pen. By comparison, home thermostats contain about 1,000 times more mercury than the common CFL.

    The company says it sold more than 75 million CFL’s in 2007, saving Americans approximately $4.8 billion in energy costs and preventing 51.8 billon pounds in climate-changing greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere over the life of the bulbs.

    The Home Depot is not only encouraging consumers to change their light bulbs. It’s doing the same in its own stores. The company expects to save $16 million in annual energy costs by switching all of its U.S. Light Fixture Showrooms to CFLs by the fall of 2008.

    Home_depot_ecoearthday The CFL recycling program is an extension of The Home Depot's Eco Options program. Eco Options, launched in April 2007, is a classification that allows customers to easily identify products that have less of an impact on the environment. 

    Switching from traditional light bulbs to CFLs is an easy change consumers can make to reduce energy use at home. According to the EPA's ENERGY STAR(R) program, if every American switched one incandescent bulb to a CFL, it would prevent more than $600 million in annual energy costs and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions from 800,000 cars.

    NOTE:  Consumers can also recycle CFLs at any IKEA store.

    Thumb_green Thumbs up to both Home Depot and Ikea!

    June 26, 2008

    EcoSearch Surfs the World (Wide Web) and Raises Money to Protect It, Too

    Ecosmall Meet the world's first search engine dedicated solely to protecting the planet. has partnered up with Google to create a homepage you can search exactly as you would at The earth advantage: Google shares a portion of its advertising revenue the same way it does with websites like and The difference? EcoSearch donates 100% of its profits to nonprofit organizations like Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council. Talk about an easy way to raise money for earth-saving initiatives!

    David Krasnow, the brains behind the operation, says "EcoSearch was formed because we are dedicated environmentalists who want to make a difference, and believe that, when given the opportunity, millions of people will join us."

    Krasnow notes that, "In the past 3 months, Google paid over a BILLION dollars to advertising partners. Unlike for-profit companies which put all this money into the pockets of individuals (usually already incredibly rich individuals), EcoSearch donates, as required by law, all of its profits to charities."

    Adds Krasnow, "We built this site for you. Without your participation, nothing changes. So please, use us whenever you search, tell all your friends, and if you think of a way that we can improve, please don’t hesitate to let us know!"

    Thumb_green_2  Great idea, David.  Thumbs up!

    June 21, 2008

    Carrots and Sticks are Greening the Marketplace

    Consumers are showing increasing ingenuity in using their money to protect the planet.

    The original marketplace campaigns revolved around boycotts (think Cesar Chavez, farmworkers, and grapes) -- an effective "stick" if there ever was one, considering the whipping grape growers needed to take before they were willing to treat their employees fairly.

    Carrots_bunch_2  Big Green Purse has been more focused on a "carrot" approach. Too get product manufacturers to reduce pollution and limit their contribution to global warming, Big Green Purse encourages consumers to favor the products that offer the greatest environmental benefit (think compact fluorescent bulbs over incandescents, or organic food over conventionally grown fruits and vegetables). The rationale? Consumers can strategically use the money they spend on eco goods and services to create incentives for companies to produce even more eco options. Though there's been virtually no forward environmental motion in the legislative arena over the past decade, the marketplace has been greening like gangbusters. Consumers -- especially women, who spend $.85 of every dollar - can accelerate the trend by being even more intentional about the products they buy. Choosing goods that are certified sustainable (like lumber made from FSC-certified wood, or tile made from SMaRT-certified linoleum) sends an even bigger, louder message to companies that there is more money to be made in going green.

    (This idea has gained so much traction, it's got its own conferences. Sustainable Brands '08 just concluded - read an excellent summary by Mary Hunt over at In Women We Trust.)

    Carrotmob Another way to dangle the "carrot" is to persuade retailers that their entire business -- not just sales of one or two products -- will increase if they transition to a more environmentally responsible operation. CarrotMob has proven that this approach can be pretty tasty to shop keepers. The organization queried several liquor stores in San Francisco about their interest in saving energy. The one that vowed to save the most - 22% - received not only CarrotMob's blessing, but the benefit of an organizing campaign that increased store sales more than three-fold -- on just one day! Customers could buy whatever they wanted; the store donated 22% of its sales to energy-saving measures that would reduce its own healing and cooling costs, among other benefits.

    As legislators increasingly fall prey to polluting political action committees, or the confounding complexity of dealing with so many different party leaders, it's increasingly apparent that real environmental change can and must be driven by the marketplace. And what makes the marketplace so powerful? All of us green consumers -- and the "carrots" we're dangling.

    June 17, 2008

    Organic Food, Prius Help Businesswoman Become "One in a Million"

    For anyone out there who wonders how your shopping dollars can help protect the environment, look no further than Kat Schon. The co-owner of a small business in Portland, Oregon, Kat has shifted not just one, but thousands of dollars into products that help protect the planet. And she’s done it at work as well as at home.

    Kat_with_flowers_2Simply what Kat does at her company, Portland Store Fixtures, could qualify her for star status in the Big Green Purse “One in a Million” campaign, our effort to engage a million women in shifting $1,000 of their household budget to more eco-friendly options. Portland Store Fixtures sells new and used fixtures for anyone interested in running a retail establishment. The company’s mantra is:

    “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Give those “experienced” fixtures a chance to shine.” 

    Kat and her partner Penney are always on the look-out for gently worn display cases, fabrics, and even mannequins that another proprietor can put to good re-use. Since 1998, they’ve helped hundreds of stores get up and running, often by using recycled materials.

    To keep her staff of seven fueled, Kat has organized a weekly organic food delivery to the office. “We signed on with a company called SPUD that efficiently delivers food and allows us to pick what foods we will receive every week.  We pick organic, locally grown fruit and vegetables because it keeps the dollar local and out of the gas tank.”

    Plus, says Kat, “We shop organically and have done so for the last two years.  We also buy (personally and for the business) non-toxic cleaners, recycled products and reuse everything!  We sell used store fixtures so we really take the "reuse" part seriously.  Our invoices, letters and faxes are all on already printed on one side paper.  And then we will use them for scrap paper!”

    Kat estimates she’s shifted $28 per week for the local organic food delivery, and $200 per week for more eco-friendly grocery and cleaning products.

    But the purchase that really propelled her into the “One in a Million” pantheon?

    She recently bought a $22,000 Prius, the gas-saving hybrid car that can get as much as 50 miles out of every gallon of gas.

    Thumb_green Thumbs up, Kat! You're really One in a Million!

    May 25, 2008

    Take the Drive Smarter Challenge

    Burning_money_2  Presumably, you're not the kind of person who would take a big pile of money out to your driveway and set it on fire, just to watch it burn. But when you burn gasoline, that's essentially what you're doing. And with gasoline prices now bouncing around $4 a gallon, that pile of money you're burning is getting a whole lot bigger. 

    Big Green Purse lists ten ways you can conserve gas today and save at least $20-$50 every month at the pump. But you can save even more by taking the Drive Smarter Challenge, a new initiative from the Alliance to Save Energy.

    Promochallenge What's terrific about the Challenge is that it puts you in the driver's seat -- literally. The website simulates you driving, then suggests up to six fuel-efficiency actions you can easily take. If you do (or say you plan to), the website immediately calculates your savings in money, gasoline, and greenhouse gas emissions.

    I took the challenge as if I were driving my son's 2001, 6hp Toyota Avalon. By the end of my "road test," I was informed I could save $433  (about 110 gallons of gasoline at the $4/gallon price, for almost 10 weeks of free gas) if I followed six simple recommendations like pumping up my tires and lightening the load in my trunk.

    Plus, when I forwarded the site to a friend, I got a coupon for $10 off a Bosch Oxygen Sensor, which will help my engine run even more efficiently.

    Beware: the website takes a longish time to load (at least on Explorer 6.0) and seems to re-load every time you switch screens. But those inconveniences are well worth the cost-savings you'll enjoy if you take the Challenge.

    Thumb_green Thumbs up to the Alliance to Save Energy for giving us this ingenious tool!

    By the way, you can credit gas savings to your One in a Million balance sheet.

    May 20, 2008

    Why Recycling Is Worth It

    Still wondering why you should bother recycling your aluminum cans? Just ask Greg Wittbecker. He's the director of Corporate Metal Recycling for Alcoa and a big proponent of boosting the paltry amount the U.S. recycles (52% of cans) to 75%.

    Can_pile_2  What's the big deal? Greg says it's all about energy and waste disposal.  "If we could recover and recycle 75% of the aluminum cans being currently tossed into landfills – 600,000 metric tons of aluminum – we could save 1286 megawatts of generated electricity. That’s the amount produced by two coal fired power plants, and consumed by two aluminum plants," says Greg. "Replacing this production with recycling would keep 11.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from being generated and released into the atmosphere." It would also reduce the amount of mercury going into the environment, since power plants emit polluting mercury when they burn coal.

    Why is recycling so efficient? According to Alcoa, recycling a ton of aluminum uses just 5% of the energy required to make virgin metal. Every ton of recycled aluminum that Alcoa uses saves about 14,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that the average American household consumes 920 kilowatts of electricity per month. Consequently, using 1 ton of recycled aluminum as opposed to 1 ton of virgin aluminum would make enough conserved energy available to power an American household for over 15 months.

    Despite the compelling energy savings that accrue from recycling aluminum, we Americans are not recycling as much as other countries. Compared to our 52%, consider how well the nations below are doing:
    • Brazil 94.4%
    • Japan 90.9 %
    • Germany 89 %
    • Global Average 63%
    • Western Europe 57.7%

    Why the diff? On top of the "throw it away" mentality common among American households, many communities don't make it easy for citizens to do the right thing. More towns and cities need to offer curbside recycling programs or convenient recycling centers. Retailers that sell canned beverages could help, too, by setting up recycling centers on their premises. Eleven states already put deposits on canned beverages to insure that the cans are returned to the manufacturer. The rest should follow suit.

    Can_recycle_2  To find locations where you can recycle nearby, check out earth911. And don't forget to contact your city administrator or solid waste manager to urge them to make community recycling easier for everyone in your community.

    April 08, 2008

    EARTH DAY COUNTDOWN - Bonnie and Cathie Shift More Than $1,000


    The Big Green Purse "One in a Million" campaign urges shoppers to shift at least $1,000 of money they budget for household goods and services into options that offer the greatest environmental benefit. Meet two women from different parts of the U.S. who have reached the "One in a Million" goal by buying common products as well as more innovative ones.

    Bonnie (above, with her favorite "eco" pal) decided to go green while she was replacing some major home appliances. Take a look at her balance sheet (which she downloaded here).

        Date                   Item                                                   Money
        Sep07              Toilets                                                 386.48
        Sep07              Microwave                                            249.95
        Sep07              Stove top                                            1099.95
        Nov07             Carpet                                                 3200.00
        Nov07              Recessed Lighting/CFL bulbs                1093.00

        Dec 07           CFL - Outside lighting                              298.00

        Total ........................................................$6,337.38

    Cathie took a different route. While she has also replaced a major appliance -- a clothes washing machine - she's also shifted the way she spends her money at the supermarket, both on food and on cleaning products. Here's how she used her purse power earlier this year.

    Feb 19 - March 1, 2008

    Item                                             Money Spent
    Front-load washing machine              $1,232.71
    4 PVC-free shower curtains                        7.76
    Mother Earth Food, Drink                         26.00
    100% organic bathmat, top, pants             90.00
    Organic food/Health Food store                15.00
    Organic food/Amish market                      12.50
    Organic Food/Adams                                  4.00
    Make my own cleaners – savings of …        35.00
    Stop buying bottled water – save $8/wk
       For 3 months      …………………..              96.00
    Books on green living                               24.59

    Total …………………………..                    $1,543.56

    What's interesting about these One in a Million achievers is that, in the course of switching their spending to more eco-friendly products, they also saved money. Cathie saved almost $100 in just three months by foregoing bottled water for tap. Bonnie will save at least $30 in electricity costs over the life of the bulb for every compact fluorescent she installed.

    "Shift your spending to save" is a big part of the Big Green Purse message. Not only do you save money, but you usually save time and energy, too.

    Thumb_green Thumbs up, ladies! And congratulations!

    Want to become One in a Million? Join us here. And see what the One in a Million community is up to at our new community forum.

    March 17, 2008

    Plant a Tree for Every Book You Read

    Want to get a new book but worry about its environmental impact? Worry a little bit less. With the help of Eco-Libris, you can plant a tree for every book you buy or read.

    Sticker_ecolibris Says Raz  Godelnik, an Eco-Libris co-founder, the company works with readers, publishers, writers, bookstores, and others in the book industry to balance out the paper used for any book by planting trees. About 20 million trees are cut down annually for virgin paper to be used for the production of books sold in the U.S. alone. Eco-Libris raises awareness about the environmental impacts of using paper for the production of books and provides book lovers with a simple way to do something about it: plant a tree for every book they read. Ten dollars will cover tree planting for ten books.

    To date, Eco-Libris has balanced out over 24,000 books, resulting in the planting of more than 31,500 new trees! Kedzie Press is collaborating with Eco-Libris in a "Million Tree-A-Thon" initiative" to plant one million trees for one million books by the end of 2009.

    The Eco-Libris program is being offered by some local bookstores; otherwise, it's easy to participate on-line.

    Thumb_green Thumbs up, Eco-Libris.

    You can read my interview with Eco-Libris here.

    EcoCentric Mom
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