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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 06, 2014

    10 Ways to Be a Green Valentine

    Roses in burlap bagValentine’s Day is for lovers – and for people who love Nature, too! Here are a few natural ways to celebrate your special someone, with thanks to Fresh Flowers for sponsoring this post.

     Candles – Choose candles made from beeswax or soy as opposed to petroleum-based paraffin. They’ll burn cleaner and smoke less. I prefer those that are fragrance-free or scented with plant-based oils, such as essence of lavender, rose or orange blossom, rather than synthetic fragrances and perfumes that can trigger allergic reactions.

     Chocolate – Enjoy the abundance of organic, Fair Trade chocolates available, including truffles, bars, drops, powdered cocoa and even ice cream.  Look for them online, in neighborhood markets, or at specialty shoppes.

    Continue reading "10 Ways to Be a Green Valentine" »

    February 07, 2012

    Think Twice Before You Buy Hershey's Kisses for Your Valentine

    This Valentine's Day, before you cover your sweetheart with Hershey’s kisses, or toss a few of those treats into your kids’ lunch box, consider the alternative: organic, fair trade, bite-size bars made from cocoa produced by companies that care about people and the planet.

    Hersheyhaveaheart_small_0-300x186Why not Hershey’s? The company has been under fire for years from international organizations that monitor child welfare. Most of the world’s cocoa is produced in West Africa, where cocoa farmers typically live in poverty and where forced labor, especially among children, and human trafficking, are tragically common. Reports from concerned humanitarian groups describe how children often work long hours on cocoa farms performing hazardous work like using machetes, carrying heavy loads, and coming into close contact with toxic pesticides.

    Several non-profit groups organized a “Raise the Bar” campaign to ask Hershey to take meaningful steps to combat child, forced and trafficked labor in its supply chain, and an online petition drive generated over 100,000 letters to the company asking it to improve its cocoa sourcing practices.

    Happily, the company announced recently that it will commit to sourcing independently certified cocoa for its Bliss line by the end of 2012. However, Hershey’s produces many products that contain chocolate, including Almond Joy, Kit Kat, Whoppers Malted Milk Balls, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. What about responsibly sourcing ALL the cocoa it uses in all these products? Eighth grader Jasper Perry-Anderson has created a follow-up campaign on to ensure that the Hershey Company expands its commitment to certified cocoa to all its products in the future.

    Which gets us back to alternatives to Hershey’s Kisses for Valentine’s Day. Look for chocolates that are certified both fair trade and organic. Fair trade helps protect kids, and organic helps protect the environment. Here are some yummy options you should be able to find in your grocery store, at food co-ops, and at chains like Whole Foods that have made a commitment to carry more sustainably produced products.

    Dag-tsmoonDagoba – Ironically, Hershey owns this company, which was already organic and fair trade when it was acquired. Dagoba sources cacao, the primary ingredient used to make chocolate, from Latin America, South America and Madagascar. Their entire line of drinking chocolate, syrup, and cacao powder has been certifed Fair Trade by Transfair. You can buy a box of "bites" or choose full-fledged bars.

    Endangered speciesEndangered Species ORGANIC DARK CHOCOLATE CHIMP MINTS They're certified organic, vegan, gluten-free, kosher Non-GMO and the cacao is sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified™  ethically traded cacao farms ensuring fair trade, responsible labor practices and sustainable farming. Plus they taste good!

    Wei of Chocolate -  This organic and fair trade chocolate, also certified by the Rainforest Alliance, is infused with "energetic" flower essences that they claim lead to greater tranquility, peace and joy. They're beautifully wrapped; a box-ful would certainly enhance my peace and joy, at least as long as they lasted!

    Lake Champlain Chocolates makes some delicious organic chocolates - but they're NOT Fair Trade: Organic Chocolate Truffles from Lake Champlain Chocolates -  or organic chocolate squares in flavors that include cinnamon, sea salt and almonds, milk, and dark.

    Then there's Ghirardelli. It promotes some of its bars as "100% all natural," but offers no explanation of what that means. There's no mention of Fair Trade or organic on its website, either. What gives?

    If you prefer chocolates from these companies, please go to their websites and encourage them to adopt certified fair labor and organic practices.


    Fill Your Heart With Organic Chocolate

    Environmental In-Box: Seeds of Change Chocolate


    Later this year, look for Hershey’s Bliss® products made with 100 percent cocoa from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. Rainforest Alliance Certified farms have met comprehensive sustainability standards that protect the environment and ensure the safety and well-being of workers, their families and communities. Hershey’s Bliss® chocolates are available to U.S. consumers at more than 35,000 retail outlets. Meanwhile, you can read more about Hershey’s sustainability plans here.

    What Did I Miss?

    If you make an organic, Fair Trade chocolate we didn't mention here, please leave a comment with all the pertinent information. If you love an organic, Fair Trade chocolate we failed to notice, please let us know! Thanks.

    February 02, 2010

    Six Ways to Green Your Valentine's Day

    Valentine's Day heart Here at Big Green Purse, we love love. So naturally, Valentine's Day is one of our favorite days of the year.

    As it turns out, it also presents one of the best opportunities to shift your spending to greener goods. Of the billions of dollars spent on Valentine's Day gifts every year, more than a third are spent on flowers.  As beautiful as they may be, conventionally-grown cut flowers are usually doused with toxic pesticides that are damaging to people as well as the environment.


    • If you're planning to give a bouquet of classic red roses, order organically grown flowers to avoid those harmful chemicals.  Plenty of businesses offer organic roses as well as other flowers
    • Choose flowers and greens grown locally. 
    • Your gift will leave a smaller carbon footprint than a bouquet that was flown in from South America or another tropical clime.  Visit Local Harvest to locate the flower grower nearest to you.
    • Forage your own blooms.  Spend your money on a reusable vase rather than throwaway flowers, then fill it with holly branches, red twig dogwood, pine boughs, dried hydrangea blooms, cattails, or whatever else you can find in your yard. Garnish with a re-usable red ribbon.
    • Give a potted plant instead of cut flowers.  The live plant acts as a mini carbon sink, and will last longer longer than any cut bouquet. Focus on plants that are particularly good at purifying indoor air, like chinese evergreens, spider plants, and peace lilies. 
    • Make a basket.  Stock a garden basket with an assortment of flower seeds, a trowel, some gardening gloves, and maybe a new pair of clippers. In the spring, help your beloved sow the seeds, then enjoy the blooms all summer long.
    • Dish up some bulbs. Fill a shallow bowl with small pebbles; place five or six narcissus bulbs on top. The bulbs will begin to grow as soon as they're watered; in six weeks, they'll have sprouted beautiful foliage and fragrant blooms that keep Valentine's Day alive long past Feb. 14.

    Where's the chocolate, you ask?  Right here!

    (Image credit)

    February 08, 2009

    Fill Your Heart with Organic Chocolate

    Any day is a good day to eat chocolate as far as I'm concerned. But on no day is it so special as on Choc bar Valentine's Day, when heart-shaped boxes full of cocoa-based delicacies can keep people (well, me) happy pretty much all day.

    That's particularly true if the cocoa is produced organically. Cocoa powder is derived from cacao seeds that grow in pods on the cacao tree. The tree's botanical name, Theobroma cacao, means "food of the gods," nomenclature with which I wholeheartedly agree. Cocoa "beans" are only called that once they're removed from the tree. What does any of this have to do with the environment? The cacao tree grows in the rainforest. Ideally, cacao trees will be grown on small farms, in the shade, to keep rainforests intact and reduce pesticide use. 

    Even better is organic cocoa that is also produced according to Fair Trade principles, ensuring that farmers are paid a decent wage for their work and no child labor is involved. In countries like Cote d'Ivoire in West Africa, children are being used like slaves to produce cocoa, with profits going to fund the country's civil war.

    Online, at natural foods stores and food coops, and increasingly at local grocery stores, you can find organic, fair trade cocoa and chocolate. Here are some brands to look for:

    * Dagoba

    * Divine Milk Chocolate

    * Endangered Species Organic Chocolate

    * Equal Exchange

    * Green & Black's

    * Theo

    Alter Eco

    But which of these tastes best?

    I asked the moms over at Green Moms Carnival for their faves. Here's what they recommend:

    Jess Trevelyan, who blogs at The Green Phone Booth, raves, "I love Divine first and foremost for the flavor (both dark and milk).But also cause the HQ is here in DC so I can support a local business."

    Lynn Miller of, has her favorite, too. "Diane, I love Green & Black's and Divine. Divine is fair trade from Ghana and is based here in DC. Black's is often on sale at places like Giant (yay!).

    Anna over at, did some serious research on the subject. "I went to the NYC chocolate fair this year and reviewed many of the organic chocolates," she reports. "I preferred dark chocolate with about 70-85 percent cacao. What I liked about the show is that the chocolate was not all
    offered at your local health food shops or was not made into bars. See the bark one or toffee one. I especially liked the foodie chocolate where it was infused with an herb or food ingredient. Try rosemary and chocolate some time. It is amazing." See Anna's articles, including "Organic Chocolate Never Tasted So Good."

    Got an organic or fair trade chocolate you love? Let us know!

    Sending Flowers For Valentine's Day? Go Local, or Make Them Organic

    Red roses For Valentine’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries or other special occasions, giving flowers often seems like a gift from Mother Nature herself.

    But when flowers are doused in pesticides and transported long (i.e., energy-intensive) distances, their eco-appeal quickly evaporates. The health impact conventionally-grown flowers has makes them even less desirable.

    Consider this: Seventy percent of U.S. flowers are imported from Latin America, where growers in Columbia, Ecuador and other countries use pesticides that have long been banned in the U.S. A 2002 survey of 8,000 Colombian flower workers revealed exposure to 25 carcinogenic or highly toxic pesticides that are not used in the United States.

    Often, women flower growers suffer impaired vision, asthma, and miscarriage or give birth to babies marked by lower birth weights and higher blood pressure. Thirty-five out of 72 Ecuadoran children tested by the Harvard School of Public Health experienced organophosphate pesticides in the womb while their mothers grew flowers. These children later suffered both higher blood pressure and poorer spatial ability than kids who escaped prenatal exposures. Overall, according to a study by the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF), two-thirds of Colombian and Ecuadorian flower workers suffer work-related health problems ranging from impaired vision and neurological problems Some women give birth to stillborn infants, or see their children die within a month after birth.

    Meanwhile, the International Labor Organization estimates that 20 percent of flower workers in Ecuador are children, who are more vulnerable to chemical hazards than adults because their immune systems and vital organs are still immature. According to Environmental News Network, roses can contain as much as 50 times the amount of pesticides that are legally allowed on the food we eat. The U.S. requires imported flowers to be bug-free, but unlike edible fruits and vegetables they are not tested for chemical residues. So even if you’re not growing these flowers yourselves, you may still be bringing the chemicals used on them into your home.

    Fortunately, shoppers have a whole bouquet of alternatives to conventionally grown flowers and plants.

    Buy local – Check to find flower growers in your area, who can use less pesticides and less energy to get flowers to your door. Farmers markets also sell flowers, greens and plants that can make wonderful botanical gifts.

    Buy certified organic flowers. First, read this explanation from the International Labor Rights Forum to understand why it's important to choose flowers that have been sustainably certified.

    VFA_hdr_logo Veriflora requires organic farming practices, ecosystem protection, minimal energy use and packaging, and fair labor and community development practices.

    Organic Bouquet $49.95/dozen roses; 877-899-2468

    Diamond Organics organic flower sampler is actually a beautiful basket of organic fruit, almonds, and cookies in addition to a sprinkling of flowers. At $110, pricey - but precious. (888-ORGANIC).

    California Organic Flowers grows flowers in season; Anemones, Protea, Narcissus and Dutch iris are available now through March for $44.95; 530-891-6265.

    Storefronts: Whole Foods, food coops, natural food stores and other socially-responsible retailers are increasingly carrying organically grown flowers and plants. If you don’t see them when you shop, ask for them.

    Beware Florverde: Colombia's flower exporters trade association says it certifies its members for improving worker safety and welfare. Nevertheless, almost 40 percent of the toxic chemicals applied by Florverde farms in 2005 were listed as extremely or highly toxic by the World Health Organization. If you needd to buy flowers, choose those that are certified organic or sold under the Veriflora label.

    EcoCentric Mom
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