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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.
  • « January 2008 | Main | March 2008 »

    February 27, 2008

    General Motors Shows Its True Colors - And They're Not Green

    Gm_logo General Motors’ Vice President Bob Lutz created a firestorm earlier this week when it was reported that he told reporters he thought climate change was a “crock of s**t”.

    Over at Grist, David Roberts noted,  “GM has been, and continues to be, a strongly reactionary force in American energy politics, thwarting progress at every juncture... the company, with Lutz's vocal backing, has been a long-time opponent of any boost in U.S. fuel efficiency standards. Even now, as the Minnesota legislature considers signing on to California's tailpipe standards, GM is working behind the scenes to stop them. Arizona has provisionally decided to adopt the standards, and will finalize them on March 3, but GM is leading a last-ditch, behind-closed-doors effort to stop it.”

    Mary Hunt chimed in at In Women We Trust, asking, “Why would I support a company with such an idiot at the top of it? Especially when he goes on to say "I'm motivated more by the desire to replace imported oil than by the CO2..." Wait a minute, isn't this the same company that killed the electric car?”

    Lutz tried to douse the fires on his blog, claiming, “My opinion doesn’t matter.” He urged critics to look at what the company is doing on the ground.

    “General Motors is dedicated to the removal of cars and trucks from the environmental equation, period. And, believe it or don’t: So am I! It’s the right thing to do, for us, for you and, yes, for the planet. My goal is to take the automotive industry out of the debate entirely. GM is working on just that – and we’re going to keep working on it — via E85, hybrids, hydrogen and fuel cells, and the electrification of the automobile.”

    That may be their goal, but I attended several presentations by GM executives at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last month, and they gave far more lip service to their big gas guzzlers – Hummers, Cadillacs, light trucks and SUVs – than they gave to true energy-saving cars. And even the vehicles they trumpeted as energy-saving, like the 24/32 mpg Malibu hybrid, don’t compare to the fuel efficiency of the 50-mpg Toyota Prius.

    In light of today’s news that gas prices could hit budget-busting $4 a gallon by spring,  and increasing research that the polar ice caps are melting beyond repair, General Motors should not only embrace climate change as a real motivating force for industrial innovation, but do everything possible to achieve vehicle fuel-efficiency gains that actually save Americans money and generate far less CO2.

    And that’s not a crock of “s**t”.

    Thumb_brownbmp Thumbs down, GM.

    February 25, 2008

    None of the Candidates is Talking About Environmental Health

    Who would do a better job protecting the environment as president? Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or John McCain?

    Thumb_green Hillary_smile_2 A glance at the records the three senators have racked up over the last three years makes it pretty clear that either of the Democrats would be a greater advocate for the planet than the Republican. The League of Conservation Voters releases a voting scorecard that rates all members of the House and Senate in every Congressional session. In the109th Congress (2005-2006), Obama_2 Barack Obama voted to protect the environment 96% of the time; Hillary Clinton did so 89% of the time. So far in the 110th Congress, Obama has supported the environment 67% of the time, while Hillary has a 73% favorable rating (both of the candidates missed several votes, presumably while they were out campaigning, which counts against them in the tally).

    Thumb_brownbmp Mccain Meanwhile, Senator John McCain racked up a mere 41% positive approval rating in the 109th Congress; so far, in the 110th, he's got zero. That's right: in 2007 on no issue did he vote to protect the environment, according to the LCV scorecard. So the choice between the candidates -- or at least between the parties the candidates represent -- is very clear.

    But what happens when you look specifically at the issues? Among all candidates, the entire debate right now essentially revolves around their positions on energy policy, and specifically on global warming. (You can read a quick summary of each candidate's positions over at New American Village, along with links to each of the candidates' web sites.)

    While our energy future is clearly a priority, it's startling that none of the candidates' environmental proposals consider citizens' exposure to toxic substances, water pollution, or air pollution - the issues that connect human health and the environment. Where do any of the candidates stand on reauthorizing Superfund legislation to clean up toxic waste sites? Closing loopholes in the Clean Air and Clean Water Act to decrease threats to our health as well as that of wildlife? Quelling the rise in asthma rates, especially among kids? Initiating research to understand what appear to be the increasing links between environmental health and breast cancer, autism, and learning disabilities?

    These issues aren't on any candidate's agenda - but they should be, especially given the importance of the women's vote in the 2008 election. Women and children are disproportionately impacted by environmental degradation (e.g., women suffer more heart attacks than men in cities with poor air quality). The candidate who breaks away from the party line on energy to address the links between pollution and human health could muster a real advantage as the race tightens and voters look for ways to distinguish among their choices.

    February 20, 2008

    EcoMoms Are Everywhere!

    Moms have always been the most "eco" people on the planet. Now, they're forming networks to help support each other's efforts to "go green" in ways that are actually bring more women into the environmental movement.

    Ecomom_2  A recent story in the New York Times focused on the work the EcoMom Alliance is doing to build a membership base of mothers who are looking, not for the answers to "why" as much as the answers to "how"? Through their workshops, houseparties and web outreach, they've helped educate 9,000 moms about ways they can reduce the size of their environmental footprint and help protect themselves and their kids from environmental threats.

    "EcoMommy Blogs" have been making a similar contribution for years. Some of my favorites are listed in my "Purse Strings" blogroll. They include Nature Moms, Moms Go Green, EnviroMom, Mindful Momma, and Healthy Child.

    I've always said, women are the CEOs - chief environmental officers - of their households. This is true in spades for moms, whose green purchasing decisions now have the potential to accelerate the transition to a green economy - and safer planet - like never before. It's exciting to see moms coming together to be green at a time when their involvement in and enthusiasm for the environment couldn't be more valuable.

    February 14, 2008

    Brilliant Jewelry

    If you're dashing out at the last minute to buy jewelry for your special someone, take a moment to locate one of the 28 retailers who have joined the "No Dirty Gold" campaign and pledged to source their gold, silver, and diamonds from environmentally-responsible sources. They include Tiffany, Piaget, Whitehall, Wal-Mart, JC Penney, and Sterling and Kay.

    If you want to shop online (you can always put a picture in a card!), consider:

    RecyclingringsGreenKarat sells rings, necklaces, earrings, pendants and custom jewelry made from recycled gold. The company also lets you recycled unused or broken gold jewelry, attributing the value of the metal to a new GreenKarat purchase.

    Engagement_ringEarthwise Jewelry uses gold and platinum processed from reclaimed sources to make wedding and commitment bands, pendants, and rings. The collection also features colored gemstones mined and cut with a concern for both environmental issues as well as fair-labor standards.

    Wedding_bandBrilliant Earth jewelry features Canadian-mined diamonds in recycled gold bands, as well as other beautiful settings

    Eco-Artware offers all kinds of baubles, including cufflinks, made from such recycled materials as typewriter keys and vintage watch parts.

    Gwen_davisGwen Davis' Verde collection, fashioned from recycled and organic materials like bamboo, vintage beads, and antique Swarovski crystals. Relying on a concept called “elemental design,” Davis uses fire to etch unusual designs into her bracelets, rings, necklaces and earrings, then polishes them with beeswax.

    Smart_glass_4 Smart Glass features one-of-a-kind earrings, bracelets and necklaces made from recycled bottle glass. (I met the artist, Kathleen Platte, at the Sundance Film Festival and now am the proud owner of two beautiful bangle bracelets made from recycled blue and gold glass).

    Fair_trade_earringsLucina’s Crema saucer drop earrings are made from cream-colored tagua nuts harvested in Ecuador and hand-forged Fair Trade silver from Bali.

    Arctic Sparkle crafts elegant pendants from Fair Trade, recycled silver and gold.

    For more information on the eco-impact of gold mining, see No Dirty Gold and read Golden Rules: Making the Case for More Responsible Mining. To learn about the role diamonds play in funding wars, see Global Witness.

    February 10, 2008

    Do Roses Stink?

    Esperanceroses 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 Colombia, 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 they'd been exposed 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 Ecuadorian 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, including 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 free of pests, but unlike edible fruits and vegetables, flowers undergo no testing for chemical residues. So even if you’re not growing 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 www.localharvest.org to find flower growers in your area who minimize pesticides and use 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. Some options to look for:

    Veriflora – Veriflora requires flower growers to practice organic farming, protect their ecosystem, minimize energy use and packaging, and fobserve air labor and community development practices.

    Deliverybox Organic Bouquet sells a dozen roses for $49.95; order by phone at 877-899-2468.

    Manic Organics Flowers also sells organically grown roses, for $79.95/dozen; 678-377-8258.

    Diamond Organics offers an organic flower sampler of 16-18 stems for $59, or a tropical flower bouquet of 8 stems for $49 (in season); 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. 

    The Sun Valley Group sells lillies, tulips, hyacinths and freesias, available wholesale or from a limited number of local retailers; 800-747-0396.

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

    Beware Florverde:  This trade association for Colombian flower exporters claims it certifies its members who improve worker safety and welfare. Yet 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're going to buy flowers, stick to those that carry the organic or Veriflora label.Top_veriflora

    February 09, 2008

    Finding the Right Fuel-Efficient Car

    After all the hype generated at the North American International Auto
    Show
    and the shows that have started touring the country, it can be hard to get the straight scoop on the best "green" car to buy.

    I asked Joanne Helperin, Senior Features Editor at the expert
    car site Edmunds.com, if she had any advice for women who value
    fuel-efficiency in their vehicles. Here's her reply:

    "One of the best ways to impact the environment positively is to buy a
    fuel-efficient car. Fortunately, cars are offering greater fuel
    efficiency than ever before, and the outlook for the future is even more
    promising.

    Chevy_volt_2 "In 2008, expect to see more hybrids from a wider variety of carmakers, as well as a smattering of new "clean diesels" from Mercedes, BMW and Volkswagen. By the end of 2010, the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt (left) is expected to shake up the automotive industry."

    Joanne says you can find an abundance of helpful advice on the Edmunds.com's Green Car Guide, Women and Family Car Guide and The Driving Woman blog. Meanwhile, here's a short course on finding the fuel-efficient car that's right for you, courtesy of www.edmunds.com.

    (c) Edmunds Inc.  All rights reserved.  Reprinted with permission from
    www.edmunds.com.

    February 05, 2008

    Oman Could Set an Example for the World

    The Environment Society of Oman faces some real challenges. It wants to educate people in this beautiful Arabian Gulf country about the need to protect the environment, but very few people are Oman_mountains interested in the message. It wants to encourage Omani consumers to use their marketplace clout to purchase products that have the least environmental impact, but very few products are available to buy. It wants to promote basic recycling – of plastic, paper, glass, and metal – but even if people participate, the amount of material they’d generate is almost too small to make the effort financially worthwhile. In short, it wants to create a viable environmental movement among citizens and companies alike. The question is, how?

    I attempted some answers -- as the keynote speaker at the Diane_3_3 Society’s recent conference, “Environmental Challenge Oman 2008,” in Muscat, the capital city. The conference drew almost a hundred representatives from the ruling royal family, government, industry, academia, and non-governmental organizations.

    The situation is pressing and time feels like it’s running out. Oman, a clean and peaceful nation that hugs the southeastern tip of the Arabian peninsula, is a naturalist’s dream. Its extraordinary coastline stretches over 1,700 kms, Oman_map from the Gulf of Oman and the petroleum-important Straits of Hormuz in the North to the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean in the South. Flamingoes, sea turtles, spectacular coral reefs and hundreds of species of fish inhabit its waters. Stunning mountains 6,000 feet tall rim desert canyons and oases brimming with dozens of varieties of palm trees. Bedouin tribes still ride camels in the desert and weave rugs out of the hair sheared from the goats they also raise for their milk and meat. The capital city of Muscat Muscat (below) hosts a traditional souk filled with frankincense, silver and gold jewelry, and exotic fabrics even while modern business is carried on in the surrounding office buildings and cafes.

    But because Oman also has modest oil resources (the country could run out of oil in as little as 20 years, according to some estimates) land development is accelerating at a worrisome pace as businesses cultivate alternative industries, including "eco" tourism. Two major beach-front developments are underway, and more could follow. Citizens worry about gobbling up the coastline and destroying habitat for the wildlife that dwell there.

    Hh_tania_al_said In opening the conference, Her Highness Sayyida Tania Al Said (above, holding microphone), who co-founded the Environment Society of Oman, expressed her hope that more Omanis would gain an appreciation for their unique environment. It’s not just about recycling or saving energy, she noted, though both activities are extremely important to Oman. It’s also about the life and death consequences of our environmental behavior. Her Highness Tania Al Said reminded the audience about the devastation caused by 2007’s category 5 Cyclone Gonu. Gonu was the most powerful cyclone (another word for “hurricane” that’s more common in the Middle East) the country has experienced in over 60 years, with 40-foot waves destroying buildings and roads, uprooting trees, and in some cases, ending people’s lives. As with hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the U.S., many believe there’s a direct correlation between Gonu and human-induced climate change.

    Conference attendees discussed ways to educate more children about the environment while Dsc_0034 encouraging their parents to begin recycling, using reusable cloth bags instead of plastic, and installing compact fluorescent light bulbs. I encouraged participants to visit www.myfootprint.org to calculate the "footprint" they leave on the planet. But clearly, as in any country, opportunites to do more abound. There's little mass transit in the cities, no official recycling, and minimal solar energy technology - even though the country basks in over 300 days of sunlight a year.

    People were too polite at the conference to suggest that His Highness Sultan Qaboos, who seems genuinely beloved by his people even after a reign that has lasted 35 years, issue a few royal edicts that would require people to trash less and conserve more. But in a nation that reveres the monarchy in general and its ruler in particular, a decree that citizens must replace plastic with cloth or install solar collectors on their very flat and exposed roofs seems like one of the most direct ways to jumpstart the burgeoning environmental movement in Oman. The United Nations has already declared Oman to be one of the cleanest and most peaceful countries in the world. Would that it would become one of the most environmentally progressive as well.

    EcoCentric Mom
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