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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 2008 | Main | April 2008 »

    March 25, 2008

    Beat High Gas Prices: Save $20-$50 Every Month on Gasoline

    Gas_pump With gas prices approaching $4 a gallon, there's never been a better time to conserve fuel. The following tips will help you save from $20-$50 a month at the pump. Added bonus? They'll protect the environment, too, since every gallon of gas burned generates the carbon equivalent of a 20-pound bag of charcoal briquettes!

    1. Drive smart - Avoid quick starts and stops, use cruise control on the highway, and don't idle. (Using cruise control alone can improve fuel efficiency by as much as 14%!).

    2. Drive the speed limit - Remember - every 5 mph you drive above 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.10 per gallon for gas.

    3. Drive less - Traveling a mile or less? Walk, bicycle, use a scooter or moped. Have lots of errands to do? Combine trips. Researching, making conference calls, and writing? Telecommute, and do those jobs at home.

    4. Drive a more fuel-efficient car - Consider one of the new hybrids; at the very least, choose from among the EPA's "Fuel Economy Leaders" in the class vehicle you're considering.

    5. Keep your engine tuned up - Improve gas mileage by an average of 4.1 percent by maintaining your vehicle in top condition.

    6. Carpool - According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 32 million gallons of gasoline would be saved each day if every car carried just one more passenger on its daily commute.

    7. Use mass transit and "Ride Share" programs - Why pay for gasoline at all? (Search "ride share + your city" on the Internet to find options).

    8. Keep tires properly inflated - Improve gas mileage by around 3.3 percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. Replace worn tires with the same make and model as the originals.

    9. Buy the cheapest gas you can find - Buy gas in the morning, from wholesale shopper's clubs, and using gas-company rebate cards. Track neighborhood prices on the Internet.

    10. Support higher fuel-efficiency standards and the development of alternative fuels - Ultimately, our best hope for beating the gas crisis is to increase fuel efficiency while we transition to renewable and non-petroleum based fuels. Endorse efforts to boost average fuel efficiency to at least 40 mpg. Support programs that promote research and development of alternatives to transportation systems based on oil.

    For more ways you can save gas and money, see Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World.

    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.

    Nordstrom Bags It

    Nordstrom, the upscale department store chain, is getting on the "green" bag bandwagon. The company recently announced that, starting in April, it will begin transitioning to shopping bags, gift boxes and tissue paper that are 100% recyclable. It's not clear if those bags will be made from recycled paper or some other material, though during the holiday season, the company will introduce new gift boxes made of 100 percent recycled paper stock that is 30 percent post-consumer waste.

    The company is alo introducing a reusable shopping tote. The foldable, metallic brushed linen bag will feature a cityscape design representing every city where a Nordstrom store can be found. The bag comes in a little case that serves as the bottom of the bag when it is unfolded. Big enough to fit two shoe boxes, the bag will retail for  $21.95. Look for it first in the Northwest, Northern California, and Southern California.

    Let's hope Nordstrom's next step is to sell clothing made from recycled, hemp and organic cotton fibers.

    March 13, 2008

    New EPA Clean Air Standards Show Why Consumer Action is so Critical

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - the federal guardian of clean air - has issued new standards to control smog that scientists and environmental organizations are criticizing for not going far enough. EPA's action offers a stark reminder that, in the absence of meaningful regulations, consumer action is critical if we're going to reduce air pollution now and in the future.

    According to the New York Times, 345 counties currently violate the new standards EPA has set to reduce smog and clean up the air. Bringing those counties into compliance would prevent 900 to 1,100 Asthma premature deaths a year and result in 5,600 fewer hospital or emergency room visits. Even with these benefits, groups like the Association of Clean Air Agencies worry that the standards are still too low.

    The timetable for meeting the smog standards could be decades, reports the Times, depending on the severity of the problem in each city. Industries like the electric utility industry are expected to resist  reducing the pollution from power plants to meet EPA's clean air directives. In tones that harken back to the debate around global warming, the Edison Electric Institute, a utility trade association, is challenging the scientifically-accepted cause-and-effect relationship between smog and human health -- even though millions of people already suffer increased asthma, heart attacks, and other ailments from polluted air.

    While consumers should contact their member of Congress to support stricter standards, they shouldn't wait for more government action to take steps to protect their air. Smog results directly from burning fossil fuels. Consumers can help improve the air in their cities and towns by reducing the amount of energy they use. If every household installed just one compact fluorescent light bulb, for example, it would have the equivalent benefit of taking 800,000 cars off the road.

    Consumers can also use programmable thermostatsand energy efficient appliances, take mass transit or carpool, and buy electricity generated by windpower or biomass.

    March 10, 2008

    Drinking Water Contaminated by Pharmaceuticals; Bottled Water Not the Answer

    "A vast array of pharmaceuticals -including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones - have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans," an Associated Press investigation shows. Water in 24 metropolitan areas, including Detroit, Louisville, southern California and Northern New Jersey is particularly at risk.

    The report says the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are "tiny." But it also points out that "the presence of so many prescription drugs - and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen - in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health." Those consequences could include reproductive irregularities, the early onset of puberty, and increasing resistance to antibiotics.

    The drugs get into our water in several ways. Since our bodies don't absorb a hundred percent of the drugs we take, we naturally excrete the excess when we urinate. Many Americans flush unused prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs down the toilet. Wastewater treatment plants do a poor job of capturing these chemicals before the water is either sent back out to its original source or cycled back into a region's water supply.

    The wildlife impact of these pharmaceuticals - which also include narcotics, birth control drugs, and antidepressants  - is reported in Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World. Studies by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Environmental Protection Agency, notes the book, have found fish, frogs, and other aquatic animals sporting both male and female sex organs, freaks of nature attributed primarily to the rising drug levels being measured in rivers, lakes and streams.

    Though the AP report and other studies are likely to fuel the craze for bottled water, they shouldn't. Much bottled water is actually filled with tap water and is therefore likely to be just as drug-addled.

    Instead, consumers should consider installing filters that use activated carbon and ozone, substances that are used in Europe to remove drugs from drinking water.

    Meanwhile, consumers faced with disposing of leftover drugs should return them to the pharmacy for proper disposal. Barring this, the federal government recommends mixing them with old coffee grounds, cat litter or other trash that makes them difficult to consume before putting them in a nondescript, sealed container and throwing them in the trash. Do not flush them down the toilet.

    It is worth noting that, despite the AP report, pharmaceuticals have been showing up in drinking water for at least 20 years. It is time to upgrade municipal water systems to protect people from the onslaught of chemicals they may be unwittingly ingesting every day. It is also imperative to launch a national "give back" campaign to get citizens to return unused drugs to their point of purchase. Alternatively, cities could mount a "pharmaceutical pick-up" the way many of them now sponsor an annual hazardous waste pick-up.

    Municipalities can learn from what environmental organizations are already doing. Last Earth Day (April 21, 2007), the Superior Watershed Partnership in northern Michigan collected over one ton of unwanted pharmaceuticals in just three hours.

    March 09, 2008

    Big Green Purse Partners with The Daily Green

    Tdg1com_logo_3 Big Green Purse and The Daily Green are partnering up to give consumers even more of what they've come to expect from both sites: timely, useful, easy-to-follow advice for green living and shopping. Deborah_barrow2_2 Meet Deborah Barrow, the visionary behind The Daily Green and a long-time advocate for a cleaner, greener environment.

    * What inspired you to launch The Daily Green?

    My garden.  Living in the magical Hudson River Valley, which has inspired environmentalists since the days of the Hudson River School painters.  Working as a volunteer at a small historic landscape preservation organization and seeing close-up what suburban sprawl was doing to our communities and our eco-systems.

    *  What distinguishes The Daily Green from the hundreds of other green websites available to the public? 

    Well for one thing, TDG is updated daily with news stories on all the enviro news and weather from around the globe.  Secondly, our feature and service content covers the whole realm of what it means to “go green”  from home to food to lifestyle to politics, from cars to fashion; anything you need to know to go green, we've got it for you.  And thirdly, The Daily Green is geared to the new green consumer as well as the deep green activist whom most green websites tend to service.  These newly green people are starting at step one; they need a lot of help!

    *  Some green websites promote e-commerce. Others are very politically oriented. What do you hope to accomplish with The Daily Green? 

    We hope to make it easy for anyone to learn new ways every day to go green.  We also hope to bring to the greatest number of people possible the single most important element in going green:  being aware of the climate and health issues in the news and voting and working for candidates who have the best  plans to address them. Our Green Your Vote 08 coverage is created to do just that.

    *  The Daily Green is backed by the Hearst corporation, which also publishes magazines like Country Living and O, Oprah's magazine. How does your affiliation with Hearst help (or hurt) your mission?

    Having the backing of a major media company like Hearst Magazine has been instrumental in TheDailyGreen’s rapid growth in traffic, plus its cred and acceptance in the media.  We call it a mash-up between mainstream media and a grass-roots, blog based green site invented on a kitchen table.  It’s magic.

    *  What's the most popular feature on The Daily Green?

    Our daily news channel gets the most traffic, with the New Green Cuisine food channel close behind.  Home and Weird Weather are tied for third.  The 25 bloggers blogging on everything from raising organic children to global warming gardening to toxin-free cleaning all do very well, too.

    *  Are your visitors mostly women, men, or a combination?

    It’s a true combination.  Not easy to achieve, but here we are.

    * You seem to have done a particularly good job building relationships with eco-bloggers and news sources that can enrich your site. How do you create such a diverse network, yet still ensure that The Daily Green maintains its brand identity? 

    Thank you, Diane, for noticing! Well, we carefully vet bloggers and other sources for voice.  We are puckish not preachy in our approach, and we think that’s been key to our success.  We also take a slightly fun-loving and humorous approach whenever appropriate.  So it’s through that lens that we look at potential bloggers, and somehow, we’ve found some wonderful ones with new ones on the way. 

    * Given how much time you must spend managing the site, do you have any time to write for yourself? 

    No.  Ha ha.  But really, here’s the thing.  This isn’t a job: it’s a Second Act avocation for me. I’ve had my big-time media career with the secretaries and the offices and the Lear Jet travel.  I went from being a secretary to being a Group President at a major magazine company (with many stops along the way), okay, so that particular neurosis is checked off the list.  This time, I’m doing this for me.  And to give back a little.  Also, passing the Big Five-O somehow has unleashed a creative wellspring that I can’t quite believe or understand, but I’m truly enjoying it from the inside out.  So time for myself?  This year’s resolution is to get in shape eating the New Green Cuisine from the site, get a weekly massage, and then, jumping right back to morphing TheDailyGreen into a Big, Big Deal.

    • What exciting plans do you have for The Daily Green in 2008?

    More how-to for people battling new economic pressures, new climate challenges:  Water tips for drought ridden home owners.  How to green your house to sell it in a bad real estate market.  The global warming guide to reading your house insurance policy.  Really pushing out our food and recipes to new levels.  And keeping the site new and fresh every single day.  The goal is:  every time you come to TDG, even if you come 2-3X a day, there’s something new and wonderful there for you, no matter where you are on our How Green Do You Want to Be “green-o-meter”!

    March 08, 2008

    Sustainable, or a Sham? SMaRT Standards Can Help You Figure it Out

    Everyone seems to be grappling with what’s “sustainable” and what’s a sham.

    The Federal Trade Commission held hearings in January to examine green marketing claims, and has slated another set of hearings for April to look at green packaging.

    Dora Meanwhile, the Senate has passed a consumer-safety bill that would reduce the presence of toxic materials (like lead and phthalates) in toys. The measure would also increase the staff and budget of the Consumer Product Safety Commission so the government could better track how manufacturers are really producing the toys sold in the U.S. (the House has already passed a weaker version of this proposal that is favored by the Bush Administration and manufacturers) and determine whether claims of sustainability or "eco" friendly are accurate.

    Green marketing maven Jacquelyn A. Ottman asks,  What is “sustainable?”

    “Those in the know,” she says,  “know that sustainable development relates to the triumvirate of “environment,” “economy,” and “society”? Can a package meet all three of these criteria? Not!”

    Ottman predicts “lots of confusion over claims such as “renewable,” “biodegradable” “compostable” and “natural.” Packages made with a blend of traditional and natural or renewable ingredients, e.g., cornstarch, can’t always be counted on to compost either in backyard or even professionally-managed municipal facilities.”

    Hunt_t230_2 Mary Hunt, an expert on marketing to women who has thrown her clout behind a campaign to promote sustainable standards, is working to clear away the confusion by promoting the SMaRT standards developed by the Institute for Market Transformation to Sustainability (MTS).

    As she points out at Sustainable Life Media,  “It wasn’t a slam-dunk decision to back SmaRT,” noting that working in business for ten years “left me leery of any standard or claim. I wasn’t about to push a standard onto my peers that didn’t cover all the things that we care about, nor would fall short in the manufacturing or investment worlds. The standard had to serve many groups - well.”

    So, says Mary, “I started at square one and asked Mike (Italiano, of MTS) to list all the criteria that SMaRT addresses and why. He came back with 24 criteria broken into three sections, Pollution Reduction Minimums, Reporting and Labeling requirements, and Certification Process. With that list I then compared the top dozen standards that affected home furnishings on an Excel spreadsheet. I focused on furnishings because of a client I was advising and because the majority of our CO2 problems are tied to the building/furnishing world. Furnishings are also where women buyers meet sellers. Their decisions will make a difference.

    "The Excel chart gave me the answers I needed at a glance. It told me:
    • Which standards supplied a workable matrix for comparison of climate risk factors?

    Which standards were really “standards” created via ANSI guidelines and which were process templates created to sell consulting services?

    Which standards used ISO LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) practices and which ones used LCA “thinking.” ISO LCA requires evaluation of 12 environmental impacts over product’s entire lifecycle and pollution reductions from a LCA baseline. I didn’t want just climate change numbers, I wanted to see all water, Earth, and air pollution accounted for.

    Which ones looked at the triple bottom line of environment, economics and social equity? As a woman representing women, the environment and social equity is a deal breaker. I wanted a standard that would support the issues we care about. If it didn’t, women consumers wouldn’t/shouldn’t champion it. As someone working with the social media market, the standard had to be blogger proof - or as we say now - greenwash-proof.

    Which standards are third-party audited globally? I walked factory floors for ten years. If anyone knows how manufacturing will cut corners when no one is watching, it’s me.”

    Mary also examined standards from a common sense point of view.

    “If the clock on climate change is ticking,” she asked, “what are the issues that would hold back adoption?”

    Here are the sensible questions she came up with:
    Is it scalable? How fast can it be replicated? How accessible is it to everyone?
    Is the cost reasonable? Becoming certified is painful for manufacturer in both time and money.
    Is it all-or-nothing, or can manufacturers ease into compliance? Having multiple steps solves that problem.
    Which had the highest level of sustainability? That’s where industry always ends up.

    Smart_4 In total, Mary compared the different standards across all 24 criteria points - and SMaRT came out on top.

    She hasn't been alone in thinking so. SMaRT has been adopted by major manufacturers like Forbo flooring; Wall Street has shown an interest; and municipalities struggling to get green and avoid "green washing" are getting on the bandwagon, too. Our new book, Big Green Purse, also encourages consumers to "get SMaRT" when shopping for green products and services.

    "The faster we put sustainable standards such as SMaRT in place, the faster we give consumers something to cheer," says Mary.

    And "when consumers cheer and buy certified sustainable products, the world wins."

    March 06, 2008

    Big Green Purse Book Goes on Sale!

    Book_icon Our new book, Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World, rolled off the presses this week and women across the country have been writing to say, "Hooray!"

    Though dozens of "green living" books crowd store bookshelves, Big Green Purse is the only one that highlights the power of the purse to protect the environment. The book's message is loud and clear: Women spend eighty-five cents of every consumer dollar. When we make our money matter -- either by buying less or by buying green -- we protect the planet and ourselves.

    The book:

    * targets key commodities (like coffee, cosmetics, clothing and cleansers) where your dollars can have the most impact

    * provides standards-based guidelines and "thumbs up/thumbs down" ratings to help you shift your spending to eco-friendly products, companies and services

    * highlights "eco-cheap" strategies to help you save money but still live and shop green

    * reveals phony "greenwashing" marketing techniques you'll want to avoid

    * suggests simple and quick environmental lifestyle changes you can make regardless of how much money you spend.

    Mary Hunt, sustainable marketing maven, calls Big Green Purse "the most important book your book club will read this year...women like listening to Diane, she knows how women work...Big Green Purse brilliantly blends the two (the scientific and the pragmatic), providing the HOW TO's that you don't see anywhere else with stories that burn a visual into your brain...Like many "tip books" this one is packed, but it comes with context and real life experiences - that's the motivating difference for me... Big Green Purse is a "must read, save, refer to" book that will get us through the next critical decision- making years."

    That totally sums it up!

    Order your copy here. And while you're at it, get one for your sister or best friend, too. Feel free to send me your questions, comments and review!

    March 02, 2008

    Now is the Time for "Nau"

    When you create a company literally from the ground up, you have the opportunity to “make it right,” especially when it comes to environmental sustainability.

    070604_nau_ian_01_2 Nau, a new clothing line that debuted in February, 2007, strives to make it right in every aspect of its operation, from the creation of sustainable fabrics to the way shoppers get their products home.

    How does it all work? Nau's philosophy revolves around three criteria: beauty, performance and sustainability. Though many designers focus on one or two of these (usually, beauty and performance), Nau believes it is the first apparel manufacturer to take all three into account when it is creating its classic lines: sweaters, tops, skirts, dresses, vests, pants, jackets and various accessories for women and men.

    Working intimately with its partner mills, Nau has created the vast majority of the fabrics it uses in its collections, innovating with materials like corn-based PLA and recycled polyester. Their elegant but limited color palette minimizes the impact of dyes laden with toxic chemicals. Yes, they manufacture in Asia (as well as Canada), because producing their products close to the fabric source saves energy on transportation. No, they don’t copyright their fabrics, to encourage other manufacturers to use them if they wish.

    As they boast on their website: “Sustainability touches all aspects of our products, from their subtle, timeless color choices to the ease with which they can be cared for to the extensive list of things they don’t have in them.”

    070604_nau_ian_01_2  I met Ian Yolles, Nau’s VP for Brand Communications, at the 2007 Good and Green marketing conference in Chicago, where he was dressed in a very chic long-sleeved black shirt made from a corn-based polymer called PLA. I was so impressed with Nau's philosophy, I went online and ordered several items to see if the product lived up to the plan. My Nau merino wool sweater has since become the centerpiece of my winter wardrobe.

    Ian and I got together again over the phone recently to discuss sustainability and the clothing industry. Here’s a snapshot of that conversation.

    What does the word “Nau” mean, and why did you choose it for the name of your company?

    We wanted a name that would resonate with our customers. The word nau (pronounced “now”) is a Polynesian word of welcome and inclusivity, and is a key concept in the Maori language of New Zealand. The word is at the heart of the Maori welcome, which translates to “Welcome! Come in!” We seek to live up to our name by building and supporting inclusive communities of thoughtful, dedicated individuals.

    How would you describe Nau’s couture?

    108_nau_pr_sharp_lq_01 We offer stylish, “classic” designs that are intended to be fashionable for years, not just one quick season. Five and even ten years from now, you’ll still want to wear Nau’s sophisticated-looking shirts, sweaters, and pants (photo credit, right: Daniel Sharp).

    It’s easy for a company to say it’s sustainable. How does Nau practice what it preaches?

    We create new fabrics that reduce the environmental impact creating clothing can have. We manufacture close to the source where our fabrics are made, which reduces energy in transporting fabrics. We rely on third-party laboratory and testing facilities
    to verify that our fabrics contain no harmful chemicals from our restricted substances list. We build small stores so we don’t have to stock a lot of inventory, and encourage shoppers to have their choices shipped to them – at a 10% discount – so we don’t have to build bigger stores that use more energy and other resources. We also offset all carbon emissions from shipping and business travel, and purchase renewable energy credits for our stores and headquarters.

    Your clothes are extremely chic! But they may also be more expensive than many women think they can afford.

    Our price points are on par with our direct competitors, like The North Face or Patagonia. And we offer several incentives that reduce the cost: a store shopper gets a 10% discount if she opts to have a product shipped to her, rather than take it home on the spot. People can shop our sales. Regardless of what someone buys, the company donates 5% of the purchase price to a charity the shopper chooses. Plus, our clothes are built to last. Durability is a huge part of the equation. Unlike “fast fashions,” that are cheap and quickly disposable, Nau clothes will endure. So you may pay more for individual items, but potentially you’re buying fewer clothes over the long haul. In fact, our clothing is designed to be functional for a wide variety of activities across multiple settings, reducing the number of different items you need in your wardrobe. 

    This idea of buying clothes to last is unusual, given today’s trends toward shorter and shorter fashion seasons.

    If people are serious about sustainability, they need to rethink their approach to what they buy. Nau gives consumers the opportunity to opt for quality, and when they do, they protect the environment, too.

    Thumb_green_5  Thumbs up, Nau.

    NOTE: Nau's spring line has just become available, but you can still get great bargains on various winter designs. And if what you order doesn't fit, just pop it back in the bag it came from for an easy return.

    EcoCentric Mom
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