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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.
  • « September 2008 | Main | November 2008 »

    October 26, 2008

    After 40 Years, Protecting the Environment Becomes "Overnight Sensation"

    I celebrated the very first Earth Day as a high school senior in 1970. As students across the U.S. buried polluting automobiles, decried oil spills that were fouling pristine beaches, and protested nuclear power plants, I thought it would be only a matter of months before Americans would come to their senses and adopt an ethic focused on protecting both people and the planet.

    Instead, it's taken almost 40 years for citizens, companies, and elected officials to consider environmental destruction seriously. The delay has cost us all. The climate has changed, with deadly consequences worldwide. Risks to human health from environmental pollutants are growing, threatening children and adults alike. Plants and animals are approaching extinction levels at alarming rates, giving rise to concerns about the collapse of the global food chain and loss of the creatures that add a rich dimension to our lives.   

    Scientists intone that we have only ten years to "turn things around."  A grim forecast? Yes.  And yet, after all these years, I have hope. While many government leaders still refuse to acknowledge the changes that can save us and the planet, citizens and entrepreneurs have embraced the challenges at full throttle. Four decades after the first Earth Day, tens of thousands of blogs worldwide are elevating the issues and offering solutions. Thousands of entrpreneurs are developing products and technologies to save energy, protect air and water, and conserve wilderness and wildlife. Students have once again made "green" the mantra for the world they want to live in - and are willing to work for. If this were Hollywood, the critics would be applauding like mad and labeling environmentalism an "overnight sensation."

    The Green Moms Carnival is celebrating gratitude throughout the month of November. I am grateful for the newfound momentum that is sweeping the planet and may very well save it.

    Thank you.   Hands earth

    October 19, 2008

    As Communities Ban Leaf Blowers, Homeowners Save Money by Raking

    Citizens in my town of Takoma Park, MD are asking the city council to ban gas-powered leaf blowers because they are so noisy and generate so much air pollution. If the council agrees, our community will join many others around the U.S. that believe it is cleaner and healthier to rake leaves rather than blow them into bags or down to the street for pick-up.

    Leaf blower Why are gas leaf blowers so offensive?

    * They pollute the air. A single gas-powered leaf blower can emit as much pollution in a year as 80 cars.

    * They're noisy.  A normal decibel level, considered acceptable in residential areas, is about 60 decibels (60dB). Every increase in decibels means noise that is 10 times louder. Leaf-blowers usually generate about 70-75 dB. According to the U.S. EPA this level of noise actually degrades quality of life by interfering with communication and sleep, leads to reduced accuracy of work and increased levels of aggravation, which can linger hours after exposure.

    *  They worsen allergies and asthma and irritate the lungs. Because they operate at such high velocities, leaf blowers stir up the mold, allergens, and dust particles that otherwise have been tamped down with rain and decomposition.

    *  They waste gas. Rakes and even electric-lawn blowers offer a petroleum-free alternative.

    If you need a new rake, choose one that's at least 24 inches across for maximum efficiency, with tines made from either metal or plastic (wood or bamboo tines tend to break or rot). Here are more tips on buying a great rake. Shop at any local hardware store, garden supply center or big box store like Target, Lowe's, Home Depot, or Wal-Mart.

    Leaf sweeper You can also try a leaf sweeper. It swoops up leaves into a handy collection bag as you roll it over your lawn or driveway.

    If you opt for a leaf blower, make it electric. Notes Lowe's:

    Electric leaf blowers are lighter, quieter and vibrate less than gas units. An electric motor drives the fan, so there's no need to mix fuel or refill. Smaller and medium-sized yards are especially good candidates for electric blowers. There are two types:

    * Corded leaf blowers provide constant power as long as you have access to an electrical outlet. The attached cord limits mobility so this may not be the best choice for a lawn with lots of trees. Look for a cord retention system to prevent the cord from being accidentally unplugged during use. Also, use an electrical cord that's rated for outdoor use.

    * Rechargeable/battery-operated leaf blowers are good alternatives for smaller areas or jobs. They work well on solid surfaces like driveways and garages. They're limited by their run time and the fact that they move less air than larger models.

    Want information on other power tools? See this landscaping information.

    October 17, 2008

    EBay's Meg Whitman: "I'm a HUGE Proponent of Alternative Energy"

    Meg_whitman Meg Whitman, the former CEO of EBay, said she strongly believes that focusing innovation on alternative energy is the key to America's global financial future.

    "I'm a HUGE proponent of alternative energy," Whitman told an audience of 6,000 women and Texas Governor Rick Perry during her keynote address at the Texas Conference for Women Thursday in Houston.

    Whitman said developing solar energy, windpower, and biofuels technologies will create jobs in the U.S. and bolster American exports to China, Japan and other countries.

    "We need to keep innovation alive," she said. Whitman made clear that focusing on alternative energy should be a cornerstone of America's economic revitalization.

    October 13, 2008

    Hanging out with Christie Brinkley is Fun!

    In honor of its upcoming 70th anniversary, Glamour magazine is featuring 70 women whom they consider to be environmental leaders. I was honored to be included in the group, along with Laurie David, who produced "An Inconvenient Truth" for Al Gore, renowned organic chef Alice Waters, film star Alicia Silverstone, and top model Christie Brinkley.

    048_6 We all met for portrait photos at Tavern on the Green in Manhattan, then massed in Central Park for a photo shoot that gathered a small crowd of tourists and even a few papparazzi. Christie Brinkley in particular couldn't have been nicer. She knows a lot about nuclear power and wanted to talk energy policy. Anna Aurillio of Environment America and I (pictured, with Christie) happily obliged.

    Look for the story in the April 2009 issue of Glamour.

    October 12, 2008

    Eco Door-knocking for Obama Worth the Effort in Virginia

    Lcv_canvas_003_3 With the presidential race getting down to the wire, I took to the streets of Alexandria, VA today to knock on doors and talk to undecided voters about the environmental differences between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain.

    It was easy to draw a distinction between the two candidates. Sen. McCain's lifetime rating on environmental issues is only 26%, compared to Sen. Obama's 96%. The League of Conservation Voters (LCV), which compiles the ratings, gave us more talking points and a leave-behind "door hanger" full of information about Sen. Obama's alternative energy proposals. Armed with lists of undecided voters and their addresses, I, my husband, and other volunteers fanned out to canvas the area and build momentum for an Obama victory.

    Talking about Democrats in northen Virginia is not usually a piece of cake. I canvassed Republican neighborhoods in Arlington, VA for John Kerry four years ago and sometimes felt worried for my life. In one instance, guys in a big truck sporting a rifle in a rack across the back window pulled up to me, called me a "communist" and yelled at me to get out of their town. 

    The setting today couldn't have been more bucolic. The Indian Spring neighborhood I was assigned was punctuated by streets with names like Morning View Lane and Carriage House Court. Kids rode bikes and played ball as fathers took advantage of ideal fall weather to wash their mini-vans or SUVs and moms gardened. Many families have already decorated their houses for Halloween, festooning trees with ghosts and goblins and lining walkways with big orange pumpkins.

    Knocking on the first door can be the hardest. You just never know if people are going to snarl at you or welcome you with a big smile and happily announce they're on your side. Given the hateful rhetoric that's marked McCain rallies in recent days, I was half expecting someone to let their dogs loose on me. But the high pitch that's characterized political gatherings doesn't seem to have permeated the neighborhood I visited today.

    I approached several houses before someone finally answered. The woman, a voter just about my age, was polite but noncommittal. We were supposed to find out if voters were strongly in favor of Obama, leaning that way, still undecided, leaning towards McCain, or strongly in McCain's camp. Most people didn't want to say: only two people I talked with admitted they were voting for Obama; one woman thanked me profusely for helping to get out the vote. A man working on his car gave me a friendly smile but said he was voting "the other way." I thanked him for listening -- then was heartened to see an "Obama/Biden" lawn sign just a couple doors down.

    In several cases, voters told me that I was the "fifth" or "sixth" Obama supporter to knock on their door. I apologized for the intrusion and explained that LCV organizers are not allowed to talk with the Obama campaign about tactics or they'd be violating federal election law. LCV was glad to hear Obama's volunteers had preceded us; they seemed to think it was necessary to approach the neighborhood multiple times to ensure voters get the Obama message.

    When all the volunteers completed their assignments, we rendezvoused at a nearby Starbucks to report on our success and share stories. LCV staff couldn't have been more appreciative of our effort. We're not sure if we made a difference or not -- but we'll be back next weekend to canvas some more. Doing something feels a lot better than doing nothing. With the polls showing that Virginia has become a key battleground state, maybe this 'something' will help make history three weeks from now. 

    NOTE: Door-to-door canvassing is part of a national effort by the League of Conservation Voters to persuade undecided voters to support Obama and ensure that the Democrat's advocates actually get to the polls.

    To sign up to canvas, contact the League of Conservation Voters.   

    October 10, 2008

    A Green -- and Cheap -- Halloween: Top Ten Tips

    Here are the top ten tips for a “green” Halloween. They’ll save you money, too!

    Costume 1. Reuse costumes. Tap into the treasures hidden in your closet or attic to pull together a fun, no-cost costume (it won’t take any longer than going to the mall, and will be a lot cheaper). Trade costumes with friends and family if you don’t want to wear last year’s get-up. Shop for accessories at yard sales or resale stores. Use your imagination but don’t obsess. The point is to have fun, not be fashionable!

    2. Trick and treat.  In lieu of junk food, hand out pencils made from recycled paper, erasers, nickels or dimes – be creative!. My husband used to live in the same neighborhood as baseball legend Casey Stengel – he gave out silver dollars. My neighbor started doling out small cups of apple cider when she realized how much kids love a drink of something when they’re running around like banshees. NatureMoms offers lots of great links to organic lollipops and other fun and healthy treats.

    3.  Reverse trick and treating. Global Exchange is encouraging kids to help educate adults about Fair Trade cocoa by handing Fair Trade chocolates back as they trick or treat. The chocolates are attached to a card explaining why Fair Trade offers an alternative to child labor, low wages for farmers and a healthier environment. Order by October 13.

    Pumpkins_2  4. Have a party. If you opt to celebrate at home in lieu of trick or treating, put out bowls of snacks rather than serve up individual throwaway treat bags. Offer pop corn, hummus and pita chips, carrots and dips, fresh apple cider, bat-shaped cookies and muffins. Kids will enjoy painting pumpkins, decorating cupcakes, reading scary stories, bobbing for apples, and going on “flashlight hunts” in the yard (if the party’s after dark) for hidden Halloween surprises. Send electronic invitations to avoid wasting paper and postage.

    5. Decorate with Nature. A trip to your yard or the farmers market will provide everything you need to dress up your house for Halloween: leaves and branches, hay bales, gourds, pumpkins, mums, dried flowers.

    6.  Light up the night. If you string lights (especially to keep walkways safe for kids), use strands of LEDs like these fun spider lights. They use much less energy than conventional holiday twinklers. Illuminate carved pumpkins with candles from beeswax or soy . Decorate windows and glass door panes with these beautiful non-toxic window paints from Hearthsong. If kids need flashlights to get around in the dark, try the BOGO light recharged with solar energy.

    7. Turn it over to the kids. Forget the store-bought hanging witches and skeletons. Have your kids make hand print spiders for the walls and windows. Recycle egg cartons into bats. Carve and paint pumpkins.

    Chico_halloween_bag 8. Try a new bag. The best option for candy collectors is last year’s bag; a pillowcase; or a reusable shopping bag with handles. But if you need something new, try the reusable Chico Halloween Bag. Kids will love its spooky design. You’ll love that it only costs $5.

    9. Save for next year. When Halloween is over, pack up costumes, treat bags, lights, and decorations in one big box or bag. Store everything in an easy-to-find place so next year, you don’t have to start completely from scratch.

    10. Get even more ideas. Between Green Halloween and the Green Moms Carnival , you’ll find everything you need to know to make your spooky night as eco as possible.

    October 03, 2008

    Ask for It In "Green" At Best Buy and You'll Get a Hybrid

    When my computer's hard drive crashed this week, every techie I talked to said it was too fried to be rebuilt. So I did some quick research and headed over to Best Buy for a replacement.

    In case you haven't been there recently, there are MOUNTAINS of computers to choose from. The salesman was going on and on about this model and that when I stopped him short. "What do you have in "green"?" I asked.

    Studio Hybrid DesktopFor a minute, he looked flummoxed. Then he got a big smile on his face and practically pranced over to the new Dell hybrid.

    "Take a look at this," he said. "It's one third the size of a normal hard drive, uses significantly less energy, reduces packaging and the whole thing is made out of recycled plastic."

    I bought it on the spot.

    It seems like he never would have mentioned it if I hadn't asked for it in "green." Great lesson for future shopping.

    EcoCentric Mom
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