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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.
  • « October 2009 | Main | December 2009 »

    November 15, 2009

    Recycle Your Clothes? It's Easier Than You Think.

    Patagonia vest You've probably been recycling your clothes for years, though you may not think of it that way. But every time you donate your worn shoes, outdated dresses, and old blouses to the Salvation Army or Goodwill, each time you sell your used sweaters at a yard sale or give your kids' too-small T-shirts and shorts to the toddlers next door, you're extending the life of your attire and forestalling the need to manufacture anew, saving energy, water, and other resources.

    Your effort is worthwhile. Clothes and shoes take up more space than any other nondurable goods in the solid waste stream because, says the U.S. EPA, only 16% of discarded clothes and shoes are recycled. Despite the best efforts of charities and thrift stores, millions of tons of clothing are wasted every year.

    My rule of thumb? "Never throw clothes away unless they've been reduced to rags" (though that's when I use them to dust the furniture). Charities like Salvation Army, Good Will and Purple Heart will gladly pick up your clothes on your doorstep and take them to their distribution centers, keeping them in circulation for perhaps many years more. Patagonia's Common Threads Garment Recycling Program accepts worn out fleece, cotton t-shirts and some polyester, and transforms the old fibers into new fashions, like the fleece vest pictured above.

    Other options?

    Dress for Success - This international not-for-profit organization promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire along with job counseling. Each woman "dressed for success" receives one suit when she lands a job inerview; she can receive a second suit or outfit when she finds work. Since 1997, Dress for Success has served almost 300,000 women around the world. You can donate suits, blouses, pants, shoes, jewelry, briefcases, black tote bags, and other appropriate business apparel.

    Soles4Souls - Providing free footwear to people in need around the world, this nonprofit organization startede after the Asian tsunami in December 2004, continued in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and today distributes shoes worldwide. It also partners with Dress for Success to provide career footwear.

    One World Running - This Colorado-based non-profit organization ships donated running shoes, soccer gear, and baseball equipment to athletes in Central America, Haiti, and sub-Saharan Africa.

    Nike's Reuse-a-Shoe - The program grinds up and recycles discarded shoe material to build playground mats, basketball courts, and running tracks. (BTW, don't miss the great video!) 

    DIY Jeans Recycling - Here are 25 ways you can recycle your jeans.

    It should go without saying that the other half of the recycling coin is to buy clothes made from recycled fabrcis. Find some fashions at Clothes Made From Scrap.

    Want more ways to recycle just about everything? Check out this month's Green Moms Carnival posts, hosted by RecycleYourDay.


    November 11, 2009

    House Cleaning? Use a Fly Swatter, Not a Sledge Hammer

     Sledgehammer The way we're being told to clean our homes these days, you'd think we were all living in breeding grounds for small pox, typhoid fever, leprosy, or some other awful disease that practically kills on contact.

    We're not.

    We ARE living in a world that we share with billions of "germs," most of which are perfectly harmless. In fact, many doctors believe that living with germs keeps us healthier by helping us build up a resistance to their ill effects. 

    Wve report This perspective seems to be routinely ignored by the cleaning products industry. A report by Women's  Voices for the Earth, a non-profit Montana-based research group, investigates the link between toxic chemicals found in disinfectants and human health. Disinfectant Overkill: How Too Clean May Be Hazardous To Our Health analyzes the impact of "cleansers" that commonly contain chlorine bleach, ammonia, triclosan and other anti-bacterials, ammonium quarternary compounds, and nano-silver. Their conclusion?

    "Some of the most common antimicrobial chemicals used in cleaners could have
    serious health consequences. This is especially true for cleaning workers, young children and women who, despite progress on gender roles, continue to do 70% of housework in the average home."

    Furthermore, "The overuse of antimicrobials contributes to the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which some scientists say could leave the public with fewer tools in the fight against infectious diseases."

    WVE suggests this analogy to understand the impact today's common cleansers have on us and the environment: 

    "Suppose you have a pesky fly in your house. One option is to reach for a flyswatter. Assuming you get a direct hit on the fly, your problem is neatly and efficiently solved. But imagine if all you have handy is a sledgehammer. Again assuming you get a direct hit, you will certainly take care of the problem fly. However, you are likely to put a hole in your wall in the process.

    The sledgehammer might be supremely effective at killing flies, but are the side effects (i.e. holes in your wall) worth it?. The same is true for antimicrobial products; they are often too strong for the average daily need. Occasionally they may be warranted, just as a sledgehammer has its place and purpose. But on a daily basis, simple soap and water or other non-toxic cleaners will do the trick without causing potentially harmful side effects."

    WVE does not argue we should stop cleaning. On the contrary, "Disinfectant Overkill" makes a convincing, science-based case for using safe solutions to keep germs at bay.

    Wondering where to start? These eco-friendly tips will help keep your hands clean.

    These DIY recipes for home cleansers are cheap to make and work effectively on any surface in your home.

    November 06, 2009

    Environmental S.O.S. For Water-Soluble, Biodegradable Bottle Caps

    Albatross stomach OK, all you entrepreneurs, scientists, techno-twits, and geeks - let alone captains of industry who are looking for a way to make an honest-to-goodness difference. Take another look at these photos of baby birds that are dying because they're eating plastic bottle caps.

    Yes, we need to phase out plastic bottles, and the sooner the better.

    But in the meantime, can't all you wizards come up with a bottle cap that will protect its contents securely but once discarded, degrade in a very short period of time?

    You've gotta be able to do it. Talk to the folks at Frito-Lay, who have figured out how to package their snack packs in plant-based, biodegradable bags. In fact, why don't we urge Frito's parent company, Pepsi, to take the lead?  Start here.

    The Environmental Tragedy of Plastic

    Albatross It's easy to overlook the environmental impact of plastic when it's so convenient to just throw it away. But as these photos by photographer Chris Johnson shows, there's no "away." A lot of what we think we've safely disposed of ends up in a huge, toxic "garbage patch" swirling millions of miles away in the Pacific Ocean. The plastic is mistaken for food by adult birds who unwittingly feed it to their babies -- and kill them.

    We're spending way too much time debating "whether" we should rid our culture of plastics.

    We should. 

    Now.

    Albatross2
    NOTE: These photographs of albatross chicks were made just a few weeks ago on Midway Atoll, a tiny stretch of sand and coral near the middle of the North Pacific. Says Chris Johnson, "On this diet of human trash, every year tens of thousands of albatross chicks die on Midway from starvation, toxicity, and choking.

    "To document this phenomenon as faithfully as possible, not a single piece of plastic in any of these photographs was moved, placed, manipulated, arranged, or altered in any way.

    "These images depict the actual stomach contents of baby birds in one of the world's most remote marine sanctuaries, more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent."

    Take a look at the rest of Chris' photos, then take stock of how much plastic you use. Do you see how many bottle caps are in the birds' stomachs? If you're still drinking water, soda and juice from plastic bottles, isn't it time, at the very least, to switch to reusable water bottles and drinks in cans? Get more suggestions to live life plastic-free at FakePlasticFish.

    November 04, 2009

    Organic Vodka & "Green" Gin

    Vodka-14-bottle-lg-72746715If wines and beers aren't your drinks of choice, check out eco-friendly companies like Altitude Spirits in Thornton, Colorado which produces its Vodka 14 (pictured left) using organic corn and rye, along with Rocky Mountain spring water.

    Other options?

     Rain Organics Vodka

    Square One Organic Vodka 

    Sunshine Vodka 

    Shadow Spirits Organic Vodka

    Maison Jomere's Organic Vodka and Juniper Green London Dry Gin

    LOFT Organic Liqueurs (first certified organic liqueur in the U.S.)

    4Copas USA produces certified organic tequila made from pure agave

    Have a favorite that we've missed? Let us know.

    Drinks book And if you need ideas for a perfectly organic -- if somewhat unusual -- concoction, don't miss Organic-Shaken-Stirred: Hip Highballs, Modern Martinis, and Other Totally Green Cocktails.

    Sure, it's made from grapes. But does that make wine eco-friendly?

    Benzigerwine Not unless those grapes are grown organically; and if they're grown locally, even better (Ideal Bite claims that "a local wine always trumps an organic one if it's shipped from far away." In fact, they report that the average wine shipment adds over 3 million pounds of CO2 emissions into the air - that's like 994 round-trip flights from France to Napa!)  

    Here's specifically what to look for when shopping for organic or eco-friendly wine:

    "USDA-certified organic" means that the wine was produced without herbicides and pesticides and with no added sulfites, preservatives that help wine maintain its color and taste but that can cause serious allergic reactions and headaches in susceptible people. (Sulfites occur naturally, so no wine is sulfite free.)

    "Made from organically grown grapes" means grapes were grown without pesticides or chemicals; some sulfites may have been added as a preservative. If you're allergic, read the label carefully.

    "Sustainable" may indicate the vineyard practices pesticide-free viticulture, using sheep to suppress weeds and owls to kill rodents. However, "sustainable" is not as meaningful as "organic" unless it is backed up by independent third-party certification.

    "Biodynamic" practices rely on viticulture techniques that build healthy soil and keep the vineyard in tune with the cycles of the sun, moon, and planets. When certified by the Demeter Association, it's safe to assume the vineyard met standards for biodynamic production.

    Whether you're having a party or just want to enjoy wine with dinner, these organic brands are worth a taste:

    Benziger (biodynamic-California; shown in picture above)

    Ca'del Solo (biodynamic-California)

    Cullen (organic-Western Australia)

    Emiliana (organic-Chile)

    Four Gates (organic, kosher-California)

    Frey Vineyards (organic-California)

    Frog's Leap (organic-California)

    Grgich Hills (biodynamic-California)

    Santa Julia (organic-Argentina)

    Sobon Estate (organic-California)

    Yarden Chardonnay (organic, kosher-Golan Heights)

    But don't forget to look locally first. All 50 states produce wine.

    Want more options? Visit  Trade Organic Wine.

    Our guide to green party planning guide will help, too.

    Enjoy!


    November 03, 2009

    Organic Beer Tastes Good!

    Stonemill-organic-beer-lg If you've been waiting for organics to add some bounce to the beers you drink, wait no longer. Many micro-breweries and even some of the major beer bottlers have jumped on the environmental bandwagon, giving you lots of eco-friendly choices in pubs, restaurants, and local liquor stores (which is where I recently found an organic beer infused with organic, fair trade coffee -- I kid you not).

    Organic beer is made the same way any beer is made, but under USDA standards at least 95 percent of its ingredients - usually barley and hops- must be grown without pesticidesGreenopia recently used a comprehensive set of criteria to rate the environmental impact of 15 of the largest breweries in the worldNew Belgium Brewery, which sources its packaging locally and uses only organic ingredients, received the highest rating. Eel River was a close second, thanks not only to the organic ingredients they use in their beer but also the biogas they use to run their company.

    Large breweries aside, local entrepreneurs are getting into this environmental act, too, bottling smaller batches of tasty, eco-focused lagers and ales. Next time you're sitting at the bar of the local brew pub, ask what they have on bottle or tap that Mother Nature herself would want to drink.

    Will the organics trend continue? New Belgium's media relations director Bryan Simpson thinks so. "There is a greater appreciation among consumers for the way things are produced. Conscientious consumers care as much about how something is made-and by whom-as they are concerned with what is in the bottle, box or bag." 

    Here are a few other organic beers to look for:

    Butte Creek Brewing Co. (Chico, California)

    Peak Organic Brewing Co. (Burlington, Massachusetts)

    Stone Mill Pale Ale (pictured, from Anheuser-Busch via Crooked Creek Brewing Co.)

    Wild Hop Lager (Anheuser-Busch via Green Valley Brewing Co.)

    Wolaver's Organic Ale (Middlebury, Vermont)

    Do me a favor: Do a taste test on these or others you find, then report back here. I'd love to know what's got the "yum" factor and what should be left on the shelf.

    And for you DIY-ers out there, this kit shows you how to brew your own organically at home. Let me know how that goes if you give it a try.

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