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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.
  • « June 2010 | Main | August 2010 »

    July 30, 2010

    Test Drive the New Chevy Volt With Me

    The Chevy Volt is electrifying the car market - especially in the wake of the oil disasters in the Gulf of Mexico and now, Lake Michigan. Every one of us needs to stop using oil so the Volt, which can drive 40 miles on a battery powered by electricity rather than an engine fueled by oil, has a lot of appeal. General Motors, which is taking orders on the car for delivery this fall, claims the vehicle is "designed to move 75% of America's daily commuters without a single drop of gas. That means for someone who drives less than 40 miles per day (which is most Americans), Chevy Volt will use zero gasoline and produce zero emissions." After 40 miles, a smaller, 4-cylinder internal combusion engine uses premium-grade gasoline to produce more electricity, extending the car's range an additional 300 miles.  

    Australia 065 I'd already been on Fox News talking about the Volt; now I jumped at the chance to do a test drive. I regularly get 45 mpg on my 2002 Prius, which I love. And last summer I test drove the Ford Fusion Hybrid for a week and loved it (even though its mileage, while better than a regular sedan, is still lower than the Prius.) But a car I can drive that gets 0 mpg - and still covers 40 miles? That sounded pretty good.

    I drove over to nearby University of Maryland, where test drives were being conducted. I waited around for a few minutes until it was my turn to get behind the wheel. I slid into the driver's seat, and turned the car on. Like the Prius, the car is very quiet - if you don't know it's coming, you won't hear it, that's for sure.

    Continue reading "Test Drive the New Chevy Volt With Me" »

    July 26, 2010

    Beauty...or the Beast? Depends on the Safe Chemicals Act.

    Lips Cosmetics and personal care products literally touch every part of our bodies. We've been convinced that they'll make us beautiful. They often make us feel better. But evidence is emerging that the cumulative use of these products may be contributing to asthma, the onset of puberty in girls as young as three years old, and even the feminization of baby boys. Because cosmetics, soaps and shampoos are washed down the drain, they get into our water system, where they're wreaking havoc on wildlife. And what about their relationship to breast cancer?

    While there's no specific link between any one product and breast cancer, scientific evidence is growing that women face some risk of contracting the disease due to their cumulative exposure to the chemicals in cosmetics and personal-care products.

    "Is there a direct connection we can make between the use of these products and breast cancer?" asks Dr. Julia Smith, the director of breast cancer screening and prevention at the Lynne Cohen Breast Cancer Preventive Care Program at the NYU Cancer Institute and Bellevue Medical Center, in New York City.  "No. But there are strong scientific suspicions that some of the chemicals found in the environment, including those used in cosmetics and other personal-care items, might increase the risk, especially if there is heavy exposure before the age of twenty-five." 

    That's because these are the years when breast tissue is developing and most susceptible to outside influences. It is possible that multiple exposures to common cosmetics could create a cumulative or "domino effect" that could ultimately result in the disease.

    Why aren't we safe?

    Eye makeup Despite these concerns, lipstick, eye liner, nail polish, shampoo, perfume, deodorant and the other concoctions we liberally apply to our faces, lips, eyes, noses, nails, heads, necks, legs, armpits and vaginas are among the least-regulated substances in the marketplace.

    It's true. The makers of cosmetics and personal-care products are not required to meet specific federal standards that guarantee our personal health and safety. The fedral Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires manufacturers to put a warning statement on the front of products that have not been tested that reads, "WARNING -- The safety of this product has not been determined." But not many of them follow the rules.

    Continue reading "Beauty...or the Beast? Depends on the Safe Chemicals Act." »

    July 16, 2010

    Clean Drinking Glasses with Toothpaste


    My drinking glasses have been taking a beating. I've been using a non-phosphate based, powder detergent in the dishwasher, which minimizes pollution when the water goes down the drain.
     
    But over time, the glasses have gotten very cloudy. They're still free of germs and muck when they're finished washing, but they're so cloudy, they look dirty even when they complete the entire dishwashing cycle.
     
    I tried rinsing them in vinegar, to no avail. Then it occurred to me to try...toothpaste. I use toothpaste to clean my jewelry; why not my drinking glasses?
     
    * I dabbed an old toothbrush with my day-to-day toothpaste (you can probably use whatever you have around the house). 
     
    * I wet the brush slightly then gently scrubbed the glass for about a minute.
     
    * When the entire glass had been scrubbed, I rinsed it under moderately hot water.
     
    * Voila. A sparkling clean glass.
     
    Now, I'm off to the store to find a no-phosphate gel dishwasher detergent. Let me know if you have any recommendations.
     

    My New Toilet

    My toilet sprang a leak a few nights ago, creating the perfect opportunity to replace it with a new, water-saving model.  

    My first choice was to get a toilet like the ones I recently saw in Australia. Those give two flush options so you don't need to use a full tank of water for a job that only requires a half-flush. The toilet would cost about $350 more than other water-saving models, but I figured it would be worth it over time. 

     Unfortunately, it would have taken almost a week to get the toilet and then have it installed - and in the meantime, we would have had no working toilet on the main floor of our house.
     
    water-saving toiletWe went with the next-best option: a toilet certified as a substantial water-saver by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
     
    water senseThis Toto Water Sense-certified commode uses only 1.28 gallons of water per flush (compared to the 4 gpf of the toilet we replaced, and 1.6 gpf of other water-savers on the market). 
     
    EPA estimates that my family will save a stunning 4,000 gallons of water every year just be replacing the old toilet with this new one.
     
    Interested? Learn more at WaterSense.

    July 15, 2010

    See my new water-saving toilet...along with my secret glass cleaning recipe. Tomorrow.

    Purse The next edition of the free Green Purse Alerts! hits e-mail boxes tomorrow (Friday) morning at 7:15 a.m. ET with exclusive pictures of my new water-saving toilet (yes, it's actually very cool...) along with my step-by-step solution to cleaning cloudy drinking glasses. You can still ensure you get your Alert, but you need to sign up now. Go to Big Green Purse and sign up in the big box on the left.  

    DEET-Free Mosquito Repellents That Work

    Summer's not the only thing in full swing right now. If you live anywhere except a desert, you're likely to be plagued by mosquitoes.

    Mosquito 2 Most conventional mosquito repellents contain DEET, a chemical that is toxic to a variety of flying and biting insects and has raised questions about its safety for people. The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) analysed human health consequences from DEET exposure and found that the most problems occurred when DEET was applied in high concentrations and left on the skin rather than washed off.  

    However, the Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia recommends consumers choose botanically-based repellents rather than DEET unless they face serious health threats from something like West Nile Virus. Reports the agency, DEET is "a member of the toluene chemical family. Toluene is an organic solvent used in rubber and plastic cements and paint removers. DEET is absorbed through the skin and passes into the blood. The Medical Sciences Bulletin, published by Pharmaceutical Information Associates Ltd. reports, "Up to 56% of DEET applied topically penetrates intact human skin and 17% is absorbed into the bloodstream." Blood concentrations of about 3 mg per litre have been reported several hours after DEET repellent was applied to skin in the prescribed fashion. DEET is also absorbed by the gut." 

    DEET may also negatively impact the central nervous system and cause serious skin rashes, says the association. For all of these reasons, Health Canada has banned products containing a 30% or higher concentration of DEET. Also banned are 2-in-1 products, like sunscreen that includes DEET.

    DEET-Free Alternatives

    Continue reading "DEET-Free Mosquito Repellents That Work" »

    July 13, 2010

    She Put $1,000 of Her Money Where Her (Eco) Mouth Is

    Fredia It's easy to say you want to do something to protect the planet. Actually doing it is another matter altogether - unless you're Fredia Banks. Not only did this Washington, D.C. resident launch a non-profit organization to promote sustainability in the nation's capital. She took our One in a Million challenge to show people how spending their money makes a difference.

    Fredia created the House of Green organization to "encourage residents and business owners (of the District of Columbia) to embrace environmentally-friendly lifestyle alternatives as a solution for sustainability." The organization offers workshops, connects consumers to green products, and helps raise awareness about green businesses that are operating in the District of Columbia.

    She was inspired to shift her spending because she wanted to "live healthy and elmininate toxins" in her lifestyle. Fredia says that the increasing availability of products where she shops and online is making shifting her spending easier than she'd anticipated. However, the challenge is determining what's organic and what's not, especially for products that are not food, but still claim to be organic.

    In the future, Fredia plans to put solar collectors on her home and replace her current vehicle with one that is more environmentally friendly. Meanwhile, the House of Green will continue to share Fredia's knowledge with D.C. residents.  

    How Fredia Shifted $1,000 in 2 Months:

    Continue reading "She Put $1,000 of Her Money Where Her (Eco) Mouth Is" »

    July 08, 2010

    9 Smart Ways to Keep Cool; #2 - Take off your clothes.

    Here are nine smart ways you can stay cool during the summer's heat waves that will save you energy and money, too.  

    1) Cool your home to 78 or 80 degrees, then use fans. The hotter it gets outside, the colder you probably want it inside. Resist the urge to turn your home into an igloo this summer. Set the thermostat to 78 or 80 degrees, which will keep the temperature-- and the humidity level -- under control (along with your electricity bills). Then use strategically placed fans to cool the rooms you and your family are in at the moment. In our house, we turn off all fans during the day, when everyone is at work, then turn on the fan downstairs in the living room when we get home. We also have a fan in each bedroom.

    Feet 009 2) Take off your clothes. Well, not all of them. But you know how in the winter, you add layers to stay warm? In summer, it's just the opposite. In my house, unless we have company over we're all running around barefoot, in t-shirts or tank tops and shorts or loose fitting dresses. In winter you put on a hat; in summer, take off your socks.

    3) Eat cold food. Cooking over a hot stove or in a broiling oven overheats the kitchen; then you eat hot food, all of which makes you -- you guessed it -- hot. A summer like the one we're having calls instead for salads and cold soups for dinner, sandwiches for lunch, fruit and yogurt for breakfast instead of pancakes and eggs, and ice cream or popsicles for dessert rather than home-baked cookies and cakes. If you need to heat something up, use the microwave. Boil hot water for tea in a kettle rather than on the stove. Grill outdoors (following these tips for an eco-friendly barbecue).

    Continue reading "9 Smart Ways to Keep Cool; #2 - Take off your clothes." »

    July 07, 2010

    The Truth Behind Buying in Bulk

    Grocerycart Is buying in bulk worth it? Really?

    Only if you want to protect the planet and save money...

    Seriously, buying products in bulk is one of the most "eco" ways to shops; it's one of the best ways to save money, too. Why? For starters, larger sizes deliver the same amount of product using less energy and materials than the equivalent number of smaller packages.

    Next time you go shopping, browse the snack aisle and compare the difference for yourself. When you buy one large box of cookies, all you pay for is the cookies and the one box. But if you buy a "snack pack" of ten or twelve small bags, you end up with all those individual bags, plus the display box they came in and the cellophane wrapped around them. That's a lot of excess packaging!

    All that extra wrapping costs you more money. At Peapod, an online grocery store, a 15 oz. box of Famous Amos Chocolate Chip cookies runs around $3.99 or $.27/ounce. The package of 12 snack bags costs $5.79 or $.34/ounce. If you need snacks for yourself or your kids, why not buy reusable containers you can easily refill with cookies from the larger bag? Bonus: The snack containers will do a better job of protecting the snacks from getting crushed in a lunch bag or backpack.

    Wal-Mart claims that a family of four can save as much as $2,000 per year just buying in bulk. When you have the space, choose the largest available sizes of shampoo, laundry detergent, toilet tissue, light bulbs, blanks CDs, pencils and pens...you get the idea.

    Here's how I saved $20 buying bulk cat food. 

    Got any bulk bargains of your own to share? Let us know.

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