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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.
  • August 16, 2012

    Swap School Supplies for Green, Eco-Friendly Back-to-School "Shopping" That Doesn't Break the Bank

    Back-to-school shopping can put a real dent in a family’s budget and create a carbon footprint a mile Investing 2wide. Why not set up a school supplies swap with your neighbors before you go shopping? You'll green the shopping beast and save money, too. Another bonus? you'll reduce clutter and teach the kids to share.

    * Check the kids' supplies list. Most kids will bring home a list from school, or you'll be able to download one from the school's web site. Ask your child to cross off what you already have or don't want to buy, then circle what's left. When you go swapping (or shopping), work from the list.

    • Make an inventory of what you already have. Most families have enough pencils, crayons, glue, tape and markers left over from the previous year to start the new year just fine. In fact, many of us have way too much of this stuff. Figure out what your kids need now, and put aside a few extras for later in the year when your own supplies run up. Then box up your extras so they're easy to exchange.

    * Set up a swap in your front yard or garage. Invite neighbors who have their own items to swap.Designate different tables for pens and pencils, crayons and markers, paper and folders, lunch boxes, backpacks, and sporting gear. Ask that everything that's brought be clean and usable. When it comes to lunch boxes, ask that they be metal, plastic free of phthalates and PVC, or cloth. People should bring their own reusable bags to cart their swapped items home in.

    * Donate leftovers to a day-care center, or to a charity that provides school supplies to kids in need. 

     If you still need to go shopping when the swap is over...

    Continue reading "Swap School Supplies for Green, Eco-Friendly Back-to-School "Shopping" That Doesn't Break the Bank" »

    July 31, 2012

    My Utility Company Give Me $200 When I Bought My New Refrigerator. Maybe Yours Will, Too.

    Refrigerators use more electricity that any other single appliance in your home. Why? Because they're on all the time. There are a few ways you can improve the efficiency of a refrigerator you already own, but if you have an older model, it could make a lot of financial sense to replace it with something new - especially if your utility company, like mine, helps foot the bill.

    WhirlpoolI held on to my refrigerator for 27 years! But finally, we needed a new one. The seals on the old one were cracked, the drawers were broken, the door handle was chipped, and mold was starting to build up in places I couldn't keep clean. The old fridge still kept my food pretty cold, but it was depressing and unhealthy to use. And being as old as it was, I suspected it was using much more energy than newer models.

    As you can imagine, I wasn't wild about spending hundreds or maybe even a thousand dollars or more on a new fridge. I was relieved when I learned that Pepco, my electric utility, would give me a $150 rebate if I bought the most energy-efficient refrigerator available to meet my needs. Pepco would also pay me $50 if I let them recycle my old fridge. With $200 guaranteed off the price of the appliance, I went shopping! I ended up buying this Whirlpool pictured above. Here's how.

    Continue reading "My Utility Company Give Me $200 When I Bought My New Refrigerator. Maybe Yours Will, Too." »

    July 25, 2012

    Want a Plastic-Free Life? Buy This Book ASAP!

    Plastic-Free-cover-258x300How much money do you waste buying plastic every year? It’s probably hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. Even though it’s that much money, you may not realize how much you’re spending because so much of the plastic we buy is hidden in products that we think are plastic-free. Fortunately, by following even a third of the suggestions in this new must-read book from plastic-free visionary Beth Terry, you can start saving a lot of that money rather than throwing it away. You might even save enough to put your child through college!

    But let’s back up a minute, to the original question. How much money do you waste buying plastic every year? I’ve written about why using less plastic matters here. In short, the stuff is made from oil and other toxic chemicals, can make us sick if we’re repeatedly exposed to those chemicals, and wreaks havoc on wildlife and the environment.

    If you’ve given up buying bottled water, use your own reusable cloth shopping bag and maybe grow some (or most) of your own food, your automatic response might be: “Almost none. I don’t buy plastic.”

    But chances are, you’re still subsidizing the use of a fair amount of plastic, since almost everything anyone buys these days comes either shrink-wrapped, padded in plastic balls or peanuts (yes, polystyrene is a form of plastic), encased in a plastic package of some sort, or wrapped in paper that’s been coated with a plastic film so thin you don’t even notice it.

    One area where I’ve become particularly aware of how much plastic I consume is in the bathroom. Even though I don’t use a lot of cosmetics and follow a mostly “natural” hygiene regimen, now that I’m paying attention, I’m appalled at how many of my personal care products come packaged in plastic. I’ve switched to bar soap that’s sold either wrapper free or wrapped in paper, my face cream comes in glass jars, and my hand salve comes in metal tins. I use wash cloths instead of disposable wipes to remove dirt and make-up, and a crystal for deodorant. But my shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, toothpaste, sunscreen, and mouthwash? They’re all packaged in plastic. Ditto for the blush, mascara and lip gloss I apply.

    Continue reading "Want a Plastic-Free Life? Buy This Book ASAP!" »

    June 12, 2012

    Kids Drive Moms' Passion to Save Energy, Join Team ENERGY STAR

    Using energy efficiently is the key to many of the health, environmental and even financial crises we TeamES_Badge_FINface. Burning fossil fuels like coal and oil pollutes our air and water, contributes to asthma and other respiratory problems, and is a major cause of climate change. It's up to all of us to do what we can to make a difference, and most of us try to do our part, especially where our families are concerned. That job has gotten a little easier with the launch of Team ENERGY STAR, a new program to get kids and their parents engaged in simple actions that collectively can have a big impact.

    The program has received a strong welcome from many moms who have made the connection between their kids' future and the energy we use. Here are some of the reasons why they care and what they're doing about it.

    Continue reading "Kids Drive Moms' Passion to Save Energy, Join Team ENERGY STAR" »

    June 06, 2012

    Tired of Telling Your Kids to Turn Off The Lights? Let Team ENERGY STAR Do It!

    Using energy efficiently can be as simple as turning off the lights or computer when they’re not being used. The challenge is getting people – especially kids – to pay heed.  Starting today, the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program is going to make that task much easier, especially for us parents!

    TeamES_Badge_FINENERGY STAR is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program that helps us save money and protect the environment and our health through energy-efficient products and practices.  In 2011 alone, Americans, with the help of ENERGY STAR, saved enough energy to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 41 million cars — all while saving $23 billion on their utility bills and reducing the pollution that contributes to heart disease, asthma and allergies.

     As impressive as that is, the job is far from done. Climate change is still rising, and our health and the health of our kids is still at stake.  We can make a difference by teaching our kids to save more energy at home. That’s where Team ENERGY STAR comes in.

     Team ENERGY STAR is EPA’s new initiative to engage and educate American youth and their families about saving energy at home. Team ENERGY STAR gives kids and families knowledge and tools they can use to preserve our environment, help protect the climate and create a healthier world.

     I’ve already joined the team myself. But one person a “team” does not make. We all need to join in and do our part. Here are three important reasons why I think it’s worth your while.

      Team_ENERGYSTAR_Screenshot
    First, without question, energy efficiency makes life healthier for our children and family. Climatechange will likely increase the number of people suffering from illness and injury due to more pollution, extreme heat, floods, storms, droughts and fires as well as allergies and infectious disease. The elderly, the very young, the disabled, and the poor alone are especially vulnerable, as are people with heart disease or asthma. Climate change is also expected to cause more severe allergy symptoms because a warmer climate promotes the growth of molds, weeds, grasses and trees that cause allergic reactions. The more efficiently we all use energy, the less likely we are to get sick.

    Second, Team ENERGY STAR will make your job explaining energy efficiency to your children easier. I know that sometimes my kids think I’m a broken record, the way I nag them to turn off the lights and their computers. But the activities Team ENERGY STAR has come up with offer a creative and fun way to motivate the whole family to feel like they’re doing their part together to save energy. With Dr. Seuss’ the Lorax as the engaging theme for Team ENERGY STAR, kids can learn and have fun at the same time. 

    Finally, joining Team ENERGY STAR will help you save money. The typical household spends more than $2,100 per year on energy. With ENERGY STAR, you can save over one-third, or more than $700, on your household energy bills without sacrificing features, style or comfort. 

     Team ENERGY STAR has already lined up some important and influential partners, like the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Do Something, one of the largest organizations in the U.S. for teens and social change. But it’s up to each and every one of us to reach our own kids and families.

    Energy star resourcesKids can join Team ENERGY STAR by visiting energystar.gov/team where they will get easy-to-download educational and interactive materials, such as a comprehensive Action Kit, the ENERGY STAR Home Check-Up, a Lorax activity booklet and a Lorax mustache-making kit. Kids are also encouraged to come back and share their stories about protecting the environment by saving energy, which will be showcased on energystar.gov/changetheworld and throughout social media.

    In fact, Team ENERGY STAR is part of a multi-year EPA campaign, Change the World, Start with ENERGY STAR, developed to engage Americans of all ages in saving energy and money and protecting the environment with ENERGY STAR. Millions of people are getting involved, joining their neighbors in this grassroots movement to help protect the climate by saving energy. You can see how people and organizations all over are making a difference with ENERGY STAR by viewing EPA’s ENERGY STARs Across America map.

      Energy Star pledgeBTNYou can also attend an event in your area to learn ways to take control of your energy bills while contributing to a cleaner environment. Plus, if you take the ENERGY STAR Pledge at energystar.gov/pledge, you’ll join 2.8 million other Americans who are taking action to protect the climate.

     If every American household took part in the Change the World, Start with ENERGY STAR Pledge, we would: save more than 126 billion KWh/yr of electricity, save $18 billion in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions from 20 million cars.

     Get more information and join Team ENERGY STAR here.

    Please leave a comment below when you join Team ENERGY STAR.

    And please come back on June 12, when Big Green Purse will be hosting a carnival of posts from many bloggers who support energy efficiency and Team ENERGY STAR.

     

    Full disclosure: I am a long-time independent advocate of energy-efficiency and the ENERGY STAR program. I am currently working as a paid consultant to introduce Team ENERGY STAR to parents and families.

    June 30, 2011

    What the Heck is Fracking? And Why Don't You Want It Anywhere Near Your Water?

    It sounds like it could be a new dance ("Let's do the frack!"). Or maybe it's a cool way to clean your house ("I really fracked my floor this week; it looks great now!")

    Fracking But it's not. Fracking is short for "hydraulic fracturing," explains Chris Bolgiano in this Bay Journal article. "It involves drilling a hole a mile down, then thousands of feet horizontally, and pumping down millions of gallons of water laced with sand, salt and chemicals to crack the shale. Gas is forced up, along with roughly 25 percent of the contaminated wastewater, often hot with radioactivity."

    Chris adds, "Fracking chemicals include formaldehyde, benzene, and others known to be carcinogenic at a few parts per million. Municipal plants can’t handle fracking wastewater, and it’s stored in open pits until trucked elsewhere. If enough fresh water can’t be sucked from streams on site, trucks haul it in.

    Continue reading "What the Heck is Fracking? And Why Don't You Want It Anywhere Near Your Water? " »

    June 10, 2011

    Top 10 Eco-Ways to Keep Cool While the Planet Heats Up

    Do you love summer but hate the heat? Me, too, especially when it’s combined with the high humidity we have where I live in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. Here’s how I keep cool when 100+degree heat waves roll through town:

    Fan 1)    Use an air conditioner AND fans. A fan doesn’t affect the temperature of a room. It just creates a “wind chill” effect by moving air around. An air conditioner will actually lower the temperature of a room and remove humidity, too.  We cool the house to around 78 or 80 degrees (down from the high nineties or low hundreds!), then circulate the cooled air with small room fans. We only use fans in the rooms we’re actually occupying to save energy.

      Programmable thermostat 2 2)    Set our thermostat as high as comfortably possible. For us, that means somewhere between 78 and 80 degrees F. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be. The U.S. Department of Energy suggests keeping your house warmer than normal when you are away, and around 78°F (26°C) only when you are at home and need cooling. A programmable thermostat can make it easy to set back your temperature.
    •    Find out how to operate your thermostat for maximum energy savings.

    3)    Cover sunny windows. Our sunniest windows are shaded by porch overhangs that prevent the hot sun from streaming into our house and heating things up. We have double-paned blinds we can pull if the sun gets too intense. In previous years, we planted several deciduous trees in front of the house. Now their shade also helps us keep our home cool in the summer.

    4)    Keep windows and doors closed. Once we’ve cooled the air, we try not to leave outside doors open too long when we’re going in and out. We use a back door to enter and exit because it lets in less heat than the front door.

    5)    Use oven only in early morning. If I need to bake anything, I try to do it before 9 a.m. Otherwise, I cook on my stove top, in the microwave and toaster oven, or on an outdoor grill.

    6)    Cook several meals at one time, then reheat as needed. This not only saves energy, but reduces the amount of time I spend cooking overall.

    7)    Make “sun” tea. I drink a lot of iced tea in the summer. Rather than boil water in a kettle on the stove, I either use an electric kettle to boil water in less than a minute, or just put a pitcher of water outside with a few tea bags in it. After a few hours, the heat from the sun will raise the water temperature enough to steep the tea.

    8)    Eat cold food. Summer is the perfect time for salads, smoothies, sandwiches, raw vegetables,  cold soups, and of course, ice cream. If you eat as much ice cream as we do, you might want to make your own. You can get popsicle molds that are either stainless steel or BPA-free plastic.

    Shower timer 9)    Take shorter showers in cool water.  Any of these timers will help you keep your shower under five minutes.

    10)    Take off some clothes. You know how, in winter, you put on a sweater to stay warm? In summer, we all walk around our house barefoot and in loose, sleeveless dresses or tank tops and shorts. It's surprising how much cooler we stay when we're lightly dressed.

    Want more energy-saving tips? Find them right here.

    May 10, 2011

    I took her camping; she took her iPod.

    We started taking our kids camping when they were both still in diapers. They were used to playing outside anyway, so camping seemed normal, only better, since they got to sleep in a tent and roast marshmallows around a live fire.

    Dan Dana Monet By the time they were five and seven, they could hike all day -- as long as we included picnics, tree climbing, rock skipping, tag and other games to keep them engaged and their minds off what they were actually doing: walking up a big hill, then walking down again.We also bicycled to local parks, visited horse stables, went to the zoo, and prowled the botanic garden. Going with friends whose kids were the same age as ours made it more fun for us all.

    During several spring breaks, we camped at Cinnamon Bay in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It's a wonderfully safe place where children can flit about wild as birds and find endless fascination in hermit crabs, land iguanas, bats, and the myriad fish they see when they snorkel. My son eventually joined the Boy Scouts. My daughter became a dancer and a musician as she entered middle school, but we still made it a point to go hiking as a family a few times a year.

    Continue reading "I took her camping; she took her iPod. " »

    May 09, 2011

    What About the INSIDE Air You Breathe? 5 Steps to Keeping it Clean.

    We spend at least 85% of our time breathing indoor air, yet we spend 85% of our time worrying about outdoor air pollution! I asked Lori Denis (photo below right)for ideas on simple steps that keep the air inside fresh and clean. She should know. She's the star of HGTV's "The Real Designing Women" and author of Green Interior Design, a book I highly recommend. Here's what she said:

    Green Interior Design Here’s to your health!  When I first heard that our indoor spaces were more polluted than outside, I didn’t believe it.  Not in my house – I’m a neat freak!  But everything from furniture to plastics to electronics is constantly off-gassing, polluting our safe haven.  These toxins cause headaches, nausea, sore throat, dry skin, itchy eyes, and even loss of concentration.  Outdoor air quality is not only better for you, but Vitamin D production from sun exposure can actually help ward off sickness.  Here are a few ways to make sure you are enhancing your spaces to keep you, your family and friends healthy and happy.

    1.      WINDOWS – Open the windows and let the sunshine in!  Sunlight is a natural disinfectant.  Even if you live in an apartment, you can place pillows, blankets and mattresses in front of an open window to allow solar rays and fresh air to help sanitize them.  It's a lot easier than steam cleaning them, too!

    2.      PLANTS – Rooms with plants have been shown to have 60% less airborne molds and bacteria than rooms with no plants.  They soak up all the toxins your home is emitting and act as purifying organs.  Plants can also improve our mood by increasing positive feeling, improving creativity and reducing stress by producing higher dopamine levels.  They can even produce a healthy drop in heart rate.  As an added bonus – plants can make a room seem more expensive, making it look good and you feel
    good.

    Continue reading "What About the INSIDE Air You Breathe? 5 Steps to Keeping it Clean." »

    My County Finally Did It! What About Yours? Our New Plastic Bag "Tax."

    Last week, the County Council for Montgomery County, MD, where I live, finally voted to start charging consumers a nickel for each plastic or paper single-use bag they take at the check-out counter.

    Plastic bags The new environmental law, which goes into effect January 1, 2012, is designed to help get rid of the billions of horrible, nasty, throwaway bags that waste resources, clog waterways, and kill wildlife.

    Throwaway bags are one of those inventions that never should have seen the light of day. According to Pati Robinson from The Cleaner Earth Project, in 2010 consumers worldwide used over 1
    trillion throwaway plastic bags. Because the bags don’t biodegrade, they cause serious environmental problems. When they get loose, they end up polluting rivers, streams and oceans, where animals
    mistake them for food and die. In fact, scientists have found that fish living in the Pacific Ocean eat more plastic than plankton! Wildlife also die when they get tangled in plastic and can’t break free.

    Plus, plastic bags waste oil. An estimated 12 million barrels of oil are required to make the nearly 100 billion single use plastic bags used every year in the U.S. alone, says Cleaner Earth.

    Then there’s the fright factor. Plastic bags are downright ugly when they get caught in trees or blow along the highway like synthetic tumbleweed.

    For years, municipalities the world over mounted campaigns to educate people about the harm plastic bags cause while trying to motivate consumers to use reusable bags, to no avail. Then someone smart hit on the idea to charge shoppers for every plastic bag they used.

    Today, cities that require retailers to charge as little as a nickel for each bag a consumer takes are finding plastic bag use plummeting. In nearby Washington, D.C., disposable plastic bags used to make up 47% of the trash found in the Anacostia river basin. The Anacostia River feeds right into the Potomac, which feeds into the Chesapeake Bay, which feeds into the Atlantic Ocean. Conceivably, a bag thrown on the sidewalk in D.C. could end up in a sea gull’s belly in no time at all.

    In January 2010, a nickel fee was placed on single-use plastic bags. In just six months, bag use decreased by 65%, reducing the total number of bags per month to 3.3 million, down from 22.5 million per month prior to the fee, reported the Washington Post.

    Now, a nickel is not a lot of money. It’s just five pennies. Pretty much anyone who has bought enough stuff to need a bag can afford to pay for it.

    Yet human nature being what it is, people seem to hate paying “extra” for something they used to get for free. I’ve stood in line at a cash register in D.C. and watched people fill their arms to
    overflowing with their purchases rather then cough up a measly five cents to put it in a bag.

    Stupid?

    Continue reading "My County Finally Did It! What About Yours? Our New Plastic Bag "Tax."" »

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