How can the world's two consumer "superpowers"- the U.S. and China - work together to reduce the impact that consumption has on us and our world?That was the topic a capacity crowd addressed on March 22 at the U.S. - China Greener Consumption Forum. The event, held at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. and co-sponsored by Big Green Purse and the International Fund for China's Environment, pulled together scientists, consumer advocates, public policy advocates, and green entrepreneurs to share ideas about strategies to inspire manufacturers to create greener goods -- and get consumers to buy them.
The Forum focused primarily on women because women spend 85 cents of every dollar in the marketplace – and we’re not just buying cheese doodles and diapers. As I say here on CCTV, the national television network of China, we buy more clothes. More food. More cosmetics and personal care products than men. We also buy more electronics, more home furnishings, almost as many tools, just as many cars. Women are spending billions of dollars, day in and day out, year in and year out.
But even with all that clout, we won’t be able to use this power of the purse effectively until we achieve true gender equity worldwide, points that both Ban Li, Deputy Counsel of the Shaanxi Women's Federation, and Liane Shalatek, Associate Director of the Heinrich Boll Foundation North America, made very powerfully.
Christine Robertson of Earth Day Network facilitated a provocative panel on the impacts consumption has on our health and the health of the planet. Sarah Vogel of Environmental Defense Fund (pictured right) was peppered with questions after her presentation on the way the toxic chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA) affects the reproductive systems of men and women alike.
Ping He of the International Fund for China's Environment, the co-sponsor with Big Green Purse of the Forum, moderated the session on barriers to sustainable consumption and solutions that help surmount them. Meaningful eco-labels and standards can make a big difference, pointed out Arthur Weissman, President and CEO of Green Seal, especially when those standards are set by an indendent third party (like Green Seal is) whose primary interest is not in selling products, but in helping manufacturers become more sustainable over time.
LISA JACKSON, Former EPA Administrator
Lisa Jackson's luncheon keynote address was the highlight of the day for many people. As a mom, scientist, and long-time public servant, Lisa has a unique appreciation for the impact consumption has on us as individuals and on society as a whole. She spoke movingly about being the first African-American to serve as head of the EPA and how important it is to bring women as well as people of color and low-income populations into the conversations we're having about pollution and climate change.
Lisa noted that her favorite law is the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act because it empowers people to protect themselves wherever they live. She is also proud of technology EPA has shared with the city of Shanghai to help monitor air pollution there.
Lisa agreed that the way we use both the purse and the pocketbook can inspire manufacturers to reduce pollution and energy consumption.