Big Green Purse Principles Can Help You Make the Right Eco-Choices

When should you spend your money to protect the planet – and when should you keep it in your purse?

Given the thousands of green products being introduced these days, and the vague marketing claims being used to sell them, you don’t want to blow your budget just to keep up with the newest “eco,” “herbal,” or “biodegradable” fad – especially if the claim turns out to be more greenwashing than green.

On the other hand, genuinely earth-friendly products do help minimize your environmental impact. Every organic cotton T-shirt you buy, for instance, helps reduce the use of toxic agricultural chemicals, protecting the air and water. Moreover, the same tee waves like a bright green flag in front of conventional cotton producers, reminding them that your money is filling their organic competitors’ coffers — and giving them an incentive to switch to organic practices if they haven’t already done so.

The challenge is in knowing how to avoid the “greenwash” so you can promote more green. A few clear principles, excerpted from the upcoming Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World, will help you identify an ecobargain from a rip-off, while getting manufacturers to transition as quickly as possible to the most earth-friendly practices available.


1) Buy less.
2) Read the label.
3) Support sustainable standards.
4) Look for third-party verification.
5) Choose fewer ingredients.
6) Pick less packaging.
7) Buy local.

1.  Buy less. This should be a “no brainer.” Consumerism – buying what we don’t need, over and over again – drives unnecessary manufacturing that fuels climate change, pollutes the air and water, and destroys the places in Nature we love. Remember “reduce, reuse, recycle”? It still makes sense. Plus, when you’re not buying, you’re not getting fooled by dubious marketing claims. If you don’t trust the source, don’t buy it.

Chlorine_3   2.  Read the label. We read food labels to avoid trans fats, sugar, salt and carbohydrates. We can read product labels to avoid greenwashing words like “natural” and “planet friendly” that aren’t backed up by standards or third-party verification (see below). When it comes to cleansers and other household  goods, avoid products labeled “caution,” “warning,”, “danger,” and “poison,” all of which indicate the item is hazardous to you and the environment.

3.  Support sustainable standards. An increasing number of companies are proving they’re green byBuy SMART Certified manufacturing according to sustainable standards that govern the product’s “life cycle,” beginning with the raw materials and ending with its disposal or re-use. The SMART standard, for example, covers flooring, lighting, building materials, and other consumer products.

Fsc_logo_2  4.  Look for third-party verification. In the absence of universal sustainable standards, if a company says its product is good for the earth, your first question should be, “Who else says so?” Reliable eco claims are backed up by an independent institution or nonprofit organization that has investigated the manufacturer’s claim so you don’t have to. Look for labels from groups like Forest Stewardship Council, Energy Star and the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Organic.

5.  Choose fewer ingredients. A long list of ingredients often indicates the presence of questionable chemicals that may be harmful to you or the environment. This is especially true for personal care products, food, and cleansers. Simplify what you buy.

Earthtotetan 6.  Pick less packaging. Regardless of the marketing claims a product makes, you can make an immediate impact by buying goods that come wrapped as simply as possible. For starters, buy in bulk, choose concentrates, and pick products in containers you can easily recycle (hint: glass and cans are more easily recycled than plastic). Carting home your packages in your own bags helps reduce packaging, too.

7.  Buy local.  Avoid the higher energy costs involved in transporting goods long distances. Supporting local farmers and businesses also increases the likelihood that U.S. environmental and health laws and regulations will be followed.

Bottom Line: Ignore boasts that a product is eco-chic, earth-safe, or planet-neutral. Stick to the principles above to ensure that your Big Green Purse has the kind of big green impact that will make a difference both in the marketplace and on the environment.

2 Responses to Big Green Purse Principles Can Help You Make the Right Eco-Choices

  1. Jennifer December 21, 2007 at 7:02 am #

    Go Big Green Purse! I love this idea.
    Here’s another thought: You could add a #8, “Buy Used”. Thrift stores, resale shops, online classifieds, garage sales, local bartering and freecycling systems all help to reduce the waste stream and save money.
    Buying a $60 organic cotton T-shirt is nice, but even if you can afford to do that (which many people can’t), buying a $3 T-shirt from a thrift store, resale shop, or garage sale will save you $57 (plus tax!) that can be spent on organic food. 🙂
    Best wishes,

  2. Diane MacEachern December 27, 2007 at 1:41 pm #

    That’s a great idea. Thanks for your suggestion.

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