Big Green Purse urges consumers to shift their spending to greener products and services as a faster way to protect people and the planet. But that can be tough if you can't find environmentally-friendly products at the stores where you commonly shop. After all, currently, only 3.5% of the produce in most grocery stores is organic. Most of the paper products you'll see – like toilet and facial tissue, paper towels and napkins – aren't made from recycled fiber. Many cleaning and personal care products contain nasty chemicals you'd rather not have in your home.
Sure, you have a lot of eco choices if you have the time, not just to order online, but to wait for delivery. But if you're in a hurry (and who isn't?) and you're already at the market or the local convenience store, you'll probably be out of luck.
If Beth Radow has her way, that will change, at least in her Mamaroneck, New York neighborhood. That's where Beth has mobilized women to meet with store managers to encourage them to make "going green" easier for anyone who wants more eco-friendly options.
Beth (tall woman in blue in center of photo) is the president of the Larchmont-Mamaroneck League of Women Voters Chapter. A passionate environmentalist and a concerned parent, Beth is also an attorney with a "can do, must do" attitude about social change. In fact, the theme for her presidency at the League is "We, The People," because, she says, "I want to empower people to be agents of social change."
With social and environmental change in mind, Beth recently marshalled a force of about 15 women aged 17 to 92 to meet with representatives of their Trader Joe's, Stop-and-Shop, and A&P. This "Supermarket Sweep" was organized against the backdrop of theGulf oil disaster. Said Beth in inviting people to participate, "Gas guzzling semis truck in goods to our stores on a regular basis from near and distant points. How might our stores save on fuel? As professionals and heads of households, we make seemingly unending car trips to and from the store and elsewhere. It all adds up."
Beth invited folks to walk to the stores with their own shopping carts or reusable canvas bags in order to drive home their concerns about energy conservation, noting "This Walk to the store behind a cart instead of a wheel puts a focus on what we ourselves can do to walk the walk when it comes to reducing fuel consumption."
Beth also made copies of Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World available as a primer on the clout women can have when they decide to make their money matter.
Prior to the "Sweep," we brainstormed a list of questions Beth and her group could ask the store managers when they met. How is the store saving energy? What steps are being taken to sell locally-grown food? How can the store reduce excess packaging?
Beth also took the opportunity to suggest that stores reward shoppers who walk to their establishments the same way they reward shoppers who bring their own bags by giving them a nickel/per bag credit.
Beth said she and the other women in the group didn't know what to expect when they got to each store. They were pleasantly surprised to find that the store managers, particularly at Trader Joe's and Stop-and-Shop, were eager to hear what they had to say. Local news reports glowingly featured the "Sweep," the first of its kind in th region.
“We got a wealth of information…about the way the stores work,” Beth concluded, pronouncing this first foray a success. “The customer has a lot more clout than I think we realized.” (That's what Big Green Purse is all about!)
Beth will be conducting follow-up meetings with each store in August, when she hopes to inspire the stores to offer customers who walk or bike an energy credit of some sort.
Meanwhile, if your local group wants to stage a Green Supermarket Sweep, send me an e-mail: Diane@biggreenpurse.com.