Diane MacEachern, Founder and CEO of Big Green Purse, is a best-selling environmental author and green consumer expert focusing on the role women play greening the marketplace. Diane’s most recent book, Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World, inspires women to use their consumer clout to protect the environment, themselves and their families.
I have gotten to know Diane through our involvement in the Green Moms Carnival, a group of passionate green bloggers who unite voices once a month to promote environmentally-conscious topics. There is no question that Diane is an activist at heart. She’s filled with inspiration, wisdom and dedication. I recently had an opportunity to catch up with Diane to find out how she jumped on board this eco-conscious path and was grateful when she offered up a few simple ways we can all make a difference.
MCAF: You’ve been involved in environmental issues for quite some time. How did you start down this path?
DM: My parents loved the U.S. and never took their citizenship for granted. They always voted, and they encouraged us kids to be active in our church’s youth group, which I was. I walked a picket line with my dad when I was very young, and learned to appreciate Nature from my mother. We lived just outside Detroit, where we were close to the lakes but also felt the impacts of a lot of pollution. I remember one day we all piled into the car on a hot Sunday afternoon to go swimming. But when we got to the lake, the beach was closed because it was just too polluted. Another time, we found out the dairy cows in Michigan had been fed fire retardants instead of grain. But we didn’t find out until we’d drunk an awful lot of contaminated milk! Those experiences have always stayed with me. I knew I wanted to make a difference somehow. Eventually, I earned a Master’s Degree at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, and have been working on environmental issues ever since.
MCAF: In your book, Big Green Purse, you urge women to use their consumer clout to protect the environment and themselves. What are some of the ways women can do this?
DM: It’s very exciting to realize how much power women have to create a cleaner, greener world, simply based on the choices we make when we shop. I’m not one of those people who thinks we can shop our way out of an environmental crisis. But I do believe that the way we spend our money is our first line of defense against exposure to dangerous products and maybe our fastest, most direct way to safeguard ourselves and our families. Buying less, and buying the greenest products and services available is something every single one of us can do, pretty much every day. There are lots of easy shifts we can make, like shifting from fruits and vegetables grown with herbicides and pesticides to organic produce, switching from throwaway paper products like paper towels and napkins to cloth (or at least, recycled paper), choosing greener cleaning products like baking soda and vinegar over more toxic mixes, changing out old energy-wasting light bulbs for newer, money-saving energy-efficient ones. For almost any product you’d want to buy today, there is a more environmentally-friendly option. We offer lots of alternatives at Big Green Purse.
MCAF: How does buying organic foods impact air pollution?
DM: When food is grown organically, no toxic chemicals are sprayed so the air remains cleaner. In conventional agriculture, pesticides and herbicides that contain a variety of toxic chemicals are usually sprayed on plants. Some research shows that less than 0.1% of pesticides applied to crops actually reach the pests they’re intended to kill! A lot of the sprayed chemicals remain in the air. Farmworkers and people living near agricultural areas can inhale toxic particles. Even if they’re not inhaled, pesticides and herbicides will fall to the ground and eventually end up contaminating the ground water.
MCAF: What are the top three ways we, as consumers, can make a difference with respect to air quality and creating a cleaner, greener world?
1. The biggest difference we can make is to use less fossil fuel energy. Most of the energy we use comes from oil, coal, and natural gas. All of these fuel sources release very tiny particles that cause smog and that contribute to asthma and many other respiratory problems when inhaled. There’s even research showing that women living in cities where the air is polluted have more heart attacks than men, because our smaller hearts have to work harder to keep our lungs breathing well in dirty air! So when it comes to using energy, we need to drive less, drive more efficiently, and use our home appliances as energy-efficiently as possible.
2. We should make it a goal to consume less. As consumers, we have a tendency to focus only on the product on the shelf. When we get it all new and shiny, it’s hard to imagine that it had much of an environmental impact while it was being made. But in fact, manufacturing requires a lot of energy, most of which comes from fossil fuels. When we practice the 3 R’s and reduce, reuse and recycle, a lot less energy is burned, which is much better for the air we breathe.
3. Support strong state and federal legislation and elect officials who are committed to cleaning up the air. We consumers can do a lot, but we can’t do it all. We need to strengthen existing air quality laws like the Clean Air Act and make sure they’re enforced. That’s the best way to ensure that power plant operators, product manufacturers, AND consumers are all working together to protect our air.
Two lucky readers will receive a copy of Diane’s Book: Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World
- Sign up for Moms Clean Air Force and leave a comment below letting us know that you have.
- Be sure to include your name (first name and last initial are fine) and email where we can contact you if you win.
- You must have a North American shipping address – no PO boxes.
- TWO lucky winners will receive a copy of Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World
- Contest closes at midnight EST, Thursday, April 19, 2012. Winners will be announced on Friday, April 20, 2012.