His Holiness the Dalai Lama made a stunning proclamation last year at a Peace Summit in Vancouver. He said, “The world will be saved by the western woman.” This statement shocked the audience and started a tsunami of responses in cyberspace. Can you imagine? Women saving the world?
After the initial elation I felt to hear such a highly respected male leader make such a statement, I thought to myself, duh, of course it will be women. We make 85% of the consumer purchases. We can save the world right now by what we buy – and don’t buy.
Let’s look at the numbers. It is estimated that American women spend about $5 trillion annually. That’s over half of the US GDP. Wow. We purchase everything from autos to health care. Here are some quick stats on our purchases:
91% of new homes
65% new cars
89% bank accounts
93 % OTC pharmaceuticals
And here’s what we’re doing online:
22% shop online at least once a day
92% pass along information about deals or finds to others
171 average number of contacts in their e-mail or mobile lists
According to the New York Times (August 23, 2009), “There are more women controlling more wealth in the US than ever before. Of those in the wealthiest tier of the country defined by the IRS as individuals with assets of at least $1.5 million, 45% are women.”
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what we can do if we rally our forces and use our economic power to change the course we’re on. We’ve got the power. So what’s standing in the way? Why aren’t we using our smarts at the supermarket to make conscious choices in what we buy? Why aren’t we sending big messages to Madison Avenue every day with our pocketbooks?
As a green marketer for the last 10 years, what I’ve noticed over and over again is this: We simply do not know what we’re putting into our pores. Most of us are just plain uninformed.
Would you buy that brand new baby blue carpet for your child’s nursery if you knew that a baby crawling on a conventional carpet inhales the equivalent of four cigarettes a day? (Source: Scientific American Magazine). Would you smear that satiny chartreuse paint on your walls if you knew that indoor air pollution is two to 20 times more toxic than outdoor air pollution, even if you live in an industrialized city? (Source: Environmental Protection Agency). We’re getting out-gassed on a daily basis and we don’t even know it.
For instance, in the US about 80,000 industrial chemicals are registered for use in all of the products we eat, touch‚ wear‚ and use to furnish our homes, but fewer than 20% have been tested for their impact on human health and the environment. These include ingredients in our food, household cleaners‚ and body care products. They include chemicals used on and in toys, furniture, clothing and bed linens.
Of those that have been tested, most have been evaluated for their acute impacts to adult males. Yet, women are the first environment for the next generation. Many chemicals stored in a woman’s body are passed on to her child during pregnancy and later through breast-feeding.
A 2005 study by the Environmental Working Group revealed that at least 287 hazardous industrial chemicals pass through the placenta to the fetus. Synthetic chemicals are so prevalent in a woman’s breast milk today that, if bottled for sale, most breast milk would not pass FDA regulations.
While studies still document that breastfeeding remains the best option for building infant immunity (I breastfed both of my kids), the quantity of chemicals we are exposing to our young is of tremendous concern and poses an unnecessary burden on the developing child.
Don’t Get Too Depressed. Here’s the Good News.
All of this and more are igniting women to take their health and wellbeing in their own hands. Because we cannot find the kind of products that are safe enough, healthy enough for our families and children, many of us are making them ourselves.
As a part of the work I do with Women Of Green, a community and podcast I created about turning up the volume of the feminine voice in green, I coach women. For years, I have listened to the intimate stories and motivations of women and mothers not only making green purchases in their homes, but by putting their missions where their mouths are and starting green businesses in the marketplace. These women are saving the world one diaper, cleaning product, pajama and perfume at a time.
Take Liberty for example, a mother who through the deeply painful experience of losing her baby due to toxic out gassing in her home started a green business in her community so no parent would ever have to go through what she did. Now her green building store, Indigo Green in Gainesville, Florida, is a thriving green business selling healthy home building products nationwide.
And then there’s Margarita, a mother of three who refused to put disposable diapers on her babies because she knew that the chemical in the liners contain sodium polyacrylate, the same substance removed from tampons in 1985. So what did Margarita do? She started Swaddlebees, now a 2 ½ million dollar company that manufactures organic cloth diapers that have moms dumping the disposables for a healthier choice for their babies.
These women, and millions more, are rising up and leading the way. Social entrepreneur and co-founder of Bioneers, Nina Simons, says in her new book Moonrise: The Power of Women Leading from the Heart, “Though people today often lament a lack of leadership, a new form is arising everywhere, largely from women, and is as unstoppable as grass that grows up through the cracks in concrete.”
We have Al Gore. But what we need now is Alberta Gore. The strong voice of the feminine on behalf of the well being of the planet and her children. She doesn’t have a power point. And she needs no charts. What she does have is her voice, and her purse.
Women have a very specific and important role in the global change we’re in. We have economic power and ecologic consciousness. That’s a potent combination that can move mountains. Women Of Green is about harnessing that power in this critical time.
The Moment of Truth
Women, this is it. This is the moment of truth. We can save the world starting right now with our passions, our purchases, and our pocketbooks. Here are some ideas to get you going.
- Never ever ever again buy or drink from a plastic water bottle. Even if someone gives it to you for free. If you’re tempted, just think: Oil Spill.
- Read the labels. If you can’t pronounce an ingredient on the package, put it back on the shelf.
- Buy locally grown and produced products. You’ll be healthier for it. And you’ll make a farmer very happy.
- Shut off the lights when you leave the room. That that includes when you’re in a hotel. Energy is energy.
- This holiday, recycle the wrapping paper and send an e-card instead. Or better yet, give naked gifts and skip the wrapping paper all together.
There are a thousand more but just start with these and commit, really commit to them and I promise you, we’ll do some serious saving of the world. See, the Dalai Lama was right. We have the power. We always did. We just didn’t know it.
Carolyn Parrs is creator, producer and host of Women Of Green, a podcast and community about turning up the volume of the feminine voice in green. She is also a principal at Mind Over Markets, a dedicated green marketing communications company in Santa Fe, New Mexico. For over 10 years, she has helped businesses and organizations create effective messaging in the green market. Carolyn is also a Certified Business Coach and Life Coach. She works one-on-one with women launching and growing socially focused businesses internationally. She is a featured author on Green Marketing in Thomson Reuters book series for C-level executives called “Inside the Minds: Greening your Business.” She also co-authors the Green Marketing Blog. You can contact her at carolyn (at) mindovermarkets (dot) com.