Big Green Purse: Shopping power = shopping less?

BlogHer Original Post

Save the world by -- shopping? Such Bush-esque advice makes many an environmentalist raise a weary eyebrow. But Diane MacEachern's new book, Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World, turns out not quite to be what the cover seems to advertise. In fact, "Big Green Purse" shows how using one's spending power might in fact be exercising the power NOT to give in to marketing ploys and sales pitches.

After all, rampant consumerism's what got us into our current environmental dilemma. Title of the book aside, Diane never loses an opportunity to preach the reduce, reuse, recyle mantra. Of the 7 shopping tips "Big Green Purse" espouses, the first is "Buy less."

So why the rather misleading title? Perhaps it's a lure to entice otherwise blithely oblivious shoppers into picking up the book. Once opened, "Big Green Purse" loses no time getting right into the middle of things, kicking off with a doom and gloom chapter that points out all the problems caused by "regular" consumption, depicting a world full of cancerous chemicals marked with the looming fear of potential ecological collapse. Yikes!

The book does gets cheerier from there, emphasizing that individuals -- especially women -- can make a big difference by spending less, and spending differently. Chapters are divided into different aspects of life, covering everything from healthy food to eco-cleaning to, of course, clothes and purses. For the caffeine lovers, Diane actually dedicated an entire chapter to coffee, tea and cocoa!

"Big Green Purse" actually has much in common with another recently published book, "Healthy Child, Healthy World," (I reviewed it here) -- though the titles make the books sound vastly different. For those who get easily overwhelmed, Big Green Purse might be easier to handle, as Diane's list-making proclivities -- arranging the eco-advice in order of practicality and importance -- make it easier for newbies to prioritize their eco-actions.

While taking in the environmental messages, "Big Green Purse" also urges consumers not to get sucked in by the alarming, pseudo-scientific marketing messages, such as those that erroneously encourage people to buy antibiotic soaps or synthetic "age-defying" creams.

Of course, even die-hard anti-consumerists still need to buy stuff. Veggies and undies come to mind, for example (though I suppose some might go so far as to grow or sew all of their own). And for these necessary purchases, "Big Green Purse" gives some smart, practical advice for making the greenest purchasing decisions depending on your circumstances.

Perhaps "Big Green Purse" should be renamed "Think before you shop." Okay -- That isn't exactly catchy, but I'm still trying to get my head around the fact that the title seems so incongruous with the content of the book. Already-environmentalists are likely to be turned away by the seeming rah-rah-shop-now message, while the newly eco-curious might be disappointed (and perhaps scared) by the first doom-and-gloom, stop-shopping-so-much chapters.

Is that a pessimistic view? I hope so. Maybe angry environmentalists will pick up the book and be assuaged by the dark green message, and eco-newbies will be scared into their senses....

BlogHer Contributing Editor Siel also blogs for the Los Angeles Times at Emerald City, and at

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