Maria Energia Book Review: Big Green Purse
Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World is a good manual for consumers looking to make sustainable changes to their lifestyles. We can change CFLs, tell our legislators to encourage renewables, but we also have to take on the responsibility of supporting those businesses and products that align with our green values.
Women should take on a lot of that responsibility. According to author Diane MacEachern, women spend 85 cents of every dollar in the marketplace. And our green choices are taking effect:We’ve already make organic food the fastest-growing sector in the food industry. We’ve turned ‘natural’ personal care products into a booming business, too…But we have to do more.
Big Green Purse is a huge book and rather daunting, but I found it helpful to use it as a manual rather than a book to read from cover to cover. The chapters are organized into areas like cosmetics and personal care products, cars/transportation, food, cleaning supplies, clothing, electronics, toys, clothes and home. After explaining the risks/benefits of particular items (PVC kids toys vs safer alternatives), the book lists where the readers can buy sustainable items, including websites and organizations to check out for more information. The chapters are self-contained and allow you to quickly research the greenness of your next car purchase or grocery trip.
Big Green Purse asks its readers to pledge to shift $1,000 of our annual spending to green products. If a million of us do that, we’d have a $1 billion effect on the marketplace. This could mean moving $10 a week of your grocery bill to locally grown or organic foods, or recycled paper towels, or CFLs. The point is, a little bit can go a long way. But that means we all have to commit to a little bit and ensure that our pocketbooks follow our values.
A New Web? “Super Grid” May Connect Africa, Europe
I like transmission. A lot. I’m fascinated by the “smart grid” technologies being developed and even the policies and transmission “highways” we’ll need to build to a) bring the U.S. electric system into the 21st century and b) bring the abundant renewable energy in rural areas to the urban areas where the power is needed most urgently.
Transmission is a hot topic in Europe as well. The newly formed Mediterranean Union - created to promote cooperation among the nations bordering the Mediterranean region - is considering the idea of a “Super Energy Grid” that would link Africa and Europe. It would connect geothermal energy in Iceland, biomass power in Poland and solar power in the Sahara. The “smartness” of the grid would allow countries to export the power when they have an abundance of it and import when there’s an energy shortage.
So how much renewable energy is really needed to make this plan work? The European Commission’s Institute for Energy has said that 0.3 percent of the sunlight from the Sahara and the Middle East could power all of Europe. An Institute spokesperson, Arnulf Jaeger-Walden, explained:If you can connect the grid to hydro power, you’ve got that as a backup battery, and in addition there’s wind. It’s not a single source that’s providing the energy but a combination of the different renewable energies.
Africa gets a good deal out of this too. By using solar thermal generators instead of typical photovoltaic panels, the solar power plants could be used also as desalination facilities to provide clean drinking water and irrigation. Not to mention the job creation from the more than $60 billion dollars it would take to create the grid.
UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Sarkozy of France have voiced support of the idea. NGOs like Greenpeace are also supportive. Undersea cables to Sicily and Spain are planned for construction by 2012 and Algeria has started work on a solar plant for 2010. The entire project still has plenty of funding and technical challenges and it’s not going to be built tomorrow, but it’s terrifically encouraging that world leaders are seriously discussing such a project AND that some of the groundwork is being constructed. We should make our elected officials and energy companies take notice.