When the subject is the environment, Diane MacEachern has long been ahead of the times. Thirty years ago, she earned a master's degree in natural resources and the environment. And 20 years ago she helped design and build the energy-efficient house in the Washington, D.C., area where she and her family live.
Now she hopes to be in the vanguard again. Next week she is launching a national campaign and a website, BigGreenPurse.com, urging women to shift at least $1,000 of their annual household spending to green products. On average, people spend $18,000 a year on groceries and household goods.
"Women spend 80 cents of every dollar in the marketplace," Ms. MacEachern says. "We could be the most powerful force for economic and environmental change in the 21st century if we focused our money where it could make the biggest difference. If a million people did that, it would have a $1 billion impact."
As she outlines these benefits to women she meets, she finds an enthusiastic response. "Women love the idea that they have that much power in their purse," MacEachern says. "It can get them a future they want to leave to their kids – clean water, clean air."
For many years MacEachern focused on changing public policy. Although that remains important, she became frustrated by the "dilly dally" approach of Congress and state legislatures. "It can take years to pass legislation," she says. "But in terms of providing an incentive for manufacturers to reduce pollution, we can influence that much more quickly in the marketplace than we can through regulation."
For many people, the marketplace question becomes: What should I buy?
"You start with the products that make the most difference to you," MacEachern says. "You also try to focus on the product that has the biggest impact in protecting the planet." She offers six suggestions:
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