Women are recognizing their need for more sustainable options by creating their own institutions to provide them. The organization Women in Europe for a Common Future has launched the Nesting web site to help women create a healthy environment for their children in utero and once they are born. The web site, available in seven European languages, offers tips for renovating a toxin-free baby room and offers recommendations on purchasing healthy and environmentally-friendly clothes, toys, and baby care items.
Here in the U.S., groups like Women’s Voices for the Earth, Healthy Child, Healthy World and my own Big Green Purse are mobilizing women to defend themselves and their families by rising up against corporations that use toxins in everyday products. This campaign to pressure Tide to remove 1,4 dioxane from the detergent it’s marketing specifically for baby laundry is a case in point.
Women are also recognizing that if they want sustainable products, they may have to produce them themselves. According to the Fair Trade Federation, women now account for 76 percent of the workers engaged in non-agricultural fair trade production, many fabricating crafts from local natural resources. In Colombia, women coffee growers are marketing female-produced Fair Trade coffee. In Burkina Faso, a women’s environmental organization has developed a process to weave fashion accessories and clothing out of plastic bags, reducing trash and litter while creating jobs for women and more environmentally-friendly products for consumers. In Kenya, women are learning to produce handicrafts from recycled metals, which reduces solid waste, and water hyacinth, an invasive plant that negatively affects Kenyan waterways. In South Africa, the “Why Honey” enterprise is teaching women bee-keepers how to increase their effectiveness at processing and selling honey. Their efforts will also revitalize the local bee population, strengthening local biodiversity.
As the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability notes, “the problem is not unsustainable choices, but a lack of choices in the first place. Real choice is only possible once human rights, basic needs, human security and human resilience are assured… Empowering women in particular has the potential to yield tremendous benefits for households, communities and the global economy.”
Photo from Big Green Purse
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