Co-organized by my friend and fellow “green sister” Diane MacEachern of Big Green Purse, The U.S. – China Greener Consumption Forum will mark the first-ever gathering of women leaders from the world’s two “consumer super powers” to meet and address the environmental challenges their countries face due to consumption. The forum will convene March 22 at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. Leading consumer advocates, green entrepreneurs, scientists and public policy specialists will explore ways to marshal the “power of the purse” to protect the planet.
Consumer demand is leading to the most rapid use of natural resources, energy, and water that the world has ever seen. The consequences for pollution, impact on climate change, exposure to toxic substances, and waste are equally significant. The choices we make when we shop offer us one of the fastest, easiest ways to protect our health and the health of our families. When we shift our spending to greener products and services, we’re sending a powerful message to manufacturers worldwide that, if they want to continue to get our business, their products must meet our greener, cleaner expectations.
Of course, buying less is the first part of the green consumption equation. And the forum will highlight examples of the “sharing economy” and look at case studies (like “meatless Monday” and ENERGY STAR in the U.S., and similar examples in China) that have been very successful in reducing consumption.
In the U.S., women influence at least 80% of all consumer purchases. In China, women contribute about half of all household income and influence and make more than half of all purchasing decisions. If women in both countries can be mobilized to use their power as consumers and as entrepreneurs alike, significant progress can be made in reducing our global carbon footprint while creating a greener, cleaner world.
We have already seen this to be true in the U.S., where “green” consumer demand has motivated companies to reduce their use of toxic chemicals in baby products, minimize packaging and incorporate recycled materials into the packaging they use, power their manufacturing facilities with solar and wind, develop concentrated cleaning products to reduce materials use and waste, grow more food organically, and create cosmetics and personal care products free of parabens, phthalates, and other hormone-disrupting chemicals, just to name a few examples. In China, national and local women’s federations are a particularly powerful force for social change and community engagement. Many women’s groups have been on the forefront of encouraging their cities and towns to reduce their carbon footprint!
The Forum will feature speakers who are experts in the impacts of consumption on the environment and human health. These trailblazers will highlight the need to include gender equity in sustainability strategies; review innovative campaigns that achieved significant changes in consumer behavior, including those that have helped reduce consumption; showcase companies that have successfully launched new green products in response to consumer demand; and explore opportunities for women to emerge as the entrepreneurial engine behind the global green economy.
Lisa P. Jackson, the recently retired Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will deliver the luncheon keynote address. Other speakers Huan Gao, the mayor of Yichun, China; Xiang Guo, the General Director of the Chinese Women Activity Center; Peter Banwell, Director of Product Marketing for Energy Star; Elizabeth O’Connell, Campaigns Director for Green America; the founder of Skincando organic body care products (a former PR client of mine!); Cheryl Newman, VP and Deputy Chief of Mission for Honest Tea; and many more. Learn more and register to attend online.