A Bizymoms' Exclusive Interview with Diane MacEachern
1. Tell us what led you to become a conservationist.
I grew up in Michigan, surrounded by the Great Lakes and a lot of natural beauty. But it was also a time when the lakes were quite polluted; I remember family outings when my parents wouldn’t let us walk on the beach because so many dead fish had washed up on shore. When I got older, we had to be careful of the milk we drank: almost all the dairy cows in the state had accidentally been fed a fire-retarding chemical called PBB instead of grain, and the milk was too dangerous to drink. Initially, I’d wanted a career in the foreign service, but these environmental issues left their mark. After studying French language and literature, I got a Master’s Degree from the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan so I could work on campaigns to protect the natural environment as well as our health.
2. What exactly do you mean by "Live Green?"
It’s not enough to just talk about how concerned we are about the fate of the earth. Even voting once every two years or fours years isn’t enough. “Live Green” focuses on simple “good-for-the-earth” lifestyle changes that anyone can make at home, at work, in the garden, when we commute, even when we’re on vacation so we can have a more constant, positive impact on the planet. The great thing about these tips is that they’re also good for our health. In fact, just about everything we do to benefit the environment benefits our health, too.
3. What is your mission/goal for BigGreenPurse.com?
One immediate goal is to get a million women to shift $1,000 of their household budget to green products and services. If a million of us do it – and given the power of your great website and of all the moms out there who care – we could have an immediate billion dollar impact on manufacturing practices. By using our consumer clout, we’d encourage industries to save energy, help keep the air and water clean, use healthier ingredients in their products, and protect wilderness and wildlife.
Women could do more to protect the planet than any other force on earth – if we’d just start using our purses. Through BigGreenPurse.com, I hope to make it easy for women to shift money they’re already spending – on everything from cars and computers to cosmetics and cleaning products – so we can leave the world a better place for our kids and grandkids.
4. In your opinion, what is the greatest feature of the BigGreenPurse website?
The “Shop Green Here” and “Live Green” pages are the reason to keep coming back. First, they’ll save you time: I’ve done a lot of research on green products and services so you don’t have to. I’ve also looked for money-saving options. Hopefully, you’ll find some bargains here, since “eco shopping” can get a little pricey. The Top Ten and How To… columns are really popular, too. Those features make it pretty easy to get started, and they’re useful whether you’re a beginner or someone who’s been actively living a green lifestyle for a long time.
5. How has the Internet helped you move your business forward?
The networking I’ve been able to do through the Internet has been a real boon to my business. Thanks to my two websites (I have another site at www.theworldwomenwant.com), I’ve been hired to write articles for online magazines; consult for organizations; give speeches; and develop new lines of work. All the publicity I’ve received online has helped generate additional consulting and advertising for my site. I have a new book coming out February 28, 2008, in large part because my website has been so successful. The Internet will play a key role in the marketing of that book, titled – Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World.
6. Writing is a very popular topic on Bizymoms. How hard did you find it to get your first book published and what tips can you offer moms who have the same dream?
I published my first article when I was 25; I’ve been writing op eds, letters to the editor, brochures, fact sheets, and booklets ever since. It was actually pretty easy to get my first book -- Save Our Planet: 750 Everyday Ways You Can Help Clean Up The Earth (Dell) -- published. It was the 20th anniversary of Earth Day, and the timing was perfect. That was the beginning of the second wave of environmentalism (if you think of the first Earth Day as the first wave), and mine was one of the only books on the environment to be published that year (1990). It was a best seller – I was even on TV with Regis Philbin! The book I’m working on now is my fourth book – I just keep plugging away.
Anyone who wants to write a book can fulfill her dream. The key is to be clear on what you want to say, why you want to say it, and who you want to say it to. That may sound simplistic, but trust me – it’s hard to figure out sometimes.
You have a lot of options for publication. There are hundreds of publishers, but you can also self-published (I self-published my third book; a week after it came out, a major publishing house offered me a contract for it!).
The key is to write, write, write so that you get good at the craft. Then have something unique to say. Start with feature articles and op eds, and longer blogs. Eventually, you’ll get to your book.
7. What advice do you have for moms who want to promote a "green" lifestyle?
Teach by example: that’s the most effective way to get the message across. Next, figure out what you’re most comfortable promoting. The steps you’re taking to try to green your own home or family? Different eco products you’re trying? Write about specifics that others can grasp. Be visual. Show pictures. And whenever possible, use a sense of humor!
8. Do you have any advice for moms who want to start an online business?
Find a partner! Most businesses are a lot of work; it really helps to have someone to share the pain!! More importantly, starting a business can be a lonely undertaking. It’s great to have a colleague to collaborate with, especially if your partner has strengths to complement your own. Next, find a mentor, someone who really understands the Internet and how it can make your business a success. Working on the Internet requires a set of special technological and marketing skills. If you don’t have them, find someone who does.
9. How do you manage the difficult task of balancing business and family?
I keep a very detailed calendar. As soon as I get my kids’ school schedules for the year, I write in all the important dates, all their sports events, parent-teacher meetings, holiday parties, everything that I know in advance. Then I fill in all the birthdays, holidays, and vacation plans. Once those get on the calendar, they’re pretty much set in stone. I fit work obligations around the family calendar. Day-to-day, life has a certain pattern. I get up early (between 4 and 5 a.m. during the school year) to work a couple of hours before my daughter gets up for school. After morning “rush hour,” I get back to my desk until late afternoon and family matters kick-in again: dinner, homework, walking the dog, grocery shopping, laundry, etc. I get in a little reading or editing after dinner if I don’t have something going on with the kids or in the community.
10. I read your article about "Green" graduation gifts. We are all gift givers here, so tell us about the most well received green gifts you have given.
I give compact fluorescent light bulbs or native plants as housewarming gifts. During the Christmas holidays, I like to give big, bushy rosemary plants, pots full of amaryllis bulbs, and organic fruit baskets. My husband regularly gets tickets to the theatre or a lecture series, or some other kind of “experience” that doesn’t contribute to the material clutter in our household. We give those kinds of gifts to our kids, too: tickets to sporting events or concerts, a mother-daughter date at the spa, a father-son outing to the ball game. Those kinds of gifts are always a big hit. I really love tea, so I love to get new organic teas I haven’t tried before. But my favorite gift for me is more family time out in Nature. Nothing’s better than all of us going on a hike in the Shenandoah mountains and having a really great picnic. That, to me, is the perfect gift