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The Planet

    Money Talks

    Your dollar stays in your pocket during a boycott, but you can also cast an economic vote for the environment by choosing to spend it wisely.

    First, ask yourself whether you really need a particular item. The United States, with less than 5 percent of the global population, accounts for 25 percent of global consumption. Could be that the dollar should stay in your pocket after all.

    The easiest way to "buy green" is to make sure products contain recycled, and recyclable, materials. Look for the green symbol: three arrows chasing each other with a triangle around them. There are also books like "Shopping for a Better World" that suggest purchases to match a shopper's values.

    You can also look for items certified by organizations that make it their business to do the research and put their seal -- a "green stamp of approval" -- on the product. Two organizations doing this are Green Seal and the Forest Stewardship Council; both are non-profits.

    Green Seal judges whether a product -- household cleaners, toilet paper, watering hoses, air conditioners, paints and engine oil, to name a few -- causes less harm to the environment than other similar products. Look for their seal, or check the product list on their Web site at

    The Forest Stewardship Council has a narrower focus: It certifies that forest products come from sources that are well-managed according to standards agreed upon by its FSC-member organizations. Three such members are the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation and Friends of the Earth, who together are represented by Bill Mankin, director of the Global Forest Policy Project (see Charting the Course of Global Forest Policy).

    "The total amount of forests that have been certified still amounts to only around 20 million acres worldwide, but that's growing," says Mankin. "The FSC logo is hard to find in the United States, but there is high consumer demand for environmentally friendly products in Europe. You can go into some retail shops and find hundreds of certified forest products there."

    A list of certified sources and products is available at

    "American consumers should be creating a demand," Mankin says. "They should go to their furniture store or wood supplier and ask if they carry FSC-labeled wood. If the staff doesn't know, ask to speak to the manager. If the manager doesn't know, ask him or her to please find out, and then call back in a week. If consumers do this in a friendly -- but persistent -- way, they will convince the marketplace to carry forest-friendly products."

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