What Happened to My Header Image (and why I'm not sure if I'm cut out for this blogging business)

>> Friday, June 18, 2010

On Wednesday night, I had trouble falling asleep, and once sleep finally came, I had restless dreams, and once the dreams finally left me in peace, my Early Bird children began their morning bickering...all culminating with me being in a very foul mood.

The kind of mood that needs fresh air.

So I abandoned my boys to their granola bowls and stepped into the backyard, and ended up spending an hour pruning tomatoes and training cucumbers and planting flowers while my children danced around me like fairies. By the time we went inside, my inner beast was soothed.

And then I decided to take an email break, and the first email I opened was from Diane of Big Green Purse demanding that I remove my header image because it violates her trademark of green purses. Up until this point, Diane is someone I had respected, but her email left a vile taste in my mouth. The image in question is a photograph of one of those glorious how-could-I-be-so-lucky thrift store finds: a green purse for a green blogger who writes about shopping.

Although many un-Christian thoughts passed through my mind this morning, I eventually concluded that (a) Diane probably did have the legal upperhand here and (b) I didn't have the means or the mean-spiritedness to fight it. But when I thought about removing an image that my husband and I had spent hours designing, and when I thought of the future hours that would need to go into creating an new header image, I felt completely overwhelmed.

And those overwhelming thoughts let to more thoughts: About how much time I've spent blogging and how little difference it has made. About how the culmination of all this knowledge-gaining has just given me more reasons to worry and more reasons to be depressed. How dipping my toe into activism has shown me just how exhausting it can be with so little result to show for it. And how after nearly two years of blogging, I've greened my life and met some fabulous people, but I've also been chewed out and criticized and insulted. And to what end?

Finally I knew it was time to face the cloudy thought that has been lingering in the back of my mind for awhile now: Why am I blogging?

Is it because I think that through blogging about green living I can make the world better? At one time I did, but now...the world is so big and I am only one person, and maybe my time would be better spent away from the computer and out in my own community.

Is it because I want to make money from my blog? I've considered trying and dabbled a little bit with the whole Reuseit Ambassador thing, but I have trouble reconciling the non-consumption philosophy behind my blog with the "support my sponsors" message. And truthfully I don't have the competitiveness or ruthlessness it takes to be an entrepreneur.

So why do I blog? When I first started, I had just moved to a new city, and I needed the connectedness, the feeling that I wasn't alone in the world. I still love that about blogging, but I don't think I need it anymore. I also love blogging for the cathartic-ness of it, but I'm not sure that makes up for the emotional downsides. And I love the writing, but maybe it's time to find other outlets for my words.

When I've complained before about people being mean on the Internet, my husband comments, "That's true, so if you're really serious about being a blogger, you need to develop a thicker skin." Well, I don't think I can or want to. And if I quit blogging and go back to my normal life, I might actually get some projects done around here that have been sitting on a shelf for two years, and I might be able to enjoy a morning outdoors with my children without it being spoiled by people I don't even know and events I have no control over.

So after all these thoughts, the conclusion I've come to is that I need a break. I'm going to take a week off to think about some things, and see where it takes me.


Julia (Color Me Green) June 18, 2010 at 10:18 AM  

that's too bad. i have had bloggers get mad at me for using their photograph with a credit/link back to them, because i didn't ask for prior permission - they should be happy i'm spreading their work around the internet. in this case, it was your own picture! some people are just too touchy.

i like blogging because i appreciate feeling connected to other greenminded people out there through blogs because i don't know many in real life. but i also support getting out there and living over blogging, and i'm sure you'll make the choice that's right for you. best wishes.

Robyn June 18, 2010 at 10:48 AM  

I support you whatever decision you make, but for the record- I read your blog all the time. I find it very useful, insightful and inspiring. I send emails to family and friends ALL the time with a link to your blog when you've posted something I think they would be interested in, or should read. Just sayin....

Anonymous,  June 18, 2010 at 10:51 AM  

Since it sounds like you need the encouragement, I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your blog. It's really nice to read one of these by someone NOT from Portland or San Francisco...someone who has to work a little harder at it because of living somewhere with fewer options.

That said, I couldn't blame you if you decided to spend your time on other things. Just as with your money, you have to spend your time where it will do the most good...for the world, for your family, and for YOU.

Also, I'm really not sure that Diane does have the legal upper hand here. Seems to me like she's way off base. What, is she going to sue everyone who sells green purses, too? If I were you, I wouldn't let her bully me around. Blogging about green shopping is not a novel idea that she can claim right to, nor is the association between purses and shopping.

Sorry she ruined your mood, though!

The Mom June 18, 2010 at 11:47 AM  

Things are getting a little silly here. Why should Diane care what you have on your header? Your the Conscious SHOPPER! A purse makes sense. The crankiness from some of the older bloggers is getting a little silly. They want to be the only ones able to talk about certain things. If we want to make a change in the world, then the more the better. Right? I'm thinking of another blogger who had a fit over someone who had a challenge inspired by and credited to the first blogger. It's pretty sad. Bullies are everywhere. You do a great job. Don't let it get to you.

Jessica Nichols June 18, 2010 at 11:49 AM  

Hi Erin,

I'm sorry you are going through this right now. It sounds like the situation with the photograph stirred up some questions that were there under the surface. I know blogger burnout is so common, and maybe a break will help give you the perspective you need on the bigger blogging picture. I totally understand the "world is so big and I'm only one person" thinking. I was just talking to my MIL about that last night. But in the end, we are only one person so we do have to do what we can and hope that if enough of us do that, there will be great larger effects for the earth. I say this out loud to encourage myself as well as you. Hang in there. Go take a break!

Also I am very confused on how you do not have the right to use your own photograph on your own blog. You own that photo! I don't get it at all.


Did you have the phrase "green purse" on the image somwhere? I would use the image still. It seems to me they are separate issues. She owns a phrase, you own the copyright to that photograph. She can't stop everyone from having a green purse or photographing their green purses. It's not like your blog is called "The Green Purse." ???

Anonymous,  June 18, 2010 at 12:06 PM  

I think everyone else has said it better than I could. I love your blog, and look forward to reading new posts- you are one of the people who inspires me to keep chipping away at things in my own life, particularly when it all seems big and overwhelming. That said, you can only do so much in a given day, and if a blogging break is the right thing to do, then do it! (I'll miss you though, and will hope that you come back soon.)

~a canadian in england

Danielle June 18, 2010 at 1:36 PM  

Erin, please look for an email that has a detailed response to this particular situation regarding her trademark.

Julia, please be cautious. Regardless of whether you are giving someone a link and credit for their photographs, if they have a full copyright (a c in a circle), you are violating copyright laws by not getting their permission before posting them. Whether a photographer wants to have their work shared without permission is a personal decision and should not be ignored. Only a creative commons license should be used without getting permission first. That's a dangerous game.

Standard caveat: Yes, I'm a lawyer. This is my opinion and is not meant to create an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be legal advice.

A Green Spell June 18, 2010 at 1:53 PM  

I enjoy your blog a lot and hope your blog vacation will renew you. You have a lot of support!

Marie,  June 18, 2010 at 2:08 PM  

I understand why you need the break. I hope it helps. Your unique voice will be missed. You've been an inspiration to the local community and the global internet community, and to myself, a daily reader.

Eco Yogini June 18, 2010 at 3:55 PM  

I can add to the voices here- I love your blog and your thoughts! But... I feel you about the burnout. And the hassle at times. Summer time is a decent time of the year to maybe take a few steps back, post less often etc and take it easy. :)

Also- I agree with everyone here. You designed and created that purse yourself- it's not like it's a very specific thing. Most of us own purses... so what- no one can use a purse as an image anymore??

I agree with the others- she's being absolutely ridiculous and a bully. There are larger issues at stake here.

Boo her.

Elle Bee June 18, 2010 at 4:59 PM  

Oh boy. I completely feel for you! My skin is veeeeery thin and I don't think I could take half of what you have had to deal with.
Want you to know that you've made a difference with me, in education, empowerment and just letting me know I wasn't the only crazy lady out there using reusable shopping bags.
But if you decided to step away, it would be absolutely understandable and respectable.
Pray about it!

DownDoggin in MN June 18, 2010 at 5:12 PM  

I too support any decision you make, even though I really look forward to reading each of your posts. I've often admired and questioned how all of you bloggers have the time and patience to keep a blog going. It's such a time commitment and many writers are so often open about personal events that when someone does post an unkind comment it really hurts. It too bad that these event have left you questioning something you clearly enjoy. I've always believed things happen for a reason, maybe this is the perfect time for you to take some time to explore you life away from blogging and see where it leads. Enjoy your time off and don't let anyone think you have to be a blogger or that if you decide to keep writing that you have to post on a regular basis, maybe you'll just have more fun if you get to write and post because you want to not because people expect you too. Take care and go have some fun this summer.

Anonymous,  June 18, 2010 at 5:35 PM  

I only recently found your blog and always come away with some good food for thought after reading it. I'd certainly be sad to see you go; however, your heart has to be in it for a blog to be genuine and meaningful. I hope your time away gives you the perspective you need to make the best choice for you.

Gene June 18, 2010 at 9:36 PM  

I appreciate your blog and would be sorry to see you go, but I can totally understand needing a break.

@Danielle (@1:36pm) -- Thanks for mentioning the legalities. Just because it's viewable on the web does not automatically make it copyable for other uses.

Danielle June 18, 2010 at 10:59 PM  

http://www.danielleliss.com/2010/06/trademarks-blogging-and-community.html - I addressed your situation here.

Jessica Gottlieb June 19, 2010 at 12:52 AM  

This post makes we want to pay for a header redesign. One with a giant green purse.

That was really crummy. Also. I'm pretty sure she trademarked the words.

How many people want to make their headers into green purses? I'm pretty sure y'all will see my Twitter background updated shortly.

Anonymous,  June 19, 2010 at 8:02 AM  

That's not very nice. Even if she did have some kind of trademark, the best route would have been to find a way to collaborate. Too bad she went the nasty route. I like your blog and will continue to read it, if you decide to continue writing. But I completely understand your frustration.

Eco Yogini June 19, 2010 at 8:10 AM  

I just read Danielle's post Erin- it's fantastic. YOu should totally change the picture back and email Diane explaining why she was a bit overreacting.

Shona~ LALA dex press June 19, 2010 at 9:46 AM  

I'll reiterate what someone else said, which is that someone else said this much better, but I would really hate to see you go. I enjoy reading your thoughtful posts + hope that you will continue, but appreciate your situation.

Be well

daharja June 19, 2010 at 4:57 PM  

I'm no lawyer, but I'd say that this Diane is waaaaaay out of line. Also, words gets out that she's a nasty so-and-so, which does her no credit. Does she OWN the image you used? If not, she hasn't a leg to stand on, I'm pretty sure.

Remind me never to waste my time at her blog.

Sometimes people just don't *get* that blogging is supposed to be friendly, and supportive - especially in the green corner of things.

Sorry about my rant, but this really got to me. I've seen nastiness like this before, and it just shows how puny-minded the individuals involved are, that they think they need to not only defend what they see as their little patch of web-turf, but also attack anyone else who even looks vaguely similar.

82andsunny June 20, 2010 at 10:34 PM  

Erin, I love reading your blog, but I can also understand getting burnt out on it. But if you do decide to leave us, I would suggest/request that you leave your posts up. You have an amazing wealth of practical greening information here-- exactly the kinds of things that help me get over the hump of "how does this work/I don't think I can do that" to "Oh, I get it! That's easy!" Even if you stop blogging, I can guarantee folks like us will keep finding you through google searches for how to green ___ aspect of your life. You may have already accomplished what you set out to do. That being said, selfishly, I hope you keep at it because I love your blog. :) Have a good week!

Leigh June 20, 2010 at 10:55 PM  

Well, this is interesting, because I was just telling my friend today that she should read your blog to learn that there are people all over who care. I'm sure the archives would give food for thought. And I like keeping up with you this way!

CatM13 June 21, 2010 at 8:56 PM  

Dear Erin - I recently found your blog. I have found it to be quite inspiring. I want to share with you the reason you shouldn't quit (its my favorite quote but I have no clue who said it): "All it takes for evil to win is for good people to do nothing."

You're a good person. You may be disheartened now, but it will pass.

Nana Sadie June 22, 2010 at 1:44 PM  

I'm sorry this has happened, if only because I've seen it before, and it just never seems to get resolved anywhere and folks like you, who make a contribution and make a difference, end up doing exactly this.

Which is to say, I'll miss you if you go. But will completely understand if you do.

Once again, I wonder, "why can't we all just get along?"
I know...I'm an idealist.
Have a good, restful break, and I'll hope to see you pop up in my Bloglines soon...

Environmental Soul June 22, 2010 at 7:09 PM  

I love your blog and hope you continue to write posts. It seems like Diane feels threatend by you.

Anonymous,  June 23, 2010 at 5:20 PM  

I'm not a lawyer but I think as long as you aren't using the words Big Green Purse which I assume she has trademarked you're on the way to OK. The next is the purse image itself. Her header image is a cartoon drawing of a green purse. Yours is an actual photograph of a real purse that you bought. They are two different images. If you actually used her purse image in your header, there would be more cause for concern. If you do an image search for "green purse" her images don't show up but they do if you search for "big green purse." I think she's trying to bully you about the purse issue. But like others have said, she isn't the only blogger talking about green shopping. As long as you don't talk about the size of your purse, you shouldn't be infringing on her territory.

christin b June 25, 2010 at 3:56 AM  

I just found your blog and I can't stop reading! Then I got to your latest one about giving it up.
Boo! So sad..
I hope you feel better soon.
I would love to read new posts from you anytime you are ready.
Hugs to you!

Diana June 26, 2010 at 10:51 PM  

I just wanted to let you know that I recently started reading your blog and I love it! At the same time, I know how it feels to be frustrated and doubtful about whether or not to continue blogging. We will support you all the way.

And I don't see any copyright infringement at all in you having a photo of a green purse on your header. You did not steal the identical image of Big Green Purse, and she doesn't hold the copyright for all images of green purses. Sounds to me like she's just trying to pressure you, or maybe she's feeling insecure.

My blog header has a photo of yellow shoes, and I certainly wouldn't tell other bloggers that they weren't allowed to have a similar (but not identical) image in their headers.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper June 27, 2010 at 4:02 PM  

Thanks to everyone for your comments and especially Danielle, who went above and beyond as a reader! I've pretty much decided to quit blogging here at the Conscious Shopper, though I'll keep writing in my other usual spots (The Green Phone Booth and The Sustainable Triangle). Full post and explanation to come, but in the meantime, I went ahead and posted the next couple of challenges in the Conscious Shopper Challenge that I'd already written and had languishing on my Edit Posts page.

Lady Susan June 30, 2010 at 12:36 PM  

I just learned about this blog. It seems criminal to find a blog that is so great only to then read the post that you are no longer going to blog here. :(

Then again, I blog for my own amusement have a minimal following. Perhaps I would feel differently if I were attracting more trolls. Also, I can understand wanting to do more than blog. I will just have to catch you at your other sites.

okgirl,  July 11, 2010 at 9:43 PM  

I'm so sorry to hear that you'll not be blogging anymore, but glad to hear you'll still be contributing at your other venues. I've really enjoyed reading your work--it really makes me feel like part of a green community, even if it' online. And my boyfriend and I had a helluva great time making your Non-Animal crackers! I do hope you'll leave your posts up, so that we can keep coming back here. Thanks!

ElizabethBee July 31, 2010 at 4:55 PM  

Please now that your blog has made a difference. Each reader who discovers your site will deepen their commitment to live green and then inspire others. I completely respect the decision to stop blogging, but the posts you have already created will continue to have an impact.

Diane August 4, 2010 at 3:12 PM  

I appreciate the many comments posted in response to Erin's original post. I would like to clarify some issues: First and most important, I did not "demand" that Erin take down her big green purse image. Here is exactly what I wrote: "It occurred to me that you must not realize that I have trademarked Big Green Purse and that the name and the image are the key elements of the brand I've built over the last three years. It's exciting to see the big green purse concept catching on as much as it has, and as you know, I really support the work you've done on your blog to encourage people to be conscious shoppers. But using a big green purse in your logo feels a bit too close to my trademarked brand. Could you give me a call asap to discuss? I value you so much as a colleague and a member of the Green Moms Carnival community, and want to continue to support your work. If you feel strongly that you want to use a big green purse image somewhere on your site, I would be delighted to give you the actual big green purse image to use as you see fit."

I further said, "The big green purse brand is how I make my living. As I said earlier, I totally support you and the work you do, and I will continue to do so."

I have always supported Erin's work. I have given her free advertising on my site, and have linked to her posts. I agree with all of you that it would be a shame if she stopped blogging. However, if she decides to do so, I do not deserve to be blamed. I expect we all go through periods of wondering whether our blogs make a difference; I question the effectiveness of my own work all the time, but it has to do with the nature of blogging, not the way other bloggers operate.

I am perhaps in a slightly different position than some bloggers, because Big Green Purse is my livelihood. That is not to undervalue the work of any person who blogs because she is passionate about a topic or finds blogging a great way to participate in a meaningful conversation. But for me, Big Green Purse represents all those things and more - it is my professional occupation as well as a passionate expression of issues I care about.

I hope Erin will continue to blog, and I will continue to link to her posts when I can. Whether we talk about "conscious shopping" or "big green purse," I think we agree that encouraging consumers to buy less, and buy the greenest products and services available, is the ultimate goal.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper August 5, 2010 at 11:30 PM  


I'm sorry that you feel that I misinterpreted your "demands." This means that I can put the header back up now, right?

In addition to what you included above, you also told me it wasn't personal. Well blogging is nothing if not personal. I write about my personal life and I invest my personal (uncompensated) time on an issue that is very personal to me. The argument that "it's not personal, it's business" has been used to justify plenty of actions that just plain stink and it disappoints me that you'd resort to using that argument. I'm happy that you've found a way to make a living off the green movement, but I'm sorry that you're so invested in protecting your brand that you can't see the bigger picture of supporting the green community and spreading the green message.

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