Archive for April 2012 | Monthly archive page

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By Vesper Hubbard

Devora kimelman-Block, Jess, Tonya Tolchin, Meredith Sheperd_2

In April, DC EcoWomen hosted a panel discussion for EcoHour on local farming. We heard about kosher meat production from Devora Kimelman-Block (KOL Foods), about private DC gardens from Meredith Sheperd (Love and Carrots), and small-scale produce farming from Tanya Tolchin (Jug Bay Market Garden). These women have all made admirable commitments to sustainable practices that promote the health and well-being of their friends, families, and communities.

Devora started off the talk with her story. Over a year ago she found herself trucking cattle to a kosher slaughterhouse in Baltimore in order to get the food she needed prepared according to her family’s diet. As she was taking these time intensive and costly trips she thought about how the task fit into her own spiritual journey and how the process could be made better. Prior to 2007, when she decided to found her own slaughterhouse, people had to choose between kosher and sustainability. What started as a hobby quickly turned busy and she found investors to help her turn the venture into a full time job. She also commented that people before WWII considered meat to be a treat rather than a daily diet staple. Her company encourages meat minimalism.

Tonya grows veggies, flowers and herbs on an organic farm in Prince Georges County in Maryland. As a child she grew up in a town with one of the best agricultural programs in the country but did not find a lot of personal interest in it. Farming was not considered “cool.” Once in college however she became interested in the subject of food shortages and took a course linking farm ownership with poverty issues. She quickly found her way onto a local farm and food bank and started volunteering her time. After college she came to DC to work with Sierra Club. Once married, she found that she and her husband had an enjoyment for farming and decided to start a farm, an idea that seemed absurd at the time. However after some serious business planning their farm was underway. Tonya remarked that the times of have changed and people are beginning to see the value in local farms and personal agriculture again.

Meredith runs Love and Carrots a local company that starts gardens for people in urban areas. It all started when she moved into a house in the DC area with a great yard but the soil was no good. Her closest community garden had a 2 year waiting list to join. After observing the yard space of her neighbors, she decided to start a business creating gardens in these underused green spaces. She deals with people who have been separated from gardening but want to learn. She commented that people have been culturally removed from the action and concept of personal and local agriculture. Now local farming has become a new and large trend.

There were lots of questions from the audience and some of the tips/answers the ladies offered were to really vet farmers. Ask lots of questions to get to know them especially if you are looking for certain qualities in your food, whether it is organic, sustainability or other standards. Tonya offered that her company/farm offers internships to professionals and students who want a chance to “try on” farming. Devora spoke to being a woman in the Kosher food business and said her gender has not been a sticking point. She is the main point person for her organization so most people know her gender immediately. She also offered that people should start cutting down their diet to eating meat twice a week rather than every day. Such is a more sustainable practice.

Farm resources:
Realtimefarms.com – A crowd-sourced nationwide food guide. We enable you to trace your food back to the farm it came from, whether staying in or dining out, so you can find food you feel good about eating.

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By Cheryl Kollin, Livability Project

Defining sustainability

When I mention in casual conversation that I work with “sustainable” organizations, I typically get puzzled, deer-in-the-headlights responses. Sometimes I swap the “s” word with, “livable” or “green”, but still the response is generally the same — confusion. Some people, of course, use the same language to describe their latest ventures. My conversation companion might launch into a story about making a lot of money (a.k.a. “greenbacks”), or describe his or her latest landscaping (greening) project, or even their latest house remodel to make it more “livable”!

Buying local supports the local economy

But when I describe sustainability in tangible terms, like giving up a car and walking or biking more for health and environmental reasons, or shopping at local farmers’ markets to keep money in our community, or switching my utility company to support alternative energy like wind power—most people nod knowingly and share their own story about their lifestyle and business choices. Of course it’s easier to talk to people in Bethesda, a progressive community in the Washington DC Metro Area.

Livability Project defines a sustainable community as one that is economically viable, environmentally healthy and which reflects quality of life. Communities and cities reach this state only by bringing together the diverse stakeholders needed for unified, long-lasting change. The Partners for Livable Communities adds to that definition, “social stability and equity, educational opportunity, cultural, entertainment and recreation”. With these altruistic goals, why isn’t every community embracing sustainable initiatives? Why is it so hard to change?

Unifying fragmented initiatives

I recently interviewed some key players engaged in their own community’s sustainability efforts and heard a reoccurring theme—there was a lack of coordination between environmental, social and economic initiatives. One long-time activist in Baltimore was frustrated that even though “there are active green building, water conservation, and food initiatives [in our community] none of the groups are talking to one other—and no one is talking to the business community”.

Another interviewee believes that “there has to be a balance between improving the environment and earning a profit.” The terms—sustainability, livability, and greening, regardless of their subtle differences in meaning or emphasis all share a common understanding—that the environment, economy, and social well-being are all inextricably linked. The Institute for Sustainable Communities promotes that working toward solutions to community issues such as poverty, hunger, housing, transportation, jobs, pollution, public health, and crime etc., “requires an integrated approach rather than fragmented approaches that meet one of those goals at the expense of the others”. The Institute also recognizes that “sustainability takes a long-term perspective”—instead of a quick fix or short lived initiatives that last only as long as a politician’s term in office.

Making the case for sustainability

One of my first assignments in my sustainable MBA program at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute was to present a convincing case for sustainability. Why should business, government, and citizen groups invest their time, money, and expertise in changing local policies, business practices, and lifestyle choices? If you are a public servant, business owner, or citizen activist who is ready to engage your community in sustainable thinking and approaches, here are a few ways to start the conversation:

1. Sustainability reduces your costs of operations. Everyone has a budget whether you are in business, government, or are a homemaker. Changing your internal operations can save money; improving your bottom line. For example, energy-efficiency improvements in facilities typically reduce energy consumption by 30%.[1]Organizations like The Trust for Public Lands’, Center for Park Excellence show the multiple returns on investment (ROIs)—including environmental, social, and economic net benefits of maintaining urban public parks.

2. Sustainability raises morale; raises productivity; attracts and retains quality employees. In a human resources study, 55% of the respondents reported that a commitment to sustainability improved employee morale; 38% said that sustainability increased employee loyalty.[2] Employees who stay at their jobs also reduce turnover and save on job training costs and become “ambassadors of good will” for the company.

3. Sustainability serves the greater good; by buying locally, we contribute to community economic development. Local businesses yield two to four times the multiplier benefit as compared to non-local businesses.”[3] Author Michael Shuman believes that reinvesting in our local communities is sound economics. In his latest book, Local Dollars, Local Sense: How to Shift Your Dollars from Wall Street to Main Street, Michael offers a compelling case for why we all should reinvest our money locally and gives us new strategies with which to do so.

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by Vesper Hubbard

In the Gen Y era, social media is as ubiquitous in our professional lives as it is in our personal lives. Most of us remember the beginning of social media as Friendster and MySpace, then Facebook came along and changed the game.  I remember my freshman year of college and the buzz on campus was a semester long campaign to have Facebook host our tiny liberal arts university. Ah the glory, finally we were able to connect with our old friends from high school studying at schools near and far, share our photos, give props to our friends, and attempt to boost our social status by our frequent and measured activity online.  Now this life-sharing and communication concept has made its way to new platforms with the likes of Twitter, LinkedIn, Fourquare and many more. These social media platforms when utilized correctly can lend more than a place for social bragging rights but a place to advertise with purpose and to sell yourself!
If you are looking for a new job, social media can be a great way to brand yourself and let potential employers know about your skills and experience. The most popular platforms are Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
The first principle rule social media gurus stress is do not put anything out on the Internet that you wouldn’t want your coworkers, grandma, or anyone else who’s opinion you value, to see.  The Facebook college days are over and if you are out of school and developing a career then who you are has to or is starting to evolve, so take care to update your information.  Use a current photo, update your “about me” info to include education and other relevant information, and don’t be afraid to display your personality.  It is common for professionals to feel that their “work” lives and “real” lives are separate and should remain that way.  However, who you are is who you are, you bring that to work everyday and your interest and hobbies are valuable ways to show you’re a real person and deepen connections.

Stay tuned for more professional tips and information on using social media to your advantage!

Wildflowers Abound

Apr
2012
10

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Over the last weekend, a crowd of DC EcoWomen and friends took advantage of the beautiful weather and headed outdoors for a fun-filled and educational afternoon with naturalist Amanda Campbell in Turkey Run Park, Virginia.  As we gathered for introductions and conversation, everyone was excited to learn about the local flora and share their own personal and professional hiking experiences.  Needless to say, everyone was happy to escape the city for a few hours and enjoy the great outdoors.

As we started our climb up the first hill, we were reminded that spring in DC has sprung earlier than in recent years and that this would mean that the wildflowers might have already peaked for the season.  Undaunted, we began the journey eager to “see what we would see,” according to Amanda.  Although still within earshot of the cars and planes, we quickly found ourselves amidst a forest of trees, with fresh green leaves blowing in the breeze and covering the landscape with dancing shadows.  The path then led us down toward the gurgling sounds of the Potomac, where lo and behold – the wildflowers abounded.  Amanda showed us all kinds of different plants that lined the path, including a few invasive species.

After a few creek crossings, we rested and snacked on sack lunches alongside the river.  As we adventured onward, wildflowers may have stolen the show, but they certainly weren’t the only things caught our attention.  In fact, beetles, spiders, and even a snake were among the surprises that met us along the way.  Upon finishing our walk, we came away with some enriching natural history, big smiles, and new friendships.  Many thanks to Amanda Campbell for sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm with the group!

Check out Flickr for more fun photos.