Archive for December 2013 | Monthly archive page

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Every Big Change Starts With A Small Step.

If you have 365 days to change your ways, it starts on day one. You have a new big, beautiful, empty year, full of potential, to make some big changes in your life and move forward in positive ways. But each move begins with one small, simple step.

The EcoWomen Board Members have come up with some ways you can resolve to improve your impact on the earth in a meaningful way, starting with square one.

Resolve To Use Less Plastic

Earlier this year, a young sperm whale washed up on the shore of the Netherlands with a stomach full of plastic bags, golf balls, and other garbage adding up to over 37 pounds of waste. Plastic waste continues to be a pressing issue on our planet for a simple reason: it takes a long, long time to go away.

Via Associated Press

So Board Member Alison Alford is resolving to use less plastic in 2014. It’s difficult to go completely plastic free — though not impossible, as you can see from Beth Terry, who blogs about a plastic-free lifestyle in My Plastic Free Life. But here are a couple of easy ways you can reduce your plastic impact:

  • Use pyrex instead of tupperware.
  • Use biodegradable bags instead of plastic trash bags or ziploc bags, and reuseable bags for all of your shopping.
  • Purchase goods in sustainable packaging with little or no plastic.

You can read some other ways to reduce your plastic footprint on our blog. Every bit counts!

Resolve To Burn Eco-Friendly Candles


We’ve previously made the case for why you should try to use environmentally friendly cosmetics and cleaning supplies — the toxins not only are bad for the environment, they can seriously damage your health.

One simple way to take this further is to burn eco-friendly candles: EcoWoman board member Mona Funiciello is resolving to burn only 100% natural vegetable and beeswax candles in 2014. It’ may be a big change from the fancy, colorful kind many of us are used to, but Mona’s excited to restock her candle drawer with something that she knows is eco-friendly and sustainable.

Resolve To Offset Air Miles

Traveling to the natural wonders of the world is one of the reasons many of us became environmentalists. And Washington, D.C. is a young, vibrant city with opportunities to attract women from all over the world — women that likely want to visit their hometown during the holidays, or get away from their stressful jobs to relax and explore a foreign country.

If you love to travel it’s easy to rack up thousands of miles flying on planes, so Board Woman Terrie Clifford, a travel enthusiast, has resolved to always offset her air miles and to support her traveling friends to do the same.

There are many different programs you can use to offset the environmental damage from your air miles, sponsored by several different organizations, like the Nature Conservancy, Carbonfund.org, and others. Search through the options to find the one that’s right for you!

Resolve To Fix Your Bike

Commuting by bicycle is a great way to lower your impact on the environment — with every mile, you’re saving nearly a pound of carbon dioxide emissions. On top of that, biking to work saves you money, and adds a fun form of exercise to your otherwise sedentary routine. One Board Member gave biking to work a shot earlier this year, overcoming her fear of biking in streets in honor of National Bike To Work Day. Another EcoWoman gave biking to work a chance as well, and learned to love it!

But sometimes, one small snafu can become a huge road-block, and might be a blow to your confidence. I, for one, recently discovered a flat tire — but I didn’t even notice it until I biked to the bottom of a hill!

It’s time to learn how to fix up my bicycle, so I can always depend on it to get me where I need to go. Luckily, DC EcoWomen is hosting a bike tune-up workshop on January 30th at Capitol Hill Bikes, a women owned and run bike shop, focusing on commuting, changing tires, and other bike maintenance. What luck!

One year from today, the world could be completely different, and so could you. So for 2013, resolve to become an EcoWoman Extraordinaire!

What are your resolutions this year? Share in the comments!

posted by | Comments Off on Holiday Recipes to Savor and to Share

Traditional holiday meals often leave vegans and vegetarians eating some type of meat substitute or composing a plate of sides only. But meat-free doesn’t have to be meat-mimicking. The plant-based, gluten-free recipes below make original main courses for those who don’t eat meat, and delicious side dishes for those who do. Because sharing is the best part of the season.

Happy holidays!

Each recipe serves 4 people as a main course or at least 8 people as a side dish.

Miso-Mushroom Risotto

This dish is earthy and flavorful, with celery leaves adding a pop of neon. Make sure to follow Julia Child’s adage and “don’t crowd the mushrooms!” Since miso is high in sodium, I do not recommend adding any salt to this dish.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups long-grain brown rice
  • 4 cups button mushrooms
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 cup celery leaves (from the inner stalks)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup miso*
  • Vegetable oil
  • Black pepper

Directions:

In a pot, combine the rice with 4 cups of water, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let the rice simmer until just a few water bubbles are visible – about 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice steam, covered, for 10 minutes or until all the water has absorbed.

Clean the mushrooms and cut them into ¼-inch slices. Cover a plate with paper towels. Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and cook the mushrooms in batches (no overlapping!) until they’re browned. Place the cooked mushrooms on the paper towels to absorb excess oil. Season well with black pepper. Repeat until all the mushrooms are cooked.

In the same pan, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and scrape the pan to loosen any browned bits. Add the chopped onion, chopped celery and garlic and cook, stirring regularly, until tender.

Whisk the miso and ½ cup warm water into a thick paste. Add the paste to the onion-mixture and cook for another minute. Stir the rice into the onion-mixture. The risotto should be thick and creamy. Carefully fold in the mushrooms and ¾ of the celery leaves. Taste and season with more pepper, if needed.

Scoop the risotto into a serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining celery leaves.

*Use it up: Make some miso soup.

Root Vegetable Latkes with Grape-Onion Jam

This recipe makes 12 latkes – 4 of each root vegetable. Keeping the sweet potato, rutabaga and turnip separate requires a little more effort but lets each vegetable shine. You can make the jam in advance and lightly reheat it before serving.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small sweet potato (2 cups shredded)
  • 1 rutabaga (2 cups shredded)
  • 1 turnip (2 cups shredded)
  • 6 tbsp ground flax seed, divided
  • 12 tbsp chickpea flour*, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • Vegetable oil
  • 8 cups loosely packed salad greens

For the jam:

  • 2 cups halved red seedless grapes
  • 1 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease two baking sheets with vegetable oil. Set out three mixing bowls. In each bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons ground flax seed with 6 tablespoons water.

Peel the sweet potato, rutabaga and turnip and shred them, one by one, using a box grater or a food processor with a grating blade, using the large hole grater. Wrap each shredded root vegetable in a clean, dry kitchen towel and press out as much liquid as you can.

Add 4 tablespoons chickpea flour to each bowl and stir. Add one of the shredded vegetables to each bowl, season with salt and pepper and stir again. Use your hands to form the mixture from each bowl into 4 round, slightly flattened patties.

Lay the latkes on the greased baking sheets and lightly brush them with vegetable oil. Bake for 15 minutes. Gently flip the latkes, brush with oil and bake for another 10 minutes.

To make the jam, combine grapes, red onion, balsamic vinegar, sugar and cinnamon in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half.

Toss the salad greens with 1 tablespoon oil, salt and pepper and place them on a plate. Arrange the latkes on top and serve with the grape-onion jam.

*Use it up: Socca is a chickpea flour-based flatbread.

Black Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash

This dish has many components that all require surprisingly little hands-on time. It’s best at room temperature so don’t worry about everything being ready simultaneously. I used black quinoa, but any kind of quinoa – or even wild rice – is a good substitute.

Ingredients:

  • 1 butternut squash (or any kind of winter squash or pumpkin)
  • 2 cups black quinoa
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 4 endives
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • ½ cup tahini*
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Vegetable oil

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Slice the butternut squash in half (peel it if you want to) and scoop out the seeds. Cut the flesh into 2-inch wedges. Brush each squash wedge with vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the wedges on a baking sheet for 40 minutes, turning them halfway through, until they’re tender and the edges are browned.

Thoroughly rinse the quinoa and drain it. Put the quinoa in a pot with 4 cups of water, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let the quinoa simmer for 15-20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit, covered, for 10 more minutes.

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat and dry-toast the pumpkin seeds, stirring frequently, until they are slightly swollen and browned. Remove from the pan immediately.

Wash and slice the endives in ¼-inch pieces. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in the pan you used for the pumpkin seeds over medium-high heat. Add the sliced endives and cook them, stirring frequently. Once the endives start to brown, add the brown sugar and cook for another 3 minutes, until the sugar has melted and the endives are caramelized.

Fold the pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries and endives into the quinoa. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Whisk the tahini with ½ cup warm water and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. The sauce will seem thin but it will thicken after sitting for just a few minutes. Taste, and add more lemon juice, by the tablespoon, if desired.

Scoop the quinoa salad into a shallow dish, arrange the butternut squash wedges on top and drizzle with the tahini sauce. Serve with more tahini sauce on the side.

*Use it up: Tahini is a core ingredient of traditional hummus.

Written by DC EcoWomen Board Member Katharine Eaton

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on What’s Old is New Again: Sustainable Stocking Stuffers

The gifts that go under the Christmas tree seem to get all of the attention, but what about the gifts that fill the stockings, hung by the chimney with care? Stocking stuffers are small, but with a little bit of attention and care, they can be just as exciting as the wrapped boxes around the tree. This year, instead of shopping for last-minute tokens that hold hardly any value, try creating your own stocking stuffers out of recycled items.

Why recycle, you say? Well, not only do gifts that are repurposed and made into something new do a great deal of good for the environment, they also hold a bit more sentimental value than those cheap, store-bought items that are often tossed in the shopping cart as an after-thought.

Let the ones you love know how much they mean to you this Christmas season by spending the time creating special stocking stuffers for them out of recycled items.

Rainbow Crayons

Image Courtesy of ShutterStock

Since all kids love to color, crayons would make such a hit at Christmas. Instead of buying them this year to fill your child’s stocking, make your own! You’ll need:

  • worn-down crayons
  • a muffin tin
  • cupcake liners

Begin by preheating your oven to 250 degrees. Next, remove the paper from the old crayons and crush them up, leaving mostly medium-sized pieces. Line your muffin tin with the cupcake liners and place the crushed crayons into the muffin tin. Place the crayons in the oven for about twenty minutes, or until they have completely melted. Remove the tin and once cool, take out the crayons from each section and peel off the cupcake liners.

This craft is simple and is a great way to reuse the bits of crayons that your kids disregard anyway. With the circular shape and rainbow colors, your kids will love their new crayons.

Homemade Hand Warmers

Keep your loved ones warm this winter homemade hand warmer stocking stuffers, which are much cuter than the ones in the store and use up items laying around your home. Gather:

  • pieces of fabric, such as old t-shirts
  • scissors
  • a needle
  • thread
  • corn kernels

Start by gathering some pieces of fabric – an old t-shirt works best. Cut the fabric into whatever shape you desire, such as a heart or a star. Cut two pieces of fabric out of the same size and sew them together, creating a sort of a pocket. Leave a small section of the ‘pocket’ open and fill it with the corn kernels. Finish by sewing the small section shut and you’re left with a nifty hand warmer.

When it’s ready to be used, just toss it in the microwave for a few seconds to warm up the corn kernels. Although the sewing aspect may seem daunting, these hand warmers aren’t difficult at all and you can use up old items of clothing that you planned to throw away.

Mini Chalkboards

This recycled stocking stuffer idea is perfect for loved ones of all ages and adds a creative touch to a home. You will need some tiles and chalkboard paint to create them.

If you have some tiles lying around the house, use them. If not, head to a home improvement store – it’s likely they have tile remnants lying around which they’ll gladly let you take off their hands. To turn the tiles into chalkboards, simply paint the smooth side with chalkboard paint and let them dry. Once dry, stack the chalkboards together, place a box of chalk on top, and tie it all together with a piece of twine.

Kids can use this stocking stuffer to draw pictures on; adults can use them as personalized coasters (they’ll never misplace a drink again!)

Button Magnets

Image Courtesy of ShutterStock

If you’re like most people, you probably have a collection of unused buttons lying around. Turn these buttons into cute magnets to give as stocking stuffers. Simply gather:

  • buttons
  • magnets
  • a hot glue gun

Gather the buttons you have laying around and lay them out. You can buy circular magnets to go on the back of your buttons, which will save you from having to cut out small pieces of magnet. Apply hot glue to the back of your button and attach the magnet. That’s all it takes! In five minutes, you have cute button magnets that are perfect for displaying pictures and notes – and you won’t have anymore loose buttons hanging around your home.

Doing your part to recycle, no matter how small, helps the earth out in immense ways. With these upcycled stocking stuffer ideas, not only will you be helping out Mother Nature, you will also be giving more heart-felt and meaningful gifts that your loved ones will truly appreciate.

Naomi Shaw is a freelance writer in Southern California. With three kids of her own, she is always on the lookout for creative stocking stuffers and loves how eco-friendly these are. She contributes content to the blog at www.CandyConceptsInc.com, where you can find more of her work.

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Keep Your Face Chemical Free: Choosing Safe Makeup

Written By EcoWomen Guest Blogger Brenna Mannion

It’s that time of year again: spending the frigid month of December in heels, a party dress, and a face-full of makeup, making the holiday party rounds. It’s often hard enough putting together an outfit – who has time to stop to think about what odd chemicals may be lurking in our favorite cosmetics?

In an internet age where over 1,000 foundations are just one click away, and cosmetic ingredients lists read like a chemistry textbook, choosing environmentally friendly, chemical free beauty products can be overwhelming.


You’d need to be a chemist to figure this out. And it helps to have 20/10 vision.

Companies know that “green” and “organic” labeling can sell products, but that simply doesn’t mean they are actually better for you.  Scarily enough, cosmetics in the US are more under-regulated than in places like Japan and the European Union (EU) — either the law nor the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires tests to demonstrate the safety of individual cosmetics or specific ingredients. We assume the products behind the makeup counter are safe, but the reality is we don’t know the consequences of long-term exposure to many of their ingredients. Luckily, there are more and more brands out there that are committed to quality, safe ingredients and work just as well as traditional products. As hard as it can be to stray from our “old faithfuls”, next time you’re in the market for a new product try to choose one that will lessen your exposure to harmful chemicals and lower the overall chemical load on your body.

Foundation

Liquid, cream, and mineral foundations, along with their cousins: tinted moisturizers and BB creams, cover the most real estate on our faces, and often contain some of the most harmful ingredients. Skin – our largest organ – absorbs over 50% of what we smear on it. The most prevalent harmful chemicals in foundations are PEG, Vitamin A, and parabens, and are usually identified as retinyl palminate or paraben. Retinyl palmitate compounds are linked to reproductive system toxicity, and parabens are especially toxic hormone disrupters.

Also, thanks to years of public education, many cosmetics multitask and contain SPF to protect us from harmful UV rays, yay! However, the chemical sunscreens in most products have negative effects, including hormone disruption and bioaccumulation (studies have found them in the milk of lactating mothers). The Active Ingredients list will call out the type of sunscreen.

What Should You Do?

Avoid liquid foundations and creams that contain retinyl palmitate/retinol or anything ending in “-paraben” (propylparaben and methylparaben are most common). Stay far away from oxybenzone, homosalate and octinoxate. Physical sunblocks such as titanium dioxide (that reflect the suns rays, instead of absorbing them the way chemical sunscreens do) are a better bet.

Tarte and bareMinerals make foundations with very few chemicals, and I swear by Juice Beauty’s CC Cream.

Lipstick

A bold lip is all the rage, especially for the holidays. Unfortunately, many of our favorite lipsticks and glosses are chock-full of nasty stuff. Avoid any parabens or chemical sunscreens. Most lipsticks also contain lead and a scary amount of heavy metals, many of which are known carcinogens. Mother Jones recently cited a study that found lead in 75% of lipsticks they tested. Unfortunately, good chemical free lipsticks are hard to find – and many drugstore lipsticks don’t even have the ingredients listed on the package.

What Should You Do?

Do your research ahead of time.

Bite Beauty and Au Naturale make fabulous colors. Of course, your favorite non-petroleum based lip balm is a good choice. Trade Chapstick for Alba’s Hawaiian Balm – you will not be sorry! Since what we put on our lips ends up getting licked off, kissed off (!), or smudged on our coffee cups, choose responsibly.

Mascara And Eyeliner

For something we put so close to our eyeballs, these products are often overlooked.

What Should You Do?

Follow the same paraben rules as before, avoid BHA (which is banned in the EU), and any eye-irritating chemicals like phenoxyethanol.

Physicians Formula has a nice organic mascara you can find in drug stores.

Where To Go From Here

This can seem like a lot of information to absorb (get it?) but after a while you will get used to how to read a product label and will notice how often the same ingredients show up in products. The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep Cosmetics Database is a fabulous and exhaustive source of information on specific personal care products and ingredients. They even have an app for your mobile device, which allows you to scan product bar codes in the store to see the EWG’s score, on the go. There may be fewer choices at the store, but you can rest easier knowing your makeup looks as good, as it is for you.

Brenna works in domestic clean water policy in DC. When she’s not annoying her friends about safe body products, she can be found in the yoga studio or eating gummy bears.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on DIY Gift-Wrapping: Do It YULESELF

This Holiday Season,  Wrap Your Gifts With Sustainable Style And A Personal Touch

Written by DC EcoWomen Board Member Catherine Sweitzer

Whether DIY is a personal mantra or a nice idea you keep at arm’s length, there are many ways to make your gift wrapping a little more festive AND green.

Most of my holiday projects are about the same: cute with minimal dedication.  Greening your holidays doesn’t need to be an added burden this busy month! I used three simple ideas while wrapping gifts this year: a recycled tree cutout, map wrap, and magazine streamer. Keep reading to learn how to wrap it yourself!

Stuff You Need:

  • Paper Bags
  • Maps or Newspaper
  • Magazines
  • Ribbon
  • Glue
  • Tape
  • Scissors

The bags I used were left over from Sweet Green take-out and holiday shopping – go ahead and raid your stash of Whole Foods bags for an instant abundance of wrapping supplies. The maps and magazines were things I found around the office, although both can be found thrift stores.

And don’t forget the last thing you need: Gifts!

Now for the wrapping ideas!

Recycled Tree Cutout

Need – Brown Bag, Magazine, Scissors, Tape

Choose a bag that will be appropriate for the size of your gift. Then choose a magazine image that you would like to be peeking through your wrapping paper.

Grab the paper bags and pop open the bottom of the bag and flatten it out. It looks a bit like this:

Cut off the handles of the handles of the bag then cut the bag lengthwise to create a large piece of wrapping paper.

Cut HALF of a tree in what will be the “front” of your wrapping paper (as you can see I goofed up the “half” bit on the bottom).

Grab your image and tape it to the front of your gift. Line up the wrapping paper so your image is peeking through, tape it just right and tah dah! green gift wrap magic:

Map Wrap

Need – Map, Tape, Ribbon, Scissors

Check out the photo of the presents under the tree if you need to be sold on how darling this looks when finished!

It isn’t fancy but newspaper or a map as wrapping paper turns out well especially with a little ribbon for flair. For extra points, use cloth ribbon with wire, which is easily reusable.

Magazine Streamer

Need – Magazine, Tape, Scissors

Some things are difficult to wrap. Namely, anything that isn’t in the shape of a square or rectangle.  By cutting strips of magazine, newspaper, or a map you can piece together wrapping paper that fits the form of your gift AND it looks artsy.

For this, I cut strips of magazine to be wrapped around bracelets.

The bracelets turned into a small wreath of glossy magazine photos; the possible results are as varied as the shapes of all of the awkward-to-wrap gifts!

If you need a little extra help gift-wrapping, don’t forget to stop by the DC EcoWomen Gift Wrapping Fundraiser happening throughout the next couple of weeks.

Here’s to a happy holiday season, may it be filled with green and festive DIY-ing!

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on This Holiday Season, Are You Ready To Give?

Finding The Charity That’s Right For You

Written by Gizelle Lachey

‘Tis the season of giving, and if you’re looking to make a charitable contribution this holiday season but don’t know where to begin, we can help. There are a number of online resources to guide you in the decision, but there are also some important things to take into consideration when searching for the right charity to donate to.

Follow the Track Record

The best way to find a charity worthy of your donation is to search online. CharityWatch.org organizes more than 600 charities in a database and ranks them based on various elements. These include:

  • Cost to raise $100: Every organization must spend money to raise money. The common ratio is $35 spent per $100 earned in charity.
  • Years of assets: This straightforward barometer measures the number of years the charity has existed and how old its common assets are.
  • Percent spent on charity: It is commonly known that charities do not spend every cent on the actual charitable purposes. Spending 60 percent or better on direct charity is considered acceptable.

If you want to donate, find the charity that speaks to you but is also ranked reasonably and properly verified.

Ciphering Out Fraud

Of course, many new charities do not have a lot funding and exposure but deserve attention. Unfortunately, even in a faith-based environment, people may still try to scam or take advantage of you. It’s vital that you protect yourself from fraud. The online application Web of Trust recognizes quality websites by brandishing them one of four colors: Green designates a website as trustworthy and protected. Yellow confirms that the website has received a few complaints but not enough to justify the dreaded red designation. Red sites are considered scams, malware or generally unprotected. Despite this, many smaller websites are gray/white, meaning either not enough information has been collected or the website is very new.

The LifeLock Twitter page offers insight and tips into what resources are valid and how to avoid fraudulent activity, especially during this holiday season. For instance, you can set up alerts to occur if the website is potentially malware infested, and the online database identifies common identity tactics and ways your computer can be breached.

Simple Online Giving

If you are left confused, you can opt for a mainstream resource toward charitable giving as opposed to searching a database. Amazon recently launched their Amazon Smile program. The company will donate .5 percent of the purchase price of any item to a charity listed. When checking out, sift through the available Amazon-approved charities, confirm that the amount goes to the charity and pick something that specifically speaks to you. You can also do some holiday shopping while you’re at it, which will make you feel good on another level as well.

Don’t forget: December 3 is Giving Tuesday! Head to GivingTuesday.org to donate to your favorite local nonprofit. As a thank you for your donation you have the option to receive a limited-edition DC EcoWomen t-shirt that you can rock to show your EcoWomen pride! Help us raise a final $2013 before 2013 ends.