Archive for February 2014 | Monthly archive page

posted by | Comments Off on The Birth of EcoWomen

The Beginning Of Something New

Written By EcoWomen Founders Leda Huta & Alicia Wittink

We met at Pizzeria Paradiso at Dupont Circle for lunch. That is where we decided to give it a shot. We would create a network of women who work in the conservation movement in Washington, D.C. Looking beyond that seemed too ambitious.

What did we want from these meetings of women who work in conservation?

Well, we knew from our own experiences that it could take years to build up a network. We wanted to see how we could fast-forward that for women. We knew that one of the best parts of a conference, is the “after-hours” sessions in the bar, where real connections are made. How could we recreate that? We knew that women faced different challenges than men and that women who came before us had unbelievable stories to tell. How could we impart the knowledge of veterans of the conservation movement?

We thought the best way to move forward would be a monthly happy hour with an amazing woman guest-speaker at each one. They’d share their inspirational stories. We could all soak it in and meet each other. One prime distinction was that we wanted to hear about both the professional experience, and also the personal. It’s different for women balancing work, families, children, and glass ceilings.

We talked to the DC activist and restaurateur, Andy Shallal and arranged to have our first event at one of his restaurants. We invited Alisa Gravitz the Executive Director of Co-op America, now called Green America to be our speaker. We were interested in her not only because she was a leader of a conservation organization, but also, because she had implemented family-friendly policies in her organization—like the four-day workweek. She said, “Yes!”

We sent out emails to our female friends in the conservation movement who lived in Washington, D.C. And we asked them to forward the email on to other women.

It all seemed risky at the time. How many people could we really reach? What if nobody showed up?

We didn’t know what to expect. What if we failed!

We had heard the stories of other such groups that hadn’t made it. We were warned that we might fail. But we didn’t have much to lose—perhaps a small ding to our pride. That certainly seemed worth the risk.

We were relieved to see 20-30 women at our first meeting. Alisa was a great speaker and had big visions about where this group could go. She said we could have chapters and an annual national conference. We would be unstoppable! That seemed a bit of a stretch for us after our first event, but nonetheless, it planted many seeds that many women have worked to fertilize over the years.

In the first few meetings, women were a little shy, a little hesitant about asking questions. But then, something magical happened. Women started asking questions—lots of questions. And they never looked back. Even though every month there is a different mix of people, somehow the feeling of EcoWomen meetings being a safe space became a permanent part of each meeting.

So…we didn’t fail. Our smartest decision, perhaps, was that we didn’t make EcoWomen personality-driven. It wouldn’t be identified as “ours.” It belonged to all the women who work in the movement.

Sitting at Pizzeria Paradiso, neither one of us would have ever imagined that the DC EcoWomen list would reach more than 3,000 women or that chapters would sprout up all over the country. We would never have thought that we’d have speakers who had experienced conservation, women, and democracy movements.

Our speakers have been amazing. We had one of the first female national park rangers—who remembered working in heels and a skirt in the national parks. We had one of the first grassroots leaders of the toxics movement born of the Love Canal debacle. We had the Environment Minister of the Iraqi Transitional Government. And we had women who went on to hold incredibly powerful positions—becoming a Member of Congress, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and more. One of the best things though, is when we have our own EcoWomen, return as speakers… about full circle!

It has been heartening to watch EcoWomen grow over the past ten years. We can’t wait to see what happens next…

One Of The First EcoHours, With Nora Pouillon

posted by | Comments Off on Power Your Home With Clean Energy In D.C.

The recent shutdown of local electricity supplier Clean Currents has left many DC EcoWomen wondering where to turn in order to continue powering their homes with renewable energy.

But it’s still easy to power or re-power your home or business with carbon-free electricity! Just read on to learn the many ways you get sustainable, renewable energy, without leaving the DC area.

Currently, all DC and Maryland residents that pay a utility bill can select an electricity provider that purchases wholesale power on their behalf. The provider is responsible for the generation and transmission of the electricity, while the utility remains responsible for the delivery, billing, and maintenance of the power lines.

As with any major purchase, shoppers should look for the terms and conditions and read them closely before enrolling. Rates, plans, and generation sources vary widely. Consider whether the rate is fixed or variable and know if the contract contains any termination fees or penalties. Be sure to confirm you will be receiving power that is completely renewable and Green-e certified.

Finally, it’s worthwhile to consider whether the electricity is produced locally or from projects outside our electric grid. Additional tips and resources can be found on the Maryland Offices of the People’s Counsel and the Pepco website. The Pepco website also lists the rate its charging customers that have not selected a supplier (referred to as “Standard Offer Service”), which can serve as a comparison.

There are over a hundred suppliers licensed to serve DC residents. Regardless of the company you select, you will increase demand for renewable power and lower your carbon footprint. It’s a simple sustainability step to take in 2014.

Meghan Tighe is a former employee of Clean Currents, and currently on staff at Ethical Electric. She could talk clean energy all day and can be followed at @MeghanTighe.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on EcoWomen Networking Tips, Tried And True

DC EcoWomen Board’s Best Practices To Take To Your Next Happy Hour

Last year, DC EcoWomen gave you ten great networking tips to bring to our EcoWomen happy hour. Since then, members of the Board have been through countless networking happy hours and events, testing out the networking tricks for themselves. We’ve introduced ourselves to prominent ladies, tested out our elevator speeches, received endless business cards — and in the meantime, we’ve met a lot of great women and made lasting connections.

Now, one year later, we bring you the fruits of our efforts: The best networking tips, tried and true, from the DC EcoWomen Board, starting from the moment you walk in the door:

Take Initiative.

Someone has to do it! Be the first person to walk up to someone, say hello, and introduce yourself.

Confidence is key here — as EcoWomen, we already bring something to the party. More importantly, an air of confidence from the beginning can help you make the first move. Even if you are feeling a little shy, you can fake it — no one will know the difference!

In particular, don’t be afraid to walk up to a Board Member and say hello! We love getting to know our members.

Prepare Your Elevator Speech.

Once you take initiative and say hello, you might want to know what you’re going to say next! So what information do you want to get across to the women and men you meet at your networking event? Brainstorm ideas ahead of time, pick your three best talking points, and fit them into an elevator speech (a 20 to 30 second rundown of who you are and what you do). Make sure to practice your pitch so it rolls comfortably off your tongue, even when you meet your role model .

In addition to your elevator speech, it’s helpful to have a few generic conversation pieces and questions in your back pocket (figuratively — it might be awkward to pull out flash cards mid-sentence). This will prevent undue conversation lulls and awkward pauses.

Listen,  And Be Personal.

Let’s be honest: everyone loves talking about themselves — what they do, how they got there, what they’re passionate about. The best way to learn about who you’re talking to is to ask questions. What are they passionate about? How did they get to where they are? What are their goals? Do you have similar passions or goals?

One Board member advocates bringing an air of curiosity – what interesting things might you learn? All information is currency!

But conversation is a two-way street — you shouldn’t just ask an endless supply of questions without offering some information about yourself. Just make sure to be genuine; personal stories can help open others up and inspire a greater connection.

Take Notes.

The best time to take notes is immediately after the event, and the best vehicle for your notes is on the business cards of who you met. This way you can easily connect your conversation to the contact information you have at hand. Jot a note on the card if you’d like to follow up with its owner, or if they’re expecting your email. If nothing else, taking notes can help you remember someone’s name if you should run into them again — more on that later!

Follow Up.

Following up is essential for keeping your new connections. It can be as simple as shooting someone a quick email if you’re not up for crafting a hand-written thank you message, and can range from a “nice to meet you!” to setting up a burgeoning relationship with your new mentor.

And finally,  our top two tips (tied for first)…
Use Their Name.

Repeating someone’s name throughout the conversation can help them warm to you — people love to hear their own name. But more importantly, it will help you remember who they are so you can take notes or follow up later!

Make sure to glance at their name tags right away when you introduce yourself. One hint is to look at the name tag and then the face several times to try to visualize it — imagine writing it out in your head, thinking about each individual letter as you look at the person. You might even try coming up with some clever rhyme incorporating their job, or something unique they said, as well. It’s hard to train yourself to actively do this while paying attention to what is being said, but extremely helpful.

Then, when someone else joins the conversation, you can introduce the first person to the second and also include something interesting about them. Bonus points!

Practice,  Practice,  Practice!

The best piece of advice anyone can give: to practice, and practice again. There’s really no better way to improve and polish your networking skills. Eventually you will feel confident, comfortable introducing yourself to strangers, and most importantly, you’ll learn which tips work best for you.

DC EcoWomen provides you with many opportunities to do just that! On February 24, DC EcoWomen is teaming up with WIN’s Environmental Network for a conjoined happy hour. And don’t forget about our monthly EcoHours, where we always give time for networking at the beginning and the end of the event.

posted by | on , , , , , , , | Comments Off on With Zoo Science, Extinction Isn’t Forever

Three Fascinating Animals Extinct In The Wild,  On Exhibit At The Zoo

Right now, people are flocking to the Zoo to see a cuddly, chubby, toddler: giant panda cub Bao Bao. I’d be the first to admit that she sure is cute — I was fairly panda-agnostic before she was born, but now I’m as besotted as everyone else. But what sometimes gets missed in all the fuss over the fubsy is that she’s also part of an important conservation story:

Giant pandas are an endangered species. Fewer than 2,000 remain in the wild mountains of China, and habitat loss, climate change, and human encroachment threaten their future. Zoos and breeding centers, and celebrated births like Bao Bao’s, are helping save pandas.

But the Zoo holds even more dramatic stories — some of the animals at the Zoo wouldn’t be around at all if it weren’t for zoos. Once an animal has disappeared from its natural habitat, but before it disappears entirely from the planet, it can become “extinct in the wild.” That means that, while the wild animal is extinct, the species lives on in human care, in zoos, aquariums, or breeding centers.

(Not) the Last Unicorn

via Smithsonian National Zoo

For most people, extinction means gone forever. And sometimes it does. But with extraordinary efforts, unusual resources, and dedication, extinction doesn’t have to be a death sentence.

Take, for example, those animals you rushed past in a hurry to get to the pandas. Did you see something that looked a bit like a white deer out by parking lot A? You might have stopped to marvel at its long, arching horns, but you probably didn’t stay long. That’s a scimitar-horned oryx and may be the animal that inspired the legend of the unicorn.

The oryx is a fascinating species. Native to the sub-Saharan grasslands, they’re adapted to make do with very little water. Back in 1988, only a handful lived in the wild, and none have been seen since then.

However, the species survived in private hands, in zoos, and in conservation centers. Careful management, including strategic breeding and research on oryx biology, is helping bring the species back from the brink.

In addition to the oryx at the Zoo, 15 oryx live at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI), the Zoo’s 3,200-acre facility in Front Royal, Virginia. Out there, animals have more space to live in a naturalistic herd environment. There are a handful of other institutions in the country like Front Royal; together they form the Conservation Centers for Species Survival, and they work with endangered species that need open spaces.

Conservationists hope to reintroduce oryx into their native habitat. But that won’t happen until scientists are sure that the threats that drove them to extinction the first time around — habitat destruction and poaching — are under control.

BFFs: Best Ferrets Forever

Another phenomenal extinction story lurks somewhere you might never look: In a corner burrow in the Small Mammal House. Curled up next to the prairie dog exhibit is a small, sleeping, critter: a black-footed ferret.

North America’s only native ferret, black-footed ferrets used to be abundant, feasting on prairie dogs and living in prairie dog burrows for centuries. With the advent of the John Deere plow and programs to poison prairie dogs, black-footed ferret populations crashed.

In 1967, the US Fish and Wildlife Service listed it as endangered. No black-footed ferrets were seen between 1975 and 1980, and scientists assumed they were extinct. Until 1981 when a ranch dog named Shep killed a small animal and brought it home. It was a black- footed ferret.

Biologists moved quickly and discovered a colony of at least 129 black-footed ferrets near Meeteetse, Wyoming. Three years later the population had fallen to 31. Canine distemper and sylvatic plague were devastating the last surviving black-footed ferrets.

Researchers collected the remaining 24 ferrets, of which 18 survived (seven males and 11 females). No one knew much about black-footed ferret reproduction or biology, but through careful study and breeding, the population is recovering. The National Zoo has a colony of black-footed ferrets at SCBI Front Royal and has bred more than 750 kits, both through natural breeding and through artificial insemination.

Thanks to all this effort, black-footed ferrets are no longer extinct in the wild. Reintroduction began in 1991 and continues today; more than 2,000 ferrets have been reintroduced to their native habitat.

Wishing for Horses

via Smithsonian National Zoo

This last example of an extinct-in-the-wild species may be my favorite: who doesn’t love a horse story? Przewalski’s horses (which are typically called “P-horses”) went extinct in their native Mongolia and China in the 1970s. Some Przewalski’s horses survived in zoos and in private hands. Breeding, including at SCBI in Front Royal, has helped build up the population.

The Zoo had the first surviving foal born from artificial insemination in August of 2013. Zoo scientists have also done some ground-breaking work on Przewalski’s horses, including performing the first reverse-vasectomy on a genetically valuable horse. You can see a Przewalski’s horse on exhibit at the National Zoo next to the Small Mammal House.

The Neverending Story

These aren’t the only three species zoos have rescued from extinction. If you take care to read the signs, you’ll discover many more: a golden frog species that’s suffering from a fungal plague, birds extirpated from their island homes, and cat species that are so genetically similar that one bad plague might wipe them all out.

All of these species (and many more) have teams of National Zoo and SCBI scientists working to ensure their future survival, through techniques including improved veterinary knowledge, assisted reproductive procedures, improved insight into diseases and pathogens, environmental studies, and nutrition research.

It’s all happening at the Zoo!

Brittany Steff is a freelance science writer, web editor, and zoo devotee who lives in DC. Find more of her work at

Editor’s Note: Eager for more on extinction? If so, join the DC EcoWomen Book Club on February 12 to discuss “The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival.” This book combines the natural history of the Amur tiger, the illegal trafficking of animal parts to China, the sociological history of the Russian people in the Far East, and the difficulties faced by conservationists on the ground, all while following the hunt for a man-eating tiger in Eastern Russia. We hope you will join us for what will be a fascinating discussion (even if you don’t get a chance to read the book)!



posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Make The Most Of Your Interview By Following These 12 Steps

How to Shine: Interviewing Skills To Help You Earn That Dream Job

Alexandra Gilliland

Last summer when my company was hiring a new junior employee, my manager came to me and asked whether I would be willing to conduct my own interview with each candidate. Not only was I extremely flattered, but also, excited for the opportunity. Being on the other side of the interview, I learned a lot about what can make an interview great.

So without further adieu, here are some helpful hints to help you nail your next interview.

Before the Interview

1.) The interviewer is already impressed with your résumé.

Chances are the employer has already seen your résumé, and has already deemed you qualified. Interviews are tedious. Résumés are about qualifications; interviews are about finding the right fit. So, demonstrate how you’ll be a good fit for the company. Are you a team player? Do you need minimal instruction? What can you bring to the company outside of your qualifications?

2.) Do your homework.

In the days leading up to the interview, Google everything you can about the company. Immerse yourself in the company’s website and social media. Scour the Internet, not only for articles about your potential employer, but also about the industry. Draft questions and be prepared to discuss the company’s current projects.

3.) Be ready to discuss anything on your résumé,  and I mean anything.

You never know what an interviewer will zero in on your resume, whether it be a specific project you worked on, your undergraduate education, a language you claim to be fluent in, or the fact that you love to knit. Your cover letter and your résumé may be the only two things the interviewer knows about you, so expect a lot of questions about them.

4.) Practice,  practice,  practice…and aloud.

Have a friend mock interview you. Rehearsing is the best way to succeed. The answers you have prepared in your head will always sound differently when spoken out loud.

5.) Scope out the location.

Nothing ruins the initial tone of an interview more than tardiness. So, make sure you know exactly when and where the interview is and how to get there.

6.) Be conservative in dress.

You never know what will offend someone; so, even if the company has a reputation for being laid-back, make sure to dress to impress. This means wrinkle-free, clean and most likely a suit.

During the interview

7.) Ask,  ask,  ask.

Not only does asking questions make you sound interested in the position, but if you do end up receiving the position, this could be where you spend 40 plus hours a week. Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into, if you accept the position.

8.) R-E-S-P-E-C-T

It’s safer to be overly respectful, even if the interviewer seems very casual in manner. Never use their first name, unless they give you permission and the very last words out of your mouth should be, “Thank you.”

9.) But,  don’t be afraid to show your personality.

There was one woman I interviewed that came across as so dull, I couldn’t imagine working with her day in and day out, despite how qualified she was. I asked about her hobbies, she claimed to not have time. I tried to make a joke, and no response. Please do not be so caught up in your professionalism that you forget you’re a human being. Passion is attractive; staleness is not.

After the interview

10.) Always,  always,  follow up.

Even if your interview goes absolutely stellar and you are convinced the job is yours to lose, follow up! Nothing says, “I’m not interested,” more than dropping the line of communication. In this day in age, an email is absolutely appropriate, although never underestimate the power of a thoughtful handwritten note.

11.) Reflect.

Remember, the interview isn’t just about whether you are a good fit for the company, but also about whether the company is a good fit for you. I’ve had so many friends who jumped at the first job offer they received because they were worried another offer wouldn’t come along. Give yourself more credit than that. If the job looks like something you’d absolutely dread doing, send a thoughtful note stating that you appreciate the opportunity to interview, but unfortunately will be unable to take the job.

12.) Relax.

At this point, you have done all you can. You have sent in a killer resume, nailed your interview, and sent in a modest, but heartfelt thank you letter, now take a well-needed break, before you jump in the mix of things again.

Happy Interviewing!

Alexandra Gilliland is an environmental urbanite with a love for warm beverages and long city walks.