Archive for December 2014 | Monthly archive page

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By DC EcoWomen Guest Blogger Catherine Plume

About five years ago, a friend gave me the DC Recycler Blog. While I’ve long been an environmentalist committed to the idea that individual action can make a difference, the blog gave me an outlet to promote greener living. Though I have a huge carbon footprint from travel associated with my day job, through blogging, I realized that I could reduce my plastic consumption, my landfill contributions and live a lower carbon life and at least partially offset my carbon footprint. Along the way, I have had some great successes and glorious failures, and a few of these are listed below.

What’s worked:

Coconut Oil has a multitude of uses – from a moisturizer to a cooking oil. With 100% virgin organic, GMO free, fair trade varieties available, what’s not to love?

While I try to minimize plastic bags in my life, I realized I could reuse the bags that come my way. A plastic bag drying tree facilitated this effort. Buy one or make your own.

Making food – canning tomatoes, jalapenos, and jellies and making my own yogurt and granola allows me to reduce food additives while keeping innumerable plastic containers and cans out of the waste stream.

I bring my lunch to work in a stainless steel container, so I eat better food and save money.

Weatherproofing your abode, insulating where accessible and blocking drafts around windows and doors will save energy and money. Sealing gaps around electrical outlets, light switches and lighting and vents in the ceiling below the attic is a big saver. Install a programmable thermostat. Does your house need to be 68 degrees while you’re at work? EnergyStar ceiling and floor fans help keep the house cool.

I’ve always enjoyed bicycling, and it’s now my most common transportation means. Investing in gloves, layers and lights allows me to cycle year round. I buzz by cars as I bike home on the L St Cycle Track!

I stopped blow drying and coloring my hair and embraced my gray, saving time, money and keeping B-A-D chemicals out of the waste stream and my scalp. Yay!
Taking “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure” to heart, I’ve upcycled a plethora of reusable goods – plastic banners, bricks, sinks, futons, and more through DC’s FreeCycle Network.

Thanks to the Federal Trade Commission, Catalog Choice, and calling companies and asking to be removed from their mailing lists, I have reduced the amount of junk mail I receive – and recycle.

Composting is my outlet for food scraps, newspaper, yard trimmings, and coffee grounds, and my yard loves me for it. My bin sits in the alley where neighbors contribute to it. If you cannot set one up, Compost Cab or Fat Worm Compost provide pickup services.

Baking soda is a great household cleaner.Baking soda is a great toothpaste (my dentist approves) and doubles as a low impact abrasive for cleaning my stove, bathroom, etc. Buy in bulk and refill your Comet container with it. Vinegar is another non-toxic cleaner. Watered down, it’s a great window/glass cleaner and also works well in bathrooms, on countertops and even as facial astringent.

Line drying clothes reduces your carbon footprint (clothes dryers are major offenders) and increases the life of your clothes. If you can’t string one up outside, consider a foldaway drying rack or a retractable clothes line over your tub or shower. Even reducing the number of loads is a start.

What hasn’t worked:

While it’s not rocket science, my soap making – hand soap, laundry soap, and dishwasher detergent – efforts have all been disasters. I buy hand soap (sans plastic packaging) and boxed dishwasher and laundry soap powders. However, I do like the lotion bars I make.

I really wanted to use baking soda and water as shampoo. I stuck with it for a couple of months hoping my scalp would adapt, but my hair texture resembled the bottom of a broom. I buy in bulk and look for brands with fewer chemicals.

The deodorant I made, neatly poured into an empty deodorant tube, ripped hair out of my boyfriend’s armpit and didn’t “glide” across mine. I am using what I have on hand until I run out and get up the courage to do more experimentation.


A recent fermentation course introduced me to making sauerkraut, butter, sour cream, and kefir. A cycling trip through Provence reminded me how much I like goat cheese. Can it be that hard to make? DC has recently revamped its beekeeping regulations, and citizens are lobbying to allow backyard chickens. I’d love to get my dog off kibble and make her food. And participating in a community garden would be a lot of fun. Another cycling vacation – or canoe trip would be fun and maybe, just maybe, I’ll give soap making another try. Who knows what’s around the next bend?!

Catherine Plume is an environmentalist and the blogger for the DC Recycler,; [email protected]; Twitter: @dc_recycler

Seasons Greenings


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Seasons Greenings: Tips for Being Green Over the Holidays

By DC EcoWomen Guest Blogger Carrie Hughes

No matter what you do or do not celebrate during the holiday season, there are plenty of opportunities to set a good and green example for your friends and family. Below are just a few tips that you can test out this month in hopes of starting the New Year off with a big, green bang.

Be a Green Host

If you are in charge of a holiday meal or have been unwillingly relegated to the dreaded holiday planning committee at work, you have lots of say as to how green the event can be. Whether you are planning a meal or just hors d’oeuvres, try to cut down on vegetables and fruits that are not in season, since they likely have a big carbon footprint and took a long journey to get from point A to your dinner table. Squash and greens are still growing strong in the area and they can be good menu staples. Additionally, if you are the turkey or ham buyer, try to support a local farm. There are a handful in the DC area. Jehovah-Jireh has come specifically recommended.

*Expert Tip*: As a host, you can go the extra mile by using only non-disposable cups and flatware at your festivity. Papers and plastics are tempting because of their ease, but using an assortment of whatever plates, bowls, cups, and mugs you already have in your pantry can be fun, too. For an added holiday twist, suggest guests can bring their own holiday-themed cup that be used throughout a party to fill up on wine, beer, cocktail, tea, soda, etc. It saves you the dishes, helps people keep track of their drinks, and can make for fun conversation pieces.

Be a Green Guest

You may have anywhere from one to a hundred holiday parties to attend, and you are going to have to bring a plate or drink to share to all of them. If your plan is to bring a dish, then all the advice above on shopping locally and in season certainly can be applied. Additionally, if you go the drink route, try to bring a beverage that is low in packaging and made locally. This is particularly true when talking about alcoholic beverages. For example, refillable glass growlers are a great and festive way to bring beer to share in a reusable bottle. Not to mention that you can likely fill up on a local brew directly at your nearest brewery, cutting down on the number of miles your beer has traveled. D’vines, a retail store, and Right Proper are just a few of the spots that will fill your growler right up. And in fact, The Washington Post recently outlined a few more brewery options, including those outside of DC in Virginia and Maryland, where you can either shop for individually packaged local beers or potentially get a freshly poured growler to share.

Be a Green Gift Giver

There are many ways to squeeze a little greenness into your gift giving. First, you can also choose to buy gifts that are recycled or sustainably made. Think repurposed leather bags and upcycled jewelry. Further, buying gift cards and services (maybe a 60 minute massage or a dance lesson) allows you to give gifts that are low impact – in terms of production and packaging. Plus, they don’t run the risk of ending up in the landfill.

*Expert Tip*: Ditch the wrapping paper. Reusable gift bags are a great alternative. Also, old newspapers and even junk mail often provide plenty of fodder to wrap your gifts and then can be recycled afterwards. Throw a bow on there and it’s just as pretty as the shiny stuff.

If you are like me, you already nag your friends and family to live a greener lifestyle 365 days of the year. Part of breaking the tradition of throw-it-away culture is showing people that it’s not all that hard to put a little green thought into your actions. So join me in sharing some local squash and a growler of Right Proper’s finest, as we unwrap Washington Post-clad presents. It’s time to usher in a New – and hopefully greener – Year!

Photos by Carrie Hughes

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By Dawn Bickett

DC EcoWomen are making changes in their lives to reduce their impact on the environment every day. Recycling, composting, taking public transit, watching electric bills for energy inefficiencies, buying local, reducing meat consumption… the list goes on and on.

But this holiday season, many of us have a problem that vermiculture or an LED lightbulb can’t fix: air travel. The aviation industry is responsible for 2% of total carbon emissions worldwide, which doesn’t sound like a lot. But if you take several long flights a year — to visit family over the holidays, for example — planes are likely to take up a much bigger part of your individual carbon footprint. See for yourself; calculate your emissions here.

As you make your holiday travel plans, here are some things to keep in mind.

Planes, Trains, or Automobiles?

All modes of long-distance transportation produce some form of carbon pollution or greenhouse gases, but plane emissions are definitely the highest. And it’s not just that they consume lots of fuel (although that is true). They also emit nitrous oxide, soot, and water vapor at high altitudes, which can have additional adverse effects on the climate.

Buses, trains, and carpooling are all much more efficient than flight. Even driving alone can be better for the climate than flying. But if you need to go thousands of miles, these aren’t realistic options.


One popular way to tackle this carbon conundrum that airlines themselves often tout, is to offset the carbon pollution of a plane trip. The idea behind carbon offsets is that you can make up for carbon pollution you are causing by funding a project that reduces carbon emissions somewhere else. Sounds great, right?

In theory, carbon offsets provide an excellent way to mitigate your environmental impact with little effort on your end. In practice, the situation is a bit more complicated. Many carbon offset programs either don’t offset as much carbon as they promise or have negative impacts, like displacing indigenous peoples. And a few are actually just scams.

Still, some carbon offset programs are successful ventures that do truly facilitate climate-saving projects, like this methane capture at a dairy farm in Wisconsin. If you are interested in purchasing offsets to balance out the carbon cost of a flight this season, be ready to sift through a lot of low quality programs in order to find a trustworthy one.

The Future of Flying

The aviation world faces some serious challenges in bringing down its emissions, but there is good news: In the long run, exciting innovations may make more climate-considerate air travel a reality. The world’s first solar plane just made a cross-country flight, the Center for Process Innovation just released a jaw-dropping re-design of a more efficient fossil fuel-powered plane, and Boeing is even making large investments in developing jet biofuel. It’s a start!

But we aren’t there yet. Unfortunately, the best way to reduce your transportation footprint this holiday season is simply not to travel. But don’t despair. Here’s a piece of good news to hold on to just in case you are reading this blog while crammed into a 747: the most efficient way to fly — if you have to — is on very full flights, in economy.

Happy holidays, however you are traveling!

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A Great Year, With Many More Great Plans!

By DC EcoWomen President, Christina Sorrento

As 2014 comes to a close, I am taking a moment to reflect on everything DC EcoWomen has accomplished this year. We are growing strong with over 4,500 members. I would like to think that each of those members feels connected to the strength, support, and excitement of the DC EcoWomen community. That connection has kept me actively involved over the last eight years, and to me, it is this connection that makes DC EcoWomen unique.

This year was a year of firsts for our organization. We had our first-ever camping trip to Assateague Island where we networked in a fun and relaxed environment while protecting our food from wild ponies. We also had our first large-scale mentor event with the Mentor Tea at Hillwood Estate Museum and Gardens, a successful step to expanding our mentorship program beyond mentor dinners. In April, we celebrated our 10 Year Anniversary with a gala at the Josephine Butler Parks Center. It was a fun and exciting event with everyone decked out in their finest gala attire, enthusiastically meeting other likeminded women in the environmental field.

Of course, in addition to our new events, we have continued to provide high-quality programming, including workshops on interview skills and bike tune-ups, a tour of the US Capitol, a sustainable wine class, mentor dinners, book clubs, and our signature EcoHour speaker series. Through these events, the DC EcoWomen connection grows. Our members learn, connect, attain their goals, and reach new heights. I have met many women that have found their career, best friend, or even housing through our community. These stories are inspiring and remind us of the value that DC EcoWomen brings to the community, and reassures us that the hard work involved in running this all-volunteer, non-profit organization is worth it. I’m thankful to be part of the DC EcoWomen community.

If you also feel the DC EcoWomen connection, I urge you to help us continue to grow our programming and community by donating to our end-of-year campaign. As a thank you, you can receive a DC EcoWomen t-shirt or stainless steel water bottle when you donate $25 or more.

Most importantly, I would like to thank each of our members for being a part of our community and inspiring the connection we all share. I hope to see you at our next event!

Christina Sorrento
DC EcoWomen