Archive for May 2015 | Monthly archive page

posted by | on | 1 comment

By Jessica Christy

After years of property disputes, trail destruction concerns, and a search for an endangered species, one of the DC area’s newest public transportation projects may encounter its most significant obstacles under newly elected Maryland governor, Larry Hogan.

purple line 1History of the Purple Line

The purple line was originally conceived under Maryland Governor Glendening as a connection between the New Carrollton station on the orange line and Silver Spring on the red line. Under the Ehrlich administration, the project was merged with the Georgetown Branch Light Rail Transit, which was proposed to run from the Silver Spring station to Bethesda, both on the red line.

Initially, the purple line was proposed as one of three options: heavy rail (think Metro), light rail, or bus rapid transit. Heavy rail was quickly eliminated as too expensive and light rail is highly favored over a rapid bus line. The current proposal is a 16.2 mile line with 21 stations, which will serve approximately 70,000 riders daily, at a cost of approximately $2.5 billion to build. Having cleared several regulatory hurdles already, construction is scheduled to begin in 2015, but that appears unlikely with Governor Hogan’s refusal thus far to make a decision about whether his administration will proceed with the project.

Contentious Route for the Purple Line

To build the purple line, the Maryland Transit Authority (MTA) will likely have to seize part or all of nearly 350 properties, including condemnation of 12 homes and apartment buildings and between 15 and 20 businesses, according to estimates from 2012. A more recent estimate of the number of properties affected by the purple line was not readily available.

In addition to residences, MTA also had to contend with the Columbia Country Club, a private golf course located near the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and East West Highway. The purple line will bisect the course, which the club says will jeopardize its standing as a competitive course and filed suit to prevent this. Through a series of negotiations and deals, the route through the course was modified and parcels of land were swapped in order to save the competitive layout of the course through the preservation of trees. The club has promised to refrain from participating in any lawsuits to delay or prevent purple line construction.

purple line 2A Futile Search for an Endangered Species

In a bid to prevent the purple line from moving forward as a light rail line, Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail (FCCT) used a $10,000 donation from the Town of Chevy Chase in order to search for three endangered species: one small shrimp-like creature and two small crustacean species. The creatures have never been found in this area and the survey, completed by David Culver of American University, found none of the targeted species. Undeterred, the Town has given FCCT another $20,000 to sample DNA of the water and sediment to determine if any of the target species could live in the area. The results of the DNA sampling should be available this summer.

Election Consequences

Maryland’s current governor, Larry Hogan, campaigned on a promise to kill the purple line (and a related project, the red line, in Baltimore). Closer to the election, Hogan reneged on his plan to scrap the projects and is still “considering” whether to cancel them or allow them to go forward. Governor Hogan’s biggest concern is the cost of the project which, at $2.5 billion, is high. This number is mitigated by $900 million from the federal government, $220 from Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, and further contributions from the public-private partnership. After months of delays on a decision, the Governor is saying he will issue a decision in June.

A new report from Transport for American combats the governor’s arguments about the project’s costs, claiming the purple line would create over 20,000 jobs, cut travel times, increase property values, and save residents money. The line would also increase access to jobs, including nearly 100,000 local residents who will have access to transit. Hogan’s Transportation Secretary recently stated he believed $200 to $300 million could be cut from the total cost. Time will tell if these benefits and potential cost savings will be sufficient for Hogan to move forward with the projects.

The purple line will provide incredible benefits to residents in this area and contribute significantly to reduced automobile congestion in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. Business leaders, local residents, and the local municipalities have been planning for these projects and have a strong desire to see them through. Governor Hogan should stop kicking this decision down the road, recognize the immense benefits the purple will provide, and allow the project to move forward.

Jessica Christy is a second year law student at the University of the District of Columbia and a mother of three. She’s originally from Colorado, but has lived in DC for almost nine years. Before attending law school, she worked in industrial hygiene, including asbestos litigation and workplace safety. In her spare time, she enjoys beating her oldest child at MarioKart and needlepoint.

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Crickets…It’s What for Dinner?

By KC Stover

There has been increasing attention paid to the role of insects as a protein source for humans in the place of meat. Insects do not create the same climate and human health impacts as livestock and they can be raised on a vegetarian diet. Many cultures around the world enjoy insects as an integral part of their diet. There are over 88 countries where insects are consumed regularly and over 1900 species of edible insects worldwide.

Image: Leandra Blei

Image: Leandra Blei

The concept of eating bugs has received a lot of press lately. However, this is not a new practice. As the world struggles to keep up with burgeoning human populations, we are searching for new sources of protein. Insects require much less land to raise and are more efficient at converting feed to protein than most livestock. They also emit fewer greenhouse gases than livestock. The UN has been actively promoting the use of insects to meet our protein needs, and it is an area of major innovation in the food industry.

Currently, there is a $20 million industry around entomophagy in the US, and the concept has received widespread support. However, cultivating and consuming insects on a mass scale is not a simple solution. There are many questions about the real rates of protein conversion, best practices for husbandry and the ideal diet. Regulation has yet to become tailored to this industry and the market is still in its infancy. The Washington Post highlighted that high-density cricket farm operations are still governed by the same USDA regulations as those for livestock.

Some commonly consumed insects are crickets, mealworms, beetles, black soldier flies, butterflies and moths (mostly eaten in their larval and pupal stages), bees and wasps, ants, termites and grasshoppers. Apparently mealworms have a nutty flavor and ants and termites have a lemon flavor to them.

Image: Leandra Blei

Image: Leandra Blei

There are some very unique offerings for insect-based foods. Popular Science reported this month on several new companies, (with 30 insect-based startups since 2012 nationally) including, Critter bitters, Jungle Bar and Chirps (cricket chips) among many others. There are several manners in which insects are being brought to market and the most common is as a protein bar or powder. This powder can be used in a wide variety of recipes, including cookies. Time magazine recently released a list of recipes, including a recipe for deep fried tarantulas.

While insects provide a diverse and more sustainable form of protein than many forms of livestock, integrating them fully into our diet will mean learning to eat in new ways. A nonprofit called Little Herds in Austin, TX has taken on the challenge of changing perceptions and creating markets, and Open Bug Farm is an open forum for insect farming enthusiasts. As consumers and environmentalists, we are presented with the opportunity to help this industry grow in a sustainable way. It will be interesting to see if home production of insects grows in urban environments. An additional challenge is that of bringing production costs down to compete with conventional foods.

Some local DC restaurants, such as Oyamel, are serving insects on their menus. In addition, there is an annual event, the Pestaurant, where restaurants serve insects worldwide. Last year’s event featured a DC restaurant. We can hope to see more insect products on the shelves and I for one will be getting more used to the idea!

KC Stover works on programming for DC EcoWomen and on wildlife conservation issues. With a background in entrepreneurship and the environmental field, she believes that new businesses can create opportunities to address some of our most challenging problems.

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on A Delicious and Sustainable Spring Salad

By Elizabeth Hubley

This salad is everything I love about spring – crisp, tender asparagus; the first juicy vibrant tomatoes of the season, creamy pasture-raised goat cheese, and a light dressing featuring sweet local honey. A satisfying crunch from toasted hazelnuts brings it all together.

In each recipe I create, I choose ingredients that are good for you, people, and the planet. I believe that we have the power to support our bodies, strengthen our communities, and live our commitment to the environment through what we buy, where we make each purchase, and how we prepare and enjoy each meal. This salad was inspired by last weekend’s stroll through the Takoma Park Farmer’s Market and a quick trip to the TPSS Co-op.

I encourage you to make this salad a local adventure – seek out your local farmer’s market for the asparagus, tomatoes, goat cheese and honey. Support a food cooperative or independent grocery store for the hazelnuts and other dressing ingredients. Each dollar you spend is a vote for the kind of world that you want to live in. Not sure where to start? Visit Local Harvest to find markets, farms, and co-ops near you.springsalad3

As you enjoy the flavors of spring, know that you’re supporting your own health in addition to your community and the planet. This salad is rich in folate, a B vitamin that is especially important for women’s health. It also contains fiber, protein, and healthy fats for a well-balanced and nutritious meal.

Since local produce is harvested just before being brought to market, it contains more nutrients than food brought in from faraway places. Asparagus contain a wide variety of important vitamins and are a good source of prebiotics, which improve digestion. Tomatoes contain, lycopene, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin E, as well as other nutrients that have been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol and blood pressure.

Purchasing local honey supports honeybee populations, beekeepers, and the health of our local ecosystem. Honey has been used as medicine since ancient times and locally produced honey has been shown to have much stronger antibacterial activity than conventional honey.

springsalad1Choosing goat cheese from pasture-raised goats is a responsible way to indulge in a little dairy. Learn more about the importance of selecting animal products carefully at Eat Wild. Following a vegan diet? Just double up on the hazelnuts, which are full of protein, healthy fats, and promote heart health. You can substitute another natural sweetener for the honey.

Most importantly, take time to prepare and enjoy this delicious salad! Know that you will be supporting your own health, people near and far, and living a little lighter on the planet.

Shaved Asparagus Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients:

Shaved Asparagus Salad:

1 pound asparagus

1 cup cherry tomatoes

2 oz local goat cheese

¼ cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

Honey Dijon Vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon raw honey

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Snap the tough ends off the asparagus. With a vegetable peeler, shave the asparagus into thin strips and toss into a bowl.
  2. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and add to the bowl with asparagus.
  3. Crumble the goat cheese into the bowl with the vegetables.
  4. Make the vinaigrette: combine all ingredients in a separate small bowl and whisk well to combine.
  5. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well.
  6. Divide the salad onto two plates and top each with half of the hazelnuts.
  7. Enjoy!

Make it a meal: top with a poached or hard-boiled local organic egg.

Tip: If you can’t find toasted hazelnuts, simply roast them in an oven at 275 degrees F for about 15 minutes.

Elizabeth is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and Yoga Instructor who created Siena Wellness to inspire people to live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives that positively impact the world we share. She believes that each of us has the power to change the world through daily choices that positively impact our own health, help lift people out of poverty, and protect the planet.

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Start a Business for the Win, Part 2: A Beautiful Mixed Bag

By Eva Jannotta

This year I started Simply Put Strategies. I’m a few months in, and learning like there’s no tomorrow. Turns out it’s not all rainbows and butterflies, but it’s still pretty awesome.

Should I work for free? There are other ways to work.

There are also other ways to work besides for money or nothing. I started my organizing business by working pro-bono in exchange for testimonials for my website and before and after pictures. I also barter: a graphic designer friend is designing my business cards in exchange for social media consulting. You could trade babysitting services, pet care, etc. Offering these deals eases pressure on your spending, establishes mutually beneficial relationships, and gives you experience.

Learn everything but don’t do everythingWith the Internet, there is no end to the things you can learn to optimize your success.

You do not need a business degree to start a business. The Internet abounds with resources for everything, which means you basically have no excuse! You can learn to be your own bookkeeper, market yourself, design your own graphics, advertise, ramp up social media, and so on. Of course, doing everything yourself is not necessarily a good investment. If someone else can do it faster and with expertise, it’s worth outsourcing. Weigh if it’s cost effective for you to do, or trade with/hire someone else.

7624914104_16bc3555a6_oHow to cope – Everyone will give you advice and tell you that running a business is hard. Don’t be deterred!

Everyone and their uncle warned me that starting a business is hard. It got old: I knew it would be hard and I like working hard! But it has been challenging in ways I didn’t expect: I didn’t expect the loneliness I feel by spending so much time alone. I didn’t anticipate how easy it would be to get distracted. I hadn’t considered how long some decisions take to make.

Before I started my business, I imagined leaping out of bed every morning and producing badassity until dusk. But sometimes I hit snooze, plant flowers all day, or schedule Skype dates during “business” hours.

When you’re doing your own thing there are no boundaries unless you set them. This is a blessing and a curse: you can work wherever and whenever, which is freeing and invigorating. However, this means that at any given time you may feel like you should be working. Since “working” and “not working” look the same now (they can both be done on your couch or in a cafe) you must consciously designate time not to work.

14360595726_9b6d525bcf_oWork your Network – It may be your best resource.

I put off sharing my business with my network. I worried that sending an email blast to my extended family would be awkwardly self congratulatory. I explained this to my aunt and she said, “you’re going to have to get over that.” She was right.

Part of your unique contribution to a business is your network. You have no idea who wants your services/product or knows someone who does. Take advantage of that as soon as you can – it’s all about people.

Starting a business is a great time to expand your network. If the thought of wearing a blazer and schmoozing grosses you out, think again. Networking isn’t about meeting as many people as possible to use them for your career. Networking is about investing in your community. Putting down roots by meeting people, joining organizations, and learning about your area makes you feel grounded and connected. It has two benefits: it’s good for you as a person, and it’s good for business.

Eva Jannotta is a professional organizer, social media consultant, and the founder of Simply Put Strategies.