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By Lesly Baesens

With the holiday season upon us, food is at forefront of people’s minds. However, these joyous occasions also present an opportunity to consider what frequently becomes of our leftovers – food waste. U.S. households are responsible for wasting a staggering 238 pounds of food per person each year. Each scoop of mashed potatoes that ends up in the trash, carries with it the resources used to produce, transport, and process that food. This waste of resources is an economic, social, and environmental harm. For example, food rotting in landfills emits methane, a greenhouse gas with 25 more heat trapping potential than carbon dioxide.

Households are not the only source of wasted food. Food waste is a systemic problem that inhabits all parts of the food production process–from farmers unable to sell produce that fall short of supermarkets’ rigorous aesthetic standards, to restaurants serving portions too big for consumers to finish. As a result, approximately 40 percent of food produced each year in the U.S. is wasted. Despite the pervasiveness of the issue, there are no federal laws, incentives, or enforceable requirements to reduce food waste. Instead, some U.S. cities and states have committed to reduce food waste.

In the first iteration of its Sustainable DC plan, the nation’s capital committed to reducing food waste through establishing curbside organic waste pick-up for composting. Though composting is preferable to sending food waste to methane-producing landfills, it should be a second-to-last resort as the resources necessary to produce the food have already been expended. In my paper, Leading by Example: 20 Ways the Nation’s Capital Can Reduce Food Waste, I closely examined the issue of food waste in the District and provided the city government with recommendations on how to tackle food waste more efficiently and holistically.

The paper’s recommendations range from simple ones, such as establishing a food waste reduction target in the Sustainable DC Plan, to more politically challenging ones, including requiring grocers to measure and publicly disclose wasted food amounts. By establishing a food waste target, the city would be encouraged to move beyond composting to addressing food waste more comprehensively. By requiring grocers to disclose food waste amounts, the city would bring transparency to the amount of food discarded in this sector, which in turn would incentivize retailers to waste less.

Since sharing my paper with the Office of DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and other city agencies, I was pleased to find that the city’s latest draft plan, Sustainable DC 2.0, includes several of my suggested measures. For instance, it steps-up the city’s food waste reduction efforts by committing to a target – reduce DC’s food waste by 60 percent by 2032. In order to develop recommendations on reducing food waste, the city will conduct an assessment of food waste in household and businesses – another one of my proposals. Sustainable DC 2.0 also proposes to educate residents and businesses on food “buying, storage, and disposal […] to minimize waste.” As discussed in my paper, consumer education campaigns can help households become drivers of reducing food waste.

These improved commitments are a major step forward for the District in its efforts to tackle food waste. However, I challenge D.C. to consider adopting bolder, more hard-hitting recommendations. We’ll need them if we want to become a model of food waste reduction in the U.S. and internationally, especially if we want to achieve the city’s goal of becoming “the most sustainable city in the nation.” In the meantime, I challenge you to educate yourself about the city’s efforts by reading Sustainable DC 2.0. Also, think twice before tossing those holiday leftovers. Find ways to reuse them and help our city become a leader in food waste reduction.

Lesly earned her Master’s degree in Global Environmental Policy from American University focusing on sustainable agriculture. A professional with more than 10 years of experience in project management, policy, and research, she is a die-hard food waste reduction advocate and is always looking for opportunities to advance the cause. Lesly volunteers with the DC Food Recovery Working Group, a group focused on food waste reduction and recovery efforts in the D.C. metropolitan area.

Photo Credits: petrr CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons; Sustainable DC

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By the DC EcoWomen Executive Board

In early August, in a community room of an apartment building in Northeast D.C., the DC EcoWomen executive team sat down to discuss the upcoming board year and work on a document that would help guide our efforts – the 2018-2019 Calendar. As we wrote down all the dates, we couldn’t help but get excited. We have upcoming events and content appealing to all types of woman in our DC EcoWomen community. We’re planning speaker events, skill-building workshops, meetings for a special-interest club, outdoor adventures and more. Keep reading for more information.

If you’ve attended an event of ours, it was probably one from our signature EcoHour speaker series. This year, we’re continuing the tradition. On the third Tuesday of each month (except December and August), we’ll hear from a successful woman in the environmental field discuss her work. The free event kicks off with some networking and runs from 6-8 p.m. at Teaism Penn Quarter. The next one will be Tuesday, October 16, and will feature Analisa Freitas, Campaign Coordinator for the Peoples Climate Movement. She’ll talk about how she helps orchestrate large-scale marches for climate justice and organize Latino communities around grassroots advocacy.

In terms of professional development, we’re holding a series of mentoring dinners. They provide a unique opportunity to talk with women in the environmental field in an intimate setting. It’s a time when 6-8 women can get advice and guidance on advancing their careers while sitting down to share a meal with one experienced mentor. The mentors are selected based on their professional accomplishments and alignment with our organization and mission. The next one will be in October.

We’re also planning a few professional development workshops that will focus on helping women develop the skills to succeed in the workplace. Previous workshops included topics like salary negotiation, resume writing and public speaking. Our next workshop will be in December.

As women who are passionate about the environment and getting to know our community, our upcoming programming involves several fun outings, volunteer opportunities and networking events. In October, we have a women-only craft brewery tour & tasting at Right Proper Brewing’s Brookland Production House. In way of eco-outings, we are looking into hikes, rock climbing, cave walking, paddle boarding, and a river clean-up and tour. For the book lovers, our book club will continue to meet to discuss a book or series of small articles, blogs and podcasts with an environmental angle. We’ll have happy hours, and a book and clothing swap, too.

Every year, DC EcoWomen also hosts a spring photo contest. The contest showcases artistic images taken by our members that highlight women in the environment, conservation in action, natural beauty, travel, iconic urban landscapes, etc. Details surrounding the 2019 contest and its themes will be available in the spring. To learn more about the 2018 grand prize winner, Sarah Waybright, check-out this blog on her photo and work at Potomac Vegetable Farms.

To keep current on the various activities that we have planned, please sign-up for the newsletter and track us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We also have the DC EcoWomen blog, which will keep you informed of various topics and issues relevant to our community. Our very own board members will write many posts and we’ll have some guest posts too.

We look forward to seeing you at an event soon!

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on The Story Behind “Port Lockroy”

By Alyssa Ritterstein, DC EcoWomen Board Member

Anne Christianson is one of the finalists of DC EcoWomen’s 2018 Photo Contest, which captured images of the incredible environmental work our members do each day. One of the categories that we put forward for this year’s photo contest was women providing career growth opportunities for other women, and Anne delivered.

Her photo takes us on a journey to Antarctica. The picture shows women teaching other women about Antarctic climate science with a beautiful snow-covered mountain in the distance. What a classroom! The Antarctic expedition was the culmination of 18 months of training and is part of a 10-year, all-female scientist leadership initiative.

Anne is a woman with a clear passion for environmental issues. During her PhD at the University of Minnesota evaluating international climate change adaptation policies and programs for ecological and social benefits, she interned at the White House Council on Environmental Quality and was a policy fellow at the Committee on Natural Resources. Prior to those positions, she managed the legislative portfolio for Rep. Ellison (D-Minn.) on international and domestic natural resources, energy and environment, agriculture, and Native American issues. She also worked as a lobbyist for Ocean Conservancy for their marine debris and ocean planning programs.

We recently spoke with Anne to hear more about the photo and the story behind it.

DC EcoWomen: Congratulations on being a finalist for this year’s photo contest! Let’s talk about the photo you submitted. What’s its backstory?

Anne Christianson: I was in Antarctica with 75 other female scientists from around the world. This was our final landing on the Antarctic Peninsula, at an historic British base. It was amazing being in Antarctica with these accomplished women! We had botanists, geologists, wildlife biologists, atmospheric scientists, and marine ecologists. Every time someone found a cool rock, saw an interesting penguin interaction, or the weather changed, we had an expert right there. We also learned from each other what it takes to be a successful woman and leader in STEMM [science, technology, engineering, mathematical and medical] fields. Although we were all different ages, from different continents, and in different disciplines, we all had experienced the same challenges as women in science. The solidarity and support we gave each other was a crucial aspect of the leadership initiative.

DCEW: I see that you have a lot of experience working on environmental issues for the White House, on Capitol Hill and at a Washington-based environmental advocacy nonprofit. How did you get from D.C. to Port Lockroy, Antarctica?

AC: I think it is because I had D.C. experience that I was chosen to go! Many scientists struggle to communicate their findings and passion to the policy-makers that ultimately act as gatekeepers – whether that be for appropriations for important scientific institutions, or the decisions made in D.C. that could strengthen or destroy entire fields of study. Being an environmental scientist with direct policy experience has been incredibly useful for my career, and I was able to add insight to the science communication discussions we had on the ship.

DCEW: Let’s switch gears and talk about the future. Where do you envision your environmental work taking you in the future?

AC: I am planning on returning to D.C. soon, but this time around I want to move beyond national policy circles and become more involved in international conservation work. I think some of the most interesting and relevant dialogues about the planet are happening on the international stage. I’ve spent the last year traveling around the world for my PhD research, having conversations with scientists and policy-makers, and I’ve been energized by the hopefulness and determination of these international communities. 

DCEW: You’ve been a member of DC EcoWomen for some time now. What kept bringing you back to the organization, and any advice for those interested in submitting a photo for next year’s contest?

AC: The community of support that DC EcoWomen gives keeps me coming back. The only way that women will see gains in the professional world – in terms of salary, leadership roles, and preventing harassment and discrimination in the workplace – is if we support each other, believe each other, and have each other’s back. DC EcoWomen provides this – a group of women who have similar passions and experiences, and can be there to help each other succeed, rather than be in competition. I found that incredibly refreshing, and it was instrumental to my early professional success. It’s amazing to see all the growth that has happened with the organization since I moved to Minnesota, and I’m excited to take part in all of the new ideas that future boards and members will have!

Anne Christianson is an environmental scientist at the University of Minnesota, where her research examines the social and ecological implications of ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation.

 

 

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Woman in field. "2018 Photo Contest Finalist Guest Blog"

By Alyssa Ritterstein, DC EcoWomen Board Member 

Tacy Lambiase is one of the finalists of DC EcoWomen’s 2018 Photo Contest, which captured images of the incredible environmental work our members do each day. Her photo features an activity that resonates with many women in our community – volunteering to help protect the environment.

Tacy is not new to volunteer work. In 2013, she led 15 University of Maryland, College Park undergraduates on a week-long, environmental restoration trip with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. During that time, she educated students about environmental issues through service-learning activities and projects.

For the past two years, she’s volunteered as an environmental educator with the Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS)’s Saturday Environmental Academy (SEA). She develops lesson plans and chaperones weekly field trips for sixth, seventh and eighth grade students interested in environmental issues.

Tacy’s photo contest picture comes from one of her trips this past spring, when she participated in a tree planting along the Anacostia River near Bladensburg, Maryland. Her photo follows one of her young SEA students planting a native sapling to stabilize the banks of the river.

We recently chatted with Tacy to hear more about the photo and the passion behind her work.

DC EcoWomen: Congratulations on being a finalist for this year’s photo contest! Let’s talk about the photo you submitted. What’s its backstory?

Tacy Lambiase: We were planting native tree species to help restore a portion of the riverbank along the Anacostia that was experiencing erosion (and a large build-up of trash). For some of the students, this was the first time they had ever planted a tree. How awesome is that?! I love that the SEA program facilitates meaningful experiences like this for students from underserved communities.

DCEW: I see that you have a lot of experience volunteering and working in the environmental field. Can you tell us why you are passionate about this area and how you got to where you are today? For instance, how did you get involved with AWS?

TL: I became passionate about sustainability and volunteering as an undergraduate at the University of Maryland. Participating in the Alternative Breaks Program was a game-changer because I had the opportunity to see environmental protection in action. It wasn’t a theoretical exercise, it was an experience involving hands-on, direct service to my own community, the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Ultimately, that experience inspired me to minor in Sustainability Studies and pursue sustainability-related job opportunities after graduation. It also led me to seek out volunteer positions with AWS.

DCEW: Let’s switch gears and talk about the future. Where do you envision your environmental work taking you in the future?

TL: I currently work on internal communications and employee engagement initiatives for the Urban Institute. I’d love to help foster a culture of sustainability within the organization. I’ve actually be given the opportunity to form a Sustainability Task Force with staff to kick-start conversations around: “How might we create a more efficient, healthy, and sustainable workplace? How can we become better neighbors and environmental stewards of our own community?” So, I’m excited to see how that evolves. And I will definitely keep volunteering with local environmental organizations in my free time.

DCEW: Is there any advice that you’d like to give folks interested in next year’s contest?

TL: Don’t be afraid to share your story! Whether you take care of your own backyard garden, volunteer with an environmental organization, or spend time in nature, your story about connecting with the environment is important. And a good photo can help your story resonate with others.

Tacy Lambiase is a volunteer environmental educator at the Saturday Environmental Academy (SEA), a program of the Anacostia Watershed Society. She also works as an Internal Communications Specialist at The Urban Institute, a nonprofit conducting research to expand opportunities for all, reduce hardship among the most vulnerable, and strengthen the effectiveness of the public sector.

 

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The Woman Behind “Farming”: Q&A with Photo Contest Winner Sarah Waybright

By Alyssa Ritterstein, DC EcoWomen Board Member

DC EcoWomen launched its annual photo contest on Earth Day – April 22 – to capture images of the incredible environmental work our members do each day.

Several photos featured members enjoying the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin with friends and family. Other images took us a bit farther out of downtown – the Capitol building viewed from the United States National Arboretum, rock climbing at Great Falls State Park, and rocks floating on frozen water in Alexandria, Virginia.

Many folks showed us their green thumb. We received pictures of a tree planting along the Anacostia River, community gardens, a green roof garden at the University of the District of Columbia, and farms throughout the DMV.

Other folks showed us images of people helping people. We saw a picture of women teaching women about Antarctic climate science during an all-women leadership training course in Antarctica. Another picture was taken at the Virginia High School Leadership conference, where a woman had just given a speech to students on how to be an environmental leader in their schools and communities.

Our grand prize winner, Sarah Waybright, sent us a photo incorporating all three of the categories that we put forward for this year’s photo contest – women working on environmental issues, providing career growth opportunities for other women, and taking advantage of the D.C. area’s natural beauty. Her photo depicts her farming at Potomac Vegetable Farms (PVF) in Reston, Virginia, where she works alongside three women who run the farm and put on educational programs for young women interested in farm-based leadership.

We recently chatted with Sarah to hear more about the photo and the woman behind it.

DC EcoWomen: Congratulations on winning the Photo Contest! Let’s talk about the photo you submitted. I love how happy you look in it. What’s its backstory?

Sarah Waybright: This picture was taken on a little harvesting outing when a friend (who takes lovely photos!) came to visit. Getting to pick veggies you’ll eat right away is a privilege many people have never experienced, so when I have guests I like to upgrade their dinner with a farm trip! I see farming as a foundation for all the things I want to do with my career. Food is the intersection of nutrition and science, and farming is the intersection of food and our environment. Everything I want to share can “stem” from there. Working on this farm has been a true, unique joy. The people are all so supportive and kind, which isn’t something you can say of every work environment in the D.C. area!

DCEW: From your website, Why Food Works, I see that you are a Registered Dietitian, offer nutrition coaching services, and sell your own pottery – all while working on the farm. Can you tell us more about your career and how you got to where you are today?

SW: One of the things I’ve done well to this point in my life is design my days around the things I love to do, and no two are the same. I spend 20 hours a week health coaching, 15-20 farming, 10 doing pottery, and fit maintaining my brand (at times better than others!) in between those things for now. I come from a farming family that still runs a dairy farm in Pennsylvania and was lucky to grow up with a big garden. I never intended to be a farmer, but my interest in the health sciences brought me back to it. Our food systems and health are closely intertwined!

DCEW: When you submitted your photo, you wrote that you are working to open a farm where you’ll teach workshops on fermenting, cooking, growing, crafts, environmental principles, and good living. Do you have more details on it?

SW: Yes! I’m very excited that working at PVF has introduced me to a like-minded farming partner, Pam Jones. We’ll be establishing Gathering Springs Farm just north of Middleburg, Virginia, over the course of the next year. We hope to launch in time for market season next April with a few veggies we’ll grow over the winter. Things are still very much in the planning stages, but moving forward bit by bit almost daily now. That’s about all the information that exists, but stay tuned for more over the coming months!

DCEW: I see that you’ve submitted photos for our photo contest in previous years. Why do you continue to submit photos, and is there any advice that you’d like to give folks interested in next year’s contest?

SW: I was so excited to win this year. I thought getting a runner-up spot last year was pretty great, but my entry resonating with DC EcoWomen feels like confirmation that things are moving in the right direction. My recipe for success in submitting photos has been sharing a nice picture of something authentic that I’m passionate about and explaining why with a good description!

Sarah Waybright is a Registered Dietitian, the owner of WhyFoodWorks, a health coach for Wellness Corporate Solutions, and works at Potomac Vegetable Farms. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram to get food tips, nutrition information and healthy recipes.

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on DC EcoWomen Take a Spin on Two of the World’s First Commercial Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars


By Vanessa Trejos, Energy Engineer in the Fuel Cell Technologies Office at Department of Energy 

DC EcoWomen and the Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) at Department of Energy (DOE) partnered this year in a “Ride & Learn” to showcase two of the world’s first commercial hydrogen fuel cell cars. The activity drew women from diverse professional backgrounds – marketing, policy and engineering – with an interest in cutting-edge and sustainable technologies that may change the way we think about energy and transportation. Participants had the unique opportunity to drive and ride the cars and learn how hydrogen and fuel cells have the potential to enable a cleaner, more secure and flexible energy and transportation system.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars use a fuel cell that converts hydrogen into the electricity that powers the car’s electric motor. These cars are known for their 300+ mile range, quick refueling times and generating zero carbon emissions at the tailpipe – only emitting water vapor. For the first time, they are commercially available and on the streets. Hydrogen stations to fuel them are up and running in select U.S. regions.

The DOE FCTO focuses on early-stage research and development (R&D) to enable the advancement of this technology. Efforts from FCTO-funded early stage R&D have helped cut the cost of fuel cells by 60 percent and quadrupled their durability in the past decade. The cars used for this event are part of the DOE fleet and on loan from the automakers as an effort to collect data that guides the agency’s early stage R&D in this emerging technology.

To learn more about how fuel cells work and get involved, download the Increase your H2IQ to give a hydrogen and fuel cells presentation to your class or community and visit the DOE FCTO website.

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Vanessa Trejos works in the Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) at the Department of Energy (DOE) where she raises awareness of hydrogen and fuel cells as energy and transportation resources. She helped coordinate the “Ride & Learn” event with DC EcoWomen.

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Companies with a Conscience: Previewing our Photo Contest Prizes

By Alyssa Ritterstein, DC EcoWomen Board Member

DC EcoWomen is currently accepting submissions to our annual Photo Contest! This year, we’re awarding the first prize winner a $75 gift card to Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), and $25 gift cards to Teaism for the second and third place winners.

Public support for corporate social responsibility has been around for a long time. Before many companies took it upon themselves to be environmentally responsible, practice ethical labor laws, or take part in philanthropic efforts, we had federal laws put in place to protect us. Some of these laws regulate child labor, others clean water or air pollution. Now, more and more companies are extending that social responsibility to the very products they sell.

REI recently established environmentally-friendly standards that a brand must meet before its products can hit its shelves. For instance, it will ban products that contain certain chemicals. These standards will apply to REI’s more than 1,000 product lines. The company is also making it easier for people to find brands and products that are manufactured according to social and sustainability best practices on its website.

Teaism is working toward having its restaurants and teahouses be completely GMO-free. It removed canola and soy oils from its kitchens. Its fried chicken is cooked in rice bran oil and made with chickens that feed on a GMO-free diet. Teaism is also taking steps to improve the quality of its food by reviewing labels and sourcing healthy seasonal products.

Along with providing better products, these companies also support their communities. REI donates millions to conservation efforts nationwide and its employees help clean up beaches and restore local habitats. Teaism’s Penn Quarter location donates a portion of its sales to the middle school next door, and lets many local groups and organizations use its restaurants for meet-ups. DC EcoWomen is fortunate to have used Teaism for many of our EcoHours.

My hope is that more companies continue toward greater corporate social responsibility, and that people continue to step-up on an individual level. If you are a woman working on environmental issues, providing career growth opportunities for other women, or promoting personal wellbeing through taking advantage of D.C.’s natural beauty, I’d love to see what you are doing to help your community. I encourage you to participate in our photo contest going on now until Wednesday, May 23rd 11:59pm EST.

It’s a great way to connect with our community and share your perspective on your environment. The three winners will get the chance to write a DC EcoWomen blog post telling the story of their image. They will also have an extra excuse to go to REI or Teaism using their new gift card! You’ve got roughly a week and half left. Submit your photo via Instagram or email following the instructions on our 2018 Photo Contest page. Good luck!

Photo Credit: Jlhopgood/CC BY-ND 2.0