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By Sara Murrill, DC EcoWomen Board Member

Let’s face it, DC is a career-obsessed city. Our jobs here are intense; the grind is nonstop. There’s always more work to do.

Fortunately, there is a reprieve from the craziness. DC has an impressive amount of greenspace, with plenty of biking and running trails through trees and alongside creeks and rivers; spots where you can disappear into the woods and totally forget you are in the middle of our nation’s capital (save a distant siren). Many studies have shown how beneficial greenspace is to physical and mental health. In our overworked, over-connected society, it’s becoming more essential to unplug and immerse yourself in some therapeutic quality nature time.

As someone who has spent much of my career in national parks, I encourage everyone to reap the benefits of spending time in the great outdoors. Make sure you’re properly prepared and then get outside! Here are some tips to living your best outdoor life.

Explore every nature spot you can

From Rock Creek to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens to the Capital Crescent Trail, the more you get out there and explore, the more you’ll realize what DC has to offer. Venture out regionally to nearby mountains for weekend trips. Discover world class landscapes and America’s stories by visiting national parks across the country.

You know what is the best thing about Vegas? It’s only two hours from the Grand Canyon. Anytime you go out of town on a work trip or to attend your millionth wedding of the year, research public lands nearby and tack on a visit!

Go off the beaten path

Not literally – please stay on the trail. The most popular places are popular for a reason; visit them to find out why. But the lesser known places are just as amazing even if they’re not as obviously glamorous. A backpack and a tent are a great investment for exploring more remote places. You’ll feel like it’s all your own.

Appreciate nature’s tiny details

Sitting in the same spot in the woods for 40 hours a week for entire summers taught me to really appreciate the subtleties in nature. How many water droplets are on that flower? Is that fluttering butterfly ever going to pause for a rest? Where’s that beetle going? What’s that weird growth thing on that tree? Do the squirrels that I see every day recognize me? Forget everything else and occupy your mind with nature’s curiosities.

Examine your own motives

Another yoga pose on a mountain peak? Are you doing a hike for yourself or for your Instagram? What do you want out of your time in nature? How might your experience change if you only focused on being present in the moment and immersing yourself fully in being outdoors?

Enjoy the natural soundscape

When I first moved to DC, I joined a Silent Hiking Meetup group. I still have no idea who those people were or why they joined – I never talked to them. Presumably, we all understood the power and enjoyment that intentionally tuning in to your natural surroundings can bring. Try it for yourself! If silence isn’t for you, please be mindful (especially in large groups) of your noise levels.

Take some time for yourself

If you can make some time alone for yourself outside, it’s the perfect setting for reflection and inner growth. Sitting by an endlessly babbling creek or staring up at majestic mountain peaks that make you feel like a tiny speck can help bring perspective and a sense of calmness. The peace you build through time spent in nature seeps its way into your normal life. Nature is therapeutic.

Respect ecosystems & wildlife

Please, learn and follow Leave No Trace principles. Many people harm ecosystems without even realizing it. When I lived in the backcountry of Yosemite, a beautiful black bear used to roam near the ranger campsite in the evenings. He minded his own business and we minded ours. One night, a park visitor broke the rules and slept with food in his tent, and our bear took a swipe at the tent looking for a snack. No one got hurt, but this bear was now a “problem bear” and had to be hazed each night so that he wouldn’t return to the area and potentially cause harm. Know and follow all park rules. Respect all wildlife by keeping your distance and do NOT feed or touch them. You are the visitor; this is their home.

Learn, share, and protect!

Check out a ranger-led talk, read up on the park’s history, and learn more about the incredible resource that you’re visiting. The more you learn, the more you’ll come to value these irreplaceable treasures. Share your experience and invite others to join along – preserving these special places will take effort from all of us!

 

Sara Murrill is a DC EcoWomen Board Member. She currently works at the National Park Foundation, the official charitable partner of the National Park Service. Previously, she was a contracted field researcher for the National Park Service.

Pic 1: Who needs a gym when you can run these trails? Rock Creek Park, Washington, DC; Pic 2: Work trip summer 2018: solo sunrise hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO; Pic 3: Camping in Dolly Sods Wilderness, Monongahela National Forest, WV; Pic 4: An Avalanche Lily – a bit droopy from the morning dew. Mount Rainier National Park, WA; Pic 5: Me and a friend doing a double arch at the double arch. Creative, huh? Arches National Park, UT; Pic 6: Channel your inner mountain goat and get outside! Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest, CO.

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By Maggie Dewane, US Communications Manager at the Marine Stewardship Council

A friend recently asked for advice on composting in a city. I was a little embarrassed to tell her that I had no advice to give! My mom composted in our family’s backyard when I was a kid, but since moving out of the house and having only lived in apartments and cities, I assumed it couldn’t be done (easily) without a backyard. Realizing I must have assumed wrongly, I set out to investigate and here’s what I learned.

What is compost?

Compost is organic matter (mostly food scraps, leaves, twigs, etc.) that has been allowed to decompose and can then be used as nutrient-rich garden soil. The process of composting requires keeping the organic matter in an enclosed space (sometimes in a bin or a partitioned-off section of yard) and then, with proper management, supports the material so it may break down naturally, effectively becoming repurposed or reused existing, albeit discarded, material. There are many resources to teach you how to compost.

Why is it good?

Americans produce an average of 5 pounds of waste per day, around 30 percent of that is compostable food waste. By composting the material that would’ve otherwise been discarded, you’re keeping waste from landfills that can be reused in a positive and eco-friendly way! For example, if you’re an avid gardener, it will save money on fertilizer costs. If you live in a city, you’ll be part of growing contingency of cities that collect compost and reuse it for specific projects or outsource it to communities that want or need the soil for agriculture. Whether in your backyard or in a city, compost reduces the amount of methane gas emitting from our landfills, which is a greenhouse gas contributing to the overall warming of our planet.

How is composting normally done?

There are a variety of composting techniques from compost tumblers to vermicomposting (using worms that eat the material and break it down into soil, also requires the most effort  and maintenance) to pick up services and drop off locations, which are useful for city-dwellers like myself.

A useful rule of thumb when composting is, “If it grows, it goes [into the compost pile].”

Specifically:

  • Fruits
  • Veggies
  • Plants (dead flowers, weeds, grass, etc.)
  • Eggs and eggshells
  • Breads and grains
  • Paper towels and napkins
  • Uncoated paper cups and plates (meaning they don’t feel waxy to the touch)

Less desirable compost items include dairy and meat products. While these items will decompose, they may invite unwanted creatures or molds into your space.

Composting in a city

First, get yourself a bin (Planet Natural has some options at the bottom of their page here) to keep your compost in – one that you can tuck into a cabinet or under your sink. If you stick to the above list of compostable items, the bin won’t smell awful, but a lid will be useful to contain any wafting as well as any unwanted pests commonly found in cities.

One neat bin option I’ve found is GreenLid (available on Amazon). The bin comes with a sleek reusable lid while the bin itself is made from recycled cardboard and can be thrown directly into a compost pile or reused if it’s relatively clean.

For city dwellers, the next step is to find out if your municipality offers a compost pick-up service.

See if your city or town picks up compost bins here.

If your city doesn’t, here are some alternative options:

  • Find out if your apartment complex or building has a rooftop or community garden. If so, it probably has a compost pile. If not, suggest starting one!
  • Sign up for Share Waste. It connects people who want to compost but can’t (because of their living situation or if they’re on vacation) with people who have compost bins.
  • Utilize your local farmers market. A lot of weekend farmers markets have compost tents. Take a walk through your local market to see if it has one (and buy some fresh, local produce while you’re there!).
  • Contact your city council and ask them to consider implementing a program that would collect compostable material from residents.

Like most efforts to live an environmentally friendly lifestyle, composting takes time and research, but it has benefits that can serve you, your community, and the planet, so why not give it a try!

Here’s more information from the US Environmental Protection Agency on composting.

Maggie Dewane is the US Communications Manager at the Marine Stewardship Council. Previously, she was the Press and Communications Officer to the Environmental Investigation Agency. She also worked for the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the United States Senate. She has a Bachelor’s from Seton Hall University and a Master’s from Columbia University. Her hobbies include painting, writing, traveling, soccer and camping and hiking with her dog Argos. 

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By Deyala El-Haddad, DC EcoWomen member and Liveamongchic blog author

Going outside for a walk or hike and getting some fresh air can positively impact your mental and physical health and science has told us that being outdoors and in nature can significantly improve your overall health and happiness.

Here are a few benefits to being outside and surrounding yourself with nature:

  • Being outside and in nature can help decrease stress and anxiety.
  • Going for walks in the sunshine can increase your intake of vitamin D, which can reduce symptoms of depression.
  • Being outdoors in natural light can help regulate your body’s natural clock, which in turn improves sleep patterns.
  • Being in nature can help ground you in a meditative state by being present and in the moment.
  • Going on long walks and hikes can help reduce high blood pressure and can improve blood circulation, digestion, sciatica, and overall health and well-being.

Finding the Time

This all sounds great, so why not step outside and enjoy these benefits? We tend to focus so much on our day-to-day tasks that we forget to check in with ourselves and connect with nature. We tend to make excuses for ourselves as to why we don’t go outside and we’re all guilty of saying things like: “I’m too busy” or “I’m too exhausted after a long day of work.” If you’re too busy or crammed at work, try to schedule 15-30 minutes a day for walking around outside. This could be at the beginning of your lunch break, towards the end, or after work to unwind.

One other thing that I’ve noticed that I’m guilty of doing is spending too much time on my iPhone, social media, games and gadgets. I end up spending so much time without even realizing that I just scrolled for a good 20 minutes! That could have been time spent walking around outside! We are so busy with our gadgets and technology that we are forgetting the outside world. A good solution is to unplug or limit your screen time. Go to your phone settings and set time limits for how long you can use an app per day.

Locations

We also feel so overwhelmed by living in a congested city filled with commuters, buses, cars and buildings that we don’t know where to get that nature fix. A few things you can do is look up parks, hikes or trails near you on Google maps! You could walk around your neighborhood before or after work and plan to visit a trail or little park close to your home or work. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could do a hiking trip to Shenandoah National Park or to the Blue Ridge Mountains during the weekend with friends and family.

A few great hiking trails and nature walks that are within a 20-mile radius include:

  • Long Bridge Park
  • Windy Run Park
  • Potomac Overlook Regional Park
  • Bluemont Park
  • Tuckahoe Park
  • Theodore Roosevelt Island
  • Great Falls
  • United States National Arboretum
  • Gravelly Point

Making it Fun

  • Bring your headphones and listen to music, a podcast, NPR or even an audio book.
  • Bring a friend, your kids, or work buddy!
  • Pay attention to your surroundings and appreciate the little things like clouds, trees, flowers, insects and small animals.
  • Keep a step tracker and see how far you can go!
  • Do an art walk and take creative photos of interesting plants along the way.

Safety Tips

Remember to wear sunscreen, bring water and snacks, wear good gripping or hiking shoes with ankle support, go with a buddy, don’t touch any plants or ivy and don’t turn up your music too loud!

Happy hiking!

Deyala El-Haddad has a Master’s Degree in Environmental Science and is a firm believer in environmental preservation and conservation. Some of her previous environmental work includes interning for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond. Her experience spans within non-profit organizations as well as government contracting services. In her spare time Deyala enjoys hiking, traveling, yoga and blogging for her website liveamongchic and for DC EcoWomen. 

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By Angela Trenkle, technical writer and DC EcoWomen member

Throughout the DMV metropolitan area, there are different organizations that give people the opportunity to learn about conservation, restoration, and the natural world that we are lucky to call home. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with the Smithsonian Institution – an organization that is easily recognized when mentioned. What’s not always known, however, is the amount of work that goes on behind-the-scenes and that it’s easy for people to get involved.

My work with the Smithsonian Institution spans a decade and includes three institutions – the Natural History Museum (NMNH) in downtown D.C., the Environmental Research Center (SERC) south of Annapolis, and the Marine Station (SMS) in Fort Pierce, Florida. At each of these institutions, I had the incredible opportunity to work with different organisms that the general public does not always get the chance to see during their visit.

My work included, but was not limited to, curation and collection management of invertebrates and insects (specimens only a handful of individuals could see), and live aquatic organisms that were used for research purposes to answer scientific questions. I also cared for animals, both aquatic and terrestrial, that the public could learn about and see.

When I’ve shared these experiences with people, one of the first questions they often ask is, “how did you become involved?”. They’re always surprised when I tell them it’s a lot easier than they’d think!

One of the overall goals of the Smithsonian Institution is education and they are always looking for volunteers to help in different capacities, whether its for a long-term commitment, a short-term commitment, or for a day.

Smithsonian Natural History Museum

At the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, the opportunities to volunteer are split into two different categories: behind-the-scenes and public engagement.

The behind-the-scenes category gives volunteers the opportunity to help on projects out of the public eye, whether it’s assisting with data entry, cataloging museum specimens, or researching scientific literature.

The public engagement category gives volunteers the opportunity to inspire the museum’s visitors by allowing them to teach visitors about the natural world. Volunteers in the public engagement category get to work with live insects and butterflies in the butterfly pavilion and insect zoo. They can also showcase different objects in the Ocean Hall, the Hall of Human Origins, and Qriuis – a section of the museum that is dedicated solely to visitor enrichment and education.

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

At the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, the opportunities to volunteer are split into two different categories: citizen science and environmental education.

The citizen science program allows volunteers to help SERC researchers on projects that are going on in the field or in the lab. These projects can include work with mud crabs, river herring, and environmental archaeology.

Volunteers in the environmental education category can teach school groups, which gives students the opportunity to connect with the natural world around them. Volunteers in the environmental education category get to lead canoe trips, run different environmental stations (seining, oysters, plankton, etc.) for field trips, and develop educations materials, among other activities.

Smithsonian National Zoo

At the Smithsonian National Zoo, there are opportunities to volunteer in several categories, such as education, zoo support, and special events.

Volunteers in the education category can learn about the ins and outs of different exhibits throughout the zoo. They can then pass this knowledge onto the zoo’s visitors, which come from around the world.

The zoo support category gives volunteers the opportunity to work with staff behind-the-scenes and assist with animals. Zoo support volunteers can care for animals in different places around the zoo and assist with research projects that are taking place at the time of volunteering.

Finally, the special events category provides volunteers with short-term commitment opportunities. These volunteers can come as little, or as often, as they wish, whether its just for one event or for multiple. Some of the events that these volunteers can assist with include ZooFari and Zoolights.

These are just a few examples of ways that people can help with the Smithsonian. By taking the time to volunteer with this organization, people can learn, pass on information to others, grow and make a difference in the natural world. I hope you consider volunteering!

Angela is a technical writer in Maryland with a scientific background. Preserving the natural world is an important goal for her and she plans to use what she has learned over the years to help do her part in restoring local watersheds for future generations to enjoy. In her free time, when she isn’t found exploring the world of aquatic biology, she enjoys acting in musicals, running, reading, writing, and traveling to new places.

 

Photo Credits: Corey Cavalier CC BY 2.0, Quadell CC BY 3.0, and Judy Gallagher CC BY 2.0.

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By Alyssa Ritterstein, DC EcoWomen Blog Manager and Communications Committee VC

More than 15 years ago, two women hatched a plan to launch EcoWomen. Today, there are more than 5,000 women in the DC EcoWomen network. Here are a few photos to showcase DC EcoWomen through the years. I hope you enjoy them!

Alisa Gravitz, CEO of Green America, was the speaker at our first EcoHour – a free event where successful women in the environmental field discuss their work (left). In 2005, we heard from various women during our EcoHours. Juliet Eilperin, Environmental Reporter at Washington Post, was one of them (right).

In 2006, we held a Green Halloween Fundraiser. Here’s a picture of our board members at the event at Madam’s Organ (right). In May 2007, we had a spring fundraising date auction at Ireland’s Four Fields (left).

Eco-Outings hiked Old Rag in November 2008 (right).  In December 2008, they went ice skating in a sculpture garden (upper left). By March 2009, Eco-outings took archery lessons (bottom left).

Here’s our Five-Year Gala, held at the National Botanical Garden in June 2009.

In August 2009, DC EcoWomen went tubing (bottom right). We had fun at our 2009 Holiday Party (left), and enjoyed our wine tasting and networking event in April 2010 (upper right).

Our November 2010 EcoHour featured former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, seen here with Kelly Rand, former DC EcoWomen Chair.

Our Spring Wildflower Hike in April 2011 (upper left). In July 2011, we held an EcoMoms meeting (bottom left). By November 2011, former DC EcoWomen President Jessica Lubetsky instructed 20+ women on how to improve their resumes at our resume building workshop (right).

DC EcoWomen volunteered at the Walker Jones urban farm in July 2012 (right). In November 2012, we held a Craft, Chat and Chocolate event (left).

This picture was taken during a session at the May 2013 DC EcoWomen conference – I’m Here, What’s Next?

Our book club – a time when women discuss a book or series of small articles, blogs and podcasts with an environmental angle – met in May 2013 to discuss Silent Spring at the Navy Memorial/National Archives.

DC EcoWomen members tabled during the 2013 Green Living Expo DC (upper left). Our members volunteered at a 2013 coastal cleanup with Women’s Aquatic Network (bottom left). In October 2013, we hosted a locavore potluck (right).

DC EcoWomen coordinated a mentor tea at Hillwood Estate in 2014 (left). We also put on a clothing swap in fall 2015 (right).

DC EcoWomen went behind-the-scenes during a tour of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute in Sept 2015 (left). We held a rock climbing event in February 2016 (right).

This picture was taken during our August 2016 Board Retreat.

Our Women’s Suffrage Parade Walking Tour in March 2017 (left). We participated in the People’s Climate March in April 2017 (bottom right). We also coordinated a Working Women in American History Bike Tour in May 2017 (upper right).

The Skills-building Leveling Up Workshop in December 2017 (left). DC EcoWomen and Department of Energy’s May 2018 event, which showcased two of the world’s first commercial hydrogen fuel cell cars (right).

Back to where it all began, an EcoHour! This picture is from February 2019 and includes members of our Professional Development Committee and our speaker Stephanie Ritchie, Agriculture and Natural Resources Librarian at the University of Maryland (third from left).

Alyssa Ritterstein is a driven communications professional, with a proven track record of creating and executing successful communications and media relations strategies for nonprofit organizations, associations and a public relations firm. Her career spans various climate, energy and environmental communications work.

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By Cameryn Aliya Burnette, Co-Founder and Vice President, Howard University Water and Environment Association

Going green can be difficult to commit to due to the sheer variety of choices you’re faced with in the process. I was confronted with many new questions when I first went green. Natural materials or cruelty-free? Do organic labels matter? and Am I really bout to drop a band on just one dress? I dived into sustainable living headfirst so you don’t have to.

Here’s my list of first steps to going green. These steps are designed to take some of the pressure off any aspiring earth-warriors who would love to be doing a little more to help the cause but don’t exactly know what doing a little more looks like. If that sounds like you, you’re in the right spot – and there’s no cliché stuff like “turn off the water while you brush your teeth.”

Get with like-minded people

Great minds think alike! There are other people out there with ideas on how to live more sustainably. Find a thread on social media, a club on your campus, or a group that meets for dinner monthly. Eco-living looks different for different people, and this is a way to find out how others best incorporate sustainability in their daily lives.

Buy reusables

I know y’all know what reusable water bottles are, and you should be using those, but I have to put you on to reusable plastic bags, reusable straws, and travel utensils. Yes, it is a little extra work to wash these things after using them. But, in addition to reducing pollution, you will save money usually wasted on plastic bags and utensils. Reusables pay for themselves. You won’t need to replace them until they break!

BYOB! Plastic is bad for the earth and you look so much cuter carrying a cool canvas bag back from Barnes and Noble or Trader Joe’s than you do with a bunch of plastic bags.

Here are some honorable mentions for the category of things-that-shouldn’t-be-disposable – cleaning rags, shaving razors, and menstrual products. Paper towels, plastic razors, and pads are things you forget at the store and always seem to run out of during an emergency. The reusable alternatives will last you longer and save you money.

Thrift your wardrobe

Ethical/sustainable/artisan boutiques are hella expensive. There’s a reason that you mostly see influencers and celebrities wearing Reformation. Luckily, there is an alternative you are very familiar with: thrifting! I could go on for years about why you should ditch the mall for a Value Village next time you go shopping, but here’s the bottom line: 1. You save money. A thrift store fit costs 10 dollars on a bad day. 2. You look good. Follow trends if you want, but you will find more unique, one-of-a-kind items at a thrift store. 3. Less stress. Thrift store clothing has already been tested out by someone else, so you won’t have to worry about color fading, garment stretching, or texture changing. 4. Thrifting is fun! Really, there’s no way thrifting can go wrong, so there’s no reason not to get into it already.

Make a shower playlist

This is my favorite sustainable baby step, even though it’s the most basic! Yeah, we need to save water by taking shorter showers, but having to watch the clock or set a timer detracts from the whole experience. The best way to track how long you’ve been in the shower is to make a playlist with 3-5 songs with a total run time of however long you need to get clean. My standard playlist 10 songs, 37 minutes long, and when I hit “Summertime Magic” (song 4), I know it’s time to get out. You can make multiple playlists to spice up your routine or make the same songs part of your everyday routine. Disclaimer: I am not advocating for half-hour showers, but I got a lot of 3c hair to clean, comb, and condition, so best believe I need that extra time on wash days.

Living an eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle is about transitioning to living within a set of principles, not just a few actions. It will take more than a day to fully commit to this lifestyle and everyone’s circumstances will not allow them to be ‘100 percent green’.

Everyone will have a different opinion on these suggestions. The lifestyle is about doing what’s feasible for you. Any step, even a baby step, is a good step! The bottom line – continue to educate yourself and remember change doesn’t happen overnight. Get out there and find how to make it work!

Cameryn Aliya Burnette is an undergraduate student at Howard University studying Civil and Environmental Engineering. She is the co-founder and vice president of the Howard University Water and Environment Association. Have friends, will travel: She’s a native Houstonian, but you can find her running through the streets of any major city, from New York to Berlin, with her crew.

Photo Credits: Pexels, Ecodallaluna CC-BY-SA 2.0, Cameryn Aliya Burnette

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By Nicole Bateman, DC EcoWomen Board Member

Nearly two years ago, I arrived in D.C. from Seattle. Fresh out of graduate school, I was anxious to become active in a community of environmentally minded people in the District. DC EcoWomen was immediately recommended to me by a former graduate school colleague. During my first event, the Fall Meet and Greet, I spoke to one EcoWoman about recycling and composting and then another about in the ins and outs of proposed carbon pricing models in Washington state. I walked away knowing I had found a community of (nerdy?) women with a passion for these issues to match my own. Within a year of becoming involved with the organization, I was so completely sold on its mission that I applied and was fortunate enough to be selected to join the board.

As we celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of DC EcoWomen’s first EcoHour this month, it’s important to reflect upon all the organization and its members have accomplished. Since that first EcoHour, more than 150 EcoHour speakers have shared their professional insights and expertise with nearly 5,000 EcoWomen.

But the organization has also grown beyond its signature event. EcoWomen have learned how to write an eye-catching resume, negotiate salary with confidence, master public speaking, and communicate their professional brand at our many professional development workshops. Our mentor dinners have also given members an opportunity to meet with and learn from environmental women leaders in a more intimate environment.

Professional development is great, and central to our mission, but DC EcoWomen also knows that actually experiencing the environment we all care about reminds us why this work matters. We encourage our members to get outside with events like the Anacostia River tour and foraging in DC. And with events like clothing swaps, bike workshops, and sustainable food and drink events, EcoWomen have an opportunity to live our eco-values.

What else does DC EcoWomen do? Well, there are book clubs, holiday parties, fitness fundraisers, board meet-and-greets, and so much more. Nearly 100 DC EcoWomen members like me decided to get involved with the organization on a deeper level and have served as board members!

Although the organization has expanded to engage more women in more ways, we have not lost sight of the goal of DC EcoWomen’s founders, Leda Huta, Alicia Wittink, and Tracy Fisher, as they organized the first EcoHour – to create a space for women in environmental fields to build relationships. Those relationships are still the centerpiece of our work and we look forward to the next 15 years of building.

Nicole Bateman is on the research team at the Brookings Institution. She is passionate about protecting natural places and the people who enjoy them through equitable and science-based environmental policy. Nicole has a Master’s in Public Administration, with a specialization in Environmental Policy and Management, from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington.

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By Leda Huta, EcoWomen Co-Founder and Endangered Species Coalition Executive Director

More than 15 years ago, my friend Alicia Wittink and I hatched a plan to launch EcoWomen. We recognized a need in Washington, D.C. for a space to build relationships among women in environmental fields. While it was in its infancy, we roped in our friend Tracy Fisher to help grow the organization.

We had heard that other efforts to do something similar had sputtered out. But there wasn’t much to lose, except perhaps our pride. We organized the first event – the very first EcoHour – and invited our first speaker—Alisa Gravitz, CEO of Green America. We had no idea if anyone would show up. But 15 or so women did. Today, there are more than 5,000 women in the DC EcoWomen network, and 1,000+ women who attend the chapter’s events each year. There are also four more EcoWomen chapters around the country.

The best decision we made was not allowing the organization to become personality-driven. We didn’t want it to succeed or fail based on one person. We took succession planning seriously, making sure that many women played leadership roles, so that any one of us could step in and chair our board. And we always had exceptional, powerhouse chairs of the board.

We quickly created a volunteer board of talented and hard-working women. The discussions and decision-making processes were always energizing. It felt great to be in the presence of these women and jointly grow an organization. The organization’s strength has always been this diversity and collaboration. It is a community based on openness, respect and connection. And it is a model of leadership that should be expanded.

Our signature event was, and has always been, the EcoHours—happy hour with a dose of eco-inspiration from veteran women leaders in the movement. We had some of the most extraordinary speakers—one of the first female National Park Service rangers, the first woman to have a whole neighborhood transplanted because of toxic pollution, and the first Minister of the Environment in Iraq’s Interim Government. We also had accomplished women speakers who went on to play even more important roles in protecting our environment—continuing to become a Member of Congress or the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Hearing from these heroes gave us hope and they still do today.

Now, EcoWomen is stronger than ever, with amazing leaders taking charge. It is so much bigger than Alicia, Tracy, and I envisioned it could become. It offers women so much, not only in building their professional networks, but also in creating community. Environmental work is hard. This community is incredibly restorative. These smart, cool, funny and able women really do have the power to change the world.

Leda Huta, EcoWomen Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition, has 25 years of environmental experience, managing grassroots, national, and international projects. At Endangered Species Coalition, she leads staff across the country in protecting imperiled wildlife, from the charismatic gray wolf and grizzly bear to less visible species, such as Rusty patched bumblebee. Previous to her role at the Endangered Species Coalition, Leda was the Acting Executive Director for Finding Species, an organization that uses photography to advance wildlife and wild lands conservation. Through this work, she had the good fortune to spend time in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Her work at Resource Conservation Alliance protected forests using a “markets” strategy, working with university presses to shift to eco-friendly papers. Leda has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in environmental science and environment and resource management from the University of Toronto. She is currently studying environmental law at Vermont Law School. www.huffingtonpost.com/leda-huta/

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By Stephanie Gagnon, U.S. Country Manager for the Climate Scorecard Project

At the American Association of Geographers (AAG) annual meeting last April, I gave a presentation on how the U.S. could approach global climate negotiations using market-based solutions. My session also included two male presenters and one other female presenter, each of whom engaged with global climate issues and negotiations, and each presentation was followed by time for questions from the audience.

Although my presentation had focused less on the science of climate change and more on policy approaches to global environmental negotiations, I found myself confronted in the Q&A session by a member of the audience, who aggressively challenged me on the science of climate change and claimed that climate change was neither happening nor human-caused.

Once I had recovered from the shock of being aggressively challenged on the veracity of climate change science at a session specifically focused on climate change, I found it interesting that I was the only presenter this man had chosen to use to advance his climate change denial. Hadn’t he had the option to challenge the men who presented before me? Why use a presentation about policy rather than about science to make this point?

In speaking with other female presenters at the conference, I realized I wasn’t alone. Almost all of the other women I spoke to recounted similar experiences in which men publicly belittled their research and findings regarding climate change but didn’t challenge their male colleagues. This was particularly worse for women of color or who identified with other minority groups. Women across the field have reported gender-based harassment at steadily climbing rates.

The phenomenon of men ignoring or challenging women in the sciences is not by any means a new one. In 2015, the hashtag #distractinglysexy trended on Twitter in response to a male Nobel laureate’s comment about his female peers. Men have been using women’s genders to silence them on issues across the board for centuries. But in the area of climate change, a relatively new field of research and activism, the silencing of women takes on a different connotation. Rather than being isolated to a toxic-masculine gatekeeping of STEM fields, it feels more like an attempt to put women in their place, to remind us that once, not so long ago, we would never have been allowed into this space.

The demographic of this kind of harasser fits almost perfectly with the demographic of climate deniers in the U.S. Studies have shown that in general, white, politically conservative males from rural areas who are confident in their understanding of scientific concepts are the most likely demographic to reject mainstream scientific consensus on climate change. And this demographic is the same demographic that is running online harassment campaigns to silence female scientists.

In fact, I would argue that the same underlying factors are at play that both feed into climate denial and motivate the gendered harassment of women. Climate denial is built upon a solid rejection of the “mainstream,” which is seen as an elitist attempt by minorities to grab power from the majority. Climate deniers tend to see attempts to regulate carbon pollution as attempts to infringe on their freedom – this perpetuates the fear that, for example, the government will use climate change as an excuse to tell them which car to drive. This interpretation then feeds into the fear that women will use climate change as an excuse to force men into the domestic work often stereotypically reserved for women.

So how do we combat this insidious sexism that creates an unsafe environment for female climate change professionals?

Toxic masculinity is a major factor at play. Addressing this issue at its source by making men feel safe to express themselves in ways outside the traditional paradigm of masculinity could help men feel less personally threatened by female researchers’ success. Additionally, helping white men in rural areas who may feel left behind by the decline of American manufacturing could help them to feel more included in the climate change conversation. By changing messaging around climate change solutions so that it focuses on opportunities to create a better future rather than limits we should impose on our modern way of life, we can work to address fears that climate change policy necessarily means giving up the things we love. Additionally, working in programs for economic advancement, like training and job placement guarantees in the renewable energy sector, could help create opportunities in areas where current policy only accelerates plant closings.

It is not the responsibility of the scientists who are targets for harassment and silencing to address the issues that enable their harassers. Instead, it is our role as a society to work to create safer spaces for all people producing research and policy recommendations so that we can hear them and learn from them.

Stephanie Gagnon is the U.S. Country Manager for the Climate Scorecard Project. She is passionate about bridging the gap between research and action in both policy and technology to combat climate change. In particular, she focuses on climate change communication strategies to engage key actors around the issue of climate change mitigation.

Photos: Miki Jourdan CC BY-NC-ND 2.0; Tracy CC BY 2.0

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By Martha Bohrt, environmental advocate

In my interest to find out how people understand being impacted by climate change, in all parts of their identity, I became aware that, for women, there is an added layer that makes the topic intergenerational. Current mothers worry about the future of their children, as do those considering having children.

It must be noted I am not suggesting that only women are concerned about the state of the world for future generations. I know that, regardless of gender and/or interest in parenthood, this is a concern for many. What I think is worth highlighting is the additional emotional load carried by women when evaluating reproductive choices.

In the race to prevent the catastrophic effects of climate change, there are no winners, only losers. However, as the negative impacts of the current climate crisis become more evident, it is also clear that certain groups will carry the burden more heavily.

Initiatives like Zero Hour, for example, organize around the idea that young people should have a say in the development and implementation of environmental policies, since they are the ones who will have to live longer with the consequences of such policies. Women-centered environmental movements like WEDO and GenderCC have brought to the forefront the additional obstacles faced by women in dealing with climate change impacts due to existing gender inequalities.

Networks like Conceivable Future are organizing around the very idea that climate justice is reproductive justice. The mission of the organization focuses on two demands: “the right to make reproductive decisions free from massive, avoidable, government-supported harm; and the demand that the U.S. end fossil fuel subsidies as an act of commitment toward our generation and those that follow.” It promotes testimonies from women evaluating whether to have children considering the climate crisis. It also organizes events in which women can share their experiences in making these decisions.

Make no mistake, these networks aren’t encouraging population control and not having babies. They are merely drawing attention to the fact that, for our generation, the climate crisis is a big, negative factor when viewing the future. According to Conceivable Future, “there is a lot of sadness and anger around this issue for many of our generation. Whether we decide to have children or not, the future looks very uncertain, and we urgently need to meet, discuss, and organize for the well-being of ourselves and our families, however they are composed.”

Full disclosure: I am not considering having children. But learning about organizations working at the intersection of climate issues and women’s issues has really pushed me to think about how I am affected by the climate crisis in areas that I have not considered in the past. Many of my lifestyle choices are impacted by my desire to help decrease my carbon footprint. I use public transportation, I compost, I avoid plastics, etc. So, I wonder, if I were grappling with this decision, would I take this into consideration?

While I don’t have an answer, I would like to pose the same question to you. How does climate change impact your life choices, from choosing light bulbs and appliances, to the more intimate choices that define part of your humanity?

I truly believe solutions to this tough topic can only be found through an exchange of ideas and experiences. I look forward to reading yours!

Martha Bohrt is a professional working to promote the ideal of public service beyond the public sphere, into the private and nonprofit sectors. Martha has worked with local, state, and transnational agencies to advance environmental projects on air and water quality improvement, as well as environmental resilience.