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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.

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Why Should You Care about the Social Cost of Carbon?

By Tamara Toles O’Laughlin

I recently attended a briefing on the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) sponsored by the Ayres Law Group and it set my wonky heart ablaze. It featured panelists from advocacy, policy, economic, and legal backgrounds who vividly discussed the future of this calculation which is intended to bring environmental damages or externalities back into the conversation on federal enterprise regulation. While eating up the jargon and enjoying the jockeying between doctorates, I thought that it might be fun to write a blog post and make it plain since, numbers aside, it’s actively being used to help humans calculate damages to the environment over large expanses of time, when they make stuff.

05a.Industrial.PC.VA.4jun06_(167428560)The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines the SCC as the economic damages assessed per metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions. Plainly put, it is the dollar figure attached to a specific amount of global carbon pollution. In the real world, this figure is used to develop a cost/benefit analysis that helps a project manager, developer or government define the savings realized by avoiding an action that puts carbon dioxide into the air we breathe.  Assigning costs and liabilities helps businesses make decisions about where and whether to set up shop.  The SCC is intended to make it easier to capture the full picture/bottom line on climate impacts by attaching that impact to dollars spent now and in the future. Government uses this calculation to define the present benefit of rules it makes to stem the negative effects of activity on the environment later.

President Obama has been an increasingly vocal advocate for an aggressive response to the impending reality that American style energy use has a negative global impact that contributes to climate change through increased greenhouse gas emissions.  Cap and trade was originally proposed as a means to limit these impacts by creating a controlled system (delineated by a reduced impact target) for a steadily decreasing number of permits (i.e. rights) to pollute. It failed to get through the Senate and the President responded with a series of executive actions, including mandates, regulations, measurements, and fees to allow federal agencies like the EPA and the Department of Energy (DOE) to do what Congress could not, i.e. something.

The SCC monetizes the cost of doing business so that policies directed at big picture mitigation of climate change can fight static cost estimates with dynamic cost estimates. It also provides a neat and tidy-ish calculus as the reason to take or not take an action in the business world, making it a business decision regardless of whether it is a moral one.  It is a heck of a conversion that transforms trees, air, and life itself into figures, regression charts, and tables. In doing so, it engages large scale undertakings in their own language of profits and losses.

unnamedThere is some controversy about how the SCC is formulated. In fact, there are varying opinions on whether and how to fix that cost, what numbers accurately make up an appropriate period of time to measure impacts, and items such as what amount is an accurate reflection of the feasibility of an air conditioner or heat pump regulation, or whether a community building project gets beyond the environmental impact assessments required under the National Environmental Policy Act.   

Beyond fixing the issues of how much time captures the complete damage of carbon and whose dollar amount best represents that loss, SCC is important because it helps decision makers know what science to apply, how dangerous an activity will be, and what species, environments, and ecosystems will be affected by the increase in carbon represented by an activity. So why care? Because we should all know how far into the future our infrastructure decisions affect warming seas, mass migration, species extinction, and ecosystem failure. And that information isn’t just for wonks.

For more in- depth discussion of SCC Fund Models and other enviro tech details click here and here.

Tamara is an environmental advocate focused on social and environmental justice issues. She holds degrees from The City College, City University of New York and Vermont Law School.  Tamara has been a DC EcoWomen Board Member on the Professional Development Team since August 2014. Her hobbies include reading boring books about politics and neuroscience, writing diatribes about what she reads,  travel, and yoga. 

posted by | on , | Comments Off on Dining for Women and the World

By Brianna Knoppow

It’s a late Sunday afternoon when I walk into the suburban home in Takoma Park, MD. For a few hours I am venturing out of the microcosm that is D.C. and attending the monthly Dining for Women potluck. Glancing at the other attendees, I see more evidence that I’m not downtown anymore – for once I’m the youngest person at an event. But I’m not there to make new best friends. I’ve joined Dining for Women to be part of my first ‘giving circle,’ to meet like-minded individuals, and to partake in an internationally themed monthly potluck.

There are 429 chapters of Dining for Women, replete with 8,200 members.  Dining for Women focuses on supporting international efforts that specifically work to benefit females. What impresses me about the organization is that once a month each of the many chapters hosts a potluck to raise funds for that month’s chosen non-profit organization. Thus the money collected from one chapter is multiplied across the U.S.A. and the other countries where Dining for Women is located.

Rwanda_Classroom_edited In February our chapter watched a short video on Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) before contributing our individual donations. SHE is a non-profit organization with the goal of allowing Rwandan girls to be able to attend school during their menstruation time. I learned that over 20% of girls in Rwanda miss school during this ‘period.’ It’s difficult to contemplate that not every female can stroll down an aisle full of feminine hygiene products, with the most difficult decision being between Playtex and Tampax – or maybe the organic cotton product. SHE creates and distributes Go! pads, made with locally available banana fiber and employs locals in the production process. Additionally, SHE will be providing menstrual hygiene management training for 50 teachers.

Luckily, there is no minimum donation amount. With student loan debt looming in my mind, I handed over my check. It’s only $10, but that’s the beauty of giving circles – the combined donations add up together. For SHE, that’s a total of $44,947.

After watching the introductory video on SHE, our group engaged in a discussion. Many women were excited about the use of local materials. One woman suggests that a reusable DivaCup may be more sustainable.  This led to a friendly, though lively, discussion on cultural norms and practicality.

At another Dining for Women event we Skyped with a 22 year-old Syrian woman living as a refugee in Jordan. We learned that her family had acquired an apartment, albeit without water or electricity. I was horrified to hear that those with refugee status are not permitted to work in Jordan. Jordan suffers from high unemployment and fears that refugees will steal limited job opportunities. The woman we Skyped with has many siblings and one brother who dares to work illegally in order to feed the family. His penalty, if caught, is deportation.  That evening we raised funds for the Collateral Repair Project, which works with refugees from conflict zones. An important focus of the organization is to empower female leaders. Our 22 year-old friend is one of these leaders. Aside from the basic human needs of a refugee, she is hopeful that one day she will be able to return to her education and attain a degree in computer science. As she described her educational ambitions I felt myself becoming less consumed about my student loans and more grateful to have been granted such an educational opportunity.

Potluck_meal_(Indonesian_cuisine),_2015-04-12 March came along and we met to raise money for what I deem one of the most impressive organizations thus far – the Grandmother Project in Senegal. After dining on a potluck reminiscent of Senegal (though mostly vegetarian!), we watched a short introductory video and then Skyped with the founder of the Grandmother Project. We learned that in many rural areas of Senegal girls face female genital mutilation and teen pregnancy, among other issues. Atypical of many aid organizations, the Grandmother Project works to engage and empower the grandmothers – the decision makers in the village – in an effort to change collectively-maintained social norms. There were almost 20 people at this meeting and together we raised nearly $1,000 of the $44,500 contributed to the Grandmother Project.

I’m excited to have stumbled upon an organization, Dining for Women, that works to raise funds to better the lives of women throughout the world. As I take the long Metro ride home from Takoma Park, MD, I contemplate starting a local, D.C, chapter. I know my city apartment is too small for a potluck, so for now I will continue to make the trek and be grateful for the opportunity.

To learn more visit: http://diningforwomen.org/

Brianna Knoppow works in the environmental field in D.C. and enjoys biking, kayaking, and foraging for wild mushrooms. She has an M.S. in Environmental Science & Policy.

posted by | on , , , | 1 comment

by Eva Jannotta

If you’re thinking about starting a business, congratulations! Anyone can start a business. All you need is your idea, your goals, and a business model (and probably a website). Here are some things to consider as you plan your business:

Find your nicheNo market is too saturated for your unique self.
You need a business idea. What’s your product or service? And more importantly, what makes your business special? The answer to this last question is obvious in a way: you make your business special. Find a way to make it obvious to your customers. What about your experiences or creation makes you unique?

In other words, don’t just be an English major who edits stuff. What are you excellent at and experienced in editing: scientific writing? Technical writing about vacuums? Marketing organic cotton baby clothes? Or what do you know so much about that you can improve a piece by editing it?

Set yourself apart by finding a niche and becoming an expert (if you aren’t already). Develop expertise that your customers can trust. Do this by contributing content; write a blog, guest post on blogs about your topic, write white papers or ebooks, make videos, create Pin boards and use Instagram for visual content. Even curating your Twitter feed is a way to establish expertise. Key in to your industry – establish relationships with media outlets or journalists that cover your topic, volunteer at events in your industry. Pitch presentations at conferences.

Reading three paragraphs on finding a niche makes it sound like it can be done overnight, but I’m still finding my niche! I’m a professional organizer – will my niche by digital clutter? I’m a social media and marketing consultant – will I specialize in social media support for Gen Xers? I’m developing a financial literacy class for students and young adults. Maybe financial education will be my expertise. It’s okay if you’re not sure, or if it takes time to decide on your niche. You can start before you’re certain. Your niche will make itself known as you experiment with your options.

Starting a Business: What are your goals for your business - and your life?

Starting a Business: What are your goals for your business – and your life?

Know yourself, know your goalsThere are more reasons than “make money” to start a business.
When I started Simply Put Strategies, I had a lot of anxiety about making it “successful,” and in my mind that meant making it “pay.” My sister suggested that I change my definition of success from make money to improve peoples’ lives through organization. Not because wanting to make money is bad, but because money-making as a goal made me feel like a panicked failure instead of a powerful person who makes her clients’ lives more joyful and free.

Making money is an important goal, but know your other business goals: to create art that makes people happy or pensive? To support baby boomers as they age? To publish websites that are intuitive for new users?

There are many reasons to start a business, and they can all be goals: build expertise, practice self-management, widen your range of experiences, expand your network, have a back-up option if you leave your job, have an option if you want to work part-time to raise kids or write a book. Can you think of other great reasons to start a business?

Get a business plan modelWhere is the money coming from?
Some people insist that you need to write a business plan, and that’s up to you. But whether you write a plan or not, you DO need a business model: you need to have a plan for supporting yourself.

Few businesses make a ton of money at first. Some never make much at all. However, you need money to live. So make sure you have a business model that allows you to live while you get your business mojo flowing. This could be working full time, part-time, working virtually, contracting, living off savings, doing odd jobs off Craigslist, or dog walking. I do not recommend quitting a salaried job to start a business with no idea how you will support yourself. That is a recipe for sleepless nights and is a terrible business model! My business model is to work part time at MOM’s Organic Market while I build my client base.

Starting a business: you can work for yourself all day in a cafe!

Starting a business: you can work for yourself all day in a cafe!

Starting a business is a big step, and may sound scary. What if it fails? What if you don’t like it? Anything is possible, but what you will learn makes it a worthy investment. If you’re worried about losing money, consider this: it cost me only $300 to start my business (registering in the state of Maryland and paying for my website). You can do it!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Start a Business for the Win.

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

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Biking to Work: It’s Quite Doable

by Catherine Plume

Bicycle commuting continues to grow in the DC area and according to a US Census report, 4.5 percent of DC residents commuted to work by bike in 2013. Only Portland, Oregon “out bikes” us with 5.9 percent of their commuters using pedal power to commute. Commuter biking is fun, hip, and undoubtedly the quickest way to get around town, but it’s not without its challenges. If you’re considering joining the ranks of the DC bicycle commuter brigade, here are a couple of resources and suggestions to make your commute safer and more efficient.

The Washington Area Bicycle Association (WABA) is a great resource for any DC cyclist, and their lobbying efforts and advocacy have contributed to the development of bike lanes across DC. While bike lanes undoubtedly add protection for cyclists, cycling in traffic – even in bike lanes – requires confidence and respect for other cyclists, pedestrians, and the ever present motorized vehicle. WABA offers adult education classes for city cycling, and they’ll teach you how to change a flat. They also have youth classes cycling education rides. As a WABA member, you’ll receive a 10 percent discount at many DC bike store. Support WABA – it is your DC Area cycling friend!

Cykel

If you’re in the market for a commuter bike, there are a few things to consider. Fatter tires and wheels can cope with potholes and curbs better than skinny tires, but they will slow you down. Hybrid bikes offer a great middle of the road option. Investing in flat resistant tires and/or tubes will cost you a bit more, but are well worth the investment. A bike with a chain guard will save your pants, tights, leggings and shoes from grease spinoff while a lower or no top tube will prevent (or at least minimize) your skirt or dress from blowing up as you ride. Reflectors and lights (front and back) are a must for cycling at night and a helmet is de rigueur ALWAYS. A basket, rear rack and water bottle cage are handy accessories that will make your ride more enjoyable and practical.

Capital BikeShare bikes are great for city cycling, and meet most of the criteria outlined above. Depending on where you live or work and the time of day, finding a bike or an empty docking station can be a challenge. While Capital Bikeshare kiosks provide extra time to find an open dock and a list of where bikes and docks can be found, it can be inconvenient.

Whether you’re bikesharing or riding your own bike, plot out your route before you set out. DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) provides an online bicycle map. Opt for a route that will keep you in bike lanes as much as possible. Stay alert! Do you really need those earbuds in your ears when you’re cycling? Use hand signals to indicate turning and stopping. Everyone – cyclists, pedestrians and motorists – will appreciate this! Let fellow cyclists know that you’re passing them with a friendly “on your left” as you come up behind them. While you’re at it, acknowledge other cyclists when you’re at a stoplight. Make a new friend.

Think about where you’re going to park your bike once you get to work. Does your office provide bicycle parking? Invest in good bicycle locks. Thieves LOVE cable locks as they can cut through them in a pinch. A good U-lock or the new foldable locks are expensive, but they’ll thwart the thieves!

5948120641_01c96356f2_o

Looking fresh once you get to work can be a challenge, especially with DC’s hot and humid summers. See if your office has a locker room or a shower for cycling. Keep makeup, towels and work shoes at the office so you don’t have to transport them back and forth every day. Keep some grease remover, hand sanitizer, and a small first aid kit handy just in case. If you’re biking in a skirt or dress that keeps flying up, wrap a coin in the fabric at the front hem and fasten it with a rubber band. This weighted hem will fall between your legs as you cycle and minimize fly up.

Finally, be a safe and responsible cyclist. When that impromptu happy hour happens and you find yourself a bit tipsy, please don’t cycle. You can put your bike on a Metro or Circulator bus or ask your friendly bus driver to help you. (Thank him or her profusely!). Metro trains allows up to two bicycles per car during non-rush hour times. Folded bikes are allowed anytime.

Biking is a great way to get around town! Do it, and bike safely!

Catherine Plume is a long time DC bicycle commuter. She’s the blogger for the DC Recycler; www.DCRecycler.blogspot.com; Twitter: @DC_Recycler.

posted by | on , , | Comments Off on Women Leaders Defend the Earth and Champion Human Rights

by Sharon Hartzell

Happy National Women’s History Month! As environmentally conscious women, we have no shortage of role models from whom to draw inspiration as we advocate for a greener planet. Women have steered the environmental movement in innovative directions, highlighting interconnections between environmental issues and human right struggles in the U.S. and worldwide. Here are four female environmental leaders who advocate for both the environment and human rights.

Wangari Maathai

maathaiIn 2004, Wangari Maathai became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to “sustainable development, democracy and peace.” Maathai took a holistic approach to environmental advocacy, recognizing connections between resource management and economic empowerment. One of her lasting contributions was the Green Belt Movement, an organization dedicated to empowering communities, particularly women, to preserve the environment. It was founded in response to concerned rural Kenyan women facing water scarcity, insecure food supply, and a lack of accessible resources for firewood. The Green Belt Movement encourages tree planting to conserve biodiversity, promotes ecosystem restoration, and combats poverty by providing economic resources.

In addition to the Green Belt Movement, Maathai became the first woman in Kenya to earn a doctorate degree, the first woman to chair the Department of Veterinary Anatomy at the University of Nairobi, and a participant in the National Council of Women in Kenya, which led to the creation of the Green Belt Movement.

Winona LaDuke

ladukeWinona LaDuke is a powerful advocate for environmental sustainability and indigenous rights, particularly for women. A member of the Ojibwe tribe, LaDuke became an activist while working on the White Earth Reservation as a school principal, where she helped to found the Indigenous Women’s Network. LaDuke recognized the necessity of conserving both environmental and cultural resources, and founded White Earth Land Recovery Project to recover land that has been taken from the people on her reservation. The organization also implements programs on these lands to preserve the environment and fosters economic opportunities for indigenous people.

LaDuke then founded the nonprofit Honor the Earth, which provides “a voice for the earth and a voice for those not heard.” Honor the Earth promotes environmental justice and works to enhance the political power and leadership of indigenous people. According to the nonprofit’s website: “We believe a sustainable world is predicated on transforming economic, social and political relationships that have been based on systems of conquest toward systems based on just relationships with each other and with the natural world.”

Vandana Shiva

shivaVandana Shiva has dedicated her life to the preservation of biodiversity and indigenous knowledge, which she sees as intrinsically linked. In 1991, Shiva founded the NGO Navdanya (nine seeds), which is committed to the protection of biological and cultural diversity. The organization has set up seed banks across India, promotes fair trade of organic seeds, and trains farmers in seed sovereignty, food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture.

Since the preservation of biodiversity is the foundation of Shiva’s activism, she has been an outspoken critic of seed monocultures, industrial agriculture, and genetically modified food products. Shiva also makes a philosophical argument against a system that attempts to patent life forms, and questions the loss of indigenous knowledge and control over traditional agriculture systems that might result from the practice. Ecofeminism is fundamental to Shiva’s work, and she asserts that more sustainable agriculture will go along with centering the leadership of women in India and worldwide.

Majora Carter

carterMajora Carter is a visionary advocate for environmental justice and an innovative steward of the urban environment. A resident of the Bronx, Carter has committed her life’s work to improving both the environmental quality and the economic sustainability of her community. In 2001, Carter founded Sustainable South Bronx, which spearheaded the initiative to develop the Hunt’s Point Riverside Park in an area that had previously been an illegal garbage dump.

Through Sustainable South Bronx, Carter has also established the Bronx Environmental Stewardship Program, an initiative to train urban residents for green-collar jobs in ecological restoration, green roof installation, urban forestry, and other sustainable fields. Carter’s work recognizes many interrelated struggles facing low-income communities of color, and strives to tackle them in a holistic way. These communities must bear the brunt of environmental pollution, and face less access to green spaces and fewer opportunities for green jobs than wealthier communities. “Green For All,” an organization that Carter founded in collaboration with civil rights advocate Van Jones, strives to tackle poverty and crime by providing economic opportunities for low-income communities while simultaneously building a green economy.

Across continents and communities, women are making vast contributions to the environmental movement and strengthening the linkages between preserving the earth and defending the rights of humans who inhabit it. Which female leaders have inspired you this Women’s History Month? Comment below!

Sharon Hartzell is a graduate student at the University of Maryland College Park, where her research and coursework focuses on Chesapeake Bay contaminant issues. She is a regular blogger on environmental topics with the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, and is always seeking more opportunities to write. She spends her free time enjoying everything the D.C. area has to offer, from the Natural History Museum to Nando’s portobello wraps.

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By Jessica Christy

In April 2014, Exelon Corporation, the nation’s fifth largest utility company ($28.7 billion market share) offered to purchase Pepco Holdings, Incorporated (PHI) for $6.8 billion, creating the nation’s largest utility with 10 million customers and $26 billion in regulated revenue. The service areas for these utilities include MD, IL, PA, DC, DE, NJ, and VA. Exelon’s profits, mostly from nuclear power generation, have decreased 40% since 2007, so the shift into a regulated market, with its guaranteed income, makes economic sense.

Exelon’s Byron Nuclear Power Station. Photo by Bill & Vicki Ton Flickr.

Exelon’s Byron Nuclear Power Station. Photo by Bill & Vicki T on Flickr.

Unsurprisingly, Pepco shareholders have approved the $1.1 billion windfall. The deal was also approved by the boards of Exelon and PHI, the regulatory bodies of NJ and VA, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and tentatively with the regulatory body of DE. The deal still requires approval from the Public Service Commissions of MD and DC. The companies hope to win approval from all agencies by the fall of 2015.

Pepco claims that the merger will improve outage response time, reduce the number of outages, provide money for low-income customers, and continue to support local charities to the tune of $50 million. Others, including Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh and the Institute for Energy, Economics, and Financial Analysis, believe PHI customers will experience frequent rate hikes, decreased reliability, and an understated role for renewables.

Rate Hikes May be Necessary to Financially Justify Acquisition

As PHI’s assets are estimated at a value of $4.3 billion, Exelon is paying a $2.5 billion acquisition premium, which creates pressure to justify the price tag. DC’s request for a moratorium on rate hikes for five years after the merger was rebuffed, leaving customers to wonder if they will see rate increases to support the acquisition premium. Consumers can examine Exelon’s behavior surrounding the acquisition of BG&E in 2012, which included the condition that savings from the acquisition would be passed on to consumers. Since then, Exelon has requested a total of $369 in rate hikes on electricity ($136 approved) and $221 in rate hikes on gas ($162 approved). While past behavior is no guarantee of future performance, it’s difficult to imagine that this merger will play out differently, especially considering the stronger conditions placed on the BG&E deal.

To address these concerns, Exelon increased its offers to $94.4 million for MD’s Customer Improvement Fund ($130 per customer), $49 million for DE’s direct customer benefits fund ($160 per customer), and $33.75 million for DC’s customer investment fund ($132 per customer). Despite these investments, it’s unclear whether consumers will see a net benefit from the merger.

Photo by Tam Tam on Flickr.

Photo by Tam Tam on Flickr.

Improved Reliability Not Guaranteed

Exelon’s standards for reliability are less stringent that the current plan and provide no independent method to incentivize reliability improvements. According to Exelon’s own testimony, it does not have a firm engineering plan for improvements, but, after the merger, will spend six months assessing conditions in the field to determine what improvements can be accomplished, when, and at what cost. Exelon would not institute any reliability targets for 2015 through 2017 and has set a goal of increased reliability using a three-year target beyond 2017, which is less strict than the current trajectory. Additionally, if Exelon does not meet these standards, including a significant number of exceptions for changes in law, regulation, and extreme weather anywhere along Exelon’s supply chain; Exelon will determine what penalty, if any, is warranted. Exelon’s internal goals are certainly laudable, but leave customers without any tangible plan for improving reliability.

Renewable Energy Plans De-emphasized

DC has set an incredibly ambitious plan to decrease energy usage by 50% by 2032 and increase renewable energy usage to 20% by 2020. MD’s renewable energy portfolio dictates that by 2022, renewable sources will account for 20% of energy consumption. NJ and DE have made similar plans; however, an Exelon takeover may put a damper on that progress. Exelon, in an effort to protect the profitability of its nuclear energy sources, has opposed efforts to make residential solar panels cost efficient; opposed the wind production tax credit; and lobbied against both DC and MD bills that prioritized renewable energy production and sources. The consistent opposition to renewable energy incentives indicates that Exelon does not and will not support renewable energy plans in PHI jurisdictions. Exelon may not be able to prevent these standards from taking effect, but they may be able to weaken or delay implementation.

When considering the potential negative effects on consumer rates, decreased reliability, and the environment from a de-emphasis on renewable energy sources; DC and MD should reject this deal unless Exelon can provide guarantees, not internal goals, which address these concerns.

**Consumers who are interested in learning more about the merger are invited to attend two panels at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law on April 8, 2015 from 7-10pm. RSVP here.**

Jessica Christy is a first 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 | Comments Off on Save Your Sanity and the Planet by Letting Go of Unwanted Gifts

By Meg Hathaway

The post-holiday season is a time when many of us find ourselves stuck with at least one gift from a well-meaning friend or relative that just doesn’t have a place in our life. Maybe it’s a too-small sweater, a decorative candle you can’t stand the smell of, or in one memorable Christmas of my own, a ceramic rabbit statue the size of a Labrador retriever. It’s inevitable that at some point you’ll be on the receiving end of a gift that wasn’t exactly on your list. The irony is that when someone cares about you, the last thing they want to do is burden you with an object that you hate but feel obligated to keep.

No one sets out to give an unwanted gift, but I’m sure I’ve given some duds over the years. Unless your friends and family are very different from mine, they’re not mind readers. This isn’t a post about being ungrateful; it’s about being realistic and recognizing that objects sometimes come into your life that don’t fit who you are or want to become. When that’s the case, it’s important to acknowledge it and let the item go.

It can be hard to decide what to do with a gift you dislike when it’s connected to a beloved person in your mind. You love someone, and a gift is an expression of their love for you, so isn’t rejecting a gift on some level a rejection of their love? Here’s my advice to you: get rid of the gift. Now. Sell it, re-gift it to someone who will appreciate it more than you, donate it to Goodwill, recycle it, throw it away, whatever. Holding on to gifts that you have conflicting emotions about just clutters up your life and leaves less room for things that actually bring you happiness. Furthermore, by keeping an object you don’t value, you could be preventing that object from being useful to someone else, creating demand for more of the planet’s resources to be used to make a new version of your perfectly good item.

Okay. By now you’ve hopefully started guiltily thinking about a few things in your place that you know you should get rid of. Great! If you’re thinking of trash or something that you want to donate to charity, I trust you to take things from here. If you’d like to sell an unwanted item, some extra effort is necessary. Here are a few pointers:

1. Be realistic about the current condition of the item and whether it’s worth your time to attempt selling it. No one else cares that your used wallet was a gift from your super-cool Aunt Tilly on last year’s fun ski trip.

2. Consider the best platform to sell your item.

ebay lorax sold a. Yard sales have low prices but allow you to put a price tag on anything – no matter how random – and get rid of many items quickly.

b. eBay is perfect for small and easily shippable collectables, but can take a while to get used to if you haven’t sold items with the website before. My number one tip is to search for similar listing items and select the “completed” filter on the left-hand search bar. Simply viewing what others are listing is not enough – you want to know what buyers are actually willing to pay for your item.

craigslist gallery view with circle c. Craigslist is great for large items like furniture that you don’t want to ship; used IKEA items in particular sell very well. However, be prepared for people to email you with lowball offers and flake out on appointments. Visit the “Sell Your Crap” section of the blog Man vs. Debt for great suggestions on how to sell on Craigslist. Like eBay, you can search for similar items and see what keywords and prices other people are using. It also helps to switch from the default “list view” to the picture-based “gallery view” to quickly compare your item with what’s already for sale.

3. Photos make a sale. Take lots of pictures of your item, being sure to honestly highlight any flaws.

4. If you’re on the fence about selling something, photographing the item can help keep associated memories alive, freeing you to dispose of the object itself. For more information on why we keep certain objects and how to let go, read Karen Kingston’s Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui and Peter Walsh’s It’s All Too Much.

Happy clutter clearing!

Meg Hathaway is a Chemical Review Manager for the Office of Pesticide Programs in the US Environmental Protection Agency. She enjoys contra and swing dancing, studying international environmental policy, flipping merchandise online, and telling herself she practices guitar every day. She’s also on the DC EcoWomen executive board. 

2015 DC CSA Guide

Feb
2015
25

posted by | 6 comments

By Tracy Brinkerhoff

With DC temperatures in the single digits, I’m going to guess that your search history includes “hot chocolate recipes” and “when does House of Cards return?” instead of “local organic tomatoes” or “what to do with kohlrabi.” As a distraction from the endless winter, I am here to remind you that it’s already time to sign up for or renew your CSA subscription for the 2015 season!

Are you wondering what CSA stands for? Have you considered joining one in the past but have outstanding questions or reservations? If so, check out last year’s post on the ins and outs of CSAs.

Once you’ve made the decision to broaden your culinary skills, support your local economy, and enjoy the benefits of local, organic vegetables, the next step can be overwhelming: choosing which CSA to join.

CSA2We have the wonderful problem of living in a region with a variety of CSA options. I suggest that you start by addressing your biggest challenge or reservation to participating in a CSA. For example, if you’re most concerned about finding time to pick up your shares, choose a CSA with convenient pick up locations near your home or office. If you worry your culinary skills aren’t up to par, choose a CSA that provides weekly recipes and tips for handling your veggies. If the price tag is your biggest concern, choose a CSA with a flexible payment plan or a workshare option.

To help you further narrow down the plethora of options available to DC area residents, I’ve highlighted a few stellar CSAs. If you belong to a CSA that wasn’t mentioned in this post, please comment below and be sure to include what makes your CSA great!

Maximum Flexibility

Star Hollow Farm, located in Southern PA, runs a year-round CSA with bi-weekly Saturday pickups at the Adams Morgan Farmer’s Market. This CSA is run through an online store; members deposit money upfront in increments of $300 and shop online the Wednesday before a Saturday pick-up. If you’re looking for the traditional uncertainty of CSA, they offer a “surprise box,” but also make it easy to customize your order with add-ons. Star Hollow Farm starts you off with a trial order and does require one two-hour volunteer shift (in DC) per year. They are currently accepting new members!

Best Accompanying Blog

Clagett Farms, located in Upper Marlboro, MD, is offering full shares and half shares for the 2015 season. This CSA is affiliated with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and has a pick up location in Dupont Circle. What really makes Clagett Farms stand out is the blog. Updated weekly, it includes volunteer opportunities on the farm, recipe ideas, predictions for upcoming shares, tips on storing, canning, and freezing veggies; and photos and Instagram posts from CSA members.

CSA1

Share for One

Orchard County Produce, located in Gardners, PA, offers a personal share option. The share contains five total items, including one fruit. The CSA season is divided into three seven-week blocks of time: spring, summer, and fall. A personal box runs $95 for seven weeks, which comes out to under $14 per share.

For the Carnivores

Evensong Farm, located in Sharpsburg, MD, has developed a non-traditional CSA system. By depositing a minimum of $250 into your account during the month of March, you receive a 10% discount on all Evensong purchases made at their locations in Penn Quarter and Silver Spring and a 15% discount at the farm. The buyers club system follows the upfront payment principle of a CSA, but allows for total customization of Evensong products such as pork, chicken, beef, eggs, and a limited amount of herbs and vegetables. This CSA is also woman-owned and operated!

For the Travelers

Walnut Springs Produce, located in Southern PA, lets you pick five, 10, or 20 weeks out of their 25 week season to receive shares. They also provide the flexibility of receiving five or eight units of produce each week and price accordingly. This CSA would be perfect for those who can’t commit to a weekly or bi-weekly share.

If You’re Eager to Get Started

Glen’s Garden Market, a grocery store and restaurant, offers a 10 week Spring CSA with produce from Chesapeake Bay farmers that begins April 1st. You can pick up your two-person sized share anytime after 2pm on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday from their location in Dupont Circle. Grab a sandwich and a six-pack of your favorite IPA while you’re there!

I recommend signing up for your CSA subscription by mid-March because shares can sell out! And while you’re dreaming of the summer squash and arugula in your future: House of Cards returns February 27th.

Tracy Brinkerhoff, a recent graduate of The College of William & Mary, is a healthcare consultant, environmentalist, feminist, and aspiring yogi.