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posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Giving to DC EcoWomen This #GivingTuesday

By April Martin, DC EcoWomen Co-Chair

The holiday season is upon us! Lights are going up, orders for Thanksgiving turkeys are posted at grocery stores, and I even got the Christmas blend at Starbucks this morning! As we plan our holiday meals, celebrations and gifts, it is also the season to give back to our friends, families, colleagues and communities.

DC EcoWomen has been hard at work this year—and every year—since 2003 to empower environmental women in the greater DVM. We have a hard-working board of 22 women, who collectively work to organize and manage our organization of nearly 6,000 members!

Together, we put on over 40 events a year that run the gamut from professional development to outdoor activities and outings, to our signature EcoHour, where professional women can come together to network and find community.

I’m proud of all that we have accomplished: since 2004 we have put on over 160 EcoHours and featured women leaders from local and national environmental groups, environmental journalists and bloggers, and leaders in the governmental arena. In 2017 alone, we have featured strategists from leading conservation groups, cleaned up pollution at our coastline, arranged conservation tours at the zoo, and now we are encouraging women to use reusable shopping bags through our Nickels for Non-Profits partnership with Whole Foods in Montgomery County.

Reusable bags help generate money for DC EcoWomen at Whole Foods.

But wait, we are not done! Next Tuesday, Nov 21, we are hosting an EcoHour with Dr. Helen E. Fox, senior director of Our Changing Planet grants program at the National Geographic Society. She will share insights from her 20+ years of experience strengthening science and marine conservation.  

The following Tuesday, November 28, is #GivingTuesday! What is #GivingTuesday you might ask? Besides a hashtag, it is an international day of giving, whether it is through giving your time, your money or your voice. Do you have a story about how DC EcoWomen has benefited you? Share it!

This year, I hope that you will consider giving to DC EcoWomen, an organization that gives back all year long. Please join with our community, come out to our events and get involved! There are volunteer opportunities, and opportunities to express your leadership by participating on our board. Your donation will go towards the development of women as leaders in the environmental community.

Speaking of developing women leaders, are you ready to take your career to the next level? Join us at a Leveling Up workshop on Saturday, December 2. This comprehensive skills-building workshop where a team of experts will walk you through how to manage a team, measure your effectiveness, present with confidence, and deliberately manage and shape your career. You’ll also learn about finding mentors and career coaches, cultivating connections, branding yourself, and much more!

As we close out 2017 and move into 2018, my Co-Chair Tamara Toles O’Laughlin and I are excited to see how we can develop our board and our offerings to our membership.

But, we need your support to take DC EcoWomen to the next level.

You can read all about it in Tamara’s blog, and here are a few of her thoughts to close out:

“April and I will make change that support and evolves our mission to broaden our service to all the women who make up our community, while continuing to be the hub for vanguard leadership and programming.

“Watch this space as we tinker with the definition of membership, develop affinity groups to reach the seasoned members of our community and make the most of the forty events the DC chapter puts on each year.

“In these fraught times for women and the environment we have seen that our community isn’t just a place to network but a landing spot for cultivation of equity, curiosity and a catalyst for women making their place in the sector. We hope that each of you who count yourselves as members will stick with us as we flesh out our capacity to serve as a force for good in the Nation’s Capital.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself! I am wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season!

Warmly,

April

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on A Dietary Pattern for a Healthier Planet

Vegetable-based diets can be better for the planet.

by Joanna Pustilnik, Bodacious Nutrition

A condo building is going up in my neighborhood, and my husband and I were worried it might cause more traffic congestion. We already live by a highway, and I’ve read that can increase the risk of high blood pressure. But then I read the world is going to house 9.6 billion people by the time my baby daughter is thirty, and the condo suddenly seems like a very minor concern.  

Already, one in nine of us—or about 13 percent of people worldwide—don’t have enough to eat. That’s not fair. I like food. You like food. We should all have enough of it. As a dietitian (and a human), I’m perplexed – how are we going to feed the 3 billion more people that will share our space with us? We’ll have even less resources by then.

Food production would need to increase 70 percent to feed all our new friends. Globally, producing food already eats up 70 percent of fresh water and causes 80 percent of total deforestation. Ten billion acres of land across the globe – an amount the size of Africa – is being used to raise livestock.

We can’t increase our global food production ? we don’t have the space. Instead, we need to drastically change how we grow, produce, and eat food. The most powerful thing we can do as individual consumers is to eat sustainably.

Food security and sustainable dietary patterns

To feed our 3 billion new friends, we need to be food secure. Food security is when we have enough safe, nutritious food. A sustainable dietary pattern has minimal environmental impact but maintains food security and nutritional value.

A “dietary pattern” is essentially the way we normally eat. It includes our typical portions, combination of commonly eaten foods, and the variety in our habitual choices. To be sustainable, a dietary pattern should be healthy, shouldn’t decrease the biodiversity of an ecosystem, should be economically sound, and should optimize our resources.

Plant based diets such as the Mediterranean Diet, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), and a vegetarian (or vegan) diet seem to fit this bill. Health benefits of these diets include lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and they boast a lower amount of red meat, processed foods, and more fruits and vegetables. Studies are repeatedly finding that diets high in animal foods are not sustainable.

Beef, in particular, uses a lot of resources and produces too much waste. In one Italian study, beef was the food tied to the greatest negative impact on the ecosystem while a vegan diet had the lowest environmental impact and greatest health score. Beef and lamb require the most fossil fuel per calorie of protein ? 250 times more than beans!

Here’s a graph from the World Resources Institute that shows the impact of various foods on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Notice animal-based foods use consistently more resources:

Here’s a graph from the World Resources Institute that shows the impact of various foods on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Notice animal-based foods use consistently more resources

Overall, agriculture is responsible for 30 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but 18 percent of this is due to raising livestock. That’s more than the transportation industry and all industrial processes combined – they only emit fourteen percent.

Another issue is that meat increases per capita land requirements while feeding less people overall. The grain we feed animals doesn’t go as far as it would if we just were to feed it directly to people, and we feed 40 percent of grain globally to livestock instead of our hungry 1 billion human friends.

Meat also produces a large amount of waste – methane and other gases as well as solid waste that pollutes land and waterways. A plant-based diet with a smaller amount of meat is making more sense.

Harvard and the European Union have both looked at sustainability research to develop diets. Harvard’s plate boasts more fruits and vegetables than USDA’s MyPlate, more whole grains, and focuses more on plant protein while limiting red meat intake. It also encourages milk and dairy no more than 1 to 2 times a day.

The European Union’s LiveWell for LIFE diet has been found to reduce GHG production by 25 percent compared to current intake. It too promotes a plant-based diet with a focus on more plant proteins than a typical person eats with no more than 1/3 of the diet consisting of foods from animal sources.

How we eat now

Currently, we are not eating in line with either of these diets. Most of us eat a Western-style diet that’s high in red meat, dairy, and processed foods (think packages, boxes, bags, and the center of the grocery). We include few fruits and vegetables, limited legumes and beans, and not enough whole grains.

We especially love our red meat.

In 2009, we ate 14 million tons of beef ? about 92 lbs. per person. By 2030, this number is projected to increase to 17 million tons. The average man only needs 56 gm of protein per day, but he eats over 100 gm daily! Demand is also increasing worldwide as countries become more industrialized.

Simple changes we can all make

First, we can shop locally. This limits GHG produced by the transportation of food from far away. Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables is also a smart choice, and not just for health reasons. Consumerism is powerful. We need to show our government that sustainable farming practices that maintain the soil are demanded.

We can also limit ourselves to our fair share, because excessive energy intake requires more energy use. We can also shop for fresh food to decrease waste from packaged goods. Also, we throw away 40 percent of our food. Eating more mindfully would help decrease this amount and preserve our vital resources.

And finally, eat less animal products. If just 10 percent of us limited consumption of animal products, enough food would be saved to feed 1 billion people.

That’s huge.

From a nutritional perspective, limiting meat would only promote positive health. We don’t all have to abstain and become vegans, but research shows any decrease in meat consumption increases sustainability AND improves decreases disease risk.

I like to call a plant-based diet a gracious diet. Include small amounts of meat if you like, but let’s remember to conserve. We can get everything we need while still being considerate of future generations. They’ll be hungry, too.

To continue supporting sustainability, DC EcoWomen is partnering with Whole Foods’ program Nickels for Non Profits through December 17th. On your next shopping trip, bring a reusable bag to Whole Foods Markets in Montgomery County, and ask to donate your earned nickel to DC EcoWomen. For more information, visit: http://dc.ecowomen.org/2017/10/31/nickels-for-nonprofits/ 

Looking for healthy and sustainable meals for the holidays? Kristin Bell shares her best vegan holiday fare at http://holiday.wholefoodsmarket.com/tips-and-recipes.html. I’m getting hungry already…


Joanna Pustilnik is a DC EcoWoman, dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and health coach with a tele-health private practice, Bodacious Nutrition, and a beautiful new baby daughter. She blogs at http://www.Bodaciousrd.com, and is passionate about sustainability and helping others find their best selves. She hasn’t been eating meat for about 11 years, but she admits she craved the occasional hot dog during her pregnancy. Contact her at bodaciousrd@gmail.com

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Nickels for Nonprofits

by Jennifer Witherspoon, DC EcoWomen Executive Board, Vice Chair of Communications

The Dollars and (non) Cents of Single Use Plastic Bags

Whole Foods recently selected DC EcoWomen to be a recipient of donations through its “Nickels for Nonprofits” program. Now through December 17, each time you use your own reusable bag instead of a plastic bag at any of the Whole Foods’ store locations in Montgomery County, MD, 5 cents will be donated to DC EcoWomen. Please be sure to specify at the point of purchase that you want your nickels to be donated to DC EcoWomen!

Why is this important? You’ll be supporting DC EcoWomen and our mission to inspire and empower women to become leaders for the environmental community, plus you’ll also be doing your part to reduce plastic pollution.

Plastic Bags are Suffocating the Planet

According to One Green Planet: Single-use disposable plastic bags are suffocating the planet, with 60,000 plastic bags being consumed in the U.S. every five seconds. Manufacturers produce plastic bags by using non-renewable resources, such as petroleum or natural gas. Plastic bags take huge amounts of energy to manufacture, transport across the country, and recycle. They don’t break down in landfill sites, but over time they release dangerous chemicals. Plastic bags are difficult to recycle, blocking the sorting equipment used by most recycling facilities. They contribute to a widespread, global litter problem.

Plastic trash washed up on the shore in Mexico. © John Schneider (via Flickr)

More Plastics in the Ocean than Fish by 2050

According to the Ocean Conservancy: Trash in the water and on the shore can be mistaken as food by wildlife, or entangle animals with lethal consequences. Plastic also attracts and concentrates other pollutants from surrounding seawater, posing a contamination risk to those species that then eat it. Scientists are studying the impacts of that contamination on fish and shellfish and as well as the possible impact it may have on human health as well.

Plastic bags were only introduced to the American shopper in the 1960s. In a business as usual scenario, researchers from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation predict that plastic production will triple in volume from 2014 to 2050, and project that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean (by weight) by 2050.

Bag the Plastic Bag

Fortunately, cities, states and countries have been implementing bag fees since 2002. San Francisco was the first city in America to regulate the use of plastic bags in 2007 and Washington, DC soon followed with its own “Bag Law” – the first in the nation to impose a bag fee. Revenues from DC’s bag fee go to the Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Fund and have been used to implement a variety of watershed educational, trash capture and stream restoration projects throughout the Anacostia Watershed. Though reports have been mixed on DC’s overall success in reducing plastic bag use as well as how the funds are allocated, it seems clear that we can all do our part to reduce plastic waste.

Get Active, Fight Plastic Pollution, Spread the Word!

Let’s get into action to fight plastic pollution! Please join DC EcoWomen in bringing a reusable tote to shop at Whole Foods and ask that your nickel go towards DC EcoWomen. Put an extra tote in your purse or backpack for those unanticipated shopping moments. You can purchase an EcoWomen tote bag for yourself, or to share this holiday season.

The funds from Whole Food’s Nickels for Non-Profits program supports DC EcoWomen in hosting educational events such as our recent EcoHour conversation with Julie Lawson, the co-founder of Trash Free Maryland, who led efforts to pass DC’s “Bag Law.”

We’ll have a flyer available soon so that you can help spread the word in your office or in your community. You can also follow DC EcoWomen on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and re-share our posts with your community. You can post photos of yourself shopping with a reusable bag too! Please tag @WholeFoods and @DCEcoWomen and consider using hash tags such as #BagPlastic #NickelsforDCEcoWomen.

If the plastic bag was introduced to shoppers 40 years ago, let’s ban it in the next 40 years!

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Reflecting on the Greenermind Summit

By Caroline Howe

A number of DC EcoWomen attended the Greenermind Summit in late September, an annual sustainability event that provides a forum for mission-driven people to come together to share innovative ideas, teach each other new skills, make meaningful connections, and even just have solo time to rest and recharge.

The Greenermind Summit began in the Bay Area, bringing together people interested in connecting as people, rather than as jobs. A refreshing break from traditional networking led by, “What do you do?” questions, the Greenermind Summit focused getting to know who we are, what drives us and what makes us feel alive. DC EcoWoman Christine Jacobs moved from the Bay Area to DC, and was hungry for that type of connection, particularly hard to find in this career networking-focused city. She brought together volunteer organizers to organize the first Greenermind Summit East. 

Held at the gorgeous Camp Varsity in Madison, Virginia, the weekend included a mix of play, reflection and community building. By disconnecting from our phones, our work and our daily lives, we were able to connect more deeply with the gorgeous late summer weather in the woods as well as with each other. 

We enjoyed a mix of workshops facilitated by participants on everything from Cuba and its environmental challenges to improv and finding “enoughness” in a world that always values more. The Greenermind Summit is a participant-driven event, not a panel of “talking head” experts. There’s an un-conference, which means that the agenda for a series of small group conversations is set by the attendees themselves. 

In Saturday’s “un conference,” we engaged in conversations proposed by participants around topics like the future of community, financing climate initiatives, and sharing our food histories. We also harnessed the collective brilliance of the group, by having a workshop that focused on five participants’ ideas or current challenges in a “brain power hour.”

In our closing circle, we all shared a sense of being refreshed and rejuvenated from our time outside and in play, as well as energized by the powerful community. 

I’ll be taking inspiration from my experience at the Greenermind summit and will apply it to my participation with DC EcoWomen and in other areas of my life. I am a member of the DC EcoWomen Executive Board, on our Programs Committee, designing the activities that connect EcoWomen through shared service and shared learning about our world. Post-GMS, I intend to bring play into more of our activities, as well as offering some guiding questions as we get to know each other during activities of service or exploration. I will be applying a sense of play to my participation in DC EcoWomen, as well as organizing more moments for us to get outside and play together!

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Photo of the 2017-2018 Board

 

By Tamara Toles O’Laughlin

Over the last few years I have been incredibly fortunate to take on several roles on the Board of DC EcoWomen. First, as a member of the Professional Development Committee where I learned the ropes of planning our signature event, EcoHour, and eventually became the vice president of that team. With the aid of several smart, innovative and hard-working women, we altered the standard format of that offering from a lecture style to a fireside chat interview format, doubled the number of intimate mentoring events to ten per year and very intentionally diversified the topics, perspectives and broadened the lens of leadership of these events to highlight women of color, interfaith women, and to draw members of all ages.

I look back at those learning experiences with gratitude and pride in the sheer number of new and often unseen voices we have brought to the membership of DC EcoWomen, from the District’s first Latina National Park Service park ranger, to the fearless and unsinkable leader of Green 2.0., to no nonsense women reporting on the environment, and women creating sustainable modalities in womenswear, and I can say that it has all been a great time.

As the 2017 Board Year ends, and we begin our programming for the new fiscal and Board Year, I am thrilled to announce that we are taking another leap to better serve our members.

Generally, we are led by a chapter president, who takes on the ministerial and administrative duties of running this nonprofit powerhouse for women, by women. And this year will be no different except, that it will be run by not one but two women; myself and the indomitable April Martin. To level up the offerings, engagement, and support the growing membership of this chapter of EcoWomen, we’ve decided that we need to shift the leadership model, as and such we will be your joint co-chairs through 2019. We made this change to address the fact that as the chapter grows, the mantle and responsibility grows and serving our members and our mission means increasing the hands on deck to do the work. We believe that capacity increases when power is shared and we are shifting our structure to support that evolution.

April brings a wealth of knowledge to the position. She started on the professional development committee before moving on to lead the membership and outreach committee for two years in addition to her regional directorship of the REAL School Gardens. She will focus on supporting the infrastructure growth that will increase the capacity of our chapter.

I will shift my attention from an exclusive focus on career and consciousness raising through programming to overall oversight of our board and the further embedding of equity, inclusion and leadership in all shapes and sizes to our overall direction in addition to my role as the executive director of the Maryland Environmental Health Network.

As long-time members and supporters of this chapter of the national organization EcoWomen, I expect that April and I will make change that support and evolves our mission to broaden our service to all the women who make up our community, while continuing to be the hub for vanguard leadership and programming. Watch this space as we tinker with the definition of membership, develop affinity groups to reach the seasoned members of our community and make the most of the forty events the DC chapter puts on each year.

In these fraught times for women and the environment we have seen that our community isn’t just a place to network but a landing spot for cultivation of equity, curiosity and a catalyst for women making their place in the sector. We hope that each of you who count yourselves as members will stick with us as we flesh out our capacity to serve as a force for good in the Nation’s Capital.

We are terribly proud of the new and returning members of the board and hope that you will take this opportunity to get to know the women leading your chapter of DC EcoWomen.

In sisterhood,

Tamara