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DC EcoWomen launched its spring photo contest in April and received more than 30 submissions of high-quality, on-topic photos showing how our great community is advancing environmental efforts in DC and around the world. The photos also showed how our members are learning and growing from environmentally-related experiences and putting their leadership skills to good work. Our second place winner, Sarah Waybright, shared a photo of herself learning best farming practices at Potomac Vegetable Farms. We sat down with Sarah to hear first hand about the winning shot and the inspiration behind it.

DC EcoWomen: Take us back to the time this photo was shot. What was the experience like being there?

Sarah: Working at Potomac Vegetable Farms is awesome – it can be hard physical labor, but the owners and team there are so fun to be around, and know so much about how to farm and sell produce.  Tomatoes are a high value crop, so the tying part is to help them grow upwards (they’re a vine that doesn’t climb well) for easy harvesting.  These were cherry tomatoes, grown in a hoop house, which is like a greenhouse but without actually being heated; it just retains heat from the sun during the day, so the atmosphere is easier to control when things get above freezing.  You have to bend down to tie the string to the plant base and then reach up to the bar to tie the top end, so it’s a lot of squatting and bending and stretching!

DC EcoWomen: We love opportunities that help EcoWomen members learn and grow. Did this experience help you grow and learn anything about yourself or about the environment?   

Sarah: PVF is “ecoganic” – a word they use to mean that they use organic practices, but are no longer certified organic (to avoid all that paperwork!).  Good food comes from good soil, so they’re constantly thinking about what will enhance soil quality in both mineral and microbial content – mulching, composting, crop rotation, and adding in micorrhizal fungi and biochar to soil to encourage below the ground networking and nutrient sharing between plant roots, fungi, and microbes, to name a few things!

Part of the climate change problem we’re experiencing is created by modern day farming, but what most people don’t realize is that some farming practices not only contribute less but can actually help to reverse climate change by sequestering carbon back into the soil from the air, and working at PVF has led me to many fascinating workshops, conferences, and webinars about how farmers can do this.  My goal is to use a farm for nutrition, environment, and cultural education through immersive and experiential retreats and classes – so for now I’m building the skills and network I will need to do that!

DC EcoWomen: What words of wisdom do you have for future photo contest winners to try to snap a winning shot?

Sarah: A winning picture either has to be beautiful or tell a story – think about not just what’s in the frame composition, but also what it is sharing with the viewer!

Tall Girls Tie Tomatoes

*PVF’s CSA is now open for registration for this season – on-farm pickup or delivery around VA & DC is available!

 Sarah Waybright is a Registered Dietitian and owner of the brand WhyFoodWorks. She is currently a health coach for Wellness Corporate Solutions, teaches nutrition through seminars and private events in and around Washington, DC, and works on Potomac Vegetable Farms a few days a week to learn more about how our food is grown.   Her favorite forms of exercise are hiking, yoga, & PopSugarFitness YouTube workouts, and her hobby of choice is pottery.  You can find her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or Instagram to get food tips and nutrition information and healthy recipes.  

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Who are “The Mentors?”

DC EcoWomen launched its spring photo contest in April and received more than 30 submissions of high-quality, on-topic photos showing how our great community is advancing environmental efforts in DC and around the world. The photos also showed how our members are learning and growing from environmentally-related experiences and putting their leadership skills to good work. Our grand prize winner, Elizabeth Hogan, shared a photo of three strong women who served as mentors while on an expedition to save marine mammals from entanglement in Alaska. We sat down with Elizabeth to hear first hand about the winning shot and the inspiration behind it.

DC EcoWomen: First of all, congratulations! What a powerful image. Take us back to the time this photo was shot. What was the experience like being there?

Elizabeth: This shot was taken in July 2015, on a trip to locate and disentangle injured Steller sea lions in Glacier Bay, Alaska.  We were onboard a research vessel on the water for two weeks, rolling the rescue work into a larger population survey of the species.  I had never been to Alaska before and to spend that time on Glacier Bay was an incredible privilege; the scenery was astounding and I was aware every second of how lucky I was to be there.  Glacier Bay is a temperate rainforest; which meant that it rained consistently every day and the temperature was in the low 40s, so eight hours in a skiff each day was definitely not warm (“In the interest of staying wet” became a group motto by the end).  But this trip was an opportunity to learn from leading experts in a new, emerging science: pinniped disentanglement. The three women in the photo are scientists whose work and research I had followed for years, so to join them on a rescue trip was an incredible opportunity to participate in the advancement of this field, and one of the biggest honors of my career to that point.    

DCEW: What was the purpose of the trip and what were you hoping to achieve?

Elizabeth: I was new at pinniped rescue (pinnipeds are a marine mammal that can use their flippers to “walk” on land, like seals, sea lions, and walruses) and as part of the work that I do for World Animal Protection on marine wildlife entanglement I had helped put together this rescue mission, to send a team of experts to this region to locate and rescue Steller sea lions with entanglement injuries. This usually means that the animal either has a hook and line caught in their mouth, from stealing a fish in one of Alaska’s commercial fisheries, or a plastic entanglement around their neck, digging into their muscle tissue from an encounter with some form of marine debris lost in the ocean. Both injuries are incredibly painful for the animals and prevent feeding and engaging in social behaviors. Our goal was both to disentangle as many sea lions as we could and to fine-tune the rescue methodology of remote immobilization, which is a long way of saying anesthetizing the animal via dart gun so that we could remove the material and apply medication.  Stellers can grow up to over 2000 pounds; it would not be safe to approach one when fully alert.  Any animals rescued on this trip would also give us more information about the anesthetics we were using, and establish protocols for rescues in the water in contrast to those done on land.

DCEW: We love opportunities that help DC EcoWomen members learn and grow. Did this experience help you grow and learn anything about yourself or about the environment?   

Elizabeth: Without a doubt. At the outset I hadn’t expected to go on the trip, just to make sure that an expert team could go and had the equipment they needed. But at the very last minute a spot opened up on the vessel and they asked me to join them. I was ridiculously excited, but also nervous – I was the new kid with very little experience and wanted to learn and to be useful without getting in their way. The willingness of these three scientists to give me this opportunity and talk me through each scenario was not only a huge step in my own experience with pinniped rescue but also a great reminder of what I hope to be able to do for others when I am further along in my career.

Seeing such horrific injuries to these beautiful animals in an environment as remote and pristine as Glacier Bay – miles from land – was also a firsthand view of how pervasive plastics are in the marine ecosystem.  It’s devastating to see the harm caused to wildlife from our plastic pollution.

DCEW: What words of wisdom do you have for future photo contest winners to try to snap a winning shot?

Elizabeth: No one should ever take my words on photography as “wisdom” as I am still someone who occasionally gets their thumb in the shot, but I will say that one of my favorite things about this photo was that none of the three women in this shot had any idea I was taking it; and we were on a very small skiff (I was at most two feet away) so it speaks to how completely absorbed they are in the job. It’s just a personal preference, but I always liked shots of people focused on what they are doing rather than looking at the camera.  The job at hand was to determine how best to approach a large, injured Steller sea lion in a very challenging environment – dangerous, slippery rock outcroppings in the middle of very cold & wet Glacier Bay, Alaska.  There’s a sense of that environment not just in the background but also in all the gear they are wearing (and I also liked the way our bulky “float coats” were this pop of bright color). It’s hard to explain to people that when it comes to the “action” of pinniped disentanglement, we sometimes have contact with the animal for 20 minutes or less, but hours of prep goes into those 20 minutes, and I took this shot in an attempt to convey that.

See the five winning shots from our 2017 Photo Contest >>

Elizabeth Hogan is the Program Manager for Oceans and Wildlife with World Animal Protection, where she specializes in marine wildlife entanglement in addition to work on marine debris, whaling policy, and wildlife in captivity.  For the last five years, she has researched the impact of derelict fishing gear on marine mammals and worked on establishing rescue networks and protocols for entangled marine life.  Her research on packaging and pinniped entanglement was published earlier this month in the Journal of International Wildlife Law & Policy.  When not obsessing about marine animals & ocean plastic, Elizabeth can be found running in Rock Creek Park with her dog, reading about politics, exploring the globe, or baking something.

Follow her on Twitter: @EHHogan

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Teddy Roosevelt’s Mar-a-Lago

By Melissa Lembke

When you think of Washington, D.C., hiking isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.  You more likely think politics, monuments, and museums.  But, truth be told, the nation’s capital is home to hundreds of miles of natural beauty and opportunities for exploration.

According to The Trust for Public Land’s 2016 ParkScore® index, Washington, D.C. (which is 21.9% parkland) comes in third out of the 100 largest U.S. cities for meeting the need for parks.  All those triangles, circles and squares add up, especially when you add in major resources like Rock Creek Park which is enjoyed by 2.48 million visitors a year.

Make that 2.48 million and one, as I recently had the pleasure of joining Melanie Choukas-Bradley, author of the award-winning book “A Year in Rock Creek Park,” for a morning hike.  Melanie has spent hundreds of hours exploring every inch of the park and she shared a few of the highlights at a recent DC EcoWomen event.

We set off walking in the footsteps of our 26th President along the Theodore Roosevelt Side Trail.  While on the trail I was reminded of Teddy’s love for the outdoors.  His favorite resort was Rock Creek Park, and he frequently led members of his “Tennis Cabinet” and foreign ambassadors on grueling hikes here.  To be invited by the President to go on one of those hikes was regarded as a mark of special favor.

My favorite story that Melanie shared was one occasion when the President lead Jean Adrien Antoine Jules Jusserand, the French Ambassador to the United States, on a jaunt in the woods and when they reached the Potomac they shed their clothes and dove in.  The Ambassador sent the following account of the outing to the French Foreign Office:

“At last, we came to the bank of a stream, rather too wide and deep to be forded…But judge of my horror when I saw the President unbutton his clothes and heard him say, ‘We had better strip, so as not to wet our things in the creek.’  Then I, too, for the honor of France removed my apparel, everything except my lavender kid gloves…’With your permission, Mr. President, I will keep these on; otherwise, it would be embarrassing if we should meet ladies.”

The President and Ambassador became fast friends after the outing and remained friends for life.  Today, a monument honoring Ambassador Jusserand – reportedly the only diplomat who could keep up with Teddy on a hike – sits near the trail to commemorate his achievements and love for Rock Creek Park.

As we continued onto the Valley Trail we approached the historic Boulder Bridge.  Melanie explained that the extra large boulders that comprise the bridge resulted from a misunderstanding by the bridge contractor.

“The plans called for ‘man-sized’ stone, which meant stone that could be easily handled by a stone mason.  Instead, the contractor used life-sized boulders.  When the Corps of Engineers head, Colonel Beach, arrived at the site and saw the work underway with the large boulders, he liked the way they looked.”

Not a bad decision as the structure has held up exceptionally well through the years.

Boulder Bridge is also the site of the well-known tale where a prized ring slipped off Teddy’s finger.  After a search failed to turn it up, he placed an ad in the local paper for its return reading:

“Golden ring lost near Boulder Bridge in Rock Creek.  If found, return to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.  Ask for Teddy.”

To this day, his ring has still not been returned.

While that ended our short adventure, it only scratches the surface of the fresh air, landmarks, and years of history that Rock Creek has to offer.  With this green oasis just moments from the heart of the city, there is no excuse not to join Teddy and the other famous users of this “all-inclusive” park featuring a golf course, equestrian trails, tennis stadium, and amphitheater.  No plane ticket to Palm Beach, Florida required.

Melissa Lembke is a DC EcoWomen Board Member. 

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By Heidi Bishop

As the new administration’s impact on energy policy unfolds, increased interest in pursuing “clean coal” technologies have likely put Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) more squarely on your radar. The new “America First Energy Plan” makes no mention of solar, wind, or other renewable energy resources but does state a commitment to “clean coal technology, and to reviving America’s coal industry, which has been hurting for too long.” For DC EcoWomen active in energy policy, this is a good time to understand the current state of the technology.

While there are several ways to reduce the various harmful emissions from a coal plant so that it can be labeled “clean coal,” most energy plans citing clean coal are referring to the use of CCS as a method for reducing the carbon content from plant emissions to protect coal as a major form of baseload generation. In short, CCS requires a means of separating CO2 from either the fuel or emissions of a power plant, capturing and stabilizing this isolated CO2 in a solid or compressing it in gas, and then storing it over centuries. CO2 can be removed from coal directly through pre-firing degasification, such as in an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plant, or through oxyfiring. CO2 can also be removed in post-processing of emissions. Both approaches are feasible, but expensive, and energy-intensive operations that require significant capital expenditures can reduce plant efficiencies by as much as 20%.

CCS is a complex technology, and there are many useful resources available from the DOE, IEA, or the Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA) to learn more. In more mainstream discussions, however, here are two Clean Coal myths you might come across:

Myth 1: Clean Coal Technologies are Market-Ready

Some proponents point to existing pilots for CCS or utility projects underway as proof that the technology is proven for large scale deployment and poised for growth. While there is significant technical potential for CCS in terms of engineering feasibility and substantial amounts of potential underground storage locations, as a commercial matter CCS is still an infant technology that is likely going to be very expensive initially and is not yet available at a broad scale.

NRG’s Petra Nova plant in Texas, which is paired with enhanced oil recovery to improve its economics, is now up and running as a major success, but the majority of projects are not. Several projects have generally followed a pattern of initial public support, steep cost overruns, engineering problems, eventual public opposition, and suspension or cancellation. Such projects include Future Gen 2 in Illinois. Once the poster-child for CCS, this project was in development as early as 2006, revised beginning in 2010, and then eventually cancelled in 2015. Similarly, the Kemper County IGCC project in Mississippi, which is currently 3 years behind and $4 billion over budget, has recently found that it will be more economic for it to run on natural gas than the coal it was originally intended to use. All of which leads to the next myth…

Myth 2: Clean Coal Plus Lighter Regulations Can Bring Back the Coal Industry

Coal generation and mining have steadily decreased in past years primarily due to competition with low-priced natural gas which makes coal generation uneconomical for a lot of plants. Secondary cases are low load growth, renewable generation, and environmental regulations such as the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) targeting arsenic and metals air pollution from coal and oil plants.

The stayed and now-cancelled Clean Power Plan (CPP) to impose carbon emission restrictions and pricing mechanisms on the power industry is often blamed for impairing coal, but in fact those regulations were not very strong and would have had little impact on an already-suffering coal industry. For example, projections from the Energy Information Administration that do not incorporate compliance with the CPP still include significant retirements of coal resources over the next few years.

Because the falling demand for coal is driven by the availability of lower cost resources, the business case to invest in new coal generation at all is weak—especially for coal with expensive CCS which can increase costs by around 75%.

Despite all these economic forces against coal and CCS, coal generation is not going to be obsolete any time soon. Today’s existing coal plants are often fairly clean in terms of more noxious pollutants like SO2, NOX, and particulates (and can still be improved), have very long engineering lives left, and can continue running on plentiful and fairly cheap coal.

Unfortunately, we are not yet in a position to rely entirely on zero-carbon technologies like renewables because the storage technologies needed to smooth their intermittent availability to meet our consumption patterns are still too expensive for wide use. Technical and economic research in clean coal may still be valuable to address CO2 emissions in parts of the world where coal remains a critical energy supply. Gas-fired power plants also emit CO2, albeit at less than half the rate per kWh as coal, so they also eventually may need CCS. Thus, in many ways, the exact future of clean coal is unsure.

Over the next few years there will be push and pull between regional and national climate policies in the U.S. as well as changes in the economics of competing with natural gas and renewable energy. These influences, however, cannot change the facts that CCS technology is nowhere close to being advanced enough to rapidly expand overnight and that the U.S. coal industry is at best looking to be sustained rather than restored to former levels.

 

 

Heidi Bishop is a marketing and policy associate at a consulting firm based in DC. She specializes in energy policy research, identifying business development opportunities, and developing publications. She has worked on a variety of energy policy topics with a focus on new business models for electric utilities, “Utility of the Future” efforts, distributed energy resources, and retail regulatory strategy. Ms. Bishop received her BA and MBA from Salisbury University and a Master of Public Management – Policy Track, Environmental Concentration from the University of Maryland.

posted by | Comments Off on Hello, From the Intersection!

By Tamara Toles O’Laughlin

Pick a Fire, Any Fire

It is February in America. Just weeks into a new year, when the national gaze is turned to the contributions, legacy, and value of the black experience to the culture, spirit, and finances of the republic. As an environmentalist and a woman, there is no shortage of challenge, disruption, or calculated dumpster fire upon which to aim my interest in interventions of equity and access on the path to justice. As a member of this community, I know that I am not alone in my concerns for the protection of the people and the planet.

If you are paying the slightest attention to the popular discourse, the practical implications of climate indicators or the totally nonpartisan weather pattern then you aren’t sleeping easily.  So, you’ve marched, and the natural question is, what should you do next?  With so much at stake it is not uncommon to feel whelmed by triggering events. Action and reaction can stir the sensation that one is hitched to the bandwagon of big ideas, big struggle and identity within that struggle without a map, and with little more than an inkling.

Marching to the Intersection, Heart in Hand            

So, yes, you’ve marched. In and of itself, that is not an end. In my mind, the better, next question is: how does a well-meaning EcoWoman decide by what method, when, and where to enter the intersection of ideas to affect change? Or plainly put, how do you show up, when do you show up and who are you when you get there?

There are so many threats to the people, the air, the water, the flora, and fauna. As such, it is important to figure out your personal calculus for entry, into the fight for or against incursion, to increase your chances at effectiveness and to avoid burnout. If your long-term aim is justice for all, then now is the time to get smart. It is important to figure out what the stakes are, determine a measure of success, and plan to avoid numbness by staying engaged at sustainable levels.

As an example, my formula for action is closely linked to my intersection and privilege. I am collocated in my desire to save the planet as an African-American, a woman, a gen-Xer, and an environmentalist from a diversely populated east coast city. Therefore, I see the challenges to the health of frontline communities as a singularity connected to the fight against invasive species and the fight against seeing other human beings as invasive.

I am bound to the history of African people who entered this country as cargo and remained in it as chattel; who made it America through innovation and persistence in it despite unfettered and unceasing legal and illegal attacks. Thus, as I move about the planet I cannot ignore the planning and decision-making that under resources generations of urban people and literally moves them superfund to incinerator zone, and back to brownfield by way of policy and program. I have no choice but to see the matching struggle of rural poverty delineated by the same forces whether or not it’s dressed in overalls. So, you see, my work is “cut out for me.”  I’m focused on the spaces where my skills can affect positive change and my energy supports me.

Food for Thought

As I write, I can assure you that I possess no magic for making effective change but I have hope. And I would love to see you turn marching into sustained support for equity and plain old liberty and justice for all.

If you want to stay sensitive and engaged in the intersection, here is a list of books you can read to support your engagement on matters of race, gender, sexuality, and environment.

Challenging Reads for Challenging Times

  • White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race by Ian Haney Lopez
  • How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston
  • Born Palestinian, Born Black by Suheir Hammad
  • Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks
  • Some of My Best Friends are Black: The Strange Story of Integration by Tanner Colby
  • Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldua
  • The Price of Inequality by Joseph Stiglitz
  • The Gentrification of the Mind by Sarah Schulman
  • Tranny by Laura Jane Grace
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  • Removing the Sacred by Winona La Duke
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  • Bird of Paradise: How I became Latina by Raquel Cepeda
  • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
  • Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
  • This Changes Everything: Climate versus Capitalism by Naomi Klein

 

Tamara is an environmental advocate focused on equity, access and justice issues. She holds degrees from The City College, City University of New York and two advanced degrees from Vermont Law School. Her hobbies include reading boring books about politics and neuroscience, writing diatribes about what she reads, traveling, and yoga.

 

posted by | on | Comments Off on Serve your Sweetheart Some Sustainability this Valentine’s Day

By Jackie Marks

We at DC EcoWomen love all things sustainable. On the heels of DC EcoWomen’s visit to local bean-to-bar chocolatier Harper Macaw, and just in time for Valentine’s Day, what better thing to discuss than sustainable chocolate? Chocolate is a popular treat on Valentine’s Day; in 2015, 58 million pounds of chocolate was purchased for Valentine’s Day alone. Read on for a Q&A with Jackie Marks, DC EcoWomen Executive Board Member and Communications & Marketing Manager at the World Cocoa Foundation, for some sustainable chocolate knowledge that you can share with your sweetheart.

EcoWomen: Chocolate is universally loved and can be found around the world – especially around Valentine’s Day. But few people are aware of where chocolate comes from or how it’s made. Can you tell us a bit about chocolate’s origin?

Jackie: Chocolate has a long, intricate history and has been consumed in various forms since the time of the Mayans in Mesoamerica. The primary ingredient in chocolate is cocoa (or cacao) – the ‘beans’ (which are actually seeds) extracted from the cocoa tree. Cocoa pods which hold these beans are the beautiful fruit of the cocoa tree and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. While cocoa trees rely on tropical environments within 15 – 20 degrees north and south of the equator to thrive, you can visit a beautiful, live cocoa tree right here in Washington, D.C. at the Botanic Garden.

Photo by Jackie Marks. Pods, containing the cocoa ‘beans’, grow on trees in tropical climates.

EcoWomen: Wow, cocoa right in our back yard! As consumers, how can we be sure we’re buying chocolate that is ‘green’? What does it mean for cocoa to be sustainable?

Jackie: Cocoa is sustainable when you put farmers first. Cocoa is primarily grown on small farms by men and women who rely on the sale of cocoa beans for income. Many cocoa and chocolate companies support training and infrastructure in cocoa communities to ensure long-term social, economic and environmental viability for cocoa farms and farmers. As a consumer, you can educate yourself about what your favorite chocolate company is doing to help cocoa farmers around the world.

Photo by Jackie Marks. Pods, containing the cocoa ‘beans’, grow on trees in tropical climates.

EcoWomen: Good idea – knowledge is power. Can you tell us three fun facts about cocoa that we can share with our sweethearts?

Jackie:

  1. Like kombucha or kimchi, most cocoa is fermented! This brings out the true chocolatey flavor in cocoa beans.
  2. Ivory Coast – the french speaking, coastal, West African nation – is the number one producer of cocoa. Ghana is second, and Indonesia is third. Latin America is a big contributor, too.
  3. The latin name for cocoa – Theobroma cacao – literally translates to ‘food of the Gods’. How’s that for a heavenly treat this Valentine’s Day?

 

Photo by Jackie Marks. Cocoa seedlings awaiting planting.

Jackie Marks has spent the last three and a half years working with cocoa and chocolate companies to share sustainable cocoa stories with the world as Communications & Marketing Manager at the World Cocoa Foundation. Her background is in non-profit communications focused on environment, conservation and sustainability issues. Jackie joined the DC EcoWomen Executive Board in 2016 and serves on the Communications Committee. When she’s not writing about cocoa, you can find her tending to her garden, inventing new ice cream flavors, sampling craft beer and planning her next adventure. Follow her on Twitter: @JackieMarks.

posted by | Comments Off on Food System Change in a Political World: Food Tank 2017 D.C. Summit Highlights

By Michelle Winglee

A packed George Washington University auditorium that included farmers, policymakers, businesses, media, and academics convened last Thursday at Food Tank’s D.C. Summit to spur action on changing the food system. Over 40,000 people from 150 countries also tuned in to view the live broadcast of the day-long panel discussions, which highlighted issues in immigration, national security, and food policy.

Organized by Food Tank, an online platform that supports sustainable food communities around the world, the D.C. food summit comes at a time when President Trump nominees threaten to roll back Obama-era policies supporting greater nutrition.

However, Food Tank founder Danielle Nierenberg remains optimistic about the polarized D.C. climate. “I remain hopeful that food is the thing that unites us all.” Danielle encouraged pursuit of “unusual collaborations” across fields that could help put the culture back in agriculture.

The thirty-six summit speakers featured Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D), Fran Dresner from the hit series “The Nanny,” and NPR food correspondent Allison Aubrey, in addition to agricultural experts from research think tanks and farm associations. Panelist speakers cut across political and industry divides, from multinational food corporations to family farm chicken operations in Shenandoah, Virginia.

John Glover of USAID shows audience members what a resilient root system can look like next to Ann O’Connor of Organic Valley and Ted Monk from Sodexo.

The following are highlights from the panelist discussions. Videos from the summit are available online here.

  • Immigration and a shrinking farm labor supply: “Ninety-six percent of our employees come from outside of the U.S.” said Kip Tom, former CEO of Tom Farms and member of President Trump’s agricultural advisory committee. Tom Farms, which specializes in corn and soy production while being the largest agri-business farm operator in Indiana, struggles with the tightening supply of farm labor — a wide-ranging challenge among farmers in the United States. Even with tech solutions to provide more with less, panelist speaker Dr. Kathleen Merrigan, who leads the George Washington University Sustainability Collaborative, noted, “without immigration reform we can’t sustain a legal workforce.”
  • The fight for Farm Bill funding: Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME), a member of the House subcommittee that oversees Farm Bill appropriations and proud owner of an organic farm in Maine, advocates to move Farm Bill money from commodity crops to the less than 1% that supports organic farming. The Congresswoman urged participants to stay informed and hold policy makers accountable for food legislation through Food Policy Action.
  • Too fat to fight: During the food security panel, a discussion normally centered around domestic supply and the controversies of food aid, an audience member raised a 2012 Mission Readiness report finding that a quarter of young Americas are too fat to serve in the military. The project called on Congress to remove junk food and high-sugar beverages from schools that contribute to childhood obesity and diabetes.
  • Hidden hunger: The deprivation of important micronutrients even with a full belly, “hidden hunger” affects two billion or one in three people according to a 2014 International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) report. Though concentrated in developing nations, Director General of IFPRI Shengen Fan, noted that hidden hunger also coincides with obesity in high-income urban areas too. Iodine and iron deficiency are wide-spread in the developed world according to the IFPRI report.
  • “They want what we have”: Erica Hellen, who raises and processes their farm’s own pasture-raised chicken, pigs, and cattle with her partner on their 13-acre Free Union Grass Farm in Charlottesville, Virginia, sees a problem with false advertising and consumer education. “They want what we have,” said Erica about food conglomerates that advertise happy hens roaming around on grass despite realities of crowded cages and low, if any, access to sunlight. However, consumers still don’t get why higher prices for food are worth it. “We gladly spend an extra dollar for a latte, but we can’t pay $5 for eggs?” she asked incredulously. On average, the U.S. spends less on food than anywhere else in the world.
  • “Stop! Stop! Stop!”: Cried Fran Dresner in her unique nasal twang that charmed “The Nanny” TV-watchers around the country. Fran, a cancer survivor and founder of the nonprofit Cancer Schmancer, called on audience members to pause before they bought into societal norms that promote pills, waste, and pollution. Fran pointed out how current culture in the U.S. is far removed from indigenous lifestyles that lived in harmony with nature. “We don’t know that food is medicine.”

While telling the audience to skip the drug store and focus on swapping out food choices, Fran noted how consumer decisions like buying single-use plastic utensils contribute to the petroleum industry and pollutants released into the environment. “Did you know that 90% of cancer is related to the environment?” Fran asked. Cancer Schmancer looks to help consumers identify and eliminate toxins in food, cosmetics, and around the home.

Though the conference highlighted challenges of the food system, attendees also saw rays of hope in the trend towards more sustainable food. For the past four years, the organic industry has seen double digit growth while 2016 marked a record high of 10.8% growth at $43.3 billion in organic sales according to an Organic Trade Association industry survey. Comparatively, the overall food market grew at 3.3%. The USDA reports a surge in farmers’ markets in the United States, growing from 1,755 markets in 1994 to over 8,144 in 2013. Meanwhile, Food Tank DC Summit sponsors like Organic Valley, a billion dollar enterprise that incorporates small dairy farmers into its business model, restaurants like Elevation Burger, committed to supplying grass-fed organic beef, or Shouk, which serves middle eastern-inspired vegan sandwiches, were also a testament to the opportunities for profitability and sustainability.

“’Organic’ is the new ‘plastics,’” said Dan Glickman of the Aspen Institute, referencing the 60’s movie The Graduate allusion to the next big industry.

On a more somber note, remarks by Ken Cook, President of the Environmental Working Group, warned attendees of the battle that lay ahead. Trump cabinet picks include Representative Tom Price (R-GA), slated for Secretary of Health, who has a history for voting against healthier school meals and increased food-safety inspections. Scott Pruitt, selected to run the EPA, received more than $40,000 in campaign donations from poultry companies accused of poultry runoff in the Illinois River Basin in addition to filing lawsuits against the EPA as Oklahoma’s Attorney General. Trump USDA pick, former Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue has called climate change “a running joke among the public.” Food Summit speaker Roger Johnson from the National Farmers Union, representing conventional and organic farms across the United States, commented on undeniable seasonal changes that have affected planting seasons around the country.

Despite the grim political outlook, Ken called on attendees to be “happy warriors.” He urged sustainable food advocates to vote with their dollar and join forces with other movements. “Advocacy is a team sport,” said Ken, “if you’re resisting on your own you may just be moping.”

 

Michelle Winglee is a freelance writer who covers topics on the environment, agriculture, and energy. She previously worked as a Research Assistant at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Fellow at Food Day before embarking on a year-long Mandarin fellowship in Taipei and Beijing. Her publications have appeared in outlets such as Foreign Policy, SupChina, The Diplomat Magazine, and ChinaDialogue. She is interested in the nexus between economic and environmentally sustainable development. You can follow her @MichelleWinglee.

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By Tamara Toles-O’laughlin

There is no neat and tidy way to sum up my feelings about current events. Highs and lows abound for all of us who earnestly want to solve big problems or at least mitigate catastrophe, in the natural and built environment. As government regimes shift along party lines there is room enough for everyone to complain. As feminists, we are again bound to search our practice for true inclusion of marginalized peoples in the intersection of women and the environment. And we must look more deeply at our roles within those margins. As citizens, we will need to reengage our sectors, disciplines, and constituencies for answers and alignment. As EcoWomen, we must collectively move beyond the specter of a receding status quo and grope our dashed or diminished hopes for productive actions that will buck trends to ensure that the legacy of our generation is one of stewardship and justice. Viewed together, our work assails the banality of injustice through an unrelenting demand for increased access, inclusion, equity, and for plain old understanding, and that won’t stop now.

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Connection begets Community

EcoWomen is a community of diverse thinkers, strategists, planners, anglers, wonks, workers, and women.  Together we search for and find renewed purpose to meet challenges as they arise. Take a good hard look at us. We work for sustainable cities; promote agency for under-resourced peoples; plant gardens for food and righteousness; act as a safeguard for key species; write policy that influences behavior to combat climate change causes and effects; and bolster conservation in every environ. For those of us who desire an expansive form of social justice, circumstances require us to continue to push for the collective good, for the greatest number. We will fare better if we do it in community.

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Engage Beyond the Echo Chamber

This is a time for strength. We have strength in numbers. In support of our mission, it is in our interest to continue to make room for divergent thought, support innovation in every direction and apply pressure to transform power structures so that they reach the greatest number. We won’t succeed in an echo chamber of agreement but by opening the ways and means by which we reach consensus.

Increasingly, environment and conservation actions explicitly bleed into issues of parity, representation, resource, burden, and benefit distribution. To make it meaningful, we will need to recommit as members of community to deeper engagement on the issues of our time, and in so doing leverage the power of the many to move the state for positive impact.

These are not the salad days. We are women at the intersection of climate, politic, and modernity. We are faced with compound challenges to our species’ survival. In this moment, I am hopeful that we have a chance to make gains out of conflict IF we can face the acrimony of behavior change, IF we deny the illusion of stand-alone issues AND connect the dots as EcoWomen with the efforts of other communities we are a part of.

As we close out the year, let’s turn our good intentions into action.  I challenge you (now) to change your relationship to what troubles you, and to get nearer to every challenge. And I ask you to set your intention to develop solutions with those formerly deemed “other” as partners rather than allies. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with alliance, except that it can normalize the perceptible space between what threatens each of us with what threatens all of us.

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Strength as a Practice

As we brace for new norms we would do well to recall that as EcoWomen, we are in this, whatever it is, together.

So, let’s pledge to start the new year as we would see it end, with justice at the fore of our approach to environment, and to see it through to the defense of our everyday liberty. If you plant trees, plant more trees. If you work on storm water reduction, then mitigate away. Advocate, agitate, intervene, and include all voices at the point of decision making, for yourself and for your community. We will need you now more than ever.

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Tamara is an environmental advocate focused on civil society and justice issues. She holds degrees from The City College, City University of New York and two advanced degrees from Vermont Law School. Her hobbies include reading boring books about politics and neuroscience, writing diatribes about what she reads, traveling, and yoga.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on The Benefits of Local Brew

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This blog post highlights the benefits of a sustainable local brewery.  DC EcoWomen does not endorse any particular organization but does serve as a resource to communicate sustainable efforts made by all.

By Megan Devlin

Across industries, the consumer trends are clear: people want local. In response to market demands, many companies are shifting business strategy in an effort to be more sustainable and to optimize community impact. While the beer industry isn’t necessarily known for its sustainable practices, a majority of craft breweries keep up with localization by focusing on their regional markets.

Some of the big players like New Belgium and Sierra Nevada have expanded beyond their flagships and opened brew sites in new markets across the country. Smaller outfits have rooted deeper in their communities — with the female-owned Denizens Brewing Co. in Silver Spring, Md., owning that through business as usual.

Denizens cofounders Emily Bruno and Julie Verratti deliver on this region’s demand for hyper-local, fresh beer by brewing three times per week only 75 feet below the taproom.

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Since opening in 2014, Denizens has worked to foster a taproom culture where customers get to know the brewers, owners and staff in a great social atmosphere to drink fresh beer. Denizens draft lineup includes five flagship beers plus five rotating seasonals. While the beers are produced in house, they reflect a global palate, with styles ranging from a Czech-inspired Pilsner to an English extra special bitter (ESB) to a tequila barrel-aged “petit” sour ale influenced by head brewer Jeff Ramirez’s earlier days crafting in Colorado.

The diversity of flavors, aromas and ingredients on the 10-beer menu creates opportunities for pairings with seasonal food items. Traditional pub fare like the burger and fries often pair well with the Born Bohemian Pilsner, while this summer’s spicy mango salad could be accented with the Southside Rye IPA or played down with maltier styles like the Lowest Lord English-Style ESB.

While the kitchen menu is seasonal not all of the products are locally sourced, a common practice that businesses implement to go “green.” Breweries moving in sustainable directions typically focus on partnering with local farmers for beer ingredients or by bringing production in-house, which is a more costly endeavor. Rogue Ales and Stone Brewing Co. have kept costs low by purchasing and leasing farmland, which in turn helps guarantee local farmers business or create agricultural jobs.

Smaller breweries don’t always have the financial resources to locally source beer ingredients like hops, which often require an advanced contract of two to three years and are grown best in regions like the Pacific Northwest, Europe and New Zealand. Despite these challenges, establishments operating under the brewpub model, where beer and food are produced in house, have more flexibility with local sourcing.

Denizens works exclusively with regional vendors for its kitchen items to further drive sustainable business relationships. Because the brewery doesn’t have a freezer on site, its Baltimore-based meat provider and local produce providers help ensure menu freshness.

To minimize waste in beer production, Denizens repurposes some of the grain used in the brewing process for the kitchen’s tomato spent grain toast, topped with pesto, mozzarella and a balsamic reduction. The rest is donated to a Maryland farmer who feeds the grain to his pigs.

Keeping its focus on the community, Denizens partners with the University of Maryland’s Graduate School of Fermentation, which grows a variety of yeast used for the brews: two sour/wilds, two for saison and hefeweizens as well as 3 different bacterias. The relationship is a win-win in that the graduate students get to work with commercial products while Denizens keeps costs low.

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Denizens community-oriented business approach also dovetails with their distribution strategy. Thanks to laws passed in both Maryland and DC, Denizens can self-distribute in Montgomery County and DC, whose border is just three blocks from the brewery. The further beer travels, the more expensive it is to distribute in terms of time, energy and labor.

Self-distributing breweries not only keep more revenue than breweries that go through a distributor, but the ripple effects of minimizing beer miles traveled include local economic growth, lower carbon footprinting and quality control.

“We know exactly where the beer has been at every step of the way,” Verratti said.

Denizens is conscious in identifying bars, restaurants and stores that carry local, independent alcoholic beverages. The neighborhood is also important. Republic in Takoma Park, located less than a mile from the taproom, serves as a perfect example of Denizens “trifecta,” which includes brand affiliation, efficiency, and the volume and speed of beer consumption.

“Our customers are their customers and their customers are our customers,” said Verratti.

Bruno said partnerships like the one with Republic helps Denizens carve its identity as a local brand.

“We want to expand our footprint in targeted ways,” Bruno said. “We’re not trying to be the Budweiser of craft beer.”

As the duo puts their heads together on how to sustainably scale their business, they also keep a pulse on what’s in front of them: beer and community. Over Halloween weekend, Denizens re-released Fear of a Black Beer, a coffee-infused blonde ale, in part to coincide with the brewery’s participation in this year’s annual Silver Spring Zombie Walk, which gathered nearly 700 zombie-clad humans on October 29 for a walk from Denizens to the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center for horror-film watching, ending the festivities at Quarry House Tavern.

“We try to do things to make ourselves really entrenched in the community.”

Megan Devlin is a Program Coordinator of Global Forums at Meridian International Center and was most recently the Editorial Assistant to The Atlantic’s Washington Editor at Large and Editor in Chief of AtlanticLIVE, the magazine’s events arm. Her journalism roots sprouted at Ithaca College where she was Editor in Chief for the award-winning campus newspaper The Ithacan. Megan also bartends at Glen’s Garden Market in Dupont Circle and contributes to DCBeer.com – and trains for marathons, in her spare time.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Happy Halloween: Historical Sight-Seeing in the DC Area

By Gabrielle Vicari

Many people believe that cemeteries are unsettling places, likely because they are grounds where the deceased have been buried. However, there was a time when cemeteries were intended for active visiting and exploration. Although cemeteries don’t usually play host to a lot of visitors today, they do offer a unique way to get out this fall (and beyond!) and explore the sites we’ve got right here in Washington, DC.

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The Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC

Cemeteries are typically visited for funerals, ghost tours, or a thrilling night out as a teenager.  In the nineteenth century, however, rural or “garden” cemeteries were popular public spaces. Landscaped and showcasing sculpture and architecture, these meticulously planned properties emerged during the Victorian era and explored and inspired the contemporary cultural obsession with death.

The rural cemetery movement was initially a campaign to end burial in the overflowing, dangerous, and disease-ridden graveyards of crowded Victorian-era city centers. Often located on the edge of developed cities, rural cemeteries were specifically designed to be visited and enjoyed. Verdant landscaping and winding paths evoked a pastoral feel removed from the grime and chaos of downtown, and elaborate sculptures and mausoleums served the dual purpose of grave marker and artistic meditation on mortality.

Washington, DC’s rural cemeteries have largely remained in their original state while the city developed around them. This is also true for Laurel Hill Cemetery (Philadelphia, 1836) and Mount Auburn Cemetery (Boston, 1831). Georgetown’s Oak Hill Cemetery (1849) was the first DC-area tract to be planned as a rural cemetery. Glenwood Cemetery (1854) and neighboring Prospect Hill (1858) adopted this style as well, and many more area properties followed suit. Rock Creek Cemetery, originally established in the early 1790s, expanded in the rural cemetery style.

A historical headstone at the Congressional Cemetery.

A historical headstone at the Congressional Cemetery

Modern “memorial parks” have a very different appearance from historical rural cemeteries. Instead of grand monuments with art spanning from the religious to the secular, today’s headstones are often small or level with the ground—hidden from view and reflecting a societal change of minimizing our contact with death. Historically, grave markers were adorned with symbols indicating the deceased’s religious beliefs, personal characteristics, or occupation. During the years when the garden cemetery movement was at its height, grand mausoleums and ornate sculptures focused on more philosophical ideas, offering meditations on the fleeting nature of life through the built environment.

Death has become a far less visible part of daily life for the average person in Western culture. Instead of funerals occurring in the family home, the ritual and procedure of death has increasingly become the purview of hospitals and funeral homes. As a result of this sanitization of death, American culture has gained a distaste for dwelling on our own mortality.

The world-famous Arlington Cemetery, just outside of Washington D.C.

The world-famous Arlington Cemetery, just outside of Washington, DC

It may seem out of place, and even disrespectful, to visit a cemetery for the purpose of exploration and recreation. You should not, of course, go with irreverence. Whether you’re exploring just to get outside or for educational purposes, being mindful of where you are is important. However, you should also keep in mind the ideals that fueled the property’s design—the park-like setting is meant to relax, draw people outside, and inspire meditation on life and death. Garden cemeteries were intended as a place for people to visit. Even if you’re not looking for a heavy meditation on death, you can get out to explore a new part of DC and learn something in the process!

Gabrielle is a transplant from Philadelphia, which she maintains is the best city in the world. She received her MA in Historic Preservation from the University of Delaware and lives in Columbia Heights with her yarn stash, history books, and expansive collection of coffee mugs. When she’s not excitedly lecturing friends about architecture and history, you can find her watching costume dramas or racking up stamps in her National Parks Passport.