In partnership with the UN’s World Environment Day, Green Living Project recently held a Washington, DC, premiere to share their latest films. Green Living Project is a filmmaking and marketing company that creates short films to showcase examples of sustainability in action. DC EcoWomen was a promotional sponsor for the event and several EcoWomen attended, including myself.
Our evening began with a short local spotlight story from Sam Ullery, the Schoolyard Garden Specialist for DC’s education office. I had no idea the DC school system had such a position, and it was great to see Sam’s passion to provide students in the area access to local, nutritious food.
Elisabeth Guilbaud-Cox from the UN Environment Program Regional Office for North America also joined the screening. She applauded the audience for attending because as our 7 billion-person world ever increases demand on resources, “we need to empower ourselves to bring about change”.
The six films screened at the event included stories from the US and Central America, each focusing on a local sustainability project’s success. Issues ranged from agroforestry in Belize to refurbishing bicycles “rescued” from landfills in Chicago. It was a great reminder to us that all it takes is regular people with a passion for change coming together to reach a sustainability goal.
Green Living Project founder and chief storyteller Rob Holmes was our guide through the films of the evening, and shared how each film was made during our viewing. We ended with a preview of the latest films from Africa, and the footage looked stunning! I can’t wait to see them! Rob also shared that he is currently seeking projects to highlight for their upcoming trip to Asia, so contact Jenny at Green Living Project if you know of great stories to share. All in all it was an informative ininspirational event – and I even won a door prize!
By Kate Seitz
Hi fellow EcoWomen. I’m Kate, a mid-twenty’s Midwestern transplant to DC and self-proclaimed
environmental enthusiast, perpetually on the lookout for new ways to “green” my routine. My kitchen
cupboards are exploding with glass jars that previously held jam, pickles, you name it. Can’t get enough
of ‘em, and continually find new ways to re-use ‘em. I think I may be allergic to wasting food and throwing
recyclables in a non-recycling bin. I’ve dabbled in the creations of homemade, organic face wash, face
scrub, and hand soap. I persistently scour the web and chat with like-minded individuals about ways to
reduce consumption and make a positive impact on our natural world. I’ll be sharing my successes and
inevitable failures (my first batch of hand soap resembled a giant booger…still workin’ on that…) here,
as I continue to put my lifestyle under the magnifying glass and discover ways to incorporate eco-friendly
practices into daily life. Hopefully, a DIY idea will strike your fancy, or I’ll succeed in intriguing you with the
wonders of bike commuting (see below). Read on, and stay tuned…
Each and every day, we make choices about how to transport ourselves from point A to point B. Which
mode of transportation we select is something we can all zero in on to reduce the stress that we as
human beings exert on the natural world. My own “ah ha” moment hit me after living in DC for a few
years. The commute from my first DC residence to work was relatively painless. I biked three-quarters
of a mile to the nearest Metro stop. The Metro was about a 15 minute ride, after which I’d exit at my stop
downtown and walk one block to work. Thirty minutes door to door. Boom.
Here’s the thing. DC summers make any Metro commute a little more interesting, and by interesting, I
mean sweaty and uncomfortable. I’m talkin’ daily summer Metro rides where each passenger is sweatier
the last, and what seems like every other Metro car has a busted air conditioning unit. On more than
one occasion during my summer Metro rides, beads of sweat literally trickled from this dude’s…OK OK,
I’ll stop there. Point is, Metro commutes in the DC summer heat and humidity does not a happy person
make. This unfortunate reality aside, I always had the thought in the back of my mind: could I make it to
and from work in one piece on a bicycle? And if I could, how much of a positive impact would this change
lend, both on my own lifestyle and on the environment?
It wasn’t until my husband and I moved into our second and current DC residence that I took the
possibility of becoming a bike commuter seriously. Our place is off of the Metro grid, and while the
Metrobus does stop right outside of our house, well, don’t get me started on the woes of the Metrobus.
After our move, I planned out my bike route, got my ride tuned up, and purchased several articles
of clothing that may or may not blind anyone who looks my way (but hey, at least they decrease the
chances of a clueless driver nonchalantly running me off the road). Despite my preparations, my worries
as a cycling novice loomed. What if I get honked at? What if I go the wrong way on a one way? What are
those hand signals again? As I prepared for my first official bike commute and nervously pondered these
questions, my husband offered to spend his morning off to accompany me on my first ride to work (can
you say “swoon”?). Not only did I make it all in one piece, but I did the trek home all by my grown-up self
(ta da!). And thus began my love affair with bike commuting.
I now bike every day to work, rain or shine, 10 miles roundtrip, and would not have it any other way. I
suppress the temptation to yell out “see ya, suckers!” as I (safety) make my way right on passed the
inevitable traffic jam. What I love most is that I spend 15 minutes of my 25 minute commute on the Capital
Crescent Trail. Have you been on the CCT on the weekend? Ya, not the same. Don’t get me wrong…it
is a great trail regardless, and I love to see so many people out and about on the weekends. But the trail
on an early weekday morning is so calming. Peaceful. The other cyclists are friendly, almost neighborly.
Many nod their heads to say good morning. And I once got a thumbs up…how’s that for a start to your
My bike commute is the perfect start to my day. I look forward to getting on my bike each morning and
pedaling to work, passing the serene Potomac on my right, no cars in sight. It gets my heart pumping.
I consciously draw in deep breaths of fresh morning air. I’m on my own schedule, free of worries about
Metro breakdowns and traffic pile up. Plus, I’ve tapped into the environmental advantages of cycling,
which include avoiding gas and electricity consumptive modes of transportation. If only I had discovered
this joy years ago…
May 18th is the Washington DC Bike to Work Day. No better time to discover this delightful means of
transportation than when you’re sharing the streets with thousands of fellow cyclists! So get out there!
Yours in greening,
By Cheryl Kollin, Livability Project
When I mention in casual conversation that I work with “sustainable” organizations, I typically get puzzled, deer-in-the-headlights responses. Sometimes I swap the “s” word with, “livable” or “green”, but still the response is generally the same — confusion. Some people, of course, use the same language to describe their latest ventures. My conversation companion might launch into a story about making a lot of money (a.k.a. “greenbacks”), or describe his or her latest landscaping (greening) project, or even their latest house remodel to make it more “livable”!
Buying local supports the local economy
But when I describe sustainability in tangible terms, like giving up a car and walking or biking more for health and environmental reasons, or shopping at local farmers’ markets to keep money in our community, or switching my utility company to support alternative energy like wind power—most people nod knowingly and share their own story about their lifestyle and business choices. Of course it’s easier to talk to people in Bethesda, a progressive community in the Washington DC Metro Area.
Livability Project defines a sustainable community as one that is economically viable, environmentally healthy and which reflects quality of life. Communities and cities reach this state only by bringing together the diverse stakeholders needed for unified, long-lasting change. The Partners for Livable Communities adds to that definition, “social stability and equity, educational opportunity, cultural, entertainment and recreation”. With these altruistic goals, why isn’t every community embracing sustainable initiatives? Why is it so hard to change?
Unifying fragmented initiatives
I recently interviewed some key players engaged in their own community’s sustainability efforts and heard a reoccurring theme—there was a lack of coordination between environmental, social and economic initiatives. One long-time activist in Baltimore was frustrated that even though “there are active green building, water conservation, and food initiatives [in our community] none of the groups are talking to one other—and no one is talking to the business community”.
Another interviewee believes that “there has to be a balance between improving the environment and earning a profit.” The terms—sustainability, livability, and greening, regardless of their subtle differences in meaning or emphasis all share a common understanding—that the environment, economy, and social well-being are all inextricably linked. The Institute for Sustainable Communities promotes that working toward solutions to community issues such as poverty, hunger, housing, transportation, jobs, pollution, public health, and crime etc., “requires an integrated approach rather than fragmented approaches that meet one of those goals at the expense of the others”. The Institute also recognizes that “sustainability takes a long-term perspective”—instead of a quick fix or short lived initiatives that last only as long as a politician’s term in office.
Making the case for sustainability
One of my first assignments in my sustainable MBA program at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute was to present a convincing case for sustainability. Why should business, government, and citizen groups invest their time, money, and expertise in changing local policies, business practices, and lifestyle choices? If you are a public servant, business owner, or citizen activist who is ready to engage your community in sustainable thinking and approaches, here are a few ways to start the conversation:
1. Sustainability reduces your costs of operations. Everyone has a budget whether you are in business, government, or are a homemaker. Changing your internal operations can save money; improving your bottom line. For example, energy-efficiency improvements in facilities typically reduce energy consumption by 30%.Organizations like The Trust for Public Lands’, Center for Park Excellence show the multiple returns on investment (ROIs)—including environmental, social, and economic net benefits of maintaining urban public parks.
2. Sustainability raises morale; raises productivity; attracts and retains quality employees. In a human resources study, 55% of the respondents reported that a commitment to sustainability improved employee morale; 38% said that sustainability increased employee loyalty. Employees who stay at their jobs also reduce turnover and save on job training costs and become “ambassadors of good will” for the company.
3. Sustainability serves the greater good; by buying locally, we contribute to community economic development. Local businesses yield two to four times the multiplier benefit as compared to non-local businesses.” Author Michael Shuman believes that reinvesting in our local communities is sound economics. In his latest book, Local Dollars, Local Sense: How to Shift Your Dollars from Wall Street to Main Street, Michael offers a compelling case for why we all should reinvest our money locally and gives us new strategies with which to do so.
By Mary Ellen M. Kustin
“Use it up, wear it out,
make it do, or do without.”
Saturday’s rain couldn’t keep nearly 30 EcoWomen away from a good spring clothing swap! Ladies filtered into the party between 11am and 1:30pm with fresh waves of shirts, skirts, sweaters, and shoes. Goodies from PJ’s to professional garb with jewelry and accessories to boot filled the tables, couch, and floors of hostess Stephanie’s house in Wheaton, Maryland.
A sense of spring cleaning and purging was in the air as most of the women who came brought a LOT of treasures with them, but showed restraint when choosing their new threads. Perhaps our February guest speaker on eco-friendly home organizing hit home with folks. Even though everyone seemed to leave with at least a handful or bag full of new clothes, the entire backseat and trunk of my car were filled to the brim with leftovers to be dropped off at donation centers on my way home. Nice job, ladies! )
At first, the dining and living rooms started out with labeled stacks of neatly folded clothes. Eventually, a good spirited chaos settled over the rooms as we dug through to find the perfect top or skirt and more ladies came in with more clothes to contribute. We’d retreat from time to time into the kitchen for a mimosa and some snacks to chat and refuel before diving back in for another round.
I was happy to see some new faces and to catch up with those of you who have made it out to one or many of our events previously. Thank you to all who trekked over and created a successful swap!
To see more photo evidence of the finds, food, and fun, check out: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dcecowomen/7012845447/in/set-72157625692967053/
By Vesper Hubbard
What is Environmental Justice (EJ)? According to the EPA, Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. It will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.
This sounds pretty reasonable right? However, achieving this goal is made complex by many factors including geography, cultural identity, and socio-economic status. Elizabeth Yeampierre, Executive Director at UPROSE, spoke about the issues with EJ and the power of community activism. She is also serves as the first Latina to chair the US EPA National Environmental Justice Advisory Council. She explained Environmental Justice is about developing indigenous potential for action on the ground. It is about people having the ability to speak up for themselves.
To start off the discussion, she spoke about growing up in the 70’s in a multi-ethnic community of Brooklyn NY, herself being (and proudly so) of African and Indigenous Puerto Rican heritage. She noted that there wasn’t much investment in communities of color at that time. She herself was and remains deeply connected to her Brooklyn community. In spite of many criticisms against her career aspirations growing up, she went on to earn her BA in Political Science from Fordham University and a law degree from Northeastern University School of Law. She attributes her success to her mother’s dedication to constantly introducing culture and literature to her family throughout childhood. After law school Elizabeth entered the field of civil rights law. She had not taken any environmental science course work but felt a desire to help people empower themselves by building community power and found her place in the field of EJ. Additionally, she knew that she wanted to create a place for women with a different dynamic than the male dominated environment she grew up in. Soon, she found herself at UPROSE, now the oldest Latino community based organization in Brooklyn, when it was about to go under. With the help of many youth volunteers, she was able turn the organization around and create an inter-generational association where members “don’t age out.”
In the beginning phases of UPROSE she mentored youth leaders and fostered a community coalition to defeat a 520 mega-watt power plant from being built in her local community. Youth are a big part of the organization’s work. Elizabeth expressed the importance of the involvement of the youth and their leadership. She explained that “leadership should be practiced with accountability and training, but does not need to be postponed because of age.”
In Brooklyn, one issue with engaging community involvement in environmental justice projects lies in perception. For example, some communities may believe that building more greenways can lead to increased property value and make their neighborhoods more expensive to live in. Elizabeth explained that residents and stakeholders in a community need good information and ownership in order to have a successful community driven campaign. For NGO’s, government agencies and activists looking to start EJ projects in local communities, in Brooklyn and elsewhere, the challenge lies in proving authenticity, clear communication, and valuing the voice of those local people. Also, she stressed the importance of keeping the science and math behind EJ accessible to non-scientist. Accessible science, in her opinion, can really foster diversity in the EJ movement. As she tells it, residents in Sunset Park –Brooklyn have learned how to use their phones to check for real-time data and map air quality in their neighborhoods. But these kinds of things do not happen unless engineers make their science accessible.
On an ending note, Elizabeth asserted that climate adaptation is happening now. Communities like Sunset Park are large “walk to work” communities and they are seeing the potential in EJ for creating community resilience by building greenways, planting green roofs and learning about environmental science and climate change.
By Kate Seitz
With Earth Day just around the corner, activists and volunteers are finalizing plans and gathering support for events intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for the natural environment. This time of year is flush with trash cleanup efforts, gardening seminars, tree plantings, and composting demonstrations taking place across the globe. Whether or not you are a recycling novice or have already incorporated numerous “green living” strategies into your daily life, there are a plethora of opportunities to engage in environmental community activism.
This Earth Day, I will be busy fundraising for Climate Ride, a 300 mile 5 day bicycling journey that aims to raise awareness about climate change, sustainability, and bike advocacy. Climate Ride participants have the option to participate in the NYC to DC trek, which takes place in the spring, or the Eureka to San Francisco, California ride in the fall. I have chosen to participate in the California ride, but have made ties with riders participating on the local ride this spring. A few colleagues that participated in the NYC to DC ride a year ago spoke volumes about how wonderfully rewarding the entire experience is: raising money for charities dedicated to climate change and sustainability solutions, biking en masse through NYC as onlookers stare curiously, peddling on through the countryside in three neighboring states, and finally, reaching the finish line at the steps of the Capitol building amidst a throng of supporters and climate change activists. Climate Ride is a challenging yet rewarding adventure that benefits a multitude of eco-minded charities.
Whether you plan to participate in an eco-seminar, teach others about the benefits of buying local produce, or trade in an old, inefficient refrigerator for an ENERGY STAR model®, the options to celebrate the environment and its protection are limitless. In what ways do you participate in environmental community activism?
Energy efficient and high performance green buildings are quickly becoming the standard for new and renovated buildings. Traditionally-built homes and office buildings account for 40% of the world’s total energy consumption and approximately 40% of our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, by incorporating energy efficient and green technology into buildings you can reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions per building up to 70%. Buildings that are considered “green” are defined by McGraw-Hill Construction as, “one built to LEED standards, an equivalent green building certification program, or one that incorporates numerous green building elements across five category areas: energy efficiency, water efficiency, resource efficiency, responsible site management and improved indoor air quality.”
According to a study by McGraw-Hill Construction, in 2011, green buildings in residential areas made up 17% of new construction, totaling $17 billion in economic growth. This survey also concluded that the value of the green building market is expected to grow up to 38% of the market by 2016, with new construction projects making $87–114 billion of economic growth in the construction industry. Not only are green homes swiftly becoming the leading project in new construction, but 46% of homebuilders say that green design services makes it easier to receive new contracts, and 71% of contractors that exclusively build green homes claim that offering green services gives them a lead in the construction market.
Working towards the goal of reducing our buildings environmental footprint is becoming easier each year. McGraw Hill reports that the cost to build or retrofit a green home is now 7% less than what it was in 2008 and 11% less than in 2006. The study also showed that by 2016, 90% of homes will have green technology incorporated into the construction process. Indeed, the shift towards green homes is already in progress. In 2011, green retrofits of buildings surpassed new construction projects, and over 1/3 of the construction and building industry (661,000 people) say that they have a “green” job.
By promoting sustainable architecture and retrofitting current homes to make them high performance green buildings, we reduce our overall carbon footprint and improve our quality of life in an economical and environmentally friendly way.