Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

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

posted by | Comments Off on Photographing “Teaching and Exploring the Chesapeake”

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 Third Place photo contest winner, Mary Polacek, shared a photo of DC students in 7th and 8th grades connecting with the Chesapeake Bay at the Echo Hill Outdoor School in MD. We sat down with Mary to hear firsthand 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?

Mary: The photo was taken place at Echo Outdoor school on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The experience there was beautiful; I personally have not seen the bay for awhile, and some of these DC students never have. So the experience was highlighted by the students, who were engaged right away, filling their senses with the water, sand, critters…  and overall getting to experience the Chesapeake Bay.

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?

Mary: Teaching in general, I have learned, is always a growing process. But the moment this photo was taken, the learning experience was trying to convey to the young girls that we could not bring stones and shells back home, and why it was important to leave them for the habitat and others to visually enjoy. They wanted to have tangible items to remember the experience, I tried and hoped to convey that with photographs you could have the memory and potentially something tangible.

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

Be respectful to the people in your photographs. Try so that their faces aren’t directly seen and/or get their permission to use them in a photo.

“Teaching and Exploring the Chesapeake” by Mary Polacek

Mary Polacek is an Environmental Scientist and has worked around the country on various large infrastructure projects, working for local municipalities with a focus water quality. She moved to DC in 2012 and started working for DOEE’s Water Quality Division, where she was part of the inspection program and investigated illicit discharges to waters of the District. In 2016, she became a full time mom and started teaching with Anacostia Watershed Society for their Saturday Environmental Academy for DC students in 7th and 8th grade. She enjoys reading, traveling, planning, photography, cooking, and chasing her daughter Sophia.

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Thoughts on Standing “In the Midst of Climate Change”

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 People’s Choice photo contest winner, Maggie Dewane, shared a photo of herself during her travels to Antarctica to see climate change firsthand, where unseasonably calm weather was a stark reminder to the realness of a changing planet. We sat down with Maggie to hear firsthand 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?

Maggie: Of all the days spent in Antarctica, the day this photo was taken was particularly meaningful to me. I had just seen four Adelie penguins—a penguin species that is an indicator of climate change. We were on Petermann Island, historically documented as a nesting ground for Adelies. These penguins thrive in the most frigid and freezing temperatures of Antarctica, but as summers are getting warmer and winters are getting shorter, they are having to move further south down the continent, which means there’s less habitat for them to colonize. So this sighting was novel and exciting, as it is one of the northernmost settlements they live in. Additionally, the majestic backdrops surrounding us were breathtaking and humbling. “We’re actually here!” I and my friend, the photographer of this image, kept saying to one another. We were seeing one of the last untouched wildernesses, in its raw beauty. Though the bright and beaming sun, and those nearby penguins, served as reminder to the reach of anthropogenic-caused climate change, even this incredibly far removed from civilization.

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?   

Maggie: Absolutely. I traveled to Antarctica because I wanted to be able to play a more active role in climate change conversations. I believe climate change is the greatest threat to our world today, having rippling effects into national security, human health, economic development, environmental justice, and beyond. Being in Antarctica, learning from world class scientists and explorers, who after years of travel to and from this wilderness could attest to changing trends in weather patterns and wildlife behavior, seeing this place firsthand, gave me a unique perspective that I’ve been able to bring home with me. For example, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to tell EcoWomen’s readers about the plight of the Adelie penguin had I not gone on this expedition! The trip also connected me with many passionate conservationists from all walks of life and various professions. To me, this is how change happens: people working together toward progress. We shared ideas, created goals, and went home feeling invigorated to spread messages of conservation and sustainability. For example, the concept of climate change is so unwieldy to so many of us, it can feel like we as individuals cannot have an impact on the broader picture. But if so many of us make small changes, then that can turn into something really huge! For example, think about things you do that require energy or fossil fuel use: can you limit or remove those actions? Take small steps and we’ll be on our way!

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

Maggie: Be in the moment and don’t actively think about trying to take a great photo. If you’re loving the moment you’re in, reflect on it and enjoy. I was fortunate to be with someone who was always snapping candids, so when she saw me basking in the natural beauty around me, she took the shot! Genuine emotions make for better photos in my opinion.

“In the Midst of Climate Change” by Maggie Dewane

Maggie Dewane is the Press and Communications Officer to the Environmental Investigation Agency. She previously worked for the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the United States Senate. She has a bachelors from Seton Hall University and a masters from Columbia University. Her hobbies include painting, writing, traveling, soccer, and camping and hiking with her dog Argos. 

 

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on A Closer Look at “Tall Girls Tie Tomatoes”

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.