Archive for the ‘Educational Resources’ Category
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 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.
Welcome back to our Seaside Saturdays series, where this week we’ll touch on a topic important across all fields of environmental resource management: how people make conservation matter through the power of economics.
In the conservation arena, many environmental advocates try to appeal to our sentimental fuzzy feelings to convince us that protecting sea otters, waterfalls, or forests is important for future generations. However, in doing this, they alienate many members of the public and miss out on the most powerful argument of all: economics. Because we all do enjoy the great outdoors, things like clean water, safe beaches, and healthy animal populations are valuable. It seems strange to attach monetary values to something as intangible as enjoying a seaside sunset, but the fact remains that the general public is willing to pay for these aspects of the environment. Not only do these types of valuation exercises exist, but they underlie many (if not all) resource management decisions that are made worldwide. Economists often specialize in this type of non-use or existence valuation and conduct studies that lead to reports such as this recent NOAA publication, stating that Hawaii’s coral reefs are worth almost $34 billion annually. Such a large sum holds a lot of sway in political circles and speaks to the power of numbers.
Similarly, several months ago, Enric Sala (National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and one of my personal heroes) spoke at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars along with Dr. Jane Lubchenco about using economics to debunk popular ocean conservation myths. He has visited pristine areas around the world and works in Washington DC to raise awareness about the benefits of marine protected areas. Using examples from Spain, Kenya, and Mombassa, he shows that MPAs have doubled fisheries income and raised tourist revenue twenty times over. The largest marine conservation myth that he combats is that MPAs are costly. Spotlighting Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, he shows how tourism revenue is up almost 40%, with management costing a mere 10% of that income (a smart investment to be sure!).
Sala’s dream is to get a large portion of the ocean protected. What is enough, you ask? Of course this is difficult to determine, but the scientific community recommends between 20-50% of the worlds oceans be protected and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity has mandated 10%. Twelve large MPAs account for almost 80% of the world’s total protected areas, with almost 4500 smaller reserves dotting coastlines around the globe. No doubt these smaller reserves are more costly per unit area, but again Sala appeals to the numbers. To protect 10% of the world’s oceans, he estimates the cost at $12 billion per year. For only an additional $4 billion, 20% could be protected and 1 million jobs would be created. Interestingly, this $16 billion dollars is the same amount that is spent in bad fishing subsidies per year. Sala hopes for a combination of government involvement and stakeholder demand to change congressional attitudes toward MPAs around the world. This economic perspective is increasingly important as we move forward in marine conservation and management.
Check out the IUCN’s global work in MPAs for more information on this topic!
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?
In keeping with the theme of our latest read and since Letters to Yellowstone was certainly worthy of writing home about, here is a recap of our discussion and tribute to author Diane Smith.
This last Sunday, DC EcoWomen gathered in a cozy Capitol Hill living room to discuss our latest book and enjoy good company and food. We all found the book enjoyable and inspiring, as it was the story of a young woman at the turn of the 20th century who travels across the country to put her botany skills to the test as she joins a science expedition into the West. Our young protagonist, Alex, goes on countless adventures throughout the summer and expands her horizons as readers are confronted with interested and controversial issues that are still pertinent today.
As she embarks on this journey, the bookish young woman embraces the challenges of extreme weather and rustic living conditions, but the biggest hurdle she faces is one that no one anticipates: she is a woman in a man’s world. Mom, throughout my life, you presented me with strong female leadership and exposed me to progressive ideas, and as a result, I have always felt immune to the persistent gender inequality in today’s society. I am always amazed by historical accounts of this disparity. Leave the exploring and outdoor adventures to the men – I don’t think so!
This is certainly the attitude Alex takes as she stubbornly insists on staying with the field team after early misconceptions that she was in fact a man! Through her dedication to experiencing the wonders of Yellowstone, Alex impresses the group with her compassionate scientific rigor as she carefully catalogues and falls in love with the landscape. She really is a woman after our own hearts, and her love of nature made me think of all the times we’ve been refreshed and rejuvenated hiking the trails and swimming in the beaches along the West coast.
One interesting recurring theme is how one goes about turning that experience of nature into science. The author shows us that a young student, a professor, a mountain man, a cowboy, a Native American family, and a writer can all have very different, yet true experiences of nature. The characters argue that science is the process of creating meaning and common experiences from chaos – a way of describing and naming what was previously undiscovered or unexplained. Alex insists on the precision of Latin scientific naming conventions, but eventually begins to appreciate the roles of traditional knowledge and sentimentality in the practice of science. In essence, she learns that caring for a place or a specimen and experiencing it in context is as important to understanding it as studying its properties from a textbook. This experiential learning is a technique that is becoming more and more popular today, where school children are encouraged to get their hands dirty to gain a better appreciation for all that they will learn later.
All in all, it was a lovely afternoon. We laughed over old 20th century images of women in petticoats, hunted buffalo, and naturalist illustrations. We enjoyed home-baked cookies, cupcakes, s’mores, hot cocoa, and lettuce wraps in honor of the expedition’s ethnic culinary experiences. This would certainly be a book you could enjoy!
Wrapup on the TEDx Manhattan’s Changing the Way we Eat 2012 event
By Cheryl Kollin, Full Plate Ventures
Before settling into a full day of TEDx Manhattan based webinar and local presentations, our local viewing party began with a different kind of meet and greet activity—human Google-like mapping. Participants moved around Bethesda Green’s spacious lobby in different spatial configurations in response to: Where do you live within the DC metro area; who do you represent along the food value chain; and what one food-related issue do you want to voice your passion about? More than 70 people attended the second annual local viewing party co-hosted by Bethesda Green, Full Plate Ventures and Slow Food DC. As the only TEDxManhattan viewing location in the Metro DC region, we had a very diverse group of participants that provided a rich mix of locales, interests, ages, and community sectors. Throughout the day people mixed and mingled, grouped in two different viewing rooms, and feasted on delicious and much homemade fare-responding to our local, seasonal potluck challenge. Participants cited some new terms and concepts they learned throughout the day including: Food labeling transparency, green carts (in the Bronx), aquaponics vs aquaculture, good food=good health, food traceability, and neurogastronomy, Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve’s land and labor link. The inspiring and varied TEDx Manhattan presentations, sponsored by the Glynwood Institute are posted online here. Our local program offered exciting entrepreneurial and new initiatives bubbling up in Montgomery County.
Land and Labor Link
The national demand for local food has exploded and continues to grow, yet in our region the supply can’t keep up with demand. The problem stems from a lack of affordable, accessible land in which to grow food locally along with a lack of training for a new generation of farmers without family farm ties and available labor to farm. Kristina Bostick, senior conservation specialist, Montgomery Countryside Alliance described, Land Link and Labor Link, two new programs launched this year to facilitate linking farmers with farmland and labor. MCA is proud to announce the first match between land owner and farmer in 2011 that will expand our supply of locally-grown table crops in years to come without the volatility of short-term leases.
Montgomery County Food Council
The new Montgomery County Food Council launches this month with a diverse group of stakeholders whose mission is to foster a robust, local, and sustainable food system in Montgomery County. This independently organized diverse group of stakeholders is charged with improving the environmental, economic, social and nutritional health of our local food system. “The public is welcome to join the broad-reaching Council network by attending monthly meetings, joining a Council working group, or joining as a capacity partner organization,” explained Claire Cummings, council coordinator on ways the public can get involved.
On-line Food Marketplaces
In the last few years, a plethora of on-line market places have sprung up on the web to help people find local sources of sustainably-grown food. The many direct farm to consumer sites include:Local Harvest – they tell you where to find farmer’s markets; Real Time Farms – a crowd-source online, nationwide food guide that tells you sources farmer’s markets and eateries; and Arganica – a food buying club that delivers in the DC Metro Region. Foodem.com is a new on-line food marketplace that matches wholesale food sellers and buyers. “I saw a need for to make wholesale food distribution more efficient and competitively-priced as an alternative to the top national distributors like US Foods and Sysco”, explained Kash Rehman, CEO and founder of Foodem, who launched in 2010. “I’m very excited to connect local farms with local restaurants and food institutions as a way to grow the sustainable food movement”.
Tracing our Food to its Source
As food contamination outbreaks continue to make headlines, there’s a growing need to know exactly where our food comes from and be able to pinpoint sources. Also, small farmers don’t have the budgets to effectively market their products. Dick Stoner, of Maryland Small Farmer’s Cooperative shared his exciting entrepreneurial labeling venture. “Locale Chesapeake uses new affordable technology—such as bar codes, QR codes read with smart phones, and radio frequency ID tags to provide both traceability and better marketing so that farmers can tell their story about their growing practices and unique products”.
It Takes a Community to Feed the Homeless
Today, one in six Americans is food insecure, meaning that individuals are not getting adequate nutrition for themselves and their families. Even in affluent Bethesda, the non-profit Bethesda Cares serves 20,000 meals to the homeless every year. Sue Kirk, executive director outlined the grim reality of their clients—the long-term homeless population that are the hard to reach. “Yet, food—especially a hot meal is a great way to connect, to engage, and offer additional social services and medical resources needed to break their long-term homelessness. We are so fortunate to have a vast network of government, business, community groups, houses of worship, and volunteers who partner with Bethesda Cares. At the end of the day, participants offered their reflections. “This was an immensely invigorating and inspiring event,” shared Ashley Shaloo. Others pledged new habits they plan to adopt including, deepen my commitment to buy local, compost more aggressively, join a CSA, garden more at home.
*Upcoming events: A new six-week discussion circle will begin this spring using the Northwest Earth Institute’s curriculum, Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability, led by Marney Bruce, Simplicity Matters. Contact Marney firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Bethesda Green brings business, government and community together to promote a healthy economy and sustainable living practices in order to reduce our collective impact on the environment. Cheryl Kollin of Full Plate Ventures, LLC is passionate about building sustainable, regional food systems. She provides business consulting and educational programming to social enterprises to enhance their profitability while serving their social mission. SlowFood DC is a community that promotes and celebrates local, seasonal, and sustainable food sources; works to preserve the culinary traditions of the region’s ethnically and culturally diverse populations; and supports the right of all people to enjoy good, clean, fair food.
In keeping with our Seaside Saturday theme from last week, this week we’ll discuss a great book for anyone looking to learn more about the cultural traditions and conservation implications of four iconic fish species that have come to dominate our global taste for seafood.
In his recent book, Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food, Paul Greenberg presents readers with an enriching history of our dynamic and oftentimes odd relationships to the fish we domesticate. I was pleasantly surprised that Four Fish does not mirror a typically dry historic tale nor does it in any way feel like an “environmental” book, as the title would suggest. By weaving carefully connected stories, Greenberg gives readers an intriguing (and at times humorous) understanding of the intentional choices and accidental moments that have brought specific seafood to our plates. Similar to our dependence on four primary ungulate and poultry animals, Greenberg traces the technological achievements from Canada to Greece that led to an increasingly presumptuous domestication of riverine salmon, coastal sea bass, offshore cod, and finally transnational tuna and eventually argues that humans should strive to master the complexities of wild fish rather than serving up a sea of genetic modifications in a sterile tank system.
One interesting theme throughout the stories was how both global politics and fish biology guided which fish came to international prominence. Salmon were the first farmed fish not only due to population declines, but because their large eggs allowed for curious entrepreneurs and early geneticists to decode their spawning secrets decades ago in Norway, one of the birthplaces of aquaculture. Similarly, the Australian barramundi have become popular not due to their tasty flesh, but because they are naturally docile, fertile, and disease-resistant. (In fact, many of the fish aquaculturists are trying to promote around the world gain traction because they taste like nothing rather than tasting “fishy”). Another example of this is Vietnamese tra, which can withstand low oxygen conditions because it breathes air.
If modern salmon were born in Norway, Greenberg argues that farmed sea bass got their start in Israel, of all places. However, once Israel lost access to its coastline, they lost their competitive edge to the Greeks. Interestingly, the African tilapia (grown all over the world and now considered an pesky invasive species) was a convenient front for Columbian drug lords shipping their products around the world. As can be seen, it is not always cultural traditions that make something popular or lead to exploitation (Japanese only acquired a taste for fatty Bluefin tuna after the Americans did!), but a strange alignment of odd circumstances that lead to one fish (often farmed) replacing a wild fish in global markets.
In the final chapter, Greenberg brings readers back into the early 20th century to draw a comparison between tuna’s plight and that of another long-lived sea creature: whales. Whale populations owe their recovery not to the moratorium that was signed in the early 1980s (so recent!), but more to the development of cheap whale oil substitutes and the anti-whaling sentiments that stirred the world throughout the 1960s and 70s. Greenberg argues that the moral evolution that changed whales from being food to being wildlife is entirely lacking for tuna. Tuna is fish is food. While there is nothing amoral about this logic, but when people fail to recognize that the planet’s wild-life that we cherish is also the same wild-life that we eat, there is little support for conservation and management in the face of short-term economic gains.
Aside from pointing toward the need for a greater appreciation of wildness within our fishing industry, Greenberg does note the importance of fish for feeding the growing global population. He simply wants us to make smart aquaculture choices (rather than farming tuna at a 20:1 feed ratio or using surrogate fish moms – imagine!). One challenge he admits is that all of the good science and political will can’t change the fact that consumers aren’t familiar with fish such as tra, barramundi, or the more recent kona kampachi of Hawaii. So, in the meantime, Greenberg encourages the global fishing community to master the subtleties of fisheries science for wild predators and leave the fish farming to the vegetarian species that can have a smaller impact on surrounding ecosystems. Overall, I highly recommend this book for a very engaging and thought-provoking read.
It’s Saturday again and you know what that means – our Seaside series continues with a bit of information from the fishy side of things. This topic concerns us all because whether or not you’re a diehard seafood lover, it’s important to know the truth about what gets onto the dinner table and into your favorite restaurants!
Over the last several decades, seafood safety has been called into question throughout ugly controversies that have tainted some of the best edibles that nature has to offer. Fish can no longer be mentioned without conjuring mental images and sound bytes of mercury poisoning and FDA warnings. Despite the debates, it is now commonly accepted that pregnant women should avoid these types of fish entirely, just based on how much heavy metal contamination accumulates at the top of the food web. As consumers are becoming more aware of these problems, sellers have had to show greater accountability for how and where their fish are caught and processed (Trader Joe’s being the most famous for suffering bad press in 2009). So, what can we eat and where can we buy it?
As always, the simple answer is that it depends. For salmon, wild caught is the best, with aquaculture farms receiving high doses of pollution in near-shore waters, among other recent concerns such as the salmon anemia virus. According to the EPA, consumers should be mindful about their consumption of shellfish as well: as living biofilters, these bivalves are the first ones to see the pollution! Additionally, lingering seafood concerns surround products caught in the Gulf of Mexico after the oil spill, but NOAA and the EPA insist that we should grab a fork, because we’d all have to consume over 80 pounds of seafood per day for a few years before approaching levels of concern!
And of course, when it comes to seafood, quality concerns must be paired with environmental woes about damaging fishing practices. While Trader Joe’s is an example of a company that prides itself on providing organic, high-quality products, that is a tall order for seafood. What is “high-quality” and how do we measure it? The Greenpeace study, Carting Away the Ocean, relied largely on a company’s response to their surveys, and when no response was recorded, that was an automatic failing score. While transparency is important in any business, everyone deserves a chance to get on the sustainability bandwagon. After the controversy, Trader Joe’s has joined other companies such as Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, and Walmart in their efforts to green their supply chain.
No company, certification, or consumer can make perfect policies or choices. So, what can you do? Ask questions. Ask your lifeguards, ask seafood providers, ask workers at the grocery store, and even better – check out DC’s local seafood market to get your dose of healthy omega-3s from the nearest catch of the day!