Archive for the ‘EcoHour’ Category

posted by | on , | Comments Off on October EcoHour: Bicky Corman talks about making a career

On October 16, women gathered in the basement of Teaism to hear Bicky Corman of the EPA recount her career as an environmental lawyer.  Not being overly interested in environmental law, I was only mildly interested in what she had to say.

Two minutes into her account of her career, I was fascinated and inspired.

Bicky didn’t have a huge life plan that she’s followed to the letter to get where she is today.  She didn’t go to a top tier law school and she didn’t jump straight into high positions.  She worked her way up by being good at what she did (and making friends along the way).  Bicky commented that one of the most important things in building a career is not just to network, but to make friends who will think of you later.  As someone who really hates networking, this was a wonderful way of framing it – and makes networking seem less scary!

Throughout her career, Bicky has worked in both legislation and policy.  There is a fine line between legislation and policy, but that line is not made in cement – it’s flexible.  You might find yourself working on both legislating a regulation and working on policy at any given time; you don’t have to decide between the two right now.  In the same vien, you don’t have to choose what your specialization is right now.  You can pick up an area of expertise along the way, following what interests you and what gets thrown your way.

The point that Bicky made that I really loved, was when she talked about the difference between working on a federal level and a local level.  Bicky has worked for the EPA and for the District Department of Environment.  Bicky remarked that at the federal level you know you’re having an impact, but at the state level it’s more visible.  And because of that great feeling, since going to work for the EPA again, Bicky has stayed involved with her local community, tutoring local kids (and inspring them to be environmentalists!).

Bicky was a wonderful speaker.  She made thinking about planning a career seem less daunting, and really drove home the idea of getting involved in local issues in my community.  I’ve been looking at my job search differently since hearing her speak, and am much less worried about finding that ‘perfect’ job right away.  Each challenge will shape me and push me a direction I might not have planned on.

Thanks to Bicky Corman for her wonderfully inspring talk!

posted by | Comments Off on May EcoHour Recap: Entrepreneurship and Zen

Last EcoHour, DC EcoWomen learned a great deal from Kimberly Wilson, director and founder of Tranquil Space yoga studio.  This successful young woman has managed to create a business plan that integrates tenacious entrepreneurship with the zen that only yoga provides.  Wilson is currently working to finish a master’s degree in social work and has little business experience but shared with us how she acquired her savvy.  Read below to hear her story and learn why “running a business is a lot like yoga.”

When starting up a business, Wilson first found her center.  She planned, gathered resources, made lists, and mentally prepared herself for the tasks ahead.  Next, she honed in on her intentions.  What was it that she wanted to create and offer?  Once she developed her plan, she created momentum and started with foundational marketing products such as business cards, a website, and a location.  Finally, she generated customers and established a consistent flow.  In her mind, she envisioned these steps as the stages of a yoga class, where participants find their own centers, warm up and build energy, and find their crescendos before winding down into relaxation.

Wilson did not always have this peaceful approach toward business and life.  Before Tranquil Space, she was stretched thin with a full-time job, part-time yoga instruction from her home, and dreams of empowering young women through movement and artistic endeavors.  Just as in yoga, Wilson found her center and focused her energy on growing her passion into a viable business.  She reminded us of the importance of taking a stepwise approach, because “the biggest reason for failure is trying to please everyone.”  Once you have one product, you can expand and connect it to other areas of expertise within yourself or in your community.  In 2006, she wrote her first book and had set the foundation for her own eco-friendly clothing line.

Wilson showed us all that running your own business isn’t easy, but well worth the hard work.  Her recommended reading includes The Artist’s Way, The E Myth, The Right-Brain Business Plan, Wherever you Go There you Are, Generation Earn, and Savvy Girl’s Guide to Money.  She left us with a poem from Marianne Williamson, below.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Thanks Kimberly for a wonderful EcoHour discussion!  Hear her EcoHour presentation first hand and follow Kimberly’s adventures on her blog.

posted by | on , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on April EcoHour Recap: Sustainable Farms!

By Vesper Hubbard

Devora kimelman-Block, Jess, Tonya Tolchin, Meredith Sheperd_2

In April, DC EcoWomen hosted a panel discussion for EcoHour on local farming. We heard about kosher meat production from Devora Kimelman-Block (KOL Foods), about private DC gardens from Meredith Sheperd (Love and Carrots), and small-scale produce farming from Tanya Tolchin (Jug Bay Market Garden). These women have all made admirable commitments to sustainable practices that promote the health and well-being of their friends, families, and communities.

Devora started off the talk with her story. Over a year ago she found herself trucking cattle to a kosher slaughterhouse in Baltimore in order to get the food she needed prepared according to her family’s diet. As she was taking these time intensive and costly trips she thought about how the task fit into her own spiritual journey and how the process could be made better. Prior to 2007, when she decided to found her own slaughterhouse, people had to choose between kosher and sustainability. What started as a hobby quickly turned busy and she found investors to help her turn the venture into a full time job. She also commented that people before WWII considered meat to be a treat rather than a daily diet staple. Her company encourages meat minimalism.

Tonya grows veggies, flowers and herbs on an organic farm in Prince Georges County in Maryland. As a child she grew up in a town with one of the best agricultural programs in the country but did not find a lot of personal interest in it. Farming was not considered “cool.” Once in college however she became interested in the subject of food shortages and took a course linking farm ownership with poverty issues. She quickly found her way onto a local farm and food bank and started volunteering her time. After college she came to DC to work with Sierra Club. Once married, she found that she and her husband had an enjoyment for farming and decided to start a farm, an idea that seemed absurd at the time. However after some serious business planning their farm was underway. Tonya remarked that the times of have changed and people are beginning to see the value in local farms and personal agriculture again.

Meredith runs Love and Carrots a local company that starts gardens for people in urban areas. It all started when she moved into a house in the DC area with a great yard but the soil was no good. Her closest community garden had a 2 year waiting list to join. After observing the yard space of her neighbors, she decided to start a business creating gardens in these underused green spaces. She deals with people who have been separated from gardening but want to learn. She commented that people have been culturally removed from the action and concept of personal and local agriculture. Now local farming has become a new and large trend.

There were lots of questions from the audience and some of the tips/answers the ladies offered were to really vet farmers. Ask lots of questions to get to know them especially if you are looking for certain qualities in your food, whether it is organic, sustainability or other standards. Tonya offered that her company/farm offers internships to professionals and students who want a chance to “try on” farming. Devora spoke to being a woman in the Kosher food business and said her gender has not been a sticking point. She is the main point person for her organization so most people know her gender immediately. She also offered that people should start cutting down their diet to eating meat twice a week rather than every day. Such is a more sustainable practice.

Farm resources:
Realtimefarms.com – A crowd-sourced nationwide food guide. We enable you to trace your food back to the farm it came from, whether staying in or dining out, so you can find food you feel good about eating.

posted by | Comments Off on March EcoHour Recap: Environmental Justice!

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.

posted by | on , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Environmental Community Activism Grows with Earth Day Approaching

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?

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By  Lisa Seyfried

This month’s EcoHour on January 17th features Suzanne Ehlers, the President and CEO of Population Action International (PAI). PAI is leading the charge on family planning, advocating for women and families to have access to contraception in order to improve their health, reduce poverty and protect their environment. Read her full biography on our speaker page.

Population Action International’s work on climate change takes a different approach than other organizations’ approaches.  Their focus is on the role that women, as family planners, play in their community’s adaptation to climate change.  According to the Population Action International (PAI), ‘[w]hen women are empowered to plan and space their children, they are better able to adapt to climate change and ensure the survival of their families.

The idea is that reducing population growth will lead to less impact on the planet and less strain on women.  Geographic locations that will be most affected by climate change in the future are generally the same areas that will see rapid population growth in the future as well.  A map of this trend is available on PAI’s website.  The goal of Population Action International’s work is to empower women and to address climate adaptation strategies.

PAI does this by highlighting the need for reproductive justice.  Global women’s rights advocacy often centers on the need for family planning. PAI takes that one step further and links family planning to environmental sustainability.  Family planning has a huge impact on resource distribution and use.  By highlighting the need for this, PAI brings attention to the role that women can play in reducing the impact of climate change.

PAI not only works to produce educational materials on the subject (and they have a lot of very informative articles, briefs, and blog posts!), but also advocates for these policies.  Their newest advocacy guide, Weathering Change, is a film that documents how family planning, girls’ education, sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation interact.  Understanding the intersection of these four elements means understanding that ‘women are important agents of change in addressing climate change challenges.’

PAI also provides grants to reproductive health organizations in countries such as Kenya, Nepal, Malawi and Ethiopia to further promote the inclusion of gender considerations and population’s impact on climate change in national and international policy plans.

 


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Where does it all come from – the paper you print your articles on, for the newspaper, for receipts and brochures? Is it recycled? Is it taken from illegally logged forests?

The November EcoHour focused on sustainable forestry and featured Amy Smith and Lisa Stocker who helped us to answer some of these questions. Amy Smith is the Senior Program Officer with the World Wildlife Fund’s Global Forest and Trade Network-North America (GFTN-NA) program. Amy kicked off her career working in Columbia and Peru, experiencing firsthand the biological and socioeconomic impacts of deforestation and illegal logging. After working with local communities to transform sustainably forested products into high value products, Amy began working more globally on sustainable forest trading systems as a whole with GFTN-NA.

Lisa Stocker is the Sustainable Business Manager at Domtar, a member of the GFTN-NA that works to facilitate Forest Stewardship Council certification for the private landowners who provide the bulk of their fiber. Lisa got her start in forestry as well, managing forest lands as a forester with International Paper. She saw firsthand wood procurement practices, the impact of logging, and the lack of a solid connection between forest practices and manufacturing in the paper industry. Following her work with Rainforest Alliance and communities directly impacted by logging, Lisa came “full circle to engage with consumers and users.”

Tracking paper supplies from forest floor to printing floor is one of the critical steps in creating a sustainable system to better manage our global forests and cut back on illegal logging. Amy works to connect the dots on the supply chain so that companies interested in sustainable forestry can be linked with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified logging operations. From the supplier’s perspective, Lisa emphasized the multiple benefits that Domtar has had since working with GFTN-NA and becoming the first company to have FSC certified land in the Adirondacks. As Lisa stated, it has impacted “our understanding of the global implications of what we do.”

By connecting the dots in the supply chain, and ensuring that a sustainably harvested log gets FSC certification and goes to a company that values FSC certified wood or paper products, a more sustainable and responsible system is created. When you buy FSC certified paper, you can be fairly certain where it came from and the practices that were allowed.

Although as Amy pointed out, “you can wrap around the world 10 times all the logs that are logged illegally,” today ten percent of forests are FSC certified. As Domtar and other companies are discovering, “good forest management is a driver of economic return for communities.”

In other words, a sustainable forest trading system can be sustainable for the environment, but also sustainable financially.

posted by | Comments Off on October EcoHour Recap: Community History & Revitalization

This is a recap from the 2011 October EcoHour with Kennedy Lawson Smith.

“You can read a community’s history in its buildings,” said Kennedy Lawson Smith to a full house at October’s EcoHour event. Kennedy is one of the nation’s foremost experts on commercial district revitalization and main street economics and has been a leader in downtown economic development for 25 years.

Despite her expertise these days, many years ago she was working in the town of Charlottesville, VA and faced with a problem. How do you get people who work downtown to stay downtown – giving life to local businesses and revitalizing urban centers? By creating a daily ‘soap opera’ acted out by locals to highlight downtown restaurants, people stopped driving to the nearest mall for lunch and started eating at local businesses. By the end of the first week, the number of people eating lunch at local restaurants jumped from 50 people a day to 500 people a day! As Kennedy says, “I was hooked and I never looked back.”

Kennedy spoke to the many ways that small towns and community centers have been left in the dust by large shopping centers and big box stores. As people and businesses start leaving, there’s a surplus of space leading to more vacancies and lower rent prices which begins a downward cycle. But this isn’t the end for these communities. By identifying areas where no one is competing, providing resources and tools, or pursuing local and regional investments communities can often turn the cycle around and start the process of revitalization – bringing their communities back to life.

Community revitalization not only has an important economic component, but an environmental one as well. By re-using and rehabilitating older buildings, people can save money and benefit from the energy efficiencies that many older buildings incorporated before central heating or air conditioning. Kennedy mentioned a building built in the 1500s with an oak roof expected to last 300 years. The builders had planted oak saplings outside so that in 300 years, there would be a ready supply of oak to re-build the roof. Throughout her talk, Kennedy emphasized the importance of looking ahead, being creative with resources, and re-using what you already have to work with. In a sense, learning to plant our own saplings for years ahead, so that communities continue to thrive.

Join us next month on November 15 to hear a panel of three women discuss illegal logging and sustainable forest management.

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This post discusses our September EcoHour with Monica Murphy, Manager of the Advanced Technology Demonstration Program at General Motors.

DC EcoWomen got a peek under the hood of hybrid car technology during its September Eco Hour when General Motors executive Monica Murphy brought two new Chevrolet Volts for the group’s inspection outside of Teaism in downtown DC.

The women’s hands-on exploration of the two new electric cars followed Murphy’s talk outlining GM’s new market strategy where Murphy also touched on her personal experience in a male-dominated field during her 21-year career with GM. She worked with Chevrolet dealer groups on marketing and advertising programs in the Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia areas and distinguished herself by persuading the dealers to order new inventory.

‘It’s not surprising that a field like automotive is male dominated. For 10-15 years of my career I felt like I was the only woman in the group. I felt like I had to work harder than my male colleagues to be noticed. I’m competitive so I liked making those sales quotas,’ she said.

Murphy moved from Sales to Research and Development where she said she felt more like ‘one of the guys.’ As the Manager of the Advanced Technology Demonstration Programs for the Eastern Region, she currently manages GM’s fleet of Chevrolet Equinox Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicles and the new Chevy Volt electric vehicle. ‘It’s great to be on the forefront of two new technologies.’

She was very involved in GM’s ‘Project Driveway’ the company’s 30-month long, live market test of the Chevrolet Equinox beginning in 2007. For the test, GM loaned out 100 hydrogen fuel cell –powered cars to volunteers in cities around the world and drivers blogged their experiences. ‘As a result of the learnings of Project Driveway’, Murphy said ‘GM was able to reduce the size of the system in the Equinox and use about a third of the platinum from the original.’ The company is currently testing a production-intent hydrogen fuel cell system that can be packaged in the space of a traditional four-cylinder engine and be ready for commercial production in 2015.

‘Part of GM’s current market strategy is to have a car for everybody, from gas-friendly to gas-free’ Murphy said. The company is working to improve fuel efficiency in the combustion engines of small cars and introducing hybrid technology in its larger vehicles such as the Denali and Yukon SUVs. GM is also very focused on ‘getting women into our cars,’ Murphy said.

The DC EcoWomen audience quizzed Murphy about the safety, pricing and mileage of the Volt. The car sells for about $40,000, which can be offset by government rebates of up to $7,500. The Volt also features a 10-year, 10,000 warranty. Learn more about how the Volt works and see a comparison chart of the Volt versus other electric vehicles.

The number one question she gets from women about the Volt, Murphy said is ‘how does it work?

‘One of the unique features about the Volt is the range extending generator allowing drivers to go about 300 additional miles after the battery is depleted.’ Murphy said. ‘Meaning you won’t be left at the side of the road when the battery runs out.’

DC EcoWomen also asked Murphy about the availability of charging stations, which Murphy asserted that GM is encouraging localities to provide. ‘I encourage you to ask your community leaders to consider provisions for charging electric cars.’ GM can’t regulate the cost of the energy charge from the stations as the power is provided by local utilities, Murphy said

Beyond introducing fuel-efficient cars, GM is saving energy corporate-wide, according to Murphy. ‘From 2005 to 2009 we reduced energy consumption across the company by 40 percent; we have the largest rooftop solar installation in the U.S. at our California facility. Many plants use solar energy. We have reduced non-recycled waste by 49 percent at plants and many of our automotive plants are landfill free.

—TA Clifford

Join us for EcoHour next month, where we’ll learn about urban planning from Kennedy Smith.

 

posted by | Comments Off on About Monica Murphy … this month’s EcoHour speaker!

RSVP for this month’s EcoHour on Facebook or by e-mailing rsvp@dc.ecowomen.org.

Monica Murphy was appointed Manager, Advanced Technology Demonstration Programs for the Eastern Region located in Washington D.C. in August of 2007.  In this role she manages GM’s fleet of Chevrolet Equinox Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicles and the new electric vehicle the Chevrolet Volt. Activities that fall under her responsibility in the metro-Washington, D.C. area, include test drives, loan deployments, and educational outreach with government officials, national and local media, school groups and other community organizations and leaders.  Murphy was the primary GM representative supporting the D.C. area public drivers participating in the world’s largest hydrogen fuel cell market test fleet- GM’s Project Driveway.  In the fall of 2010, Murphy’s team also supported drivers in the DC area as GM launched the Chevrolet Volt Advisory Board to gain feedback on the Volt prior to production

Prior to her current assignment, Murphy was the Chevrolet Marketing Manager in the Washington, Baltimore, Harrisburg and Philadelphia markets beginning in June of 2006, where she worked with retail Chevrolet dealer groups on marketing initiatives along with advertising creative and placement.  In her 21-year career with General Motors, Murphy has worked extensively in marketing regions for General Motors as a District Sales Manager, wholesale selling of cars and trucks to dealerships and as a District Service Manager improving dealership service departments and creating customer satisfaction programs.

Murphy also spent a number of years of her career focused on customer assistance activities including representing GM at Better Business Bureau hearings and working at Chevrolet’s Customer Assistance Center.

Murphy earned a bachelor degree in Management with a minor in Business Administration from Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan, in 1989.  Murphy resides in Laurel, Maryland.