Archive for the ‘Programs’ Category

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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. 

posted by | Comments Off on Volunteering at Rachael’s Women’s Center

The following is a guest post written by Dawn Bickett.  

On Saturday, February 9th, 20 volunteers kicked off the DC Ecowomen Strong Women Season —focusing on supporting women in our community— by spending the afternoon working at Rachael’s Women’s Center, a day shelter for homeless women in Washington, DC.  With plenty of hands and lots of enthusiasm, we made short work of the tasks left to us, leaving us time to learn from the staff about the role of the Center in meeting the needs of women experiencing homelessness in the city.

As Rachael’s Women’s Center Outreach Worker Matthew Lang explained, the organization is one of only a couple of day shelters in DC. Night shelters typically close early in the morning, making places like Rachael’s Women’s Center the only viable option for many women looking for a safe and productive space to be during the day. Rachael’s Women’s Center fills a critical niche by providing somewhere for women to go to get a hot meal, receive guidance for finding employment or government assistance, and even to attend poetry and Zumba classes.

The Center requires considerable upkeep because it feeds and serves over 40 women on a typical weekday, and it was our job as volunteers to tidy up. Wielding eco-friendly cleaning products, brooms, and mops, we cleaned everything from bathrooms to banisters. Volunteers also reorganized the Center’s library and sorted through bags of donations to make supplies accessible. By giving time and energy to Rachael’s Women’s Center, volunteers contributed to the Center’s work assisting hundreds of women each year.

While volunteers should take pride in the results of all that scrubbing and rearranging, the Center is always in need of more help. If you are interested in getting involved with Rachael’s Women’s Center, please go to their webpage. The organization also has a wish list posted of donations that are in high demand.

Check out more pictures of the event by clicking this here, and don’t forget to join in at the next DC Ecowomen volunteer event!

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By Katrina Phillips

DC EcoWomen with Green Living Project founder Rob Holmes 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”.

DC EcoWomen was a local sponsor for the event.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!

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On Sunday, DC EcoWomen gathered for delicious sandwiches and smoothies in Cleveland Park to discuss the inspiration, humor, and amazement we found in the book, Miles from Nowhere.  The story chronicles the incredible adventure of Barbara Savage and her husband, who set out from California to travel the world by bicycle.  The journey begins almost immediately, as the couple adjusts to the idea of leaving their modest lives and familiar routines behind as they start up the U.S. west coast.  Through rain, high winds, and killer inclines, the pair endures hardships and experience delight in unexpected places as they meet interesting travelers, see the world, and cement their own relationship.

This story includes several themes that are central to the lives of many DC EcoWomen: world travel and wanderlust, cultural experiences, friendship, kindness, and the great outdoors.  One of the topics we discussed was how to bring these values into our own lives as a way of shaking off the happy hour cobwebs and mixing up our routinized urban habits.  Whether you’re a long-time resident or new to the city, it’s always important to seek out new groups, new activities, and new communities that will expose you to neighborhoods, parks, or events that you might not have found otherwise.

Our discussion also included many questions about the logistics of their two-year adventure.  Aside from financial concerns, Barb and Larry had to find safe lodging and sufficient food each night, repair their bicycles, and cope with illnesses in foreign and developing countries.  While we acknowledged that traveling as a woman can present special challenges, many of us agreed that our fearless storyteller matched her husband in strength, courage, and savvy.   In fact, she inspired many of us to think about upcoming travel in our own lives.  Whether the next few months see us biking around town or flying off to see Russia for the first time, this story inspired us all to look for compassion and generosity in others and make the best of the challenging situations we face.

A big thanks to Hawthorne Homemade for letting us sample their delicious butternut squash soup and green goddess smoothie!  If you missed this event, check back in for our mini Book Club meeting in June, where we’ll continue discussions of wanderlust and traveling.

posted by | Comments Off on Science, Botany, and Friendship: One Woman’s Journey into the West

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.

Dear Mom,

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!

Yours truly,

Amanda

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Read below for a guest blog entry by Caroline Wick for a recap of our book club’s latest gathering:

On Sunday, January 27, EcoWomen gathered to discuss The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball.  The book tells the story of Kimball’s decision to ditch her city life for cows, long cold winters and, of course, dirt.  (You can get a feel for the book here with this audio slideshow from NPR).  

During the discussion, EcoWomen pondered Kimball’s decision and wondered whether they would make the same life-altering choice.  Everyone enjoyed the book not just for its content, but also for Kimball’s prose:  “I had never in my life been so dirty.  The work was always dirty, beyond what I’d previously defined as dirty, and it took too much energy to keep oneself out of it.”

Each participant shared not just her thoughts on the book, but also a snack.  One participant embraced the theme and brought green beans that she harvested and canned.  Another snack, the sticky, but delicious, homemade tahini-honey-chocolate squares disappeared quickly.  We’ll share recipes for other favorites – including coconut ginger muffins – on this site.

Bummed that you missed the fun?  There are more book clubs to come:

  • For those that can’t commit to finishing an entire book – join EcoWomen on February 15th to discuss a few pages from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and other short pieces on the theme of farming and love.
  • In March, we’ll discuss Letters from Yellowstone.  Join us fiction lovers!

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on “No Impact Man” Has Impact on us EcoWomen

The following is a guest post by EcoWoman Cathy Collentine

We have all likely heard about carbon footprints and maybe even calculated our own, but what about all those other “footprints” that our everyday lives leave-could we live with no impact?

That is the goal of self proclaimed “No Impact Man,” Colin Bevan, a New Yorker in Manhattan who embarks with his wife, 2 year old daughter and their dog on a year long journey towards living off the grid-no electricity, no refrigerator, TV, taxis, subway, elevators and living a lifestyle bringing them closer to each other and to the city where they have lived and worked for years, but hadn’t experienced until they started to look at it differently.

DC Ecowomen joined together at the house of our gracious host to watch the film and it got us thinking about the different choices that we make and the conveniences that we so often take for granted without thinking of the effect they have on our communities and our world.  Take trash-that was talked about in the movie because they were trying to produce no trash-no takeout containers, disposable water bottles or plastic bags-not even disposable diapers, which Americans throw into our landfills at a rate of 49 million a day, the 3rd largest source of trash.  For so many of us our trash piles up (the average American produces 4.6 pounds of trash a day, roughly 17,000 pounds a year), we lug it to the curb and then we forget about it.  But where does it go, and who does it impact?  The movie made us think that in our disposable culture of single serving and use products, it’s not hard to take a few simple steps to reduce our trash-by bringing our own bottles, silverware and reusable bags, but also by looking at each piece of packaging, each thing we toss and trying to find a way to reuse it or to buy the product that has the least packaging possible or buy new or used items that come without packaging.

This film explored what one family does when they don’t have lights or a TV anymore, they buy all their food at the farmers market, and they cook all their own meals and they were more engaged- in conversation, volunteering, getting to know their farmers and neighbors and their food.  The individual actions they took engaged them and their community in this project to live without an impact, making new friends along the way.  The community they built was of people they felt accountable to, people that made them realize how interconnected the earth is and that our trash, our waste, our impact has an effect on our community.

We parted ways that evening feeling like we could all play a part in making this world a better place.  As “No Impact Man” emphasized, the most radical political action that we can take is to be an optimist-so we will continue to grow positively as a community of Ecowomen and build our neighborhood and our city with our impacts in mind.

posted by | Comments Off on A Paradise Built in Hell: Book Club Recap

by Stephanie Madden

This post discusses the November 2011 Book Club meeting.

For the past two months, my life has been all about disasters. No, I don’t mean that in a melodramatic way. I recently started a position working on a grant to develop more effective risk communication trainings for local leaders to better prepare communities before, during, and after disasters. I was excited that this month’s book club selection, A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit, could provide further insight into my job, as well as raise important issues that will become increasingly salient in a world where climate change is a reality (check out September’s book club selection Merchants of Doubt to learn more about the history of climate change denial).

Our discussion of the book focused around the utopian societies that Solnit describes arising out of disasters, where resourceful and resilient citizens must take control of saving each other and their communities, while those in power suffer from “elite panic” over the thought of losing controls built into many societies that allow often crumble when disasters strike. However, we were left wondering if it is something special to large scale disasters that can form these types of communities, or if even the disasters of everyday life, such as being diagnosed with cancer or suffering from addiction, can also bond people as they face these challenges together.

While Solnit uses natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and intentional disasters, such as 9/11, as case studies to debunk the idea that disasters turn people into panic driven mobs, Solnit also brings up the idea of economic disasters. In our current economic climate that has seen the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Solnit’s principles of disasters leading to the impulse for social change seem to be represented each day on the news.

Solnit writes, “The real question is not why this brief paradise of mutual aid and altruism appear but rather why it is ordinarily overwhelmed by another world order.” If the worst events can bring out the best in people, why can’t this impulse be sustained in everyday life?

In a world where natural disasters are becoming more prevalent, Solnit challenges us to think about what we think we know about disasters, and I think an even larger challenge for us is to also figure out how to best prepare for these disasters before they happen, which seems to begin with fostering a community spirit well before the next disaster strikes.

Interested in becoming more involved in disaster preparedness in your community? Check out these resources:

Citizen Corps helps coordinate volunteer activities that will make our communities safer, stronger, and better prepared to respond to any emergency situation. It provides opportunities for people to participate in a range of measures to make their families, their homes, and their communities safer from the threats of crime, terrorism, and disasters of all kinds.

Community Emergency Response Teams Program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.

Gender and Disaster Resilience Alliance, a virtual network committed to transparency, an inclusive approach valuing difference, shared leadership, and a social justice approach to disaster reduction.

Ready.gov is a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) intiative helping communities be informed (what to do before, during, and after an emergency) and make a plan (prepare, plan and stay informed for emergencies.)

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Blog post by Lina Khan

On Sunday, November 6, DC EcoWomen learned what a community farm can bring (and, for some of us, where they could find one!).  DC EcoWomen volunteered for an afternoon at The Farm at Walker Jones, an urban farm that is part of the campus of Walker Jones, a DC Public School.  The Farm provides its food to the school, DC Central Kitchen, and other organizations, or sells it at a farm stand to raise money for supplies.  According to Sarah Bernardi, the Farm Coordinator, they stick to natural forms of insect repellant such as corn starch — and rely on volunteers like us to help keep up the herbs, vegetable, and fruit gardens.  We soaked in amazing autumn weather that I considered ourselves lucky to get after a couple of weeks of rain.

Almost 20 DC EcoWomen members and friends joined us, some looking to catch rare outdoor time, others to meet like-minded residents of DC, or both.  While we dug our trowels into the earth to uproot weeds and cleared debris around the herb garden, a variety of conversation flowed — being on the job hunt, good spare-time reading, running routines (which I don’t know a thing about), and inspirational speakers.  That last topic was tied to potential new speakers for the EcoWomen speaker series.  More than a few EcoWomen expressed a sense of gratitude from getting to help out the Farm and be outdoors for the day —  so in a way, this Farm gave back to us.  When we had finished our work and eaten lunch, we listened to Ms. Bernardi tell us how the Farm got started, and we asked a bunch of questions ourselves.

This Farm is an idea that is continuously growing.  It was once a deserted vacant lot, then several crops that continued to expand, and now a farm with its own beehives!  The question of how to make it an asset for the community and for the kids nearby continues to direct its mission.  We were excited to be a part of it.

 

posted by | Comments Off on Book Club: Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer (July 13)

The Book Club eco-mmunity will be discussing Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer this month. Feel free to attend even if you haven’t read or finished the book!

“Like many others, Jonathan Safran Foer spent his teenage and college years oscillating between omnivore and vegetarian. But on the brink of fatherhood….his casual questioning took on an urgency. This quest ultimately required him to visit factory farms in the middle of the night, dissect the emotional ingredients of meals from his childhood, and probe some of his most primal instincts about right and wrong.”

Find out more by visiting: www.eatinganimals.com.

When

Wednesday, July 13th; 6:30-8:00 p.m.

Where

Teaism in Penn Quarter (at whatever table is available and big enough for chatting)

Questions? Comments?

Please email Amanda Stone at amandaestone@gmail.com. Also, there may be an opening in book club leadership. If anyone is interested and wants to discuss, please contact Amanda!

On deck…

Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes? on Wednesday, Sept 14 at Teaism in Penn Quarter.