Posts Tagged ‘book club’

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By Alyssa Ritterstein, DC EcoWomen Blog Manager and Communications Committee VC

More than 15 years ago, two women hatched a plan to launch EcoWomen. Today, there are more than 5,000 women in the DC EcoWomen network. Here are a few photos to showcase DC EcoWomen through the years. I hope you enjoy them!

Alisa Gravitz, CEO of Green America, was the speaker at our first EcoHour – a free event where successful women in the environmental field discuss their work (left). In 2005, we heard from various women during our EcoHours. Juliet Eilperin, Environmental Reporter at Washington Post, was one of them (right).

In 2006, we held a Green Halloween Fundraiser. Here’s a picture of our board members at the event at Madam’s Organ (right). In May 2007, we had a spring fundraising date auction at Ireland’s Four Fields (left).

Eco-Outings hiked Old Rag in November 2008 (right).  In December 2008, they went ice skating in a sculpture garden (upper left). By March 2009, Eco-outings took archery lessons (bottom left).

Here’s our Five-Year Gala, held at the National Botanical Garden in June 2009.

In August 2009, DC EcoWomen went tubing (bottom right). We had fun at our 2009 Holiday Party (left), and enjoyed our wine tasting and networking event in April 2010 (upper right).

Our November 2010 EcoHour featured former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, seen here with Kelly Rand, former DC EcoWomen Chair.

Our Spring Wildflower Hike in April 2011 (upper left). In July 2011, we held an EcoMoms meeting (bottom left). By November 2011, former DC EcoWomen President Jessica Lubetsky instructed 20+ women on how to improve their resumes at our resume building workshop (right).

DC EcoWomen volunteered at the Walker Jones urban farm in July 2012 (right). In November 2012, we held a Craft, Chat and Chocolate event (left).

This picture was taken during a session at the May 2013 DC EcoWomen conference – I’m Here, What’s Next?

Our book club – a time when women discuss a book or series of small articles, blogs and podcasts with an environmental angle – met in May 2013 to discuss Silent Spring at the Navy Memorial/National Archives.

DC EcoWomen members tabled during the 2013 Green Living Expo DC (upper left). Our members volunteered at a 2013 coastal cleanup with Women’s Aquatic Network (bottom left). In October 2013, we hosted a locavore potluck (right).

DC EcoWomen coordinated a mentor tea at Hillwood Estate in 2014 (left). We also put on a clothing swap in fall 2015 (right).

DC EcoWomen went behind-the-scenes during a tour of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute in Sept 2015 (left). We held a rock climbing event in February 2016 (right).

This picture was taken during our August 2016 Board Retreat.

Our Women’s Suffrage Parade Walking Tour in March 2017 (left). We participated in the People’s Climate March in April 2017 (bottom right). We also coordinated a Working Women in American History Bike Tour in May 2017 (upper right).

The Skills-building Leveling Up Workshop in December 2017 (left). DC EcoWomen and Department of Energy’s May 2018 event, which showcased two of the world’s first commercial hydrogen fuel cell cars (right).

Back to where it all began, an EcoHour! This picture is from February 2019 and includes members of our Professional Development Committee and our speaker Stephanie Ritchie, Agriculture and Natural Resources Librarian at the University of Maryland (third from left).

Alyssa Ritterstein is a driven communications professional, with a proven track record of creating and executing successful communications and media relations strategies for nonprofit organizations, associations and a public relations firm. Her career spans various climate, energy and environmental communications work.

posted by | on , , , , , , | Comments Off on Rachel Carson: Ultimate EcoWoman

By DC EcoWomen Board Member Stephanie Madden

On May 29, 2013, 13 DC EcoWomen gathered to celebrate the birthday of ultimate EcoWoman Rachel Carson, who was born in Springdale, Pennsylvania on May 27, 1907. With plates of birthday cake in hand, our May book club discussion focused on Rachel Carson’s most famous work, Silent Spring.

Many people trace the start of the American environmental movement to June 16, 1962, when the first of three excerpts from Silent Spring was published in the New Yorker magazine. Carson’s central thesis was that uncontrolled and unexamined use of pesticides harmed not only animals and birds, but also humans. Silent Spring forced the banning of DDT and spurred many changes in the laws affecting the environment. Although revered by many in the environmental sector, Silent Spring remains a controversial book more than 50 years after its original publication. Both now and then, people seek to discredit the book and the author as ignorant, hysterical, misleading, and, coming out of the Cold War era, as a communist.

Our book club discussion focused on how eerily contemporary Silent Spring feels, despite being written more than 50 years ago. Many of the issues of the lack of knowledge and lack of regulation surrounding the chemicals in our lives is as relevant today as it was when Carson wrote her impassioned plea for the environment because powerful industries have an interest in keeping it that way. One of the common themes that emerged from the book club discussion was how to overcome the partisan divide that accompanies many environmental issues.

Both a gifted writer and scientist, Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring based on extensive scientific research. However, one of the constant challenges faced when communicating scientific information to people is the degree of uncertainty inherent in science. Rarely, if ever, is anything 100% certain or 100% proof positive of something. However, the opposition often uses this inherent uncertainty to create doubt about the scientific credibility or certainty. We see this today with many environmental issues, including climate change. One of our past book club selections, Merchants of Doubt, delves into this issue more fully.

For many of the DC EcoWomen present at book club, knowing that Rachel Carson died of breast cancer shortly after the publication of Silent Spring made the book all the more powerful. To what extent did the toxic chemicals she passionately and persuasively discussed in her writing play into this illness? Additionally, although she writes with the objectivity of a scientist, to what extent did her health issues affect her writing and the urgency she felt in communicating these issues?

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, A Book That Changed the World is a virtual exhibition that presents the global reception and impact of Silent Spring as well as the book’s legacy in popular culture, music, literature, and the arts. Unyielding in her passionate and brave defense of the environment, Rachel Carson is the ultimate EcoWoman. So, who do you think the Rachel Carson of today is? Comment below and keep the conversation going!

posted by | on , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Farm at Walker Jones

The following is a guest post by Courtney Hall Gagnon

Walker Jones Educational Campus

On April 27th, volunteers from DC Ecowomen enjoyed a sunny Saturday morning of volunteering at The Farm at Walker Jones. Walker Jones, an educational campus located at the corner of New Jersey and K Streets, was transformed in 2010 into an oasis of urban agriculture.

Between the green roof on the school and the farm on the ground, the farm produces over 3,000 pounds of food annually that for local neighborhood residents, students, and DC Central Kitchen. Eight beehives also occupy the farm and the green roof on the educational centers. DC HoneyBees, a local nonprofit, set up and maintains the hives.

Nineteen DC Ecowomen shared the farm space with several other volunteers during a Servathon. The main task of the day was weeding the herb and tea garden and open space that will eventually become home for more food grown at the farm. Working together in the perfect spring weather of DC provided plenty of opportunities for networking, and good conversation to pass the time.

Tea Tree Bud

The tea garden might have been the most surprising section of the farm. Tea trees are an unusual sight, even on an urban farm. Their leaves will be ready for harvest next year by students and they will make their own varieties of green and black tea using ingredients grown only on the farm.

During lunch, volunteers had a mini book club discussing six articles that focused on eating and growing local food versus the more typical supermarket diet. This led to an interesting and educational discussion about alternatives for growing food in the often tight living quarters of the city.

David Hilmy, the Farm Lead Teacher, gave volunteers plenty of clear instruction and spent time during lunch explaining the many functions of the agricultural activity at Walker Jones Educational Campus. He’s the physical education teacher at Walker Jones, but also a trained botanist, and has taken on the agriculture activities at his school as part of his curriculum. His enthusiasm for his students, teaching, and the farm was evident, and it is clear how much the farm could benefit from his management.

If you are interested in volunteering with the Farm at Walker Jones, contact him at [email protected]

Volunteers gathered for a lunchtime Q&A

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Book Club: Self-Sufficiency

Below is a post from guest blogger Denise Robbins.  You can also read Denise’s blog here and here.

On December 2nd, a rainy Sunday, DC Ecowomen met for the monthly bookclub at a small shop called “Think Outside the Store.” Gathered around 3 small tables in an intimate room filled with rolls of fabric, sock puppets, beads, magazines, and hot glue guns, we discussed ideas behind “The Urban Homestead.”

Self-sufficiency was the theme of both the book and the craft session – being able to create things yourself and lessen your dependence on the consumer economy. To remove yourself from the grid one small step at a time. To be free of the constraints of choosing between one manufactured product or another. To create, and give meaning, to the things that you do consume.

So while we were creating our own crafts, we were also talking and learning.

One woman has made her own kimchi.  A few were interested in infusing alcohol, which is actually quite simple. Another plans to make homemade limoncelllo. We discussed the processes, and dangers, of pickling and canning (if done wrong, and stored for a long period of time, bacteria can grow and make you sick).

This book club couldn’t have come at a better time. The holiday season is a perfect time to try your hand at self-sufficiency.

There’s nothing better than a homemade gift, where you can tailor your gift to your recipient and make it doubly special. It can be as simple or as difficult as you like – what matters is that it was crafted with your two hands.

If you’re new to making things yourself, and the idea of giving a hand-made gift is too intimidating, consider the other end of it. Ask your family for gifts to help get you started, like a how-to book, or beginning materials for gardening, canning, or renovation.

However, I encourage you to learn. The venue “Think Outside the Store,” is hosting several workshops this coming month on holiday gifts, where they provide the materials and instruction for each 2 hour session. Personally, I love picking up a new how-to book and teaching myself a new skill. It gives me the chance to be creative, and test my own capabilities. If done right, teaching yourself something new can be extremely rewarding. But, it can also be valuable to get some instruction and help from people that know what they’re doing!

In an urban environment like D.C., it can seem impossible to grow or create anything yourself. Most live very busy lives and are only able to choose between the products at their local supermarket. But with a little time, patience and creativity, anyone can learn the steps to self-sufficiency in the city.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on The Bigger Picture is the Key to Moving Forward

Kendra Pierre-Louis spoke to the DC Ecowomen Book Club in September about her new book Green Washed: Why We Can’t Buy Our Way to a Green Planet.  We asked her to write a little bit about her experience talking with our ecowomen.  Below are her thoughts.

Kendra, left, talks to the group of Ecowomen at Teaism

There is never a shortage of things in life to complain about – the painful elegance that are high heels, arsenic in our rice, and you know, global climate change. Fortunately, getting to speak to a room full of smart, engaged women who have just read your book is not one of them. I can sincerely say, I thoroughly enjoyed the two hours that I spent discussing my book Green Washed: Why We Can’t Buy Our Way to a Green Planet with the wonderful women of the DC EcoWomen book club.

I wrote Green Washed in response to our misplaced focus on getting individuals to buy green products. Yes, I’d prefer it if you bought a shampoo that didn’t contain neurotoxins or hormone disrupters that are harmful to you and to sea life. But how effective is this at “saving” the environment? And, perhaps more importantly, why are these awful products even a choice? Why are they on our shelves? Why do we have to expend tremendous personal effort avoiding these products?

Writing is a generally solitary pursuit, a path wrought between you and the demons in your head, but surrounded by these women I felt for the first time in a really long time as though I wasn’t alone in being tired of the guilt that surrounds even the simplest purchase these days. I think it was Naomi Wolf in the Beauty Myth who pointed out that women spend so much time and energy on attaining unattainable beauty standards that this is time we are not spending on being scientists, teachers, writers, nurses, painters or pushing for true equality.

I think the same can be said for buying green.

Buying green doesn’t free us from the cultural drumbeat keeping us fixated on shopping; in fact, in many ways it keeps us tied to the same consumer systems that cause so much environmental destruction. Case in point: a curious pattern emerged during my talk despite the fact that every single person in the room clearly understood and felt connected to Green Washed’s core message on the limits of green consumption to bring about sustainable change. Almost compulsively, the topic of how to structure our purchases, how to master the art of buying green, continually came up. It’s a tough message to fully internalize as generations of women raised on the importance of consumption, of voting with our dollars. Unfortunately, it’s also a world view that can shift our eyes from the prize – true social and environmental sustainability.

So here is my confession: I haven’t mastered buying green.

What I have done is my eco-version of the serenity prayer. I have changed the environmental habits (avoiding driving, choosing less toxic cleaning products, consuming less overall) I can easily change, accepted the things I cannot as an individual change, and used the energy I once devoted to fretting over these tiny choices to help force change on a larger scale.

Kendra, center, sits in on the discussion

As great as it can feel to do the “green” thing, on the face many of these choices are little more than symbolic actions dwarfed by the actions of our economic and governance systems. Strapping a solar panel on one’s roof is not a substitute for a national, comprehensive, renewable energy policy. Composting in your basement is no substitute for a decent waste management system, nor is toting a water bottle an effective water use reduction system. It’s not that I don’t want you doing these things – I mean I’m a certified master composter – go ahead and do these things, but please, please, please take the energy you’re currently expending worrying about which brand of deodorant to buy to instead lobby Congress against mountaintop coal removal, or comprehensive chemical reform, or requiring more stringent metrics around GMOs, or hell educating your neighbors on the awesomeness of composting. These are the issues that when resolved on a bigger scale will free you from having to worry on a micro level about whether or not the shower curtain you pick up is poisoning the Mississippi and maybe also giving you a brain tumor.

We need everyone who is caring and committing working together, not worrying alone.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Moby Ducky, You’re the One

Post courtesy of Stephanie Madden, Book Club Maven Extraordinaire

“Rubber Ducky, you’re the one. You make bath time lots of fun!” While the rubber duck is often at the center of childhood nostalgia, Donovan Hohn’s “Moby Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them” made the tale of a 1992 container ship accident that sent thousands of Floatee bath toys, including yellow ducks, red beavers, green frogs, and blue turtles (which were actually plastic, not rubber!), an engaging and educational tale of bath toys and Hohn’s quest to follow their epic voyage through the biggest bathtub of all: the ocean.

The July meeting of the DC EcoWomen book club played off the water theme of the book and met at the recently established Yards Park on the Anacostia River. The Nats were playing a home game that day, so we could hear the cheer of the crowd from the nearby stadium as we dipped our feet in the park’s water wall feature and made introductions. It was a scorcher that day, so we quickly moved inside to Justin’s Cafe to continue our discussion, and enjoy cool drinks and delicious snacks. We received a few curious glances as we pulled out Eric Carle’s book “10 Little Rubber Ducks,” which was based on the same container ship accident and passed it around to look at the pictures as we ordered our food.

We discussed many different topics and themes raised by the book, from debating the value of beach cleanups as potential greenwashing events, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Hohn’s decision to follow the path of the Floatees with a pregnant wife at home (and what she thought about all of this ducky nonsense), toy factories in China, and other unique ways that oceanographers learn about the ocean currents, such as The Drift Bottle Project. We also discussed larger themes, such as our thoughts and experiences on dropping everything to chase a dream, and ended the discussion by recounting stories of our own childhood nostalgia. Before we went our separate ways, each of the EcoWomen attending received a small, rubber ducky keychain as a reminder of book club and the epic journey of Hohn and the Floatee bath toys.