Posts Tagged ‘dc ecowomen’

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The Woman Behind “Farming”: Q&A with Photo Contest Winner Sarah Waybright

By: Alyssa Ritterstein, DC EcoWomen Board Member

DC EcoWomen launched its annual photo contest on Earth Day – April 22 – to capture images of the incredible environmental work our members do each day.

Several photos featured members enjoying the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin with friends and family. Other images took us a bit farther out of downtown – the Capitol building viewed from the United States National Arboretum, rock climbing at Great Falls State Park, and rocks floating on frozen water in Alexandria, Virginia.

Many folks showed us their green thumb. We received pictures of a tree planting along the Anacostia River, community gardens, a green roof garden at the University of the District of Columbia, and farms throughout the DMV.

Other folks showed us images of people helping people. We saw a picture of women teaching women about Antarctic climate science during an all-women leadership training course in Antarctica. Another picture was taken at the Virginia High School Leadership conference, where a woman had just given a speech to students on how to be an environmental leader in their schools and communities.

Our grand prize winner, Sarah Waybright, sent us a photo incorporating all three of the categories that we put forward for this year’s photo contest – women working on environmental issues, providing career growth opportunities for other women, and taking advantage of the D.C. area’s natural beauty. Her photo depicts her farming at Potomac Vegetable Farms (PVF) in Reston, Virginia, where she works alongside three women who run the farm and put on educational programs for young women interested in farm-based leadership.

We recently chatted with Sarah to hear more about the photo and the woman behind it.

DC EcoWomen: Congratulations on winning the Photo Contest! Let’s talk about the photo you submitted. I love how happy you look in it. What’s its backstory?

Sarah Waybright: This picture was taken on a little harvesting outing when a friend (who takes lovely photos!) came to visit. Getting to pick veggies you’ll eat right away is a privilege many people have never experienced, so when I have guests I like to upgrade their dinner with a farm trip! I see farming as a foundation for all the things I want to do with my career. Food is the intersection of nutrition and science, and farming is the intersection of food and our environment. Everything I want to share can “stem” from there. Working on this farm has been a true, unique joy. The people are all so supportive and kind, which isn’t something you can say of every work environment in the D.C. area!

DCEW: From your website, Why Food Works, I see that you are a Registered Dietitian, offer nutrition coaching services, and sell your own pottery – all while working on the farm. Can you tell us more about your career and how you got to where you are today?

SW: One of the things I’ve done well to this point in my life is design my days around the things I love to do, and no two are the same. I spend 20 hours a week health coaching, 15-20 farming, 10 doing pottery, and fit maintaining my brand (at times better than others!) in between those things for now. I come from a farming family that still runs a dairy farm in Pennsylvania and was lucky to grow up with a big garden. I never intended to be a farmer, but my interest in the health sciences brought me back to it. Our food systems and health are closely intertwined!

DCEW: When you submitted your photo, you wrote that you are working to open a farm where you’ll teach workshops on fermenting, cooking, growing, crafts, environmental principles, and good living. Do you have more details on it?

SW: Yes! I’m very excited that working at PVF has introduced me to a like-minded farming partner, Pam Jones. We’ll be establishing Gathering Springs Farm just north of Middleburg, Virginia, over the course of the next year. We hope to launch in time for market season next April with a few veggies we’ll grow over the winter. Things are still very much in the planning stages, but moving forward bit by bit almost daily now. That’s about all the information that exists, but stay tuned for more over the coming months!

DCEW: I see that you’ve submitted photos for our photo contest in previous years. Why do you continue to submit photos, and is there any advice that you’d like to give folks interested in next year’s contest?

SW: I was so excited to win this year. I thought getting a runner-up spot last year was pretty great, but my entry resonating with DC EcoWomen feels like confirmation that things are moving in the right direction. My recipe for success in submitting photos has been sharing a nice picture of something authentic that I’m passionate about and explaining why with a good description!

Sarah Waybright is a Registered Dietitian, the owner of WhyFoodWorks, a health coach for Wellness Corporate Solutions, and works at Potomac Vegetable Farms. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram to get food tips, nutrition information and healthy recipes.

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By Tamara Toles-O’laughlin

There is no neat and tidy way to sum up my feelings about current events. Highs and lows abound for all of us who earnestly want to solve big problems or at least mitigate catastrophe, in the natural and built environment. As government regimes shift along party lines there is room enough for everyone to complain. As feminists, we are again bound to search our practice for true inclusion of marginalized peoples in the intersection of women and the environment. And we must look more deeply at our roles within those margins. As citizens, we will need to reengage our sectors, disciplines, and constituencies for answers and alignment. As EcoWomen, we must collectively move beyond the specter of a receding status quo and grope our dashed or diminished hopes for productive actions that will buck trends to ensure that the legacy of our generation is one of stewardship and justice. Viewed together, our work assails the banality of injustice through an unrelenting demand for increased access, inclusion, equity, and for plain old understanding, and that won’t stop now.

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Connection begets Community

EcoWomen is a community of diverse thinkers, strategists, planners, anglers, wonks, workers, and women.  Together we search for and find renewed purpose to meet challenges as they arise. Take a good hard look at us. We work for sustainable cities; promote agency for under-resourced peoples; plant gardens for food and righteousness; act as a safeguard for key species; write policy that influences behavior to combat climate change causes and effects; and bolster conservation in every environ. For those of us who desire an expansive form of social justice, circumstances require us to continue to push for the collective good, for the greatest number. We will fare better if we do it in community.

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Engage Beyond the Echo Chamber

This is a time for strength. We have strength in numbers. In support of our mission, it is in our interest to continue to make room for divergent thought, support innovation in every direction and apply pressure to transform power structures so that they reach the greatest number. We won’t succeed in an echo chamber of agreement but by opening the ways and means by which we reach consensus.

Increasingly, environment and conservation actions explicitly bleed into issues of parity, representation, resource, burden, and benefit distribution. To make it meaningful, we will need to recommit as members of community to deeper engagement on the issues of our time, and in so doing leverage the power of the many to move the state for positive impact.

These are not the salad days. We are women at the intersection of climate, politic, and modernity. We are faced with compound challenges to our species’ survival. In this moment, I am hopeful that we have a chance to make gains out of conflict IF we can face the acrimony of behavior change, IF we deny the illusion of stand-alone issues AND connect the dots as EcoWomen with the efforts of other communities we are a part of.

As we close out the year, let’s turn our good intentions into action.  I challenge you (now) to change your relationship to what troubles you, and to get nearer to every challenge. And I ask you to set your intention to develop solutions with those formerly deemed “other” as partners rather than allies. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with alliance, except that it can normalize the perceptible space between what threatens each of us with what threatens all of us.

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Strength as a Practice

As we brace for new norms we would do well to recall that as EcoWomen, we are in this, whatever it is, together.

So, let’s pledge to start the new year as we would see it end, with justice at the fore of our approach to environment, and to see it through to the defense of our everyday liberty. If you plant trees, plant more trees. If you work on storm water reduction, then mitigate away. Advocate, agitate, intervene, and include all voices at the point of decision making, for yourself and for your community. We will need you now more than ever.

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Tamara is an environmental advocate focused on civil society and justice issues. She holds degrees from The City College, City University of New York and two advanced degrees from Vermont Law School. Her hobbies include reading boring books about politics and neuroscience, writing diatribes about what she reads, traveling, and yoga.

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By Robin Garcia

If you are anything like me, the concept of changing career paths feels truly daunting. Where do you even begin? How can you compete with other job applicants that have more traditional backgrounds?

The good news is that in the current career atmosphere, where few people remain in one position or company for long, it is more common for job applicants to own colorful resumes. It can even be viewed as an advantage by employers. The trick is to market yourself for your target position, instead of focusing on the position you used to or currently have.

In my case, I am academically trained as a marine science researcher. I have my Master’s in marine biology and multiple publications in peer-reviewed journals. I greatly enjoyed research, but soon after moving back home to DC, my interest started to fade. I still greatly value the role of research, yet I became more concerned about the communication of research to two important groups – the general public and policy makers.

Never being one to remain satisfied sitting on the sidelines, I decided to start looking for a new position in science communication. However, working in aquatic animal care wasn’t directly helping me achieve that goal. The idea of a career change was scary, but I got through the process.

Here is what I learned:

Comb Your Resume with Your Future Career in Mind

resume stock photoWhen I looked at my resume with “communicator” in my head instead of “researcher,” I realized that I already had plenty of experience. I may not have a degree in communications, but I had my publications. I also have multiple years of teaching experience in both traditional and non-traditional settings and volunteer positions that require me to use social media. Not only was I already a communicator, but I was a well-rounded one!

My resume reflection also made me realize that every position I’ve had, no matter how irrelevant I thought it was, had a place in my future. My animal care position had nothing to do with science communication, but I did win an award for excellent customer service. I had documented proof of my ability to work well in a team and deliver results, which is a benefit for any profession.

Use Your Diversity as Your Asset

While my new resume focused more on my communication experience, it’s hard to hide the fact that I spent years conducting research. Instead of ignoring my past, I marketed it as a benefit. Since I am academically trained in marine biology, I understand scientific writing and I know how to tailor it to a lay audience.

Volunteer for More Experience

While I had a solid amount of experience under my belt, I wanted current experience that was relevant to the environmental field and that would expose me to people that could help me find my dream job. This is where DC EcoWomen comes into play for me.

In January, I joined the board as the social media and blog manager. I have met wonderful women that have helped me with my job search, providing everything from words of encouragement to informational interviews. I am now the Vice President of Communication, allowing me to further develop my management skills.

In addition to DC EcoWomen, I am also a facilitator for Women in their Twenties, a social discussion group for lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women.

Tell People!

networking stock photoIf you don’t tell anyone that you’re changing paths, people will likely assume that you’re just fine with the path that you’re on. The more that I vocalized what I wanted, the more that others looked out for me and thought of me when opportunities came up.

This applies to friends old and new (because of course you’re networking!). I’ve even been helped by a contact that had to send me a denial email for a position in her office.

So how does this story end for me? A friend sent me a job posting for a communication position at NOAA. The contractor company liked that I have both communication and research experience, specifically at a NOAA laboratory. Five months later, I am thriving in my new career.

I am constantly learning and looking for new opportunities and I know that should I decide on a new career down the road, I’ll be ready to make the leap.

Robin is a Communication Specialist at NOAA and a DC EcoWomen board member. A DC native, she enjoys exploring her hometown, developing her yoga skills, and getting out on the water as much as possible. She also welcomes the season of pumpkin-flavored everything. 

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By Tamara Toles O’Laughlin

As an urban environmentalist, I often find myself engaged in a hyper-conscious balancing act where I strive to prioritize meta issues of ecological import with the growing demands of the built environment. It requires a melding of world views and a mindful way of seeing, which mirrors the topography of any major city, layers upon layers of organic matter organized into neat and surreal spaces by use and design.  It’s a constant deconstruction of norms and assumptions in the service of holistic life.  Today, I’m curious about bees and what their survival means for the concrete nooks I call home.

Why should you care about pollinator protection?

The news is flush with information on the decline of bee colonies. Bees are dying off at an alarming rate thanks in no small part to insecticides and fungicides used on plants to prevent crop losses.  In particular, there is evidence that chemicals applied to signature US crops of modern American diet are linked to bee colony collapse.

What’s the big deal with bees?

bee-in-sweetpeaBees aren’t just the scourge of allergy allegory or the worry of weekend trips to sandy and grassy spaces. Bees are a landmark species. They are a marker of ecological health and an essential link in the food chain. Bees support hundreds of thousands of flowering plants through pollination and increase the yields of over ninety crops including but not limited to apples, blueberries, and cucumbers. Bee pollination forms the basis of growth for plants that quite literally provide us with lifesaving medicines. They cross-fertilize to give us a third of everything we eat.  Bees are the invisible engine of our agricultural system, which makes them kind of a big deal.

Predictions

The threat of a world without bees isn’t an abstract danger. A loss of wild and domestic bee colonies would affect the diversity and availability of foods available to the world population of roughly seven billion humans, which would feature approximately fifty percent of the fruit, vegetable, and agricultural food stores it now possesses. In short, what happens to them happens to us. Bees die off due to mass infections, susceptibility to poor nutrition, and illness from chemical exposure, and we do the same.

Responses and Solutions

Despite the bleak and dire forecast there are some plans in the works to address this issue and develop strategies to promote health of honeybees and other pollinators.  Our government is looking at the effects of large scale agricultural operations and related federal activities through the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs. In collaboration with public and private partners EPA has developed a proposal to protect bees, bats, and monarch butterflies which aims to reduce colony losses over the next ten years and restore or enhance lands for pollination.

albina-34431284019348nlf4In particular, the EPA Plan looks to mitigate losses by focusing on commercial pollination through label restrictions which warn of effects, and pesticide application engagement programs which are administered through managed pollination protection plans aimed at farmers and food growers.  These plans focus on the operational relationships between beekeepers and landowners who work together when bees are brought onto big farms to pollinate commercially (raise your hand if you knew they did that!) where pesticides have been applied.

EPA’s plans for mitigation are designed to better assess risk to pollinators, reduce potential risk from toxics, engage state and tribal partners, and expedite review of the managed plans.

What can you do to help the bees?

This effort will take more than federal interagency input and cooperation. The EPA is looking for public comments on its plan.  In fact, the public comment period was recently extended to July 29, 2015, from the original closing date of May 29, 2015. So, Ecowomen take a look at the plan and submit comments on the overall proposal, make your voice heard on landowner and beekeeper local agreements, and ways to evaluate plans effectiveness to reduce risks to bees. Additionally, the EPA needs more information on systemic pesticides, microbial pesticides before it advises on label changes on the affected chemicals by 2016.

Additionally, if you too are an urban environmentalist you can do a few things in your local community to support pollination. On your next trip to the farmer’s market support and purchase honey from your local bee man or woman.  At home, you can make your green space, yard or terrace and pots friendlier to bees by planting rosemary, and flowering plants such as the Black Eyed Susan, and avoid using pesticides to grow them during the warmer months. And if you are really feeling the call to action call upon your local government, council or representative to push for wholesale bans of toxic chemical applications in your local, municipal gardens and greenspaces.

Tamara is an environmental advocate focused on social and environmental justice issues. She holds degrees from The City College, City University of New York and Vermont Law School.  Tamara has been a DC EcoWomen Board Member on the Professional Development Team since August 2014. Her hobbies include reading boring books about politics and neuroscience, writing diatribes about what she reads,  travel, and yoga. 

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By Vesper Hubbard

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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.

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By Cheryl Kollin, Livability Project

Defining sustainability

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%.[1]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.[2] 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.”[3] 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.