Posts Tagged ‘DC’

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Focus on Food Waste this Holiday Season

By Lesly Baesens

With the holiday season upon us, food is at forefront of people’s minds. However, these joyous occasions also present an opportunity to consider what frequently becomes of our leftovers – food waste. U.S. households are responsible for wasting a staggering 238 pounds of food per person each year. Each scoop of mashed potatoes that ends up in the trash, carries with it the resources used to produce, transport, and process that food. This waste of resources is an economic, social, and environmental harm. For example, food rotting in landfills emits methane, a greenhouse gas with 25 more heat trapping potential than carbon dioxide.

Households are not the only source of wasted food. Food waste is a systemic problem that inhabits all parts of the food production process–from farmers unable to sell produce that fall short of supermarkets’ rigorous aesthetic standards, to restaurants serving portions too big for consumers to finish. As a result, approximately 40 percent of food produced each year in the U.S. is wasted. Despite the pervasiveness of the issue, there are no federal laws, incentives, or enforceable requirements to reduce food waste. Instead, some U.S. cities and states have committed to reduce food waste.

In the first iteration of its Sustainable DC plan, the nation’s capital committed to reducing food waste through establishing curbside organic waste pick-up for composting. Though composting is preferable to sending food waste to methane-producing landfills, it should be a second-to-last resort as the resources necessary to produce the food have already been expended. In my paper, Leading by Example: 20 Ways the Nation’s Capital Can Reduce Food Waste, I closely examined the issue of food waste in the District and provided the city government with recommendations on how to tackle food waste more efficiently and holistically.

The paper’s recommendations range from simple ones, such as establishing a food waste reduction target in the Sustainable DC Plan, to more politically challenging ones, including requiring grocers to measure and publicly disclose wasted food amounts. By establishing a food waste target, the city would be encouraged to move beyond composting to addressing food waste more comprehensively. By requiring grocers to disclose food waste amounts, the city would bring transparency to the amount of food discarded in this sector, which in turn would incentivize retailers to waste less.

Since sharing my paper with the Office of DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and other city agencies, I was pleased to find that the city’s latest draft plan, Sustainable DC 2.0, includes several of my suggested measures. For instance, it steps-up the city’s food waste reduction efforts by committing to a target – reduce DC’s food waste by 60 percent by 2032. In order to develop recommendations on reducing food waste, the city will conduct an assessment of food waste in household and businesses – another one of my proposals. Sustainable DC 2.0 also proposes to educate residents and businesses on food “buying, storage, and disposal […] to minimize waste.” As discussed in my paper, consumer education campaigns can help households become drivers of reducing food waste.

These improved commitments are a major step forward for the District in its efforts to tackle food waste. However, I challenge D.C. to consider adopting bolder, more hard-hitting recommendations. We’ll need them if we want to become a model of food waste reduction in the U.S. and internationally, especially if we want to achieve the city’s goal of becoming “the most sustainable city in the nation.” In the meantime, I challenge you to educate yourself about the city’s efforts by reading Sustainable DC 2.0. Also, think twice before tossing those holiday leftovers. Find ways to reuse them and help our city become a leader in food waste reduction.

Lesly earned her Master’s degree in Global Environmental Policy from American University focusing on sustainable agriculture. A professional with more than 10 years of experience in project management, policy, and research, she is a die-hard food waste reduction advocate and is always looking for opportunities to advance the cause. Lesly volunteers with the DC Food Recovery Working Group, a group focused on food waste reduction and recovery efforts in the D.C. metropolitan area.

Photo Credits: petrr CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons; Sustainable DC

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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.

posted by | on , , , , , , | Comments Off on That’s a Wrap! A Film Review from the D.C. Environmental Film Festival

By Alix Kashdan

Of Ants and MenOne day after work, I entered the Portrait Gallery in Chinatown, headed downstairs to the museum’s theater space, and settled in to watch a film: “E.O. Wilson – Of Ants and Men.” Beautiful shots of the Alabama wilderness floated across the screen, while the biologist Edward Osborne Wilson described his career in biology, his passion for the natural world, and the early experiences that influenced his life and career.

This was one of dozens of screenings, receptions, and events that are part of the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital (also known as the D.C. Environmental Film Festival, or DCEFF).

The festival began in 1993 and is the nation’s largest environmental film festival, showing more than 100 films at locations across the city over the course of a week and a half each March. DCEFF includes a ton of events including screenings, premiers, local documentaries and international films, shorts and feature-length movies, and discussions with filmmakers, to name a few.

“E.O. Wilson – Of Ants and Men” is one of many films that were screened at this year’s DCEFF. It tells the story of biologist and Harvard professor Edward Osborne Wilson.

The film touches on many themes, including Wilson’s adolescence in Alabama, moving beyond his study of ants to sociobiology and the negative response from many in the scientific community, and finishes with a look at his work with conservation efforts in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park.

Both the film’s story and style are captivating. The entire movie has a sense of lightness and calm while simultaneously delving deeply into complex ideas.

The cinematography is breathtaking, with lingering close-ups and wide-pan shots of forests, tree branches, marshes, and ferns. Even the close-up photography of ants is mesmerizing – even for someone who wouldn’t normally enjoy pictures of insects on a large screen.

Photo from the screening, depicting an abandoned ant colony filled with cement and then excavated.

Photo from the screening, depicting an abandoned ant colony filled with cement and then excavated.

The story and its themes are just as compelling as the film’s look and feel. One fascinating idea the film explores is the rise of sociobiology. It describes how Wilson has studied the cooperation, altruism, and complex social behavior exhibited by ants.

The film goes on to review the limited number of species that exhibit this type of behavior, called eusocial species, and reviews how Wilson expanded on this idea through writing about sociobiology in the 1970s. While today the evolution of social behavior is an accepted idea, at the time it caused a lot of controversy. The film depicts the backlash Wilson faced from scientists who disliked the idea of applying sociobiology to humans and our evolution.

The film “E.O. Wilson – Of Ants and Men” explores the intersection of biology, environmentalism, anthropology, psychology, and conservation science in an interesting and effective way. I highly recommend this movie, which can be watched online from PBS here: www.pbs.org/program/eo-wilson. I would also recommend checking out dceff.org, which includes an archive of festival films from the past few years, plus more information about this year’s festival.

Alix Kashdan works in digital media and communications at a non-profit. She’s passionate about climate policy, international relations, and digital media, including blogging, photography, and mapping. She grew up in the D.C. area and currently lives on Capitol Hill.

posted by | on , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sustainable Cities are Paving the Way at COP21

By Lindsay Parker

This week, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) 21 has begun. This conference is a very. big. deal. If successful, it could be a decisive moment in the fight against climate change.

Leaders from 150 countries along with 40,000 delegates from 195 countries are meeting to reach an agreement on how to address our biggest environmental challenge. Without international action, our climate is on track to warm up to 5C (9F) above pre-industrial levels, causing weather extremes and devastating our natural resources. The results of these negotiations are critical.

Leading up to the conference, political leaders and activists have responded to the call to address climate change. Countries across the world are setting sustainability goals, federally and locally. In particular, cities are enacting policies that reduce emissions and support mitigation and adaptation to global warming.

Source: Ben Johnson

Source: Ben Johnson

Today, half of humanity – 3.5 billion people – lives in cities , and roughly 5.2 billion people are projected to live in urban communities by 2050.

Cities are hubs for economic and social advancement, commerce, and culture; however, they are also the source of many energy-intensive processes and emissions: building energy consumption, vehicles and transportation, solid waste water treatment, industry, and more.

To ensure a slowdown of global warming, urban areas face a challenge: remaining hubs for jobs  and prosperity, while limiting environmental impacts.


Fun facts about cities:


While cities face a sustainability challenge, they have an opportunity to enact influential climate policy much quicker than federal governments. In the U.S., Congressional inaction towards cohesive climate policy has pushed local leaders to take matters into their own hands. Currently, cities around the world are working to cut emissions, support public transportation, and increase efficiency. They are proving that they can fight climate change while growing economically.

The move toward sustainable and efficient infrastructure will not be cheap. Luckily, cities can benefit from international funding, particularly those in developing countries.  Mexico City, for example, has pledged to commit 10% of the city’s budget to resilience goals. UNFCCC financing mechanisms, such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF), provide grants up to $10 million for urban transport projects and low-emission urban systems to all non-Annex I members of the UN. Likewise, the Green Climate Fund (GCF), also instituted by the COP, finances low emission cities using $10 billion from country pledges.

Today, during a special Summit at the COP21, over 1,000 mayors will join President Obama and Secretary Kerry for the Climate Summit for Local LeadersThe event is co-hosted by Mike Bloomberg, UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo. The event will bring a collection of local actors together to urge action and build upon the efforts of the Compact of Mayors.

The Compact of Mayors is a global coalition of city officials who pledge to create ambitious climate action plans, increase resilience to global warming, reduce urban greenhouse gas emissions, and publicly track progress toward each goal. Currently, 382 cities, representing 345,853,881 people worldwide and 4.7% of the total global population have committed to the Compact of Mayors. Major cities involved include:

Cities are leading as an example for national governments that is it possible to set and achieve more ambitious goals for emissions reductions. These officials will present their ambitious climate action plans at the COP21.

President Obama addresses attendees at COP21 in Paris Source: : https://blogs.state.gov/stories/2015/11/30/follow-along-global-agreement-act-climate

President Obama addresses attendees at COP21 in Paris
Source: US State Department

Earlier this year, President Obama announced his goal for 100 US cities join the Compact by the start of COP21. That goal has been met and exceeded. Across the country and the world, cities are taking action by retrofitting buildings, upgrading transportation, and building efficient infrastructure.

In the U.S., cities are already making great headway:

Internationally, megacities in the C40 network are leading the way with low carbon goals and sustainable urban growth. This group represents half a billion people and 25% of global GDP, and they have promised to shift towards sustainable policies. Below are actions taken by leading cities:

  • London plans to install 6,000 charging points and 3,000 battery-powered cars by 2018
  • Gothenburg and Johannesburg have issued $489 million worth of green bonds
  • Shanghai will invest $16.3 billion over the next 3 years on 220 anti-pollution projects

In sum, the COP21 is on track to have some significant outcomes. If you live in a city, you’re likely to see evidence of these first hand. You can contribute to reducing global warming by taking public transportation, turning off lights, and supporting your local sustainability leader.

Lindsay Parker is a Texas native with a Masters of Public Policy focused on energy and climate policy from the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, Germany. She is currently working at the U.S. Department of Energy on energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. When she’s not hiking, she enjoys choir, running, swing dancing, and yoga.

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By Meg Hathaway

Hello Ladies!  Everyone knows that the best way to keep cool in the summer is to head for the water.  This year I decided to up my game and become a certified SCUBA diver.  It’s a lot of fun, and I hope to see some of you soon under the sea!

First of all, no, you won’t have to go diving in the Potomac.  It would be dangerous with all the boat traffic, and there’s too much sediment to see clearly down there anyway.  Dive shops in the DC area have arrangements with hotel, university, or rec center pools where you will do your initial training.  For your final certification dives, you can use a local quarry (that’s what I did), or get referral paperwork and fly to the exotic SCUBA destination of your choice.

There are three basic steps to becoming certified as an open water diver, or entry-level SCUBA diver.  In addition to completing four “confined water” (i.e., pool) dives and four open water dives, you’ll also need to do some reading and pass a written exam.  Most people do the pool work over one weekend, and the open water dives over a separate weekend or on an upcoming vacation.  Your dive shop will walk you through the process.  How do you choose a dive shop?  Google it, and trust me on this, pay close attention to the Yelp reviews.  I won’t name names, but there is one local dive shop in DC that has a reputation for pushing beginners to buy way more gear than they need.  I went to a meet-and-greet at that place and promptly made plans to do my training elsewhere.

That said, there’s no getting around the reality that you’ll need some start-up cash to get into diving.  You’ll be expected to buy your own “personal gear” prior to taking an intro to SCUBA class, which includes your mask, snorkel, fins, and special booties designed to be worn with the fins (like socks).  I wear glasses, so I paid extra to get a SCUBA mask with prescription lenses.  It is awesome!  Contacts also work with SCUBA masks, but be forewarned that a required emergency skill in SCUBA class is how to remove and replace your mask underwater.  This is a prime opportunity for your contacts to wash away, which stinks because you need to see clearly in order to read your gauges.  Bring extra contacts if you decide to go that route.  One final note on gear – the SCUBA community is very good about accommodating people with different needs.  Divers with limited or no leg mobility, for instance, can propel themselves with special underwater scooters or webbed gloves instead of fins.

If you aren’t sure SCUBA is for you, I highly recommend signing up for a Discover SCUBA session before you commit to a full introductory class.  In Discover SCUBA, you pay around $80 to spend a few hours in a pool learning the very basics of SCUBA, all gear included.  Some dive shops will credit the price of the Discover SCUBA session towards an intro class if you decide to continue.  This is the route I went.  For me it worked perfectly because I was able to spend my Discover SCUBA time getting over the initial weirdness of breathing under water, then pay closer attention later on during my Introduction to SCUBA sessions.

What will you do in an introductory SCUBA class?  You’ll familiarize yourself with how to set-up and break down your gear; stuff yourself awkwardly into a wetsuit; jump in; work on the proper techniques for diving, swimming, and ascending; and then run through how to handle various emergency situations.  A few key points will be drilled into your head.  There’s the cardinal rule of “just keep breathing!” which seems incredibly obvious until you get distracted fiddling with all your gear underwater.  There’s also the importance of safety and the buddy system.  The person next to you in the water is your auxiliary air supply if anything goes wrong, so it’s in both your interests to be respectful and stay close.  Your buddy is also there to help you plan a dive that you both agree will be interesting yet safe, double-check that your equipment is rigged properly before entering the water, and of course, be there back above water to verify your wild tales about all the cool things you saw.

For me, SCUBA diving so far has been a great experience because it pushed me out of my comfort zone, taught me new skills, and opened up new possibilities for places I can see around the world.  I’m just starting out with diving, but ultimately I’d love to go on a conservation mission-based SCUBA dive trip.  There are programs out there where you can help scientists photograph and track marine life, capture invasive lionfish, or rebuild coral reefs by hand.  How amazing is that?

Meg Hathaway is a Chemical Review Manager for the Office of Pesticide Programs in the US Environmental Protection Agency. She enjoys contra and swing dancing, studying international environmental policy, flipping merchandise online, and telling herself she practices guitar every day. She’s also on the DC EcoWomen executive board. 

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Reflections with a DC EcoWomen Leader

By Robin Garcia

DC EcoWomen’s president, Christina Sorrento, is leaving the executive board after nearly a decade of service to the organization and to women in the DC environmental field. A land use attorney in Maryland, Christina has been an integral part of DC EcoWomen’s growth, helping mold it into the wonderful and strong organization that it is today. I met with Christina recently to discuss what her involvement has meant to her.

5278910729_31a74e3ff2_oWhy did you first become involved with DC EcoWomen?

At the time, I wasn’t working in the environmental field, and I wanted to maintain a connection to the community. I went to an EcoHour event in 2006 and left feeling so inspired. I asked the board if they needed help and was immediately brought on board!

What positions have you held on the board?

First, I was the Speaker Coordinator. I then became Vice President of the EcoHour Committee, Vice President of the Events Committee (which has now separated into the Professional Development and Program Committees), Vice President of Professional Development, and finally President.

How did DC EcoWomen help with your professional and personal development?

It definitely helped me professionally. While I am an attorney, I used to get very nervous about speaking publically. All of the public speaking that I had to do with the various positions that I have held helped me overcome that fear. I also had the chance to be involved in ways that are not quite as tangible but still important.

8760784245_7e5c4e13cf_oWhat events are you most proud of?

The day-long conference in 2013. We pulled it off in a couple of months, and everyone seemed to love it! The 10 year gala was also a wonderful accomplishment.

Why would you recommend DC EcoWomen to others?

First of all, for the professional development. That was why I first became involved, but the women I met has kept me involved for all of this time. Women I have met through DC EcoWomen have become close friends; I have even been to the weddings of women I met through the organization.

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I can personally attest that in the past year Christina has always made me feel welcomed and involved. We have been so lucky to have her for as long as we have, and I hope that she will stay involved with the environmental community in DC for years to come.

Thank you Christina for all that you have done!

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 would also like the world to know that Bill Nye the Science Guy is now available on Netflix. 

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By Jessica Christy

After years of property disputes, trail destruction concerns, and a search for an endangered species, one of the DC area’s newest public transportation projects may encounter its most significant obstacles under newly elected Maryland governor, Larry Hogan.

purple line 1History of the Purple Line

The purple line was originally conceived under Maryland Governor Glendening as a connection between the New Carrollton station on the orange line and Silver Spring on the red line. Under the Ehrlich administration, the project was merged with the Georgetown Branch Light Rail Transit, which was proposed to run from the Silver Spring station to Bethesda, both on the red line.

Initially, the purple line was proposed as one of three options: heavy rail (think Metro), light rail, or bus rapid transit. Heavy rail was quickly eliminated as too expensive and light rail is highly favored over a rapid bus line. The current proposal is a 16.2 mile line with 21 stations, which will serve approximately 70,000 riders daily, at a cost of approximately $2.5 billion to build. Having cleared several regulatory hurdles already, construction is scheduled to begin in 2015, but that appears unlikely with Governor Hogan’s refusal thus far to make a decision about whether his administration will proceed with the project.

Contentious Route for the Purple Line

To build the purple line, the Maryland Transit Authority (MTA) will likely have to seize part or all of nearly 350 properties, including condemnation of 12 homes and apartment buildings and between 15 and 20 businesses, according to estimates from 2012. A more recent estimate of the number of properties affected by the purple line was not readily available.

In addition to residences, MTA also had to contend with the Columbia Country Club, a private golf course located near the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and East West Highway. The purple line will bisect the course, which the club says will jeopardize its standing as a competitive course and filed suit to prevent this. Through a series of negotiations and deals, the route through the course was modified and parcels of land were swapped in order to save the competitive layout of the course through the preservation of trees. The club has promised to refrain from participating in any lawsuits to delay or prevent purple line construction.

purple line 2A Futile Search for an Endangered Species

In a bid to prevent the purple line from moving forward as a light rail line, Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail (FCCT) used a $10,000 donation from the Town of Chevy Chase in order to search for three endangered species: one small shrimp-like creature and two small crustacean species. The creatures have never been found in this area and the survey, completed by David Culver of American University, found none of the targeted species. Undeterred, the Town has given FCCT another $20,000 to sample DNA of the water and sediment to determine if any of the target species could live in the area. The results of the DNA sampling should be available this summer.

Election Consequences

Maryland’s current governor, Larry Hogan, campaigned on a promise to kill the purple line (and a related project, the red line, in Baltimore). Closer to the election, Hogan reneged on his plan to scrap the projects and is still “considering” whether to cancel them or allow them to go forward. Governor Hogan’s biggest concern is the cost of the project which, at $2.5 billion, is high. This number is mitigated by $900 million from the federal government, $220 from Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, and further contributions from the public-private partnership. After months of delays on a decision, the Governor is saying he will issue a decision in June.

A new report from Transport for American combats the governor’s arguments about the project’s costs, claiming the purple line would create over 20,000 jobs, cut travel times, increase property values, and save residents money. The line would also increase access to jobs, including nearly 100,000 local residents who will have access to transit. Hogan’s Transportation Secretary recently stated he believed $200 to $300 million could be cut from the total cost. Time will tell if these benefits and potential cost savings will be sufficient for Hogan to move forward with the projects.

The purple line will provide incredible benefits to residents in this area and contribute significantly to reduced automobile congestion in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. Business leaders, local residents, and the local municipalities have been planning for these projects and have a strong desire to see them through. Governor Hogan should stop kicking this decision down the road, recognize the immense benefits the purple will provide, and allow the project to move forward.

Jessica Christy is a second year law student at the University of the District of Columbia and a mother of three. She’s originally from Colorado, but has lived in DC for almost nine years. Before attending law school, she worked in industrial hygiene, including asbestos litigation and workplace safety. In her spare time, she enjoys beating her oldest child at MarioKart and needlepoint.

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Crickets…It’s What for Dinner?

By KC Stover

There has been increasing attention paid to the role of insects as a protein source for humans in the place of meat. Insects do not create the same climate and human health impacts as livestock and they can be raised on a vegetarian diet. Many cultures around the world enjoy insects as an integral part of their diet. There are over 88 countries where insects are consumed regularly and over 1900 species of edible insects worldwide.

Image: Leandra Blei

Image: Leandra Blei

The concept of eating bugs has received a lot of press lately. However, this is not a new practice. As the world struggles to keep up with burgeoning human populations, we are searching for new sources of protein. Insects require much less land to raise and are more efficient at converting feed to protein than most livestock. They also emit fewer greenhouse gases than livestock. The UN has been actively promoting the use of insects to meet our protein needs, and it is an area of major innovation in the food industry.

Currently, there is a $20 million industry around entomophagy in the US, and the concept has received widespread support. However, cultivating and consuming insects on a mass scale is not a simple solution. There are many questions about the real rates of protein conversion, best practices for husbandry and the ideal diet. Regulation has yet to become tailored to this industry and the market is still in its infancy. The Washington Post highlighted that high-density cricket farm operations are still governed by the same USDA regulations as those for livestock.

Some commonly consumed insects are crickets, mealworms, beetles, black soldier flies, butterflies and moths (mostly eaten in their larval and pupal stages), bees and wasps, ants, termites and grasshoppers. Apparently mealworms have a nutty flavor and ants and termites have a lemon flavor to them.

Image: Leandra Blei

Image: Leandra Blei

There are some very unique offerings for insect-based foods. Popular Science reported this month on several new companies, (with 30 insect-based startups since 2012 nationally) including, Critter bitters, Jungle Bar and Chirps (cricket chips) among many others. There are several manners in which insects are being brought to market and the most common is as a protein bar or powder. This powder can be used in a wide variety of recipes, including cookies. Time magazine recently released a list of recipes, including a recipe for deep fried tarantulas.

While insects provide a diverse and more sustainable form of protein than many forms of livestock, integrating them fully into our diet will mean learning to eat in new ways. A nonprofit called Little Herds in Austin, TX has taken on the challenge of changing perceptions and creating markets, and Open Bug Farm is an open forum for insect farming enthusiasts. As consumers and environmentalists, we are presented with the opportunity to help this industry grow in a sustainable way. It will be interesting to see if home production of insects grows in urban environments. An additional challenge is that of bringing production costs down to compete with conventional foods.

Some local DC restaurants, such as Oyamel, are serving insects on their menus. In addition, there is an annual event, the Pestaurant, where restaurants serve insects worldwide. Last year’s event featured a DC restaurant. We can hope to see more insect products on the shelves and I for one will be getting more used to the idea!

KC Stover works on programming for DC EcoWomen and on wildlife conservation issues. With a background in entrepreneurship and the environmental field, she believes that new businesses can create opportunities to address some of our most challenging problems.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Biking to Work: It’s Quite Doable

by Catherine Plume

Bicycle commuting continues to grow in the DC area and according to a US Census report, 4.5 percent of DC residents commuted to work by bike in 2013. Only Portland, Oregon “out bikes” us with 5.9 percent of their commuters using pedal power to commute. Commuter biking is fun, hip, and undoubtedly the quickest way to get around town, but it’s not without its challenges. If you’re considering joining the ranks of the DC bicycle commuter brigade, here are a couple of resources and suggestions to make your commute safer and more efficient.

The Washington Area Bicycle Association (WABA) is a great resource for any DC cyclist, and their lobbying efforts and advocacy have contributed to the development of bike lanes across DC. While bike lanes undoubtedly add protection for cyclists, cycling in traffic – even in bike lanes – requires confidence and respect for other cyclists, pedestrians, and the ever present motorized vehicle. WABA offers adult education classes for city cycling, and they’ll teach you how to change a flat. They also have youth classes cycling education rides. As a WABA member, you’ll receive a 10 percent discount at many DC bike store. Support WABA – it is your DC Area cycling friend!

Cykel

If you’re in the market for a commuter bike, there are a few things to consider. Fatter tires and wheels can cope with potholes and curbs better than skinny tires, but they will slow you down. Hybrid bikes offer a great middle of the road option. Investing in flat resistant tires and/or tubes will cost you a bit more, but are well worth the investment. A bike with a chain guard will save your pants, tights, leggings and shoes from grease spinoff while a lower or no top tube will prevent (or at least minimize) your skirt or dress from blowing up as you ride. Reflectors and lights (front and back) are a must for cycling at night and a helmet is de rigueur ALWAYS. A basket, rear rack and water bottle cage are handy accessories that will make your ride more enjoyable and practical.

Capital BikeShare bikes are great for city cycling, and meet most of the criteria outlined above. Depending on where you live or work and the time of day, finding a bike or an empty docking station can be a challenge. While Capital Bikeshare kiosks provide extra time to find an open dock and a list of where bikes and docks can be found, it can be inconvenient.

Whether you’re bikesharing or riding your own bike, plot out your route before you set out. DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) provides an online bicycle map. Opt for a route that will keep you in bike lanes as much as possible. Stay alert! Do you really need those earbuds in your ears when you’re cycling? Use hand signals to indicate turning and stopping. Everyone – cyclists, pedestrians and motorists – will appreciate this! Let fellow cyclists know that you’re passing them with a friendly “on your left” as you come up behind them. While you’re at it, acknowledge other cyclists when you’re at a stoplight. Make a new friend.

Think about where you’re going to park your bike once you get to work. Does your office provide bicycle parking? Invest in good bicycle locks. Thieves LOVE cable locks as they can cut through them in a pinch. A good U-lock or the new foldable locks are expensive, but they’ll thwart the thieves!

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Looking fresh once you get to work can be a challenge, especially with DC’s hot and humid summers. See if your office has a locker room or a shower for cycling. Keep makeup, towels and work shoes at the office so you don’t have to transport them back and forth every day. Keep some grease remover, hand sanitizer, and a small first aid kit handy just in case. If you’re biking in a skirt or dress that keeps flying up, wrap a coin in the fabric at the front hem and fasten it with a rubber band. This weighted hem will fall between your legs as you cycle and minimize fly up.

Finally, be a safe and responsible cyclist. When that impromptu happy hour happens and you find yourself a bit tipsy, please don’t cycle. You can put your bike on a Metro or Circulator bus or ask your friendly bus driver to help you. (Thank him or her profusely!). Metro trains allows up to two bicycles per car during non-rush hour times. Folded bikes are allowed anytime.

Biking is a great way to get around town! Do it, and bike safely!

Catherine Plume is a long time DC bicycle commuter. She’s the blogger for the DC Recycler; www.DCRecycler.blogspot.com; Twitter: @DC_Recycler.

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Stay Cool In The Hot Hot Heat

6 Ways To Arrive At Your Next Networking Event Cool And Comfortable

If there’s one thing that’s undeniable during DC summers, it’s this: you will walk outside and immediately be wrapped in a blanket of heat. Sticky heat, no less. “Mouth of a dog” heat, according to a poetic co-worker of mine.

But the heat won’t stop the many networking opportunities that take place year-round — and in summer, DC-ites are even more willing to stay out late to enjoy the long days and cool nights. Free from a rigid winter schedule, many creative opportunities arise to meet someone new and find a unique inspiration. The heat is no excuse to avoid finding your next life-changing career opportunity.

So how can you get to your next event — without showing up dripping in sweat? Here are some tips:

Drink Cool Water — And Lots Of It

Keeping a full water bottle with you is key: stay hydrated and the heat might not feel so unbearable. You can put a bottle of water in your fridge or freezer at work and grab it on your way out to keep hydrated and cool.

Layers,  Layers,  Layers!

I bike everywhere in the city, but it’s too easy to work up a sweat in your hot, heavy work clothes. A simple solution is to wear as little as possible when you are traversing the city and bring layer-friendly business clothes with you. When I’m biking, this means I usually just wear bike shorts and a tank top, and throw over a skirt and a button down shirt when I arrive. This outfit may be slightly less acceptable for walking, however, but the idea is the same: you can wear a lightweight business skirt with a tank top or tee, and bring your button down or sweater to throw on as soon as you get indoors.

Consider A Parasol

One issue with my previous suggestion: the god forbidding sun. It can beat down on you like the Belgians beat the States in World Cup overtime (too soon?). I’ve been looking into purchasing a parasol for awhile now, the most elegant way to keep the sun away. Of course, you can always use an umbrella, but parasols are just so adorable!

Like this one, from Amazon:

Pack A Miniature Toiletry Kit

Make sure you don’t get caught unprepared and keep the essentials with you at all times. Simply throw a miniature deodorant stick and maybe a tin of hard perfume into your makeup bag and make a quick restroom break when you arrive to freshen up.

Nab Some Toilet Seat Covers

Bear with me here: it has been scientifically proven — sort of — that toilet seat covers are a great way to absorb your sweat or oil. If you just can’t prevent the inevitable, stuff a couple of these in your bag next time you see them in a restroom, and use them to wipe the sweat off of your face. You can also grab some Starbucks napkins. Works like a charm!

Bring Back The Summer Camp Style

Back in the days of summer camp, a key item was on every campers’ list: portable, miniature electric fan, maybe with a squirt bottle. I’m thinking it’s about time to bring these bad boys back — it may look a little silly but onlookers will surely be jealous of your personalized cool breeze.

What are your tips and tricks for keeping cool in the summer? Leave them in the comments!