Posts Tagged ‘environment’

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Thoughts on Standing “In the Midst of Climate Change”

DC EcoWomen launched its spring photo contest in April and received more than 30 submissions of high-quality, on-topic photos showing how our great community is advancing environmental efforts in DC and around the world. The photos also showed how our members are learning and growing from environmentally-related experiences and putting their leadership skills to good work.

Our People’s Choice photo contest winner, Maggie Dewane, shared a photo of herself during her travels to Antarctica to see climate change firsthand, where unseasonably calm weather was a stark reminder to the realness of a changing planet. We sat down with Maggie to hear firsthand about the winning shot and the inspiration behind it.

DC EcoWomen: Take us back to the time this photo was shot. What was the experience like being there?

Maggie: Of all the days spent in Antarctica, the day this photo was taken was particularly meaningful to me. I had just seen four Adelie penguins—a penguin species that is an indicator of climate change. We were on Petermann Island, historically documented as a nesting ground for Adelies. These penguins thrive in the most frigid and freezing temperatures of Antarctica, but as summers are getting warmer and winters are getting shorter, they are having to move further south down the continent, which means there’s less habitat for them to colonize. So this sighting was novel and exciting, as it is one of the northernmost settlements they live in. Additionally, the majestic backdrops surrounding us were breathtaking and humbling. “We’re actually here!” I and my friend, the photographer of this image, kept saying to one another. We were seeing one of the last untouched wildernesses, in its raw beauty. Though the bright and beaming sun, and those nearby penguins, served as reminder to the reach of anthropogenic-caused climate change, even this incredibly far removed from civilization.

DC EcoWomen: We love opportunities that help EcoWomen members learn and grow. Did this experience help you grow and learn anything about yourself or about the environment?   

Maggie: Absolutely. I traveled to Antarctica because I wanted to be able to play a more active role in climate change conversations. I believe climate change is the greatest threat to our world today, having rippling effects into national security, human health, economic development, environmental justice, and beyond. Being in Antarctica, learning from world class scientists and explorers, who after years of travel to and from this wilderness could attest to changing trends in weather patterns and wildlife behavior, seeing this place firsthand, gave me a unique perspective that I’ve been able to bring home with me. For example, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to tell EcoWomen’s readers about the plight of the Adelie penguin had I not gone on this expedition! The trip also connected me with many passionate conservationists from all walks of life and various professions. To me, this is how change happens: people working together toward progress. We shared ideas, created goals, and went home feeling invigorated to spread messages of conservation and sustainability. For example, the concept of climate change is so unwieldy to so many of us, it can feel like we as individuals cannot have an impact on the broader picture. But if so many of us make small changes, then that can turn into something really huge! For example, think about things you do that require energy or fossil fuel use: can you limit or remove those actions? Take small steps and we’ll be on our way!

DC EcoWomen: What words of wisdom do you have for future photo contest winners to try to snap a winning shot?

Maggie: Be in the moment and don’t actively think about trying to take a great photo. If you’re loving the moment you’re in, reflect on it and enjoy. I was fortunate to be with someone who was always snapping candids, so when she saw me basking in the natural beauty around me, she took the shot! Genuine emotions make for better photos in my opinion.

“In the Midst of Climate Change” by Maggie Dewane

Maggie Dewane is the Press and Communications Officer to the Environmental Investigation Agency. She previously worked for the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the United States Senate. She has a bachelors from Seton Hall University and a masters from Columbia University. Her hobbies include painting, writing, traveling, soccer, and camping and hiking with her dog Argos. 

 

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on A Closer Look at “Tall Girls Tie Tomatoes”

DC EcoWomen launched its spring photo contest in April and received more than 30 submissions of high-quality, on-topic photos showing how our great community is advancing environmental efforts in DC and around the world. The photos also showed how our members are learning and growing from environmentally-related experiences and putting their leadership skills to good work. Our second place winner, Sarah Waybright, shared a photo of herself learning best farming practices at Potomac Vegetable Farms. We sat down with Sarah to hear first hand about the winning shot and the inspiration behind it.

DC EcoWomen: Take us back to the time this photo was shot. What was the experience like being there?

Sarah: Working at Potomac Vegetable Farms is awesome – it can be hard physical labor, but the owners and team there are so fun to be around, and know so much about how to farm and sell produce.  Tomatoes are a high value crop, so the tying part is to help them grow upwards (they’re a vine that doesn’t climb well) for easy harvesting.  These were cherry tomatoes, grown in a hoop house, which is like a greenhouse but without actually being heated; it just retains heat from the sun during the day, so the atmosphere is easier to control when things get above freezing.  You have to bend down to tie the string to the plant base and then reach up to the bar to tie the top end, so it’s a lot of squatting and bending and stretching!

DC EcoWomen: We love opportunities that help EcoWomen members learn and grow. Did this experience help you grow and learn anything about yourself or about the environment?   

Sarah: PVF is “ecoganic” – a word they use to mean that they use organic practices, but are no longer certified organic (to avoid all that paperwork!).  Good food comes from good soil, so they’re constantly thinking about what will enhance soil quality in both mineral and microbial content – mulching, composting, crop rotation, and adding in micorrhizal fungi and biochar to soil to encourage below the ground networking and nutrient sharing between plant roots, fungi, and microbes, to name a few things!

Part of the climate change problem we’re experiencing is created by modern day farming, but what most people don’t realize is that some farming practices not only contribute less but can actually help to reverse climate change by sequestering carbon back into the soil from the air, and working at PVF has led me to many fascinating workshops, conferences, and webinars about how farmers can do this.  My goal is to use a farm for nutrition, environment, and cultural education through immersive and experiential retreats and classes – so for now I’m building the skills and network I will need to do that!

DC EcoWomen: What words of wisdom do you have for future photo contest winners to try to snap a winning shot?

Sarah: A winning picture either has to be beautiful or tell a story – think about not just what’s in the frame composition, but also what it is sharing with the viewer!

Tall Girls Tie Tomatoes

*PVF’s CSA is now open for registration for this season – on-farm pickup or delivery around VA & DC is available!

 Sarah Waybright is a Registered Dietitian and owner of the brand WhyFoodWorks. She is currently a health coach for Wellness Corporate Solutions, teaches nutrition through seminars and private events in and around Washington, DC, and works on Potomac Vegetable Farms a few days a week to learn more about how our food is grown.   Her favorite forms of exercise are hiking, yoga, & PopSugarFitness YouTube workouts, and her hobby of choice is pottery.  You can find her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or Instagram to get food tips and nutrition information and healthy recipes.  

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Who are “The Mentors?”

DC EcoWomen launched its spring photo contest in April and received more than 30 submissions of high-quality, on-topic photos showing how our great community is advancing environmental efforts in DC and around the world. The photos also showed how our members are learning and growing from environmentally-related experiences and putting their leadership skills to good work. Our grand prize winner, Elizabeth Hogan, shared a photo of three strong women who served as mentors while on an expedition to save marine mammals from entanglement in Alaska. We sat down with Elizabeth to hear first hand about the winning shot and the inspiration behind it.

DC EcoWomen: First of all, congratulations! What a powerful image. Take us back to the time this photo was shot. What was the experience like being there?

Elizabeth: This shot was taken in July 2015, on a trip to locate and disentangle injured Steller sea lions in Glacier Bay, Alaska.  We were onboard a research vessel on the water for two weeks, rolling the rescue work into a larger population survey of the species.  I had never been to Alaska before and to spend that time on Glacier Bay was an incredible privilege; the scenery was astounding and I was aware every second of how lucky I was to be there.  Glacier Bay is a temperate rainforest; which meant that it rained consistently every day and the temperature was in the low 40s, so eight hours in a skiff each day was definitely not warm (“In the interest of staying wet” became a group motto by the end).  But this trip was an opportunity to learn from leading experts in a new, emerging science: pinniped disentanglement. The three women in the photo are scientists whose work and research I had followed for years, so to join them on a rescue trip was an incredible opportunity to participate in the advancement of this field, and one of the biggest honors of my career to that point.    

DCEW: What was the purpose of the trip and what were you hoping to achieve?

Elizabeth: I was new at pinniped rescue (pinnipeds are a marine mammal that can use their flippers to “walk” on land, like seals, sea lions, and walruses) and as part of the work that I do for World Animal Protection on marine wildlife entanglement I had helped put together this rescue mission, to send a team of experts to this region to locate and rescue Steller sea lions with entanglement injuries. This usually means that the animal either has a hook and line caught in their mouth, from stealing a fish in one of Alaska’s commercial fisheries, or a plastic entanglement around their neck, digging into their muscle tissue from an encounter with some form of marine debris lost in the ocean. Both injuries are incredibly painful for the animals and prevent feeding and engaging in social behaviors. Our goal was both to disentangle as many sea lions as we could and to fine-tune the rescue methodology of remote immobilization, which is a long way of saying anesthetizing the animal via dart gun so that we could remove the material and apply medication.  Stellers can grow up to over 2000 pounds; it would not be safe to approach one when fully alert.  Any animals rescued on this trip would also give us more information about the anesthetics we were using, and establish protocols for rescues in the water in contrast to those done on land.

DCEW: We love opportunities that help DC EcoWomen members learn and grow. Did this experience help you grow and learn anything about yourself or about the environment?   

Elizabeth: Without a doubt. At the outset I hadn’t expected to go on the trip, just to make sure that an expert team could go and had the equipment they needed. But at the very last minute a spot opened up on the vessel and they asked me to join them. I was ridiculously excited, but also nervous – I was the new kid with very little experience and wanted to learn and to be useful without getting in their way. The willingness of these three scientists to give me this opportunity and talk me through each scenario was not only a huge step in my own experience with pinniped rescue but also a great reminder of what I hope to be able to do for others when I am further along in my career.

Seeing such horrific injuries to these beautiful animals in an environment as remote and pristine as Glacier Bay – miles from land – was also a firsthand view of how pervasive plastics are in the marine ecosystem.  It’s devastating to see the harm caused to wildlife from our plastic pollution.

DCEW: What words of wisdom do you have for future photo contest winners to try to snap a winning shot?

Elizabeth: No one should ever take my words on photography as “wisdom” as I am still someone who occasionally gets their thumb in the shot, but I will say that one of my favorite things about this photo was that none of the three women in this shot had any idea I was taking it; and we were on a very small skiff (I was at most two feet away) so it speaks to how completely absorbed they are in the job. It’s just a personal preference, but I always liked shots of people focused on what they are doing rather than looking at the camera.  The job at hand was to determine how best to approach a large, injured Steller sea lion in a very challenging environment – dangerous, slippery rock outcroppings in the middle of very cold & wet Glacier Bay, Alaska.  There’s a sense of that environment not just in the background but also in all the gear they are wearing (and I also liked the way our bulky “float coats” were this pop of bright color). It’s hard to explain to people that when it comes to the “action” of pinniped disentanglement, we sometimes have contact with the animal for 20 minutes or less, but hours of prep goes into those 20 minutes, and I took this shot in an attempt to convey that.

See the five winning shots from our 2017 Photo Contest >>

Elizabeth Hogan is the Program Manager for Oceans and Wildlife with World Animal Protection, where she specializes in marine wildlife entanglement in addition to work on marine debris, whaling policy, and wildlife in captivity.  For the last five years, she has researched the impact of derelict fishing gear on marine mammals and worked on establishing rescue networks and protocols for entangled marine life.  Her research on packaging and pinniped entanglement was published earlier this month in the Journal of International Wildlife Law & Policy.  When not obsessing about marine animals & ocean plastic, Elizabeth can be found running in Rock Creek Park with her dog, reading about politics, exploring the globe, or baking something.

Follow her on Twitter: @EHHogan

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Teddy Roosevelt’s Mar-a-Lago

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. 

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By Heidi Bishop

As the new administration’s impact on energy policy unfolds, increased interest in pursuing “clean coal” technologies have likely put Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) more squarely on your radar. The new “America First Energy Plan” makes no mention of solar, wind, or other renewable energy resources but does state a commitment to “clean coal technology, and to reviving America’s coal industry, which has been hurting for too long.” For DC EcoWomen active in energy policy, this is a good time to understand the current state of the technology.

While there are several ways to reduce the various harmful emissions from a coal plant so that it can be labeled “clean coal,” most energy plans citing clean coal are referring to the use of CCS as a method for reducing the carbon content from plant emissions to protect coal as a major form of baseload generation. In short, CCS requires a means of separating CO2 from either the fuel or emissions of a power plant, capturing and stabilizing this isolated CO2 in a solid or compressing it in gas, and then storing it over centuries. CO2 can be removed from coal directly through pre-firing degasification, such as in an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plant, or through oxyfiring. CO2 can also be removed in post-processing of emissions. Both approaches are feasible, but expensive, and energy-intensive operations that require significant capital expenditures can reduce plant efficiencies by as much as 20%.

CCS is a complex technology, and there are many useful resources available from the DOE, IEA, or the Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA) to learn more. In more mainstream discussions, however, here are two Clean Coal myths you might come across:

Myth 1: Clean Coal Technologies are Market-Ready

Some proponents point to existing pilots for CCS or utility projects underway as proof that the technology is proven for large scale deployment and poised for growth. While there is significant technical potential for CCS in terms of engineering feasibility and substantial amounts of potential underground storage locations, as a commercial matter CCS is still an infant technology that is likely going to be very expensive initially and is not yet available at a broad scale.

NRG’s Petra Nova plant in Texas, which is paired with enhanced oil recovery to improve its economics, is now up and running as a major success, but the majority of projects are not. Several projects have generally followed a pattern of initial public support, steep cost overruns, engineering problems, eventual public opposition, and suspension or cancellation. Such projects include Future Gen 2 in Illinois. Once the poster-child for CCS, this project was in development as early as 2006, revised beginning in 2010, and then eventually cancelled in 2015. Similarly, the Kemper County IGCC project in Mississippi, which is currently 3 years behind and $4 billion over budget, has recently found that it will be more economic for it to run on natural gas than the coal it was originally intended to use. All of which leads to the next myth…

Myth 2: Clean Coal Plus Lighter Regulations Can Bring Back the Coal Industry

Coal generation and mining have steadily decreased in past years primarily due to competition with low-priced natural gas which makes coal generation uneconomical for a lot of plants. Secondary cases are low load growth, renewable generation, and environmental regulations such as the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) targeting arsenic and metals air pollution from coal and oil plants.

The stayed and now-cancelled Clean Power Plan (CPP) to impose carbon emission restrictions and pricing mechanisms on the power industry is often blamed for impairing coal, but in fact those regulations were not very strong and would have had little impact on an already-suffering coal industry. For example, projections from the Energy Information Administration that do not incorporate compliance with the CPP still include significant retirements of coal resources over the next few years.

Because the falling demand for coal is driven by the availability of lower cost resources, the business case to invest in new coal generation at all is weak—especially for coal with expensive CCS which can increase costs by around 75%.

Despite all these economic forces against coal and CCS, coal generation is not going to be obsolete any time soon. Today’s existing coal plants are often fairly clean in terms of more noxious pollutants like SO2, NOX, and particulates (and can still be improved), have very long engineering lives left, and can continue running on plentiful and fairly cheap coal.

Unfortunately, we are not yet in a position to rely entirely on zero-carbon technologies like renewables because the storage technologies needed to smooth their intermittent availability to meet our consumption patterns are still too expensive for wide use. Technical and economic research in clean coal may still be valuable to address CO2 emissions in parts of the world where coal remains a critical energy supply. Gas-fired power plants also emit CO2, albeit at less than half the rate per kWh as coal, so they also eventually may need CCS. Thus, in many ways, the exact future of clean coal is unsure.

Over the next few years there will be push and pull between regional and national climate policies in the U.S. as well as changes in the economics of competing with natural gas and renewable energy. These influences, however, cannot change the facts that CCS technology is nowhere close to being advanced enough to rapidly expand overnight and that the U.S. coal industry is at best looking to be sustained rather than restored to former levels.

 

 

Heidi Bishop is a marketing and policy associate at a consulting firm based in DC. She specializes in energy policy research, identifying business development opportunities, and developing publications. She has worked on a variety of energy policy topics with a focus on new business models for electric utilities, “Utility of the Future” efforts, distributed energy resources, and retail regulatory strategy. Ms. Bishop received her BA and MBA from Salisbury University and a Master of Public Management – Policy Track, Environmental Concentration from the University of Maryland.

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By Tamara Toles O’Laughlin

Blog- Jul 18, 2016

It’s about time

It has been less than one week since police officers unjustifiably and unwarrantedly took the lives of Mr. Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Mr. Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. And even fewer days amidst subsequent protests and the assassination of eight police officers in Dallas, Texas and Baton Rouge.

These killings occurred within weeks of one of the largest mass shootings in modern history, taking the lives of forty-nine humans enjoying a night out in Orlando, and on the heels of numerous other police killings of black men and boys.

Each incident entered the public consciousness through the intervention of technology which provided real-time, irrefutable accounts of the action. Often enough the depictions in these videos starkly contrast official accounts provided by state actors.

City

As a DC EcoWoman and environmental advocate focused on equity, access, and justice, I have contributed to the public discourse on topics including intersectionality, equity, and community. This was a choice to explicitly include the cannon of environmental work in the context of larger social justice frameworks.

On the surface, it can appear that campaigns for clean air, clean water, biodiversity, stewardship and meaningful engagement in the distribution of resources, benefits, or burdens are disintegrated and separate. They are not. In the silos of organization we address them as single issues. We do this to mount focused campaigns, to develop and gauge milestones, and to avoid the feeling that the big picture is too overwhelming.

In this space and others, I do my best to dismantle ideas about the utility of this kind of single track thinking. And in so doing, highlight the tendency of environmental institutions to avoid the social justice community out of a dangerous sense of impropriety, relevance, or lack of invitation.

Resist numbness

Despite the mind-blowing horror of these unceremonious executions and the implications of their frequency and occurrence, there have been moments of sheer human goodness, sacrifice, presence, and accord which have helped me to resist numbness. Each has helped me to withstand the urge to find a blanket, and retreat from my efforts to connect the dots for capital “J” Justice here in the nation’s capital.

A great many of these moments have come courtesy of public statements of solidarity in the wake of tragedy. Statements from the environmental community which had – until now – languished in privilege which provided the luxury to avoid speaking out or declaring a position.

As an environmentalist, I have waited for a long time to meet my colleagues in this intersection and to see the parallels begin to register in a sea change in thinking and action.

Statements of solidarity

I want to share some of the public actions in solidarity with the non-violent movement for Black Lives in order to spread some of the positivity which has emerged around another ugly moment in our collective history.

nature-forest-trees-high

No time like the present

It is my hope that these public displays provide some solace which can inform the next stage of the grieving process. But more importantly I want it to act as ballast for what must happen next.

As EcoWomen, we have every capacity to act on behalf of our comrades in social justice (and ourselves) to address inequity, stave off violence, and fight for justice. We do it every day, in every medium the earth yields, taking on climate change and our role in it.

As change agents, policy makers and activists, we must turn our collective gaze to organizing state level reforms to punch through the (national) illusion that big problems are insurmountable.We already organize, legislate, advocate and agitate every day for gains which won’t be realized for generations. We continually rework the system to accomplish the greatest good.

As such, I implore you to do the same here and now. Resist numbness (!) with an eye towards alignment with civil and social justice movements.

ForestNo one expects that we can halt the American contribution to climate change in one session of Congress. As such, we know that prejudice, privilege and targeted undervaluation of black lives will not be solved overnight, or really ever made right.

Now is the time.  Take up your voice, intellect, organizational skill, fast feet, slow cooking skills or plain wrapped freedom and put them into the collective space.  Leverage yourself against the weight of all this wrong to realize more hope and less systematically designed hurt.

Get involved, in your neighborhood and community, as you are now. No invitation required. It’s time to see the forest and the trees.

* Disclosure – I am a Director on the Board of Directors of Women’s Voices for the Earth, but was not involved in the writing of the solidarity statement.

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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GAC_KAB_wordmarksBy Jessica Wilmer

For the past 63 years, April has been celebrated as Keep America Beautiful month. The campaign began in 1953 with a simple goal: To engage individuals to take greater responsibility for improving their community environments.

They have successfully launched and promoted dozens of campaigns including The Great American Clean-Up, America Recycles Day and they were even the inspiration behind Earth Day which launched in 1970.

All of KAB’s programs focus on their three goals: End Littering, Improve Recycling, and Beautify Communities.

Unfortunately, over the years Keep America Beautiful has drawn some strong criticism.

Greenwashed

KAB was established in coordination with “a group of corporate and civic leaders… to bring the public and private sectors together to develop and promote national cleanliness ethic.”

factory graphicThis is all well and good, but they left out that many of the corporate leaders were also notorious polluters. Because of this, some argue that KAB was created to deflect blame from the beverage and packaging companies to the wider American public. It’s coincidental that the organization’s message targets individuals without mentioning the corporate offenders.

This, my eco-friends, is greenwashing. The companies involved don’t want anyone looking into their practices, so they spend the big bucks to point the finger elsewhere.

litterbugAnd it is further enforced by the decades’ long relationship between KAB and the Ad Council. Together, they produced dozens of PSA’s condemning the actions of the public. By coining the term “litterbug,” they made it immediately horrifying to be seen throwing garbage on the ground.

Remember the offensive “Crying Indian” PSA? The voice-over firmly states, “People Start Pollution. People can stop it.”

People_Start_Pollution_-_1971_Ad

We can all agree that KAB’s goals are commendable. The problem lies in their message– they take a band-aid approach instead of focusing on preventative maintenance.

Where did they go wrong?

1. Ethical consumerism
As consumers, we need to take our responsibility extremely seriously. We are represented in the dollars we spend. So if you spend the majority of your money at big box stores, what message does that send? Now if you spend your money at a company that pays a living wage and works on improving their environmental footprint, is that more of the message you want to send? I’m looking at you, Patagonia.

Ethical consumerism is both our offense and defense. We have the choice to purchase products that don’t have a negative social or environmental impact and to dutifully patron the companies that produce those goods.

2. Product stewardship

Essentially this is the core of corporate responsibility and the missing piece with Keep America Beautiful. Companies should focus on the environmental, health, and safety effects of their products from creation to disposal.

The product stewardship doesn’t end with companies. Consumers must be product stewards as well. After we consciously purchase our goods, we must take it upon ourselves to reduce their environmental, health, and safety impacts as well.

What can we do?F2681EN-do-not-litter-sign

  • Don’t litter- It pollutes and poisons the waterways.
  • Recycle all items that can be and speak up when other people don’t.
  • Plant trees and flowers not only to make your community beautiful, but to return to the earth what we’ve taken away.

Once you’ve done that, figure out how you can take it a step further.

I’m guessing is the answer is yes.

Let’s refocus

Consumers and companies share a combined responsibility and accountability for waste, excess, and pollution.

So this Keep America Beautiful Month, let’s focus on being ethical consumers and let’s think before we purchase. Let’s strive to become better product stewards and let’s hold all companies to higher standards.

And if it’s not too much trouble, maybe plant a tree or two.

Jessica Wilmer is an aspiring blogger, vlogger, photographer, and activist. She currently works in finance and lives with her boyfriend on Capitol Hill. You can usually find them at the farmers market in their matching Patagonia sweaters looking for new veggies to include in their repertoire of vegetarian dishes.

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by Jessica Wilmer

I am awful at keeping New Year’s Resolutions. There is something about them that screams, “Make ridiculous requests of yourself, then feel guilty when you can’t live up to your own expectations!”

So for 2016, I decided to go with something that seemed more attainable: reduce waste. More specifically, I decided to focus on food waste: both the food itself and related packaging.

Six R's are better than three

Six R’s are better than three

Waste has weighed on my conscience for many years now, and our “throw-away culture” doesn’t ease my pain. Sometimes it feels as if we make things just to throw them away.

Part of my resolution was to learn more about waste. Over the past few months, I’ve watched upsetting documentaries*, read eye-opening articles, and researched many amazing local organizations, including the Food Recovery Network and Hungry Harvest.

It might surprise some people that over 40% of the food produced in the US each year is thrown away and 23% of the solid waste stream comes from packaging and single-use containers. It’s become an epidemic that costs over $218 billion a year in the US alone.

While I have learned a lot through my research, the real lessons have come by making the conscious effort to stop and think every time I purchase or eat food.

A few lessons learned

3514710196_ba6d7b3a87_oSingle Use items are out of control

Have you seen that awful video of the sea turtle conservation group, Leatherback Trust, removing a single use straw from a sea turtle’s nose? Google it. It is a seriously devastating visual of what can happen to single-use products after their purpose is served.

On a typical day, Americans use over 500 million single-use straws. 500 MILLION. Just let that sink in for a second.

Always ask questions

While brainstorming ways to reduce waste, I wondered if it was ok to bring reusable packaging to the market for bulk items.

It turns out you can; all you have to do is ask! The customer service desk at the Foggy Bottom Whole Foods was more than happy to help me navigate their system. Turns out, bringing cloth bags and glass jars is a quick and easy way to get rice, quinoa, greens, and many other items while skipping the extra packaging.

Photo credit: Jessica Wilmer & Steve Milner of http://www.dcphotoop.com/

Photo credit: Jessica Wilmer & Steve Milner of DCPhotoOp

Check your trash

Household_food_trash_NY

Photo credit: petrr

I noticed that the majority of the paper waste in my home came from paper towels. It’s amazing how many of those suckers you rip off when you are learning to cook!

Luckily, I stumbled upon Bamboo paper towels. They are easy to wash out while you’re using them, and when they get too gross, you can throw them in the laundry with your towels. Some can be washed up to 100 times! Sustainable, reusable material? Definitely a win-win.

Going Forward

Be prepared

Single-use containers are everywhere, and our food service industry has made them almost impossible to avoid. However, my experience taught me that you will feel more successful when you have all the proper tools.

I carry a reusable, glass water bottle, coffee mug, and set of bamboo utensils every day. I also keep a set of dishes and utensils at my office, so I’m not tempted by single-use options. Every time I hear, “Grande Americano in a personal cup”, I feel like I’ve received a gold star.

You will save money!

A huge portion of food costs is in the packaging, so when you just buy the food you bypass that cost. Bonus! This summer you won’t have to spend $2 on a bottle of water at that hot-dog stand, and you’ll save a bit each time you bring a personal mug to your local Seattle-based coffee shop.

The Wave of the Future

Thankfully, food and packaging waste has come into the spotlight. Recently the government stepped up efforts that address this large and systemic problem. Individuals and companies are also realizing that food waste affects not only the environment, but also the economy and hunger.

If the momentum continues, I think that there can be a real change. We have already done a significant amount of damage both financially and environmentally, but we do have the ability to stop the damage from growing exponentially.

I may be just one person who made just one resolution, but for the sake of the environment, this is one I’m going to keep.

Jessica Wilmer is an aspiring blogger, vlogger, photographer, and activist. She currently works in finance and lives with her boyfriend on Capitol Hill. You can usually find them at the farmers market in their matching Patagonia sweaters looking for new veggies to include in their repertoire of vegetarian dishes.


* Recommended documentaries: “Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch” (2013) and Morgan Suprlock’s “United States of Trash” on his series “Inside Man” (2015)

posted by | on , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Glimpsing into the Emerging Market of Home Energy Storage

By Sarah Peters

At last December’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP 21), the USA set ambitious goals to cut carbon emissions and to invest in clean energy. One of the ways that we will reach those goals is through renewable energy technology. And already, we can see industry and policy pushing forward.

Meeting the current challenge

When I say “renewable energy” you probably imagine this:

renewables

Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind are inconsistent; on sunny or windy days, they produce more energy than the grid demands. The primary challenge is how to store that extra energy efficiently for use during windless nights and sunless days.

Currently, the most common and cheapest way to store energy is pumped hydro. Here is how it works:

Water is pumped from a low elevation reservoir to a high elevation reservoir during peak energy production. When renewable sources are not meeting the energy demand, water falls from the higher reservoir, spinning a turbine to generate electricity.

PumpedHydro

Although pumped hydro stands at 99% of global bulk energy storage, it is clearly impractical for residential use.

Innovating a better battery

When I think of renewable energy, I think about this: TeslaPowerWall

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are one option for storing energy in the home. In the past, this option was impractical due to high cost.

However, in recent years lithium-ion batteries have become more attractive as prices fall, which has driven further private sector innovation. A Deutsche Bank report estimates that lithium-ion battery prices could fall by 20-30% a year, becoming cost-competitive with traditional batteries by 2022.

This has heated up international competition to build the best home energy storage options.

Using the infrastructure that we already have

Electric water heaters are essentially pre-installed thermal batteries that are sitting idle in homes across the U.S. – the Brattle Group

waterheaterAnother potential form of energy storage harnesses the storage potential of a common household appliance – the water heater. Using water heater tanks as thermal energy batteries can reduce communities’ environmental footprints and electricity costs by storing excess energy for use during higher-priced peak periods.

An energy cooperative began testing this concept in February, launched in Minnesota by Great River Energy, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), and the Peak Load Management Alliance (PLMA).

“When the wind is blowing or the sun is shining, large capacity water heaters can make immediate use of that energy to heat water to high temperatures. The water heaters can be shut down when renewables are scarce and wholesale costs are high,” explains Gary Connett of Great River Energy.

By controlling the water heaters of 65,000 participants, Great River Energy has managed to store a gigawatt-hour of energy every night.

With political will, there is a way

Adopting home energy storage will only happen where it makes economic sense. Chances are, the leaders will be in regions with supportive policies.

One such policy is called net metering, which is a billing policy where utility companies pay residential and commercial customers for the excess renewable energy generated at home. Early adopters include Germany, Australia, as well as a few U.S. States: California, Oregon and New York.

Daily_net_metering

As renewable grid-connected resources mature, it is likely that more governments, regulators and utilities will enact their own incentives for energy storage. The momentum is growing.

Moving forward in this emerging market, a combination of economic and political forces will determine where and how residential energy storage flourishes.

Sarah Peters graduated from Gettysburg College in 2010 with a B.A. in Environmental Studies. She has written articles and blog posts for the Wilderness Society, Maryland Sierra Club, and DC EcoWomen. She volunteers for the Wilderness Society while seeking her next career opportunity.

posted by | on , , , , , , , | Comments Off on How the U.S. Can Meet Its Climate Pledge

By Manjyot Bhan

I let out a cheer when Leonardo DiCaprio mentioned climate change during his Oscars acceptance speech. But concern about climate extends far beyond the red carpet.

Religious leaders, military officials, mayors, governors, business executives, and leaders of the world’s nations are all speaking about the need to address the greenhouse gas emissions that threaten our environment and economies.

Last December, world leaders reached a landmark climate agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 21) that commits all countries to contribute their best efforts and establishes a system to hold them accountable. COP 21’s Paris Agreement also sent a signal to the world to ramp up investment in a clean energy and clean transportation future.

U.S. goals and the Clean Power Plan

The U.S. committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 level by 2025. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Clean Power Plan was touted as a key policy tool to help reach that goal. However, with the recent surprise stay of the rule by U.S. Supreme Court, can the U.S. still meet its climate pledge? Simply put, yes.

Clean coal plantUnder the Clean Power Plan, the EPA sets unique emissions goals for each state and encouraged states to craft their own solutions. It is projected that the rule will reduce power sector carbon emissions at least 32 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2030.

Last month’s stay does not challenge “whether” EPA can regulate—the court has already ruled that it can—but rather “how” it can regulate. And the stay is not stopping many states and power companies from continuing to plan for a low-carbon future.

Some of the key ingredients that led to success at COP 21—national leadership and a strong showing by “sub-national actors,” including states, cities and businesses—will also be fundamental to U.S. success in meeting its climate goals.

Other federal policy for emissions reduction

A recent event in Washington—held by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and New America—outlined the gap between existing policy trajectories and the U.S. goal. A secondary outcome of the meeting also explored how federal, state, and local policies and actions can leverage technology to close the gap.

Solar and windAn analysis by the Rhodium Group found that even without the Clean Power Plan, the recently extended federal tax credits for solar and wind energy will help significantly. Existing federal policies on fuel economy standards for vehicles and energy efficiency also support the U.S. goals, as well policies in the works to regulate hydrofluorocarbons and methane emissions from oil and gas operations.

States and cities drive climate innovation

States and cities made a strong showing of support for the Paris Agreement, and they have emerged as leaders in promoting energy efficiency and clean energy.

Additionally, many states are continuing to work toward implementing aspects of the Clean Power Plan. And even those not doing public planning are discussing ways states and the power sector can collaborate to cut carbon emissions cost-effectively. Last month, a bipartisan group of 17 governors announced they will jointly pursue energy efficiency, renewable energy, and electric and alternatively fueled vehicles. The Clean Power Plan stay can be looked at as giving states more time to innovate.

Private sector commitments to climate

Business Climate PledgeMore than 150 companies have signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge committing to steps such as cutting emissions, reducing water usage and using more renewable energy across their supply chains. One hundred companies have signed the Business Backs Low-Carbon USA, which calls the entire business community to transition to a low-carbon future.

Following the court’s stay, many power companies came out in support of the rule or reaffirmed plans to work toward clean energy and energy-efficiency.

A 2015 UNEP report suggests that beyond each countries’ individual commitments, actions by sub-national actors across the globe can result in net additional contributions of 0.75 to 2 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2020. While it is hard to accurately quantify the specific contributions of U.S. states, cities, and businesses in reducing emissions, they have the potential to accelerate the pace at which the U.S. meets its climate goals.

Manjyot Bhan is a Policy Fellow at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES). She holds a Ph.D. in public administration and environmental policy from American University’s School of Public Affairs and earned her Master’s in Corporate Sustainability from Arizona State University. When she isn’t being a policy wonk, Manjyot enjoys wine-tasting, hanging out with friends, and working out at a barre studio. Manjyot lives with her husband in Washington, D.C. and works across the river in Arlington, VA. 

Follow Manjyot on Twitter @ManjAhluwalia and LinkedIn page.