Posts Tagged ‘environment’

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The holidays are almost here — which means that the season of eating is about to begin! DC EcoWomen board member Erica Meier shares how you can make a difference for our planet during this holiday season by choosing to eat a plant-based diet.  

By Erica Meier

The international scientific consensus is clear. Report after report paints an alarming yet sobering scene: Global warming is real, it’s happening now and human activities are largely to blame. 

The forecast is bleak: Worsening weather extremes and severe storms, disease outbreaks, altered coastlines, and more, with negative consequences on human health, particularly those in impoverished or marginalized communities. Specifically, according to Oxfam, women around the world, including in the US, will continue to be disproportionately affected by climate change. Which is why climate action must engage and benefit women and girls.  

As alarming as this message is, however, it’s not new. There’s been growing scientific consensus on this topic for years, if not decades, with environmental advocates and others waving red flags the whole time.

The good news is that there’s something more immediate and tangible we, the people, can do right now that will have a lasting collective impact: Eat plants.

There is widespread agreement in the research community, including reports from the United Nations, that raising animals for food is a leading cause of pollution and resource depletion. One of the most important actions each of us can take to reduce our environmental footprint is to choose plant-based foods. 

For example, did you know:  

  • It takes 420 gallons of water to produce just one pound of grain-fed chicken? 
  • The amount of manure produced on factory farms is three times greater than the amount of waste produced by humans — and there are no sewage treatment plants for animal waste? 
  • The production of animal feed, including pastures for grazing, takes up almost 80% of the world’s agricultural land resources?
  • The cattle industry is responsible for 80% of the forest clearing in the Amazon? 

In addition, hidden cameras are routinely capturing the immense suffering forced upon billions of animals each year behind the closed doors of the meat, egg, and dairy industries — and more recently the aquaculture industry.

Imagine how much more efficient and sustainable our food system could be if we ate plants directly rather than funneling them through farmed animals. A recent report by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences put a number on it: the production of plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy is two- to 20-fold more nutritionally efficient per unit of cropland than our current resource-intensive animal-based system.

As stated by the United Nations in 2006: “Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems.” In 2010, the UN further declared that “a substantial reduction of impacts [from agriculture] would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change away from animal products.”

More recently, a lead researcher on a report published in Science summed it up in The Guardian by concluding: “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth … it is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car.”

And yet, the herbivorous elephant in the room remains largely ignored in discussions about how to fight climate change. The answer is literally in our hands: We can use our forks! 

As we continue to work towards policy change and corporate reform, we can also take direct action by diverting our monetary support away from foods that are destroying our planet and causing animal suffering, and instead green our diet with more plants. 

Without a doubt, our food choices matter. Every time we sit down to eat, each of us can stand up for the planet, our health and animals. We can start today simply by making our next meal a plant-based one.

Erica Meier is a DC EcoWomen board member. She is also the president of Compassion Over Killing, a national animal protection organization that hosts the annual DC VegFest and promotes plant-based eating a way to build a kinder, greener, and healthier world for all.

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Five Steps to Make Your Wardrobe More Sustainable

By Hana G.

Fashion has a major impact on the environment. Each year, the United States, alone, sends about 21 billion pounds of textile waste to landfills. Most clothing is made of materials and chemicals derived from fossil fuel-based crude oil. This means that it’s nearly impossible for clothing to decompose. If burned, the materials that make up clothing release harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. When clothes are buried with other waste in landfills, moisture and heat can cause them to emit greenhouse gases such as methane. And, there’s also the environmental impact of items such as buttons, zippers, and studs to consider. There are ways that you can combat fashion’s impact on the environment by doing your part to make your wardrobe more sustainable.

Consider the five steps below as your guide to a more sustainable way of style:

  1. Educate yourself

 First and foremost, taking the time to educate yourself is a fool-proof way to discover sustainable style options. Do your part to research brands that offer eco-friendly apparel as well as companies that strive to minimize the waste they generate from their products. Take note of which fashion lines use only organic, vegan fabric options.

There are also several companies that make it a point to produce smaller amounts of clothing each season to avoid the harmful repercussions of fast fashion. The next time you’re shopping in-store and looking for more information on eco-friendly policies, ask an employee about their stance on sustainability. In addition, most fashion retailers who value sustainability have a section on their website.

  1. Buy for longevity

A great way to get more wear out of your clothes, thus increasing their sustainability, is by buying for longevity. While you might be tempted to browse the sale racks and find five-dollar sweaters for this season, if the prices are too good to be true, there’s usually a reason. In most cases, a lower price point also means lower quality.

Instead of spending money on items you’ll only be able to wear a few times, try increasing the longevity of your wardrobe by spending a bit more on pieces you can wear in years to come. If you keep in mind the closet life of your clothing purchases, you’ll have fewer items that end up in landfills – and you’ll establish staple pieces of your style to keep around for a while.

  1. Buy secondhand

Shopping secondhand is a great way to shop sustainably. Purchasing pre-owned items from thrift stores is the perfect way to shop for what you need and put our planet first. Whether you’re looking for vintage decor for your new apartment or you’re hoping to spice up your style with some eclectic clothing, most local thrift stores have what you need if you’re willing to look for it.

There are also online thrifting options – such as thredUP – that allow you to browse used, name brands from the comfort of your own home. If your taste tends to be on the fancier side, you can find your favorite name brands like Coach for less by looking online instead of in-store.

  1. Restyle your wardrobe

Developing a sustainable wardrobe doesn’t mean you need to go out and purchase all new clothes. Try optimizing your current clothing options by restyling what you already have. Spend a day clearing out every item in your closet, and have some fun putting together new looks you’ve never tried before.

The more use you can get out of what you already have, the more sustainable your wardrobe will be. Whether you decide to turn some of your T-shirts into trendier crop tops, or you fashion some rips into an older pair of jeans, try some DIY to keep your old clothes up to date. This will allow you to get as much use as possible out of all of your current clothes.

  1. Buy from local vendors

You know those cute boutiques you always pass by but never take the time to browse? It might be time to start shopping locally. Most local vendors source their materials within 60 miles, which minimizes the amount of gas used to transport their products – and their carbon footprint.

Buying from local vendors is also a great opportunity to take the time to find out if they value sustainability. While you might be spending a little more than you’re used to on your style, you’ll also be investing in a great cause by buying local.

Hana G. is a creative content creator who values both style and sustainability.

 

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on DC Ecowomen help collect 6,365 pounds of trash

By Meagan Knowlton

It only takes five second to produce a plastic spoon. It takes 500 years for that spoon to break down.

That disparity is one of the many reasons we all need to take action to reduce the impact of our waste on the environment. One way to do that is to clean up trash already littering our natural spaces.

I recently attended the International Coastal Cleanup day hosted by the Ocean Conservancy (OC) at Kingman Island here in D.C. – a man-made island in the Anacostia River filled with early fall greenery and chirping insects.

I met up with two other women working in environmental jobs here in D.C. After enjoying catching up and finding delicious cold brew, we heard from several speakers from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and OC, as well as the ambassador from the European Union, who talked about how important it is to keep our oceans and waterways healthy and trash-free.

The crowd of volunteers ready to scour Kingman Island for trash.

A beautiful day for cleaning up trash along the Anacostia River.

After the welcoming speeches, we got to work but first we had to find a good spot to find trash. The popular areas of the island were already very clean– the Living Classrooms Foundation, which manages the island, does a great job keeping the trails free of trash. However, when we passed below overpasses and bridges, we found cigarette butts, bottle caps, food wrappers, and beverage bottles, which, according to NOAA, commonly end up in our oceans.

Volunteers pick up trash below a bridge on Kingman Island.

Finding trash treasure troves required digging into the marshy areas of Kingman Island. Once we crawled under cattails and other tall vegetation, we found great piles of trash — most of it plastic, particularly plastic bottles of all kinds, and sports balls. The three of us ended up with two soccer balls, one basketball, one tennis ball, and one football. For all the times you lost a ball as a kid and wondered where it went, we found your answer: It went downhill until it reached your local waterway.

We aren’t afraid to get a little muddy in the name of cleaning up our waterways!

At the end of the day, OC tallied up our total results and announced that 1,153 volunteers had collected 6,365 pounds of trash. We were proud that we beat last year’s haul of 5,000 pounds of trash!

Learn more about ocean trash, current efforts to solve the crisis, and what you can do to help here.

Meagan Knowlton manages sustainability programs at Optoro, a technology company that helps retail be more sustainable by eliminating waste from returns. Prior to Optoro, Meagan was a corporate sustainability manager in the Coca-Cola bottling system. She holds a Master of Environmental Management from Duke University and a B.S. in Environmental Science from Tulane University. In her free time, Meagan can be found baking pie, escaping to the mountains, or exploring yoga studios in D.C.

 

 

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As the United Nations 2019 Climate Action Summit gets underway today in New York, DC EcoWomen asked UN Women  to send us their thoughts about why it’s important to integrate gender equality into the fight against climate change. The following blog post by Ulrika Modéer, UNDP’s Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy, and Anita Bhatia, UN Women’s Deputy Executive Director for Resource Management, Sustainability and Partnerships, talks about the challenges and opportunities women and girls face because of climate change – and introduces a gender equality initiative that will be unveiled at Monday’s summit.

Climate action must engage and benefit women and girls

By Ulrika Modéer and Anita Bhatia

Photo: UN Women/Bundit Chotsuwan

Climate change is already altering the face of our planet. Research shows that we need to put all our efforts over the coming decade to limit warming to 1.5°C and mitigate the catastrophic risks posed by increased droughts, floods, and extreme weather events.

But our actions will not be effective if they do not include measures to ensure social justice, equality and a gender perspective. So, how do we integrate gender equality in climate change actions?

Climate change has a disproportionate impact on women

Climate change affects women and girls disproportionately due to existing gender inequalities. It also threatens to undermine socio-economic gains made over previous decades. With limited or no access to land and other resources including finance, technology and information, women and girls suffer more in the aftermath of natural disasters and bear increased burdens in domestic and care work.

Droughts, floods and deforestation all impact duties typically carried out by women and girls – such as water, firewood and fodder collection. These duties take more time or are thwarted in the face of these climate disasters, causing them to take up time that could have been used for education or leisure. For example, women and children accounted for more than 96% of those impacted by the flash floods in Solomon Islands in 2014 and in Myanmar, women accounted for 61% of fatalities caused by Cyclone Nargis in 2008.

Despite challenges, women play a key role in climate-related sectors

Women and girls also remain marginalized in decision-making spheres — from the community level to parliaments to international climate negotiations. Global climate finance for mitigation and adaptation programs remain out of reach for women and girls because of their lack of knowledge and capacity to tap into these resources.

Despite these challenges, women and girls play a critical role in key climate-related sectors and have developed adaptation and resilience-building strategies and mitigation techniques. Women and girls are driving the demand for renewable energy at the household and community levels for lighting, cooking and productive use solutions that the international community must now support. Women are holders of traditional farming methods, first responders in crises situations, founders of cooperatives, entrepreneurs of green energy, scientists and inventors, and decision-makers with respect to the use of natural resources.

Women comprise an average of 43% of the agricultural work force in developing countries and manage 90% of all household water and fuel-wood needs in Africa. Some studies have shown that if women were afforded equal access to productive resources as men, their agricultural outputs would exceed men’s by 7-23%. It is therefore imperative to embrace and scale-up the initiatives of the 51% of the world’s population.

Women and girls lead in mitigation efforts

In recent times, women and girls have used their knowledge and experience to lead in mitigation efforts. From developing apps to track and reduce the carbon emitted as a result of individual consumption, to reducing food waste by connecting neighbors, cafes, and local shops to share leftover and unsold food. Young women scientists, like South-African teenager Kiara Nirghin, are making a difference in the fight against climate change. They are building on the legacies of women and girls such as Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, who empowered communities to manage their natural resources in a sustainable way.

At the same time, UNDP and UN Women have been collaborating to advance gender equality and women’s leadership on climate change. For example, in Ecuador, the two UN agencies have teamed up with the government to support the inclusion of gender in the country’s climate action plans. UNDP and UN Women have also collaborated globally to ensure that gender remains a key factor when world leaders make critical decisions on climate change.

Engaging women will help limit warming

If policies and projects consider women’s particular roles, needs and contributions to climate action and support women’s empowerment, there will be a greater possibility to limit warming to 1.5°C in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We must continue to engage women and women’s organizations, learning from their experiences on the ground to build the evidence for good practices and help replicate more inclusive climate actions.

The UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit in New York on Monday, September 23 is a unique opportunity to elevate at the highest level the need for substantive participation of women and girls in efforts against climate change.

Gender equality initiative to be presented at UN Climate Action Summit

At the Summit, there will be several initiatives put forth to address climate change, including one focusing on gender equality. The initiative recognizes the differential impact of climate change on women and girls, and seeks support for their leadership as a way to make climate actions more effective. It calls for the rights, differentiated needs and contributions of women and girls to be integrated into all actions, including those related to climate finance, energy, industry and infrastructure. It promotes support for women and girls in developing innovative tools and participating in mitigation and adaptation efforts and calls for accountability by tracking and reporting progress towards achieving these goals.

For climate action to get more traction and be effective, we need a critical mass of governments and other stakeholders to sign on to the Climate Action Summit’s gender-specific initiative. The world cannot afford to keep limiting the potential of women and girls in shaping climate actions, as all evidence points towards the benefits of their involvement.

There is already interest by United Nations member states, as shown by the increased integration of gender considerations in their national climate plans, but a broader movement is needed. We need multi-stakeholder partnerships and to engage a critical mass of supporters – governments, UN entities, financial mechanisms, and civil society organizations to support the gender-specific initiative of the SG’s Climate Action Summit.

The time for gender-responsive climate action is now.

 

posted by | on , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Five Rewarding Jobs for Women in the Environmental Field

By Kyaira Ware, Community Conservation Manager at Potomac Conservancy

Working in the environmental field can be a fun, rewarding alternative to the traditional corporate-office position. Whether you’re looking to change careers or simply want to see what’s out there, scroll down to read about five rewarding jobs for women in the environmental field!

Community/Grassroots Organizer

If you can enjoy working one-on-one with communities, organizing events, and managing large groups of volunteers, community organizing might be a good fit for you. The entry to mid-level salary ranges from $38k-$55k, and usually comes with other perks such as less time in the office and more time leading events in the field. For this position, you’ll want to make sure you’re organized, can meet strict deadlines, and feel comfortable speaking to large groups.

Keywords for job search engines: community organizer, grassroots, volunteer management, coordinator

Social Media/Communications Strategist

Know your way around social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook? You just may have what it takes to become a Social Media Strategist. Though a relatively new job field, social media positions have become essential components to many organizations. Starting salaries in the non-profit sector range from $38k-$60k. Many employers will want to see prior experience writing a variety of blogs, social media posts, and other digital content, as well as the ability to think strategically about engaging audiences on social platforms.

Keywords for job search engines: social media, strategist, communications, digital, writer, journalist, Instagram, Facebook

Development/Operations Associate

Fundraising is an essential responsibility of most development positions. If you enjoy using your creativity to attract new donors, planning large-scaled events, and making relationships with important stakeholders, this might be the perfect fit for you. Entry to mid-level salaries range from $38k- $50k.  You’ll want to have solid writing skills, work well with deadlines, and enjoy engaging higher-up stakeholders.

Keywords for job search engines: development, operations, board, fundraising

Grant Writer

Similar to development positions, grant writers are responsible for increasing funding through timely, high quality grant submissions to family foundations and corporate companies. There is usually no prior experience required, however, you want to make sure you can write concise, narrative-like content with tight deadlines. The average salary for a non-profit grant writer is almost $46k/year.

Keywords for job search engines: grant writer, writer, development, operations, foundations

Start your own consulting business!

As a wise woman, and the author of this blog, once said, “The most rewarding job is one that allows you to work for yourself.” If you have any specific skill sets that could be useful to an organization, consider offering your services as an independent consultant. Typical services range from communications strategy to the development of diversity, equity, and inclusion plans. Consultants are usually seen as experts in their field and are often not treated as regular employees, meaning they set their own hours and rates. The average salary for established consultants with many clients range from $50k-$100k+.

Kyaira Ware is the current Community Conservation Manager at Potomac Conservancy. She is passionate about connecting urban communities to environmental sustainability and looks forward to the day when we can all agree that climate change is real.

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on How to Keep Inspiring Change for the Environment – Both Locally and Worldwide

By Tara Lundy, DC EcoWomen member

We all know how important the health of our planet has become. Each year, startling statistics are coming out about the rise of ocean levels, the amount of pollution and number of animals suffering from climate change. With the Earth needing us to be on its side more than ever, it’s so important to keep inspiring others to get involved. It can be easy for us to get caught up in our own worlds but helping to make a difference in our Earth’s health should continue to be a top priority.

Use Social Media for Good

There’s no doubt that social media has its fair share of good and bad, but when using social media to inspire change, it can be an amazing tool. Simply retweeting a tweet or using the right hashtag can yield extraordinary results and help make a difference. If there’s an eco-friendly campaign going on that you feel passionate about, don’t be afraid to share the information with your own followers. Not only will this help reach people around your community, but it could reach your other followers who may live in different areas. If you want to learn more about how you can continue to help, simply searching a hashtag such as #Gogreen or #Zerowaste can give you ideas and inspiration for living a greener lifestyle.

Encourage Others to Invest in Healthier Options 

One of the biggest ways that you can help make change happen is by inspiring change with your peers. By no means does this mean you have to preach your viewpoints on others, but if you feel like a close friend or family member is interested in helping the environment, don’t be afraid to give them some helpful advice. The best pieces of advice to give are the ones that can be easily applied. Being sustainable is something that you can gradually apply within your lifestyle. Buying locally is also an easy suggestion, especially with farmers markets about to be in full force come peak crop season. Buy from companies that share an eco-friendly mission. Simply supporting a company who specializes in making eco-friendly hair color is enough to help make a meaningful difference. You’ll find through your search that these kinds of companies come in all forms, from clothing brands to food companies to cleaning products.

Keep the Education Going

Knowledge is key. With changes constantly occurring, we have to stay mindful of what’s continuing to go on in the world. While you may find yourself completely up to date, others may not. There are ways that we can continue to educate others that can be inclusive but also fun. One of the easiest ways is through a continuous cycle of sharing important information such as articles and videos on your social media channels. Since our younger years are our most formative ones, it’s important that our children grow up with knowledge of what’s currently happening with the environment. We can continue to help bring environmental awareness to our future leaders through environmental educational books and TV shows.

If you’re looking for more interactive environmental activities, a great idea is to take people to the zoo. This will give you a chance to take in some beautiful animals and absorb information on how these animals need a healthy amount of biodiversity to continue thriving.

Continue to Help Single-Handedly 

At the end of the day, the person who can be held most accountable is you. While encouraging others to get involved is always a wonderful idea, the person who can most easily help to make a difference is yourself. Continue to make eco-friendly lifestyle choices such as picking up a piece of trash on the side of the road or drinking out of a reusable water bottle. No matter how small these actions may seem initially, doing things like this in your daily life can be enough to help make a change and inspire the people around you to make eco-friendly decisions as well.

No matter what eco-friendly lifestyle choices you make, continuing to fight for the environment is the greatest way to keep inspiring change and make a meaningful difference. Let us know how you continue to inspire change for the environment in your comments below!

Tara is a DC EcoWomen member who is a Colorado native. She is passionate about fighting for for the environment along with animal rights. When she’s not writing, she’s taking her dogs for hikes and visiting the local aquarium.

Photo 1 by Ross Findon on Unsplash; Photo 2 by William Iven on Unsplash; Photo 3 by Brooke Lark on Unsplash; Photo 4 by Ben White on Unsplash; Photo 5 by Pawe? Czerwi?ski on Unsplash

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By Cameryn Aliya Burnette, Co-Founder and Vice President, Howard University Water and Environment Association

Going green can be difficult to commit to due to the sheer variety of choices you’re faced with in the process. I was confronted with many new questions when I first went green. Natural materials or cruelty-free? Do organic labels matter? and Am I really bout to drop a band on just one dress? I dived into sustainable living headfirst so you don’t have to.

Here’s my list of first steps to going green. These steps are designed to take some of the pressure off any aspiring earth-warriors who would love to be doing a little more to help the cause but don’t exactly know what doing a little more looks like. If that sounds like you, you’re in the right spot – and there’s no cliché stuff like “turn off the water while you brush your teeth.”

Get with like-minded people

Great minds think alike! There are other people out there with ideas on how to live more sustainably. Find a thread on social media, a club on your campus, or a group that meets for dinner monthly. Eco-living looks different for different people, and this is a way to find out how others best incorporate sustainability in their daily lives.

Buy reusables

I know y’all know what reusable water bottles are, and you should be using those, but I have to put you on to reusable plastic bags, reusable straws, and travel utensils. Yes, it is a little extra work to wash these things after using them. But, in addition to reducing pollution, you will save money usually wasted on plastic bags and utensils. Reusables pay for themselves. You won’t need to replace them until they break!

BYOB! Plastic is bad for the earth and you look so much cuter carrying a cool canvas bag back from Barnes and Noble or Trader Joe’s than you do with a bunch of plastic bags.

Here are some honorable mentions for the category of things-that-shouldn’t-be-disposable – cleaning rags, shaving razors, and menstrual products. Paper towels, plastic razors, and pads are things you forget at the store and always seem to run out of during an emergency. The reusable alternatives will last you longer and save you money.

Thrift your wardrobe

Ethical/sustainable/artisan boutiques are hella expensive. There’s a reason that you mostly see influencers and celebrities wearing Reformation. Luckily, there is an alternative you are very familiar with: thrifting! I could go on for years about why you should ditch the mall for a Value Village next time you go shopping, but here’s the bottom line: 1. You save money. A thrift store fit costs 10 dollars on a bad day. 2. You look good. Follow trends if you want, but you will find more unique, one-of-a-kind items at a thrift store. 3. Less stress. Thrift store clothing has already been tested out by someone else, so you won’t have to worry about color fading, garment stretching, or texture changing. 4. Thrifting is fun! Really, there’s no way thrifting can go wrong, so there’s no reason not to get into it already.

Make a shower playlist

This is my favorite sustainable baby step, even though it’s the most basic! Yeah, we need to save water by taking shorter showers, but having to watch the clock or set a timer detracts from the whole experience. The best way to track how long you’ve been in the shower is to make a playlist with 3-5 songs with a total run time of however long you need to get clean. My standard playlist 10 songs, 37 minutes long, and when I hit “Summertime Magic” (song 4), I know it’s time to get out. You can make multiple playlists to spice up your routine or make the same songs part of your everyday routine. Disclaimer: I am not advocating for half-hour showers, but I got a lot of 3c hair to clean, comb, and condition, so best believe I need that extra time on wash days.

Living an eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle is about transitioning to living within a set of principles, not just a few actions. It will take more than a day to fully commit to this lifestyle and everyone’s circumstances will not allow them to be ‘100 percent green’.

Everyone will have a different opinion on these suggestions. The lifestyle is about doing what’s feasible for you. Any step, even a baby step, is a good step! The bottom line – continue to educate yourself and remember change doesn’t happen overnight. Get out there and find how to make it work!

Cameryn Aliya Burnette is an undergraduate student at Howard University studying Civil and Environmental Engineering. She is the co-founder and vice president of the Howard University Water and Environment Association. Have friends, will travel: She’s a native Houstonian, but you can find her running through the streets of any major city, from New York to Berlin, with her crew.

Photo Credits: Pexels, Ecodallaluna CC-BY-SA 2.0, Cameryn Aliya Burnette

posted by | on , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Reflection on 15 years of DC EcoWomen

By Nicole Bateman, DC EcoWomen Board Member

Nearly two years ago, I arrived in D.C. from Seattle. Fresh out of graduate school, I was anxious to become active in a community of environmentally minded people in the District. DC EcoWomen was immediately recommended to me by a former graduate school colleague. During my first event, the Fall Meet and Greet, I spoke to one EcoWoman about recycling and composting and then another about in the ins and outs of proposed carbon pricing models in Washington state. I walked away knowing I had found a community of (nerdy?) women with a passion for these issues to match my own. Within a year of becoming involved with the organization, I was so completely sold on its mission that I applied and was fortunate enough to be selected to join the board.

As we celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of DC EcoWomen’s first EcoHour this month, it’s important to reflect upon all the organization and its members have accomplished. Since that first EcoHour, more than 150 EcoHour speakers have shared their professional insights and expertise with nearly 5,000 EcoWomen.

But the organization has also grown beyond its signature event. EcoWomen have learned how to write an eye-catching resume, negotiate salary with confidence, master public speaking, and communicate their professional brand at our many professional development workshops. Our mentor dinners have also given members an opportunity to meet with and learn from environmental women leaders in a more intimate environment.

Professional development is great, and central to our mission, but DC EcoWomen also knows that actually experiencing the environment we all care about reminds us why this work matters. We encourage our members to get outside with events like the Anacostia River tour and foraging in DC. And with events like clothing swaps, bike workshops, and sustainable food and drink events, EcoWomen have an opportunity to live our eco-values.

What else does DC EcoWomen do? Well, there are book clubs, holiday parties, fitness fundraisers, board meet-and-greets, and so much more. Nearly 100 DC EcoWomen members like me decided to get involved with the organization on a deeper level and have served as board members!

Although the organization has expanded to engage more women in more ways, we have not lost sight of the goal of DC EcoWomen’s founders, Leda Huta, Alicia Wittink, and Tracy Fisher, as they organized the first EcoHour – to create a space for women in environmental fields to build relationships. Those relationships are still the centerpiece of our work and we look forward to the next 15 years of building.

Nicole Bateman is on the research team at the Brookings Institution. She is passionate about protecting natural places and the people who enjoy them through equitable and science-based environmental policy. Nicole has a Master’s in Public Administration, with a specialization in Environmental Policy and Management, from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington.

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By Leda Huta, EcoWomen Co-Founder and Endangered Species Coalition Executive Director

More than 15 years ago, my friend Alicia Wittink and I hatched a plan to launch EcoWomen. We recognized a need in Washington, D.C. for a space to build relationships among women in environmental fields. While it was in its infancy, we roped in our friend Tracy Fisher to help grow the organization.

We had heard that other efforts to do something similar had sputtered out. But there wasn’t much to lose, except perhaps our pride. We organized the first event – the very first EcoHour – and invited our first speaker—Alisa Gravitz, CEO of Green America. We had no idea if anyone would show up. But 15 or so women did. Today, there are more than 5,000 women in the DC EcoWomen network, and 1,000+ women who attend the chapter’s events each year. There are also four more EcoWomen chapters around the country.

The best decision we made was not allowing the organization to become personality-driven. We didn’t want it to succeed or fail based on one person. We took succession planning seriously, making sure that many women played leadership roles, so that any one of us could step in and chair our board. And we always had exceptional, powerhouse chairs of the board.

We quickly created a volunteer board of talented and hard-working women. The discussions and decision-making processes were always energizing. It felt great to be in the presence of these women and jointly grow an organization. The organization’s strength has always been this diversity and collaboration. It is a community based on openness, respect and connection. And it is a model of leadership that should be expanded.

Our signature event was, and has always been, the EcoHours—happy hour with a dose of eco-inspiration from veteran women leaders in the movement. We had some of the most extraordinary speakers—one of the first female National Park Service rangers, the first woman to have a whole neighborhood transplanted because of toxic pollution, and the first Minister of the Environment in Iraq’s Interim Government. We also had accomplished women speakers who went on to play even more important roles in protecting our environment—continuing to become a Member of Congress or the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Hearing from these heroes gave us hope and they still do today.

Now, EcoWomen is stronger than ever, with amazing leaders taking charge. It is so much bigger than Alicia, Tracy, and I envisioned it could become. It offers women so much, not only in building their professional networks, but also in creating community. Environmental work is hard. This community is incredibly restorative. These smart, cool, funny and able women really do have the power to change the world.

Leda Huta, EcoWomen Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition, has 25 years of environmental experience, managing grassroots, national, and international projects. At Endangered Species Coalition, she leads staff across the country in protecting imperiled wildlife, from the charismatic gray wolf and grizzly bear to less visible species, such as Rusty patched bumblebee. Previous to her role at the Endangered Species Coalition, Leda was the Acting Executive Director for Finding Species, an organization that uses photography to advance wildlife and wild lands conservation. Through this work, she had the good fortune to spend time in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Her work at Resource Conservation Alliance protected forests using a “markets” strategy, working with university presses to shift to eco-friendly papers. Leda has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in environmental science and environment and resource management from the University of Toronto. She is currently studying environmental law at Vermont Law School. www.huffingtonpost.com/leda-huta/

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By Stephanie Gagnon, U.S. Country Manager for the Climate Scorecard Project

At the American Association of Geographers (AAG) annual meeting last April, I gave a presentation on how the U.S. could approach global climate negotiations using market-based solutions. My session also included two male presenters and one other female presenter, each of whom engaged with global climate issues and negotiations, and each presentation was followed by time for questions from the audience.

Although my presentation had focused less on the science of climate change and more on policy approaches to global environmental negotiations, I found myself confronted in the Q&A session by a member of the audience, who aggressively challenged me on the science of climate change and claimed that climate change was neither happening nor human-caused.

Once I had recovered from the shock of being aggressively challenged on the veracity of climate change science at a session specifically focused on climate change, I found it interesting that I was the only presenter this man had chosen to use to advance his climate change denial. Hadn’t he had the option to challenge the men who presented before me? Why use a presentation about policy rather than about science to make this point?

In speaking with other female presenters at the conference, I realized I wasn’t alone. Almost all of the other women I spoke to recounted similar experiences in which men publicly belittled their research and findings regarding climate change but didn’t challenge their male colleagues. This was particularly worse for women of color or who identified with other minority groups. Women across the field have reported gender-based harassment at steadily climbing rates.

The phenomenon of men ignoring or challenging women in the sciences is not by any means a new one. In 2015, the hashtag #distractinglysexy trended on Twitter in response to a male Nobel laureate’s comment about his female peers. Men have been using women’s genders to silence them on issues across the board for centuries. But in the area of climate change, a relatively new field of research and activism, the silencing of women takes on a different connotation. Rather than being isolated to a toxic-masculine gatekeeping of STEM fields, it feels more like an attempt to put women in their place, to remind us that once, not so long ago, we would never have been allowed into this space.

The demographic of this kind of harasser fits almost perfectly with the demographic of climate deniers in the U.S. Studies have shown that in general, white, politically conservative males from rural areas who are confident in their understanding of scientific concepts are the most likely demographic to reject mainstream scientific consensus on climate change. And this demographic is the same demographic that is running online harassment campaigns to silence female scientists.

In fact, I would argue that the same underlying factors are at play that both feed into climate denial and motivate the gendered harassment of women. Climate denial is built upon a solid rejection of the “mainstream,” which is seen as an elitist attempt by minorities to grab power from the majority. Climate deniers tend to see attempts to regulate carbon pollution as attempts to infringe on their freedom – this perpetuates the fear that, for example, the government will use climate change as an excuse to tell them which car to drive. This interpretation then feeds into the fear that women will use climate change as an excuse to force men into the domestic work often stereotypically reserved for women.

So how do we combat this insidious sexism that creates an unsafe environment for female climate change professionals?

Toxic masculinity is a major factor at play. Addressing this issue at its source by making men feel safe to express themselves in ways outside the traditional paradigm of masculinity could help men feel less personally threatened by female researchers’ success. Additionally, helping white men in rural areas who may feel left behind by the decline of American manufacturing could help them to feel more included in the climate change conversation. By changing messaging around climate change solutions so that it focuses on opportunities to create a better future rather than limits we should impose on our modern way of life, we can work to address fears that climate change policy necessarily means giving up the things we love. Additionally, working in programs for economic advancement, like training and job placement guarantees in the renewable energy sector, could help create opportunities in areas where current policy only accelerates plant closings.

It is not the responsibility of the scientists who are targets for harassment and silencing to address the issues that enable their harassers. Instead, it is our role as a society to work to create safer spaces for all people producing research and policy recommendations so that we can hear them and learn from them.

Stephanie Gagnon is the U.S. Country Manager for the Climate Scorecard Project. She is passionate about bridging the gap between research and action in both policy and technology to combat climate change. In particular, she focuses on climate change communication strategies to engage key actors around the issue of climate change mitigation.

Photos: Miki Jourdan CC BY-NC-ND 2.0; Tracy CC BY 2.0