Posts Tagged ‘Green Living’

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Changing Gears During SafeTrack: Folding Bikes Can Ease Your Commuting Woes

by Stephanie Tsao

Has WMATA’s latest surge stirred your last wits? If you’re like me, you may have let a few packed trains go by before you found one with enough breathing room.

As the weather improves, I have watched cyclists zipping past with growing interest. Those Capital Bikeshare stands are tempting, but I never seem to remember my helmet. Thanks to SafeTrack, I decided to try out a few folding bicycles.

2

Depending on the brand, folding bikes average between $200-$1,500 for beginner bikes. The draw is that they can fold to fit in a trunk or under a desk, making them an affordable commuter option with less burden.

Before I tried, I was dubious. You see, folding bikes are smaller than your average bike, and my initial concern about them is how stable they feel when ridden. I have been biking for three years on a road bike, which have skinny tires and curved handlebars to ride smoothly on roads.

In comparison, folding bikes have comparatively short and straight handlebars and small tires, which led me to believe that the frame would result in a rocky ride. To my surprise, they can ride pretty smoothly and handle up to 20-mile rides.

Testing different brands

I tested three different brands of folding bikes.

20160702_143215

Brompton

The London-made Brompton bikes are known by the biking community as the “Rolls Royce” of folding bikes because they fold in three quick steps. A base model with two speeds and no added accessories can weigh 23 lbs and cost about $1,350.

For the price, you pay for the ability to fold in a matter of minutes and the convenience that the bike has mini wheels allowing you to roll the bike along after it’s folded like a piece of luggage.

Brompton bikes are comparatively expensive because they are designed for commuting. The bike is small enough to roll onto the metro, allowing you to duck out of a sudden summer shower. Moreover, you can stow it in your office with less worry of your bike getting stolen.

Tern

Tern, based in Taipei, Taiwan, builds three types of bikes: ones for adventures, touring, and city riding. For the lower price, you get a heavier bike. A basic model for urban riding can weigh 26-27 lbs, a bit more than the Brompton bikes, but the costs start out around $700. Also, the bikes do not come with the convenient small wheels like Brompton bikes do.

One advantage of Tern is that they also make racing models. A gentleman in his 50s told me he completed the 40-mile New York “Five Boro” Tour on a Tern! One of Tern’s lightest bikes for commuting weighs about 21 lbs.

Dahon

The last brand I tried was a Dahon, which is named after Dr. David Hon, a Japanese aerospace physicist who started designing folding bikes after he witnessed the world’s oil crisis in the 1970s. He became interested in other modes of transportation that were less reliant on petroleum.

Some base models are priced as low as $250-$400, but can weigh heavier than other brands. Some models are 27 lbs or more. The models take longer to fold, given their weight.

Other options on the market

Citizen Bike

I never got a chance to try Citizen Bike because they are sold only online. Certain models start as low as $200, but their bikes are on the heavier end, ranging between 26 lbs and 33 lbs. The bike models are named after major international cities such as Seoul and Barcelona, and they are able to fold up within 30 seconds.

Where to test and buy folding bikes in the DC metro area

20160702_143507Not all bike shops sell folding bikes, but those stores with catering to urban cycling tend to. I suggest calling or checking your local bike shop’s website to see if they sell any of the aforementioned brands.

I purchased my folding bike at [email protected] in Fairfax County. Closer to Washington DC, Revolution Cycles and Bicycle Space are just a few stores in the District that sell folding bikes.

Bike commuting isn’t for everyone. Nevertheless, as the SafeTrack repairs continue through next spring, keep folding bikes in mind. They may just bring the surge of energy you need to get to work with a sigh of relief.

Stephanie Tsao is a journalist by day and likes to cycle, garden and write in her spare time. The views expressed in this post are hers alone and not that of her employer.

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By Maheen Ahmad

We all want to make smart, eco-conscious consumer choices. In the quest of becoming a conscious consumer, I began to do some digging. I was able to scope out some of DC’s greenest, most sustainable establishments. I used the following criteria to identify green businesses:

  • The business is certified by one or more third party organizations;
  • The business incorporates environmentally sustainable materials in their products and operations;
  • The business contributes to or invests in energy conservation causes.

Local, green eats

Veg

MOM’s Organic Market

Several locations in D.C.

MOM’s Organic Market stores named by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as one of its Top 30 Retail Green Power Partners.

Green initiatives: using low-watt LED light bulbs and sustainable building materials, and having charging stations for electric vehicles.In 2015, MOM purchased 8,300,000 kWh of Wind Power Renewable Energy Credits to offset 100% of the company’s electricity consumption.

Hot tip: MOM’s stores also collect items for recycling – including electronics, compost, and clothes.

Busboys and Poets

Several locations in D.C.

Busboys and Poets is a member of American Sustainable Business Council and Innov8energy.

Green Initiatives: using 100% renewable wind energy, reusing their cooking oil for biofuel, and using recycled materials.In addition, the restaurants locally source their ingredients and serve 100% fair trade coffee and tea.

Founding Farmers DC

Just across from the White House, Founding Farmers DC is LEED Gold-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, rated by U.S. Green Building Council).

Green building features: efficient HVAC and lighting systems and building materials made from reclaimed wood and other recycled materials.

Green initiatives: The restaurant is owned by the North Dakota Farmers Union, and they source their food directly from family farms. They also use cooking oil for biodiesel and purchase carbon credits through carbonfund.org.

Fitness and sports

extendYoga

This yoga studio is an EPA Green Power Partner, running on 100% wind power provided by Ethical Electric. In addition, it is Green Certified by the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection.

Green features: It uses energy-efficient HCAV systems and LED lighting as well as Eco-friendly yoga mats and cleaning products.

Washington Nationals Ballpark

The stadium is LEED-certified, with features including plumbing designed to conserve water and recycled building materials. In fact, approximately 10% of its building materials are recycled. To date, the stadium has recycled a total of 5,500 tons of construction waste.

Nats

Beauty and hygiene

Seventh Generation

Seventh Generation sells household cleaning products.

Green features: Good on the inside as well as outside, they use 100% recycled materials for packaging, and they source products from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified Bioproducts. These are primarily U.S. suppliers. They also supply certified sustainable palm oil.

The Honest Company

The Honest Company sells baby, personal care, and cleaning products.

Green initiatives: It is a certified B Corporation, is Gold-certified by Green America, and is working towards LEED certification for all its facilities. Many of its products are BioPreferred by USDA and EPA’s Design for the Environment standards for use of safer, environmentally-friendly chemicals.

Zosimos Botanicals

soap-sudsZosimos Botanicals consists of an array of skincare, makeup, hair, and bath products.

Green features: The products exclude synthetic materials such as parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, and fragrance oils, opting instead for naturally occurring ingredients such as shea butter and essential oils.

Green initiatives: The Zosimos Botanicals studio in Gaithersburg runs on 100% wind energy, is a certified by Green America as a green business, and recycles its materials and office supplies.

Nusta Spa

Nusta Spa is a LEED-certified spa.

Green initiatives: Nusta is committed to energy efficiency through use of LED lighting, fluorescent lamps, Energy Star appliances, and recycled materials. The spa also donated old furniture to Dinner Program for Homeless Women and DC Preparatory Academy and recycled the construction waste.

Clothes

Kohl’s Department Store

Green initiatives: A member of EPA’s Green Power Partnership, Kohl’s purchased 1.4 billion Renewable Energy Credits, making 106% of its power usage sourced from solar and wind energy. Its major providers are 3Degrees and Carbon Solutions Group. Many of its locations are also LEED and Energy Star certified.

The North Face

Green initiatives: Also a member of EPA’s Green Power Partnership, The North Face purchased over 17 million Renewable Energy Credits, allowing 106% of their power usage sourced from solar and wind energy. The North Face is also partnering with its Chinese suppliers in energy efficiency programs and with industry partners such as Bluesign Technologies to reduce water and energy in its manufacturing processes.

There are many more green, local businesses in DC. Share in the comments if I have left out any of your favorites!

Maheen Ahmad works in energy policy in the D.C. area.  She loves reading, writing, traveling, and finding new places to get coffee.  She has an M.A. in International Relations.

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Spring Cleaning, the Green and Easy Way

By Brianna Knoppow

Spring has sprung in D.C., and it’s finally warm enough to open our windows while cleaning. Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t need to wait for a nice day to clean? With all natural cleaning supplies, fresh air isn’t mandatory, it’s just a nice treat.

Here’s a few of my favorite green cleaning methods. I hope they soon become your favorites too.

  1. Chemical-free all-purpose spray

    Purchase or reuse a spray bottle. Mix 2 parts water with 1 part vinegar. Pour in a few drops of lemon essential oil to add a nice scent. Spray on your counter tops, mirrors and windowsills. Wipe lightly for a clean surface without the harsh chemicals.
    Ingredients: Just vinegar, water and lemon essential oil

    "Was I avoiding parabens or phthalates?”

    “Was I avoiding parabens or phthalates?”

  2. My eco-secret for streak-free mirrors

    Believe it or not, the secret behind clean, streak-free mirrors is reused newspaper! Grab yesterday’s paper out of the recycling bin, spray your mirror with all-purpose cleaner and wipe the mirror dry with newspaper. Your mirror will be as beautiful as you are.
    Ingredients: Just newspaper and all-purpose cleaner

  3. DIY foaming hand soap

    Cut down on plastic waste by purchasing a reusable foaming soap dispenser and a large bottle of castile soap, such as Dr. Bronner’s. Fill the dispenser with 5 parts water and one part soap, then shake lightly. Now you can stop feeling guilty about your plastic footprint.
    Ingredients: Just castile soap and water
    HandSoap

  4. Toilet time

    Before I learned this trick, I used to dread cleaning the toilet. Now I look forward to watching a fun chemical reaction! Simply pour baking soda into the toilet and wait a couple of minutes. Then, pour vinegar into the bowl. After admiring the chemical reaction, scrub with a toilet bowl scrubber. Your toilet will be just as clean as if you used harsh chemicals.
    Ingredients: Just vinegar and baking soda

  5. Repurposed cleaning tools

    You already have a few items lying around the house that are great cleaning tools:
    – Don’t toss your old toothbrush; use it to clean out the dryer’s lint trap
    – Save that laundry detergent bottle lid to use as a small mixing bowl when trying out new cleaning recipes
    – Use old clothing to wipe your surfaces clean after spritzing with all-purpose spray. Wash these DIY rags in the laundry for reuse.
    Ingredients: Just creativity to repurpose items from your waste stream!

Do you have more green cleaning tips? Leave a comment below, and happy eco-spring cleaning!

Brianna Knoppow works in the environmental field in D.C. and enjoys biking, watching musical theater, and foraging for wild mushrooms. She has an M.S. in Environmental Science & Policy.

PhotoCredSethSawyers.flickr.comphotossidewalk_flying4867974966inphotostream

Source: Seth Sawyers

 

posted by | on , , , , , , | Comments Off on How You Can Make Mindful Purchases in Today’s Fast Fashion World

By Amy Loder

It’s official. Every time I shop for clothes, I suffer from fashion overwhelm.

It means that I am buying less these days. Even though I am buried in options, I feel paralyzed from trying to unclothe the production practices of the different fashion brands. I want brand transparency, and I want to know more about the people who cut the fabric and stitch my garments.

Screenshot 2016-04-15 16.02.32

As a former fashion industry professional, I pay close attention to fashion-related headlines. Recently, there have been more headlines about the negative environmental and human rights impacts of ‘fast fashion.’ While it is sad to read about factory fires, deaths, rising cancer levels and alarming water pollution levels, it is also necessary to pay attention if we want to see the fashion industry change for good.

The event that placed a permanent spotlight on the fashion industry happened at Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza garment factory. On April 24, 2013 an eight-story building collapsed, killing 1,100 garment factory employees. While Rana Plaza wasn’t fashion’s first garment factory tragedy, it was the largest and provided tangible evidence that the fashion industry has a systemic problem.

Screenshot 2016-04-15 16.03.08

Rana Plaza catalyzed an international conversation about the fashion industry’s impact on human rights and our environment. Three years later, terms like worker rights, living wage, fair-trade, supply chain, transparency and sustainability are at the forefront of conversations in the fashion industry, and they are very familiar to clothing consumers like you and me.

Dig in and discover more

If you’re interested to learn more about ethical, sustainable fashion, April is a great month to get started!

Begin with a few websites

  • World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO)
    A global network of organizations representing the Fair Trade supply chain
  • The Truth Behind the Barcode
    A comprehensive annual report that grades major fashion brands on their production transparency and traceability, policies, worker rights, wages and use of child labor.
  • The Clean Clothes Campaign
    Dedicated to improving working conditions and supporting the empowerment of workers in the global garment and sportswear industries.
  • DC EcoWomen’s Eco-fashion Pinterest Board
    Reflect on the outside what you value on the inside!

Follow DC EcoWomen’s board Lifestyle: Eco-Wardrobe on Pinterest.

If you’re looking to dig deeper here are some other ways to up your fashion industry knowledge and clothing shopping skills:

Read

  1. Safia Minney. Slow Fashion: Aesthetics Meets Ethics
  2. Lucy Siegle. To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?”
  3. Elisabeth Cline. Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

Watch

  • The True Cost | A Documentary Film
    At 92 minutes, it’s a quick watch. This is the best introduction to the fashion industry and its current production practices that I’ve ever seen. It’s informative, moving and downright accurate.
  • NPR  |  The World Behind a Simple Shirt in 5 Chapters
    Alex Bloomberg of Planet Money tells the story of how an average t-shirt is made. He takes you on a global journey – detailing each step of the design and production process.
  • Changing the world through fashion| Eva Kruse at TEDxCopenhagen
    Eva Kruse is CEO and President of Danish Fashion Institute and Copenhagen Fashion Week. Her talk is about what every one of us can do to improve our personal footprint and the environmental and social impact of the fashion industry.

Get even more involved

Learn about Fashion Revolution Day
It is on April 24th. Visit http://fashionrevolution.org/ to see what others are doing to celebrate the day.

FashionRevGet social
Show your label and hashtag it on social media with #whomademyclothes. Rock your clothing turned #insideout with the label showing. Take a selfie and post it on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with hashtag #whomademyclothes.

Ask questions, lots of them
When shopping online or in-store, ask questions about brands and garments. Where is it made? What is it made of? How is it made? Why is the price so low? You can also learn a lot about brands and their production practices online.

Get App Savvy
Install the aVOID browser extension from ‘Active against child labour’ to enable fair shopping online. It’s really easy to use: When you’re buying clothes online, aVOID works in the background by hiding all manufacturers that have been negatively associated with child labor.

Amy Loder is a DC-based personal stylist and has extensive experience in fashion production, product development and business development. She is passionate about women creating their most authentic personal style and using human and environmentally friendly clothing and products.

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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.

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Ten Tips for Engaging your Community to Act on Climate

EarthBy Erin Twamley

Mother Earth has a fever, and our home is at stake.

We  hear this message day after day. In response, we do what we can to live better: we use efficient light bulbs; we recycle; we carry around  reusable mugs. And we worry about the future. We worry that our actions are not enough.

Many of us want to address climate change more directly. But one of the challenges is conveying to our communities that sense of urgency expressed in the blog post, “Why Should You Care About Community,” by Tamara Toles O’Laughlin.

Don’t get me wrong, the climate agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference  was #onegiantleap forward. A staggering 97% of the world’s carbon polluters signed the agreement and the Green Climate Fund will support the pledge by investing nearly 100 billion dollars toward drastic greenhouse gas reductions by 2030. But climate data from February 2016 show there are still enormous leaps to be made.

COP21

So what else can you do? Let this be your invitation to #takecharge and consider your role in creating a better planet. Because, as the Earth Day Network encourages, a billion individual acts of green can add up to a powerful change.

Here are 10 tips that you can use to encourage your community join the climate change movement:

  1. Use stories about local innovation to start a positive climate change conversation. 

Do you know where the Greenest School in the World” is located? In Washington DC! In 2015, the U.S. Green Building Council awarded this distinction to Dunbar High School for their use of renewable energy sources like solar, water conservation systems and geothermal to power the school.

Pro-tip: Learn which businesses, housing communities and restaurants are addressing climate change. Find out and share what local schools are doing – everyone loves to have conversations about youth and the future.

  1. Capture Images of #ActOnClimate. 

In addition to sharing snaps of your travel adventures, foodie pics and funny shots with your friends, you can use Instagram to send a message about the Earth, the environment or that picturesque day. Photos send a quick and powerful message.

Pro-tip: Use the hashtag #MotherEarth on Instagram.

#MotherEarth

#MotherEarth

  1. Read other perspectives. 

Climate change impacts communities around the world. But how it impacts yours is unique. Read articles, blogs and first-hand accounts of how people are being impacted today. Learn more about the predictions of climate change impacts from Norway to China. The consequences vary around the world, but we are a global community.

  1. Join the movement online. 

Join the global conversation! Use social media channels such as Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook to share blogs, articles, facts and stories with your network. Information can spread far and wide online.

Pro-tip: Use hashtags like: #ActOnClimate #COP21 #Renewables

  1. Be A Climate Mentor. 

Help engage youth to act on climate change. You can connect with a young family member, neighbor or a friend’s kid. Try to come up with ways to save energy, then do an electronics check together. Make sure to explain how our energy use impacts the planet, and make sure to keep your messages positive.

Pro-tip: head outside to enjoy the fresh air together instead of plugging in.
Earth Relay for Climate Action - Brunswick

  1. Get Creative. 

Many people  would love to learn about climate in a unique way. Are you a poet or a budding videographer? Use your talent to talk about climate change.

Pro-tip: The quickest way to go viral is with a video. For example, this poem from a science educator is taking off right now!

  1. Cut Your Waste. 

How much we consume and what we consume makes a big difference.  Did you know that over 10,000,000 clothing items end up in landfills each year? Cheap clothing is not sustainable. Give your clothes additional life by donating or regifting them to friends and siblings!

Pro-tip: Go the extra mile; check out a fellow EcoWomen blogger’s tips for reducing food waste.

  1. Buy Renewable. 

Have you checked with your electricity provider to see if renewable energy is available? Most people are surprised to learn that in most cases, wind and solar can be distributed to your home from your local utility company. The first step in switching to renewable is finding out how to make the change.

Pro-tipDC and Maryland residents have options!

  1. Act Local – Write! 

From the mayor to the city council, we can hold elected officials accountable. In 2015, Washington DC was recognized to be the home to more LEED and ENERGY STAR-certified buildings per capita than any other city in the country. Make known your support for green power in DC.

Pro-tip: reaching elected officials is easier than ever with email and Twitter!

  1. GlühlampeFind your Lumens! 

Instead of looking for “Watts,” determine your desired light bulb brightness  by “Lumens.” It is a new way to help consumers determine the right amount of light for each place in the home. Learn the new vocabulary and change your light bulb shopping habit. Watch this video to learn more.

Note: This article is an adaptation of an original post for children by Erin Twamley, originally published by Nomad Press and STEM Magazine //187V .

Erin Twamley is an energy educator, author and English Kindergarten teacher in Seoul, South Korea. Her books with co-author Joshua Sneideman, Climate Change: Discover How It Impacts Spaceship Earth and Renewable Energy: Discover the Fuel of the Future? aim to positively engage youth in learning about renewable energy and addressing climate change.

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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)

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By Amy Loder

As an EcoWoman, you recycle, use reusable shopping bags and bring a water bottle wherever you go. But are you being mindful during your morning routine?

When I took a look at my morning routine, I decided to make some changes that are better for my health and kinder to the environment too.

NaturalBeauty

1. Shower Power

My shower goals: to use less water and choose products that are both good for my body and less harmful to the water supply.

For body: Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap is ethically-sourced and is made with certified fair trade ingredients, plus it’s manufactured in the USA and packaged in a 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottle.

For body: My Salux Beauty Skin Cloth. I’ve used loofahs in the past, but this bad boy really does the trick. Plus, it reaches every spot. The cloth is washable and reusable. I pair the cloth with Dr. Bronner’s soap, and don’t need to use an additional exfoliation product.

For hair: I use Duross and Langel, a Philadelphia-based, independently-owned business. They make all of their products by hand on the second floor of their retail shop. I order online which means packaging and fuel consumption with every purchase, but these impacts are minimal.

Shower Tips:

  • Just say no to microbeads! You can learn more on this topic by checking out Robin Garcia’s DC EcoWomen blog post.
  • Take shorter showers and turn the water off while you soap up and exfoliate. When you’re ready to rinse, turn the water back on.

2. Skin care routine

My skincare goals: Cleanse, moisturize and prevent sun-damage and wrinkles while doing the least harm to my body and the planet.

For gentle cleansing: I’m a devotee of Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash. It is widely available, and it’s fragrance and dye free. (Disclaimer: it’s a Johnson & Johnson product, so manufacturing practices and possible animal testing are something to take into consideration).

For deep cleansing: Glycolic-based products are great pore cleansers, encouraging skin cell turnover and preventing blemishes. I use M-61 brand products, which are created by the D.C.-based entrepreneurial duo that founded Blue Mercury. No parabens, sulfates, fragrances or dyes.


  • Parabens are preservatives and prevent bacteria growth in products. Sulfates are synthetic ingredients that make products nice and foamy. Most scientists and doctors say both are ok to use, but I prefer to avoid these when possible.
  • Fragrances and dyes can be irritating to the skin and potentially hazardous to your health. The majority of manufacturers don’t disclose fragrance ingredients on websites or product labels.

For moisturizing: Anything La Roche Posay. This company scores well with cosmetic watch groups when it comes to human-friendly ingredients. This moisturizer allows me to skip foundation entirely; I create my own by mixing the Anthelios tinted and un-tinted SPF mineral moisturizes.

There are many similar products available, these are my favorites, which are yours?

3. The natural deodorant debate

SkinProductThere are conflicting reports about the potential health implications of antiperspirants. I’ve decided to err on the side of caution, so I’m a natural deodorant convert.

Several girlfriends helped me field-test a variety of natural deodorant brands. We compared notes on product effectiveness and scents. Here are my top two recommendations:

Dermalogica Environmental Control Deodorant This is the most effective for when I exercise. This product is gel-based, free of potentially-irritating Aluminum Chlorohydrate and S.D. Alcohol and it lasts forever. I use it regularly, alternating it with my other go-to favorite.

Priya Means Love makes an amazing spray product. Bonus: Priya is based in Baltimore, so your money supports a local woman who creates wonderful, natural products.

Note: It’s important to find a product that works well with your unique body chemistry. It might take multiple attempts to find the brand that works well for you.

4. Coffee

coffee-beans-759024_960_720Several months ago, I read an article about the number of paper cups consumed by American coffee drinkers each year. Appalling!

I’m a five-day-a-week, coffee on the go consumer. If my buying habits are continually creating waste, then I’m doing more harm than good. Buh-bye paper cups!

KeepCup saved my morning routine. These reusable cups come in recycled plastic or glass and in a variety of standard barista sizes. Now I make coffee at home or take my KeepCup to a local coffee joint for a fill up.

How are you making your morning routine green? Please share your best tips in the comments.

5. The more you know

I like to stay in-the-know about new developments that help keep my morning routine nice and green. Here are my top three favorite websites for eco-friendly style and beauty news.

The Environmental Working Group I’m especially fond of the “skin deep” page  – you can look at the ingredients and health scores for your favorite skin care products.  

Ecouterre This is my go-to website for the latest info on eco fashion, sustainable style, organic beauty products and ethical apparel.

Mother Nature Network This is a fantastic site focused on environmental news, being socially responsible at home, healthy families, green living and everything in between.  

Editor’s note: While DC EcoWomen does not endorse any specific products or services, we do endorse a conscious effort to live with the environment and sustainability in mind.

Amy Loder is a personal stylist and a Business Development Director at Blackboard Inc., a firm specializing in higher education technology and solutions. Amy has extensive experience in both the fashion industry and business development. She is passionate about women creating their most authentic personal style and using human and environmentally friendly clothing and products.

 

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Why “The Why” is Needed to Recycle Right

By Cara Blumenthal

You just finished lunch at your favorite salad hotspot. You get up from the table, gather the plastic bowl and lid, plastic fork and knife, and flexible plastic packaging (that previously packaged the fork and knife) and head over to the trash and recycling bins. Quick! What do you do? Do you stand there, for longer than you are proud of, contemplating into which bin to sort your waste? Perhaps you use some haphazard decision-making process that draws on hearsay and a recent conversation among your coworkers about what is and is not recyclable? If so, welcome to the club.

As an avid recycler, I am often the person to whom my family and friends turn to ask the question, “Can this be recycled?” I am the first to admit, however, that I don’t always know the answers. Recycling rules can be outright confusing. What constitutes narrow-neck versus wide-mouth? What do the plastic identification numbers 1 through 7 mean? To complicate the matter, recycling dos and don’ts vary widely from place to place depending on regulations and the capabilities of the local recycling facility, among other factors.

unnamedBut following recycling rules may be more important now than ever. Recently, the news has been littered (pun intended) with articles about the financial struggles of the recycling industry. A medley of recent trends have contributed to the recycling industry’s crisis—including declining oil prices, low commodity prices of recycled materials, a changing waste stream (most notably “lightweighting” of materials), a quickening trend toward single-stream recycling, and increasing processing costs.

At the same time, there has been a noticeable increase in interest around waste over the past few years. Some trending waste and recycling news stories include Adidas’ sneakers made from recycled ocean plastic and a spike in interest around outrageous food waste statistics. Moreover, an increasing number of cities (including Washington, D.C.) and corporations (such as Procter & Gamble and Sears) are committing to zero waste goals. These zero waste goals should be pursued through waste reduction and reuse first, but they will be achieved largely based on the success of recycling initiatives.

So what can the average citizen do? According to the June 20, 2015 Washington Post article on recycling, one of the biggest challenges with recycling in DC is the problem of “contamination.” Contamination is a somewhat jargony term used in the waste industry when non-recyclable material is sorted incorrectly with recyclable material. When this happens, it can degrade the value of the entire recycling stream, or worse, it can render the entire batch of recycling non-recyclable. In other words, contamination can cause your recycling to end up in a landfill or, for the majority of DC’s waste, to be sent to an incinerator.

To echo the letter to the editor response to The Washington Post’s June 2015 article, consistent messaging and education are needed to solve this problem. Explaining “the why” of correct recycling sorting is a crucial component of this much-needed educational process. People should not just be told what to do and what not to do when sorting their waste. People should be told the reason behind these actions.

Paper_recycling_in_Ponte_a_SerraglioTake for example the recycling of plastic bags. According to the D.C. Department of Public Works (DPW), plastic bags can be included in your residential recycling—with a very important caveat. The DPW website states, “Please put your plastic bags into one plastic bag then place it in your recycling container.” However, there is no mention of the reason why this request is made. (Pssst! The reason is that single plastic bags clog and tangle around the recycling equipment!)

A quick Google search revealed good examples of simple educational tools that municipalities and waste companies have used to educate the public of “the why” in order to influence recycling behavior. Clark County, Washington, for instance, has this simple one-pager with pictures and arrows to show why plastic bags are not allowed in the county’s recycling carts. Similarly, the city of St. Louis, Missouri has an entire webpage dedicated to the details about why plastic bags are not accepted in its recycling stream and tips to reduce plastic bag use.

Simple fliers, websites, videos and other educational tools will be vital to decreasing contamination and supporting the success of recycling in D.C. The recycling industry has the potential to contribute to the D.C. economy through revenue from material sales and job creation in addition to contributing to a cleaner environment and saving natural resources. Let’s give the recycling industry a fighting chance once more. Let’s both educate ourselves and call on our local government to educate us about “the why” so that we have the tools and knowledge to recycle right.

Cara Blumenthal is a graduate from the Masters in Sustainability Management program at American University. She recently started working for the D.C. Department of General Services on recycling and waste management implementation.

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By Katrina Phillips

DC EcoWomen with Green Living Project founder Rob Holmes In partnership with the UN’s World Environment Day, Green Living Project recently held a Washington, DC, premiere to share their latest films.  Green Living Project is a filmmaking and marketing company that creates short films to showcase examples of sustainability in action.  DC EcoWomen was a promotional sponsor for the event and several EcoWomen attended, including myself.

Our evening began with a short local spotlight story from Sam Ullery, the Schoolyard Garden Specialist for DC’s education office.  I had no idea the DC school system had such a position, and it was great to see Sam’s passion to provide students in the area access to local, nutritious food.

Elisabeth Guilbaud-Cox from the UN Environment Program Regional Office for North America also joined the screening.  She applauded the audience for attending because as our 7 billion-person world ever increases demand on resources, “we need to empower ourselves to bring about change”.

DC EcoWomen was a local sponsor for the event.The six films screened at the event included stories from the US and Central America, each focusing on a local sustainability project’s success.  Issues ranged from agroforestry in Belize to refurbishing bicycles “rescued” from landfills in Chicago.  It was a great reminder to us that all it takes is regular people with a passion for change coming together to reach a sustainability goal.

Green Living Project founder and chief storyteller Rob Holmes was our guide through the films of the evening, and shared how each film was  made during our viewing.  We ended with a preview of the latest films from Africa, and the footage looked stunning!  I can’t wait to see them!  Rob also shared that he is currently seeking projects to highlight for their upcoming trip to Asia, so contact Jenny at Green Living Project if you know of great stories to share.   All in all it was an informative ininspirational event – and I even won a door prize!