Posts Tagged ‘green’

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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. 

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.

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on A Delicious and Sustainable Spring Salad

By Elizabeth Hubley

This salad is everything I love about spring – crisp, tender asparagus; the first juicy vibrant tomatoes of the season, creamy pasture-raised goat cheese, and a light dressing featuring sweet local honey. A satisfying crunch from toasted hazelnuts brings it all together.

In each recipe I create, I choose ingredients that are good for you, people, and the planet. I believe that we have the power to support our bodies, strengthen our communities, and live our commitment to the environment through what we buy, where we make each purchase, and how we prepare and enjoy each meal. This salad was inspired by last weekend’s stroll through the Takoma Park Farmer’s Market and a quick trip to the TPSS Co-op.

I encourage you to make this salad a local adventure – seek out your local farmer’s market for the asparagus, tomatoes, goat cheese and honey. Support a food cooperative or independent grocery store for the hazelnuts and other dressing ingredients. Each dollar you spend is a vote for the kind of world that you want to live in. Not sure where to start? Visit Local Harvest to find markets, farms, and co-ops near you.springsalad3

As you enjoy the flavors of spring, know that you’re supporting your own health in addition to your community and the planet. This salad is rich in folate, a B vitamin that is especially important for women’s health. It also contains fiber, protein, and healthy fats for a well-balanced and nutritious meal.

Since local produce is harvested just before being brought to market, it contains more nutrients than food brought in from faraway places. Asparagus contain a wide variety of important vitamins and are a good source of prebiotics, which improve digestion. Tomatoes contain, lycopene, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin E, as well as other nutrients that have been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol and blood pressure.

Purchasing local honey supports honeybee populations, beekeepers, and the health of our local ecosystem. Honey has been used as medicine since ancient times and locally produced honey has been shown to have much stronger antibacterial activity than conventional honey.

springsalad1Choosing goat cheese from pasture-raised goats is a responsible way to indulge in a little dairy. Learn more about the importance of selecting animal products carefully at Eat Wild. Following a vegan diet? Just double up on the hazelnuts, which are full of protein, healthy fats, and promote heart health. You can substitute another natural sweetener for the honey.

Most importantly, take time to prepare and enjoy this delicious salad! Know that you will be supporting your own health, people near and far, and living a little lighter on the planet.

Shaved Asparagus Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients:

Shaved Asparagus Salad:

1 pound asparagus

1 cup cherry tomatoes

2 oz local goat cheese

¼ cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

Honey Dijon Vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon raw honey

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Snap the tough ends off the asparagus. With a vegetable peeler, shave the asparagus into thin strips and toss into a bowl.
  2. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and add to the bowl with asparagus.
  3. Crumble the goat cheese into the bowl with the vegetables.
  4. Make the vinaigrette: combine all ingredients in a separate small bowl and whisk well to combine.
  5. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well.
  6. Divide the salad onto two plates and top each with half of the hazelnuts.
  7. Enjoy!

Make it a meal: top with a poached or hard-boiled local organic egg.

Tip: If you can’t find toasted hazelnuts, simply roast them in an oven at 275 degrees F for about 15 minutes.

Elizabeth is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and Yoga Instructor who created Siena Wellness to inspire people to live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives that positively impact the world we share. She believes that each of us has the power to change the world through daily choices that positively impact our own health, help lift people out of poverty, and protect the planet.

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Why Should You Care about the Social Cost of Carbon?

By Tamara Toles O’Laughlin

I recently attended a briefing on the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) sponsored by the Ayres Law Group and it set my wonky heart ablaze. It featured panelists from advocacy, policy, economic, and legal backgrounds who vividly discussed the future of this calculation which is intended to bring environmental damages or externalities back into the conversation on federal enterprise regulation. While eating up the jargon and enjoying the jockeying between doctorates, I thought that it might be fun to write a blog post and make it plain since, numbers aside, it’s actively being used to help humans calculate damages to the environment over large expanses of time, when they make stuff.

05a.Industrial.PC.VA.4jun06_(167428560)The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines the SCC as the economic damages assessed per metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions. Plainly put, it is the dollar figure attached to a specific amount of global carbon pollution. In the real world, this figure is used to develop a cost/benefit analysis that helps a project manager, developer or government define the savings realized by avoiding an action that puts carbon dioxide into the air we breathe.  Assigning costs and liabilities helps businesses make decisions about where and whether to set up shop.  The SCC is intended to make it easier to capture the full picture/bottom line on climate impacts by attaching that impact to dollars spent now and in the future. Government uses this calculation to define the present benefit of rules it makes to stem the negative effects of activity on the environment later.

President Obama has been an increasingly vocal advocate for an aggressive response to the impending reality that American style energy use has a negative global impact that contributes to climate change through increased greenhouse gas emissions.  Cap and trade was originally proposed as a means to limit these impacts by creating a controlled system (delineated by a reduced impact target) for a steadily decreasing number of permits (i.e. rights) to pollute. It failed to get through the Senate and the President responded with a series of executive actions, including mandates, regulations, measurements, and fees to allow federal agencies like the EPA and the Department of Energy (DOE) to do what Congress could not, i.e. something.

The SCC monetizes the cost of doing business so that policies directed at big picture mitigation of climate change can fight static cost estimates with dynamic cost estimates. It also provides a neat and tidy-ish calculus as the reason to take or not take an action in the business world, making it a business decision regardless of whether it is a moral one.  It is a heck of a conversion that transforms trees, air, and life itself into figures, regression charts, and tables. In doing so, it engages large scale undertakings in their own language of profits and losses.

unnamedThere is some controversy about how the SCC is formulated. In fact, there are varying opinions on whether and how to fix that cost, what numbers accurately make up an appropriate period of time to measure impacts, and items such as what amount is an accurate reflection of the feasibility of an air conditioner or heat pump regulation, or whether a community building project gets beyond the environmental impact assessments required under the National Environmental Policy Act.   

Beyond fixing the issues of how much time captures the complete damage of carbon and whose dollar amount best represents that loss, SCC is important because it helps decision makers know what science to apply, how dangerous an activity will be, and what species, environments, and ecosystems will be affected by the increase in carbon represented by an activity. So why care? Because we should all know how far into the future our infrastructure decisions affect warming seas, mass migration, species extinction, and ecosystem failure. And that information isn’t just for wonks.

For more in- depth discussion of SCC Fund Models and other enviro tech details click here and here.

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

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

by Catherine Plume

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

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

Cykel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

posted by | on , , , , , , | Comments Off on Have Yourself a Green Ramadan!

By DC EcoWomen Board Member Lina Khan

As the month of Ramadan begins this week for Muslims, many of us are preparing both physically and mentally for fasting. Muslims believe that during this month in the 600s C.E., the holy text of the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Even before the text was revealed, he often spent time in meditation and reflection. In the present day, Muslims do the same during Ramadan, and fast from food, drink, and other physical needs during the daylight hours.

Since Ramadan is a time for inner reflection and self-improvement, its personal impact is unique to the individual. But on a broader level, fasting during Ramadan is intended to help one learn self-control and let her/his spiritual nature grow stronger. From the thirst and hunger, fasting is also meant to foster empathy for those who don’t get enough to eat, and Ramadan is a critical time for giving to charity.

For me, personally, Ramadan is a chance to try not to get so wrapped up in work and the daily grind, and to improve on my weaknesses (such as…my temper) and become a more calm and self-aware person. This is challenging every year, but I like to think I’m veerry slooowly getting better at it. This year, fasting will be particularly trying with the heat, so I’ll get good practice at bettering my temperament hopefully.

Recently I learned about another goal during Ramadan, which is to strive to make Ramadan, and other facets of our spiritual lives, more ‘green’. Speaking logistically, Ramadan entails a pre-sunrise meal (suhr) and post-sunset meal (iftar). And speaking from experience, this is the most enjoyable in the company of others. People often turn iftars into potlucks after work, and there can be a fair amount of plastic ware and containers that get thrown away afterwards.

A sunset meal: veggie pot pie with homemade biscuits

A few years ago, I attended a ‘Zero Trash Iftar’ hosted by Green Muslims, an organization based in the DC area that seeks to build environmental leadership, awareness, and action within Muslim communities in America. At the iftar, everyone brought their dishes in re-usable containers, and their own eating utensils and reusable napkins (and so begins the revival of handkerchiefs! Maybe). I met cool people and it felt good to break my fast on wholesome food and consciously avoid piling up on trash. I’ve since learned more about the eco-conscious movement taking root within the American Muslim community, and wanted to share some other actions I’d like to take toward the green Ramadan goal.

Here are some suggestions from a green multifaith webinar:

  • When washing up for the 5 daily prayers, or even when having a shower, try to limit how much water is used.
  • Switch from plastic water bottles and Styrofoam to reusable water bottles and containers—speaking for myself, this can be tough when getting leftovers from a restaurant, so I’d need to devise a plan.
  • After a long day of fasting, try not to take more food than one can comfortably digest, to avoid wasting food. Also, try consuming more fruits and vegetables than meat. Since I have been eating vegetarian for awhile now, I hope to keep that up.

I’ve concluded that these actions will entail, for myself, going for more homemade meals for suhr and iftar. So, I’m hoping to implement some of my trial dishes this Ramadan and that these will keep me full and healthy this month.

Steel cut oats with maple syrup and pecans

posted by | on , | Comments Off on Gearing up for Winter!

It seems that in the wake of Hurricane Sandy came winter.  Cold temperatures (except for the weekend’s “heat wave”) and days that get dark quickly (thank you daylight savings time) signal the beginnings of winter to me.  So this weekend, I spent some time preparing for a ‘green’ winter. Here are the winter-y things I’m forward to this season:

1. Winter Veggies.  Eating seasonal foods and veggies mean knowing what is available during the winter.  Veggies like broccoli and cauliflower last into winter, as do potatoes and yams.  I’m especially grateful that sweet potatoes last into winter – nothing says the holidays like candied sweet potatoes!

Check out this listing for more winter veggies!

2. Candles.  Candles are a great way to warm up your house without spending a fortune on heating bills.  Beeswax and vegetable oil candles are the best for the environment.  Plus, when the candle burns down, you can find a million uses for that jar.  Just stick the burnt out candle in the freezer for a day or so, pop out the wax, and wash.

Learn more about eco-friendly candles here.

3. Curling up with a good book.  There’s something about winter that makes me want to curl up under a lamp with a book and a blanket.  So I’m using this season to read up on some of my favorite mystery writers and to learn something new about environmentalism.  You can be sure I’ll be checking out our Book Club features through the winter!

4. Snow fun.  I’m certain that we are in for a snowy winter this year, so I’m preparing for all my favorite snowy activities.  There’s something wonderful about creating a snow angel in front of an apartment building!

Check out this article from the Huffington Post for some other snowy ideas for this winter!

What are some of your favorite winter activities? How do you make them ‘green’?

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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!

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By Kate Seitz

Hi fellow EcoWomen. I’m Kate, a mid-twenty’s Midwestern transplant to DC and self-proclaimed
environmental enthusiast, perpetually on the lookout for new ways to “green” my routine. My kitchen
cupboards are exploding with glass jars that previously held jam, pickles, you name it. Can’t get enough
of ‘em, and continually find new ways to re-use ‘em. I think I may be allergic to wasting food and throwing
recyclables in a non-recycling bin. I’ve dabbled in the creations of homemade, organic face wash, face
scrub, and hand soap. I persistently scour the web and chat with like-minded individuals about ways to
reduce consumption and make a positive impact on our natural world. I’ll be sharing my successes and
inevitable failures (my first batch of hand soap resembled a giant booger…still workin’ on that…) here,
as I continue to put my lifestyle under the magnifying glass and discover ways to incorporate eco-friendly
practices into daily life. Hopefully, a DIY idea will strike your fancy, or I’ll succeed in intriguing you with the
wonders of bike commuting (see below). Read on, and stay tuned…

Each and every day, we make choices about how to transport ourselves from point A to point B. Which
mode of transportation we select is something we can all zero in on to reduce the stress that we as
human beings exert on the natural world. My own “ah ha” moment hit me after living in DC for a few
years. The commute from my first DC residence to work was relatively painless. I biked three-quarters
of a mile to the nearest Metro stop. The Metro was about a 15 minute ride, after which I’d exit at my stop
downtown and walk one block to work. Thirty minutes door to door. Boom.

Here’s the thing. DC summers make any Metro commute a little more interesting, and by interesting, I
mean sweaty and uncomfortable. I’m talkin’ daily summer Metro rides where each passenger is sweatier
the last, and what seems like every other Metro car has a busted air conditioning unit. On more than
one occasion during my summer Metro rides, beads of sweat literally trickled from this dude’s…OK OK,
I’ll stop there. Point is, Metro commutes in the DC summer heat and humidity does not a happy person
make. This unfortunate reality aside, I always had the thought in the back of my mind: could I make it to
and from work in one piece on a bicycle? And if I could, how much of a positive impact would this change
lend, both on my own lifestyle and on the environment?

It wasn’t until my husband and I moved into our second and current DC residence that I took the
possibility of becoming a bike commuter seriously. Our place is off of the Metro grid, and while the
Metrobus does stop right outside of our house, well, don’t get me started on the woes of the Metrobus.
After our move, I planned out my bike route, got my ride tuned up, and purchased several articles
of clothing that may or may not blind anyone who looks my way (but hey, at least they decrease the
chances of a clueless driver nonchalantly running me off the road). Despite my preparations, my worries
as a cycling novice loomed. What if I get honked at? What if I go the wrong way on a one way? What are
those hand signals again? As I prepared for my first official bike commute and nervously pondered these
questions, my husband offered to spend his morning off to accompany me on my first ride to work (can
you say “swoon”?). Not only did I make it all in one piece, but I did the trek home all by my grown-up self
(ta da!). And thus began my love affair with bike commuting.

I now bike every day to work, rain or shine, 10 miles roundtrip, and would not have it any other way. I
suppress the temptation to yell out “see ya, suckers!” as I (safety) make my way right on passed the
inevitable traffic jam. What I love most is that I spend 15 minutes of my 25 minute commute on the Capital
Crescent Trail. Have you been on the CCT on the weekend? Ya, not the same. Don’t get me wrong…it
is a great trail regardless, and I love to see so many people out and about on the weekends. But the trail
on an early weekday morning is so calming. Peaceful. The other cyclists are friendly, almost neighborly.
Many nod their heads to say good morning. And I once got a thumbs up…how’s that for a start to your
workday?

My bike commute is the perfect start to my day. I look forward to getting on my bike each morning and

pedaling to work, passing the serene Potomac on my right, no cars in sight. It gets my heart pumping.
I consciously draw in deep breaths of fresh morning air. I’m on my own schedule, free of worries about
Metro breakdowns and traffic pile up. Plus, I’ve tapped into the environmental advantages of cycling,
which include avoiding gas and electricity consumptive modes of transportation. If only I had discovered
this joy years ago…

May 18th is the Washington DC Bike to Work Day. No better time to discover this delightful means of
transportation than when you’re sharing the streets with thousands of fellow cyclists! So get out there!

Yours in greening,

Kate Seitz

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By Vesper Hubbard

Devora kimelman-Block, Jess, Tonya Tolchin, Meredith Sheperd_2

In April, DC EcoWomen hosted a panel discussion for EcoHour on local farming. We heard about kosher meat production from Devora Kimelman-Block (KOL Foods), about private DC gardens from Meredith Sheperd (Love and Carrots), and small-scale produce farming from Tanya Tolchin (Jug Bay Market Garden). These women have all made admirable commitments to sustainable practices that promote the health and well-being of their friends, families, and communities.

Devora started off the talk with her story. Over a year ago she found herself trucking cattle to a kosher slaughterhouse in Baltimore in order to get the food she needed prepared according to her family’s diet. As she was taking these time intensive and costly trips she thought about how the task fit into her own spiritual journey and how the process could be made better. Prior to 2007, when she decided to found her own slaughterhouse, people had to choose between kosher and sustainability. What started as a hobby quickly turned busy and she found investors to help her turn the venture into a full time job. She also commented that people before WWII considered meat to be a treat rather than a daily diet staple. Her company encourages meat minimalism.

Tonya grows veggies, flowers and herbs on an organic farm in Prince Georges County in Maryland. As a child she grew up in a town with one of the best agricultural programs in the country but did not find a lot of personal interest in it. Farming was not considered “cool.” Once in college however she became interested in the subject of food shortages and took a course linking farm ownership with poverty issues. She quickly found her way onto a local farm and food bank and started volunteering her time. After college she came to DC to work with Sierra Club. Once married, she found that she and her husband had an enjoyment for farming and decided to start a farm, an idea that seemed absurd at the time. However after some serious business planning their farm was underway. Tonya remarked that the times of have changed and people are beginning to see the value in local farms and personal agriculture again.

Meredith runs Love and Carrots a local company that starts gardens for people in urban areas. It all started when she moved into a house in the DC area with a great yard but the soil was no good. Her closest community garden had a 2 year waiting list to join. After observing the yard space of her neighbors, she decided to start a business creating gardens in these underused green spaces. She deals with people who have been separated from gardening but want to learn. She commented that people have been culturally removed from the action and concept of personal and local agriculture. Now local farming has become a new and large trend.

There were lots of questions from the audience and some of the tips/answers the ladies offered were to really vet farmers. Ask lots of questions to get to know them especially if you are looking for certain qualities in your food, whether it is organic, sustainability or other standards. Tonya offered that her company/farm offers internships to professionals and students who want a chance to “try on” farming. Devora spoke to being a woman in the Kosher food business and said her gender has not been a sticking point. She is the main point person for her organization so most people know her gender immediately. She also offered that people should start cutting down their diet to eating meat twice a week rather than every day. Such is a more sustainable practice.

Farm resources:
Realtimefarms.com – A crowd-sourced nationwide food guide. We enable you to trace your food back to the farm it came from, whether staying in or dining out, so you can find food you feel good about eating.