Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

posted by | on , , , , , | No comments

By Lesly Baesens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on DIY Gift-Wrapping: Do It YULESELF

This Holiday Season,  Wrap Your Gifts With Sustainable Style And A Personal Touch

Written by DC EcoWomen Board Member Catherine Sweitzer

Whether DIY is a personal mantra or a nice idea you keep at arm’s length, there are many ways to make your gift wrapping a little more festive AND green.

Most of my holiday projects are about the same: cute with minimal dedication.  Greening your holidays doesn’t need to be an added burden this busy month! I used three simple ideas while wrapping gifts this year: a recycled tree cutout, map wrap, and magazine streamer. Keep reading to learn how to wrap it yourself!

Stuff You Need:

  • Paper Bags
  • Maps or Newspaper
  • Magazines
  • Ribbon
  • Glue
  • Tape
  • Scissors

The bags I used were left over from Sweet Green take-out and holiday shopping – go ahead and raid your stash of Whole Foods bags for an instant abundance of wrapping supplies. The maps and magazines were things I found around the office, although both can be found thrift stores.

And don’t forget the last thing you need: Gifts!

Now for the wrapping ideas!

Recycled Tree Cutout

Need – Brown Bag, Magazine, Scissors, Tape

Choose a bag that will be appropriate for the size of your gift. Then choose a magazine image that you would like to be peeking through your wrapping paper.

Grab the paper bags and pop open the bottom of the bag and flatten it out. It looks a bit like this:

Cut off the handles of the handles of the bag then cut the bag lengthwise to create a large piece of wrapping paper.

Cut HALF of a tree in what will be the “front” of your wrapping paper (as you can see I goofed up the “half” bit on the bottom).

Grab your image and tape it to the front of your gift. Line up the wrapping paper so your image is peeking through, tape it just right and tah dah! green gift wrap magic:

Map Wrap

Need – Map, Tape, Ribbon, Scissors

Check out the photo of the presents under the tree if you need to be sold on how darling this looks when finished!

It isn’t fancy but newspaper or a map as wrapping paper turns out well especially with a little ribbon for flair. For extra points, use cloth ribbon with wire, which is easily reusable.

Magazine Streamer

Need – Magazine, Tape, Scissors

Some things are difficult to wrap. Namely, anything that isn’t in the shape of a square or rectangle.  By cutting strips of magazine, newspaper, or a map you can piece together wrapping paper that fits the form of your gift AND it looks artsy.

For this, I cut strips of magazine to be wrapped around bracelets.

The bracelets turned into a small wreath of glossy magazine photos; the possible results are as varied as the shapes of all of the awkward-to-wrap gifts!

If you need a little extra help gift-wrapping, don’t forget to stop by the DC EcoWomen Gift Wrapping Fundraiser happening throughout the next couple of weeks.

Here’s to a happy holiday season, may it be filled with green and festive DIY-ing!

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on This Holiday Season, Are You Ready To Give?

Finding The Charity That’s Right For You

Written by Gizelle Lachey

‘Tis the season of giving, and if you’re looking to make a charitable contribution this holiday season but don’t know where to begin, we can help. There are a number of online resources to guide you in the decision, but there are also some important things to take into consideration when searching for the right charity to donate to.

Follow the Track Record

The best way to find a charity worthy of your donation is to search online. CharityWatch.org organizes more than 600 charities in a database and ranks them based on various elements. These include:

  • Cost to raise $100: Every organization must spend money to raise money. The common ratio is $35 spent per $100 earned in charity.
  • Years of assets: This straightforward barometer measures the number of years the charity has existed and how old its common assets are.
  • Percent spent on charity: It is commonly known that charities do not spend every cent on the actual charitable purposes. Spending 60 percent or better on direct charity is considered acceptable.

If you want to donate, find the charity that speaks to you but is also ranked reasonably and properly verified.

Ciphering Out Fraud

Of course, many new charities do not have a lot funding and exposure but deserve attention. Unfortunately, even in a faith-based environment, people may still try to scam or take advantage of you. It’s vital that you protect yourself from fraud. The online application Web of Trust recognizes quality websites by brandishing them one of four colors: Green designates a website as trustworthy and protected. Yellow confirms that the website has received a few complaints but not enough to justify the dreaded red designation. Red sites are considered scams, malware or generally unprotected. Despite this, many smaller websites are gray/white, meaning either not enough information has been collected or the website is very new.

The LifeLock Twitter page offers insight and tips into what resources are valid and how to avoid fraudulent activity, especially during this holiday season. For instance, you can set up alerts to occur if the website is potentially malware infested, and the online database identifies common identity tactics and ways your computer can be breached.

Simple Online Giving

If you are left confused, you can opt for a mainstream resource toward charitable giving as opposed to searching a database. Amazon recently launched their Amazon Smile program. The company will donate .5 percent of the purchase price of any item to a charity listed. When checking out, sift through the available Amazon-approved charities, confirm that the amount goes to the charity and pick something that specifically speaks to you. You can also do some holiday shopping while you’re at it, which will make you feel good on another level as well.

Don’t forget: December 3 is Giving Tuesday! Head to GivingTuesday.org to donate to your favorite local nonprofit. As a thank you for your donation you have the option to receive a limited-edition DC EcoWomen t-shirt that you can rock to show your EcoWomen pride! Help us raise a final $2013 before 2013 ends.

posted by | on , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Happy Veggie Holidays: Six vegetarian/vegan recipes for a meat-free celebration

Below is a post by guest blogger Dawn Bickett.  Dawn is our newest blogger and we look forward to reading more from her soon!

The holidays simply do not feel complete without the smells and tastes of traditional meals and sweets. But if you or your friends and family are vegetarian or vegan, the typical holiday spread can be slim pickings at best.

Worried about what to make your vegan friend, or what vegetarian dish you can prepare that your loved ones will enjoy? Here are six quick and easy vegan or vegetarian holiday recipes guaranteed to lower your carbon footprint and satisfy even the most skeptical carnivore.

Breakfast: Pumpkin Waffles
For a cheerful holiday breakfast, try this vegan golden pumpkin waffle recipe from Isa Chandra at the Post Punk Kitchen. Don’t forget to top them with pecan bits and maple syrup for extra flavor.

Drinks: Apple Cider
The classic holiday beverage, eggnog, is not exactly vegan-friendly. However, brewing up some hot cider is a great alternative that has the added benefit of filling the room with the scent of cinnamon and clove.

Tip: You can keep the cider simmering on low heat for hours to enjoy the smell, as long as you add more water or juice as water evaporates. Really want to warm up? Add an ounce of dark rum to each glass just before serving.

Side Dishes: Spicy Chipotle Butternut Squash
If you still have a butternut squash or two left from your fall CSA, consider this simple and spicy roasted squash dish. It can be a side dish for either brunch or dinner.

Main Course: Not Just a Nut Roast
For an exciting alternative to ham or turkey at Christmas, consider one of the many vegetarian main courses from the recipe finer of The Vegetarian Society of the UK. Their nut loaf, a common British replacement for a meat dish, is exceptional.

Dessert: Peppermint Chocolate Cookie Sandwiches
This tasty combo of chocolate and peppermint is perfect to bring to a party, or to keep all to yourself!

Tip: For mini-cookie sandwiches, make the cookies half the size suggested and cut the baking time down to 6 minutes. Also, consider throw a handful of chocolate chips into the cookie batter, if you have them.

Dessert: French Chocolate Bark
Of course, there is always room for more sweets. For another quick vegan or vegetarian treat that doubles as a gift, try this delicious chocolate bark recipe. To make this recipe vegan, substitute semi-sweet vegan chocolate chips for the chocolate the recipe calls for.

Tip: Not a fan of dried fruit and nuts? For a peppermint variation, take out the fruit and nut combination, and add 1 tsp. of peppermint extract. Then crush peppermint candy and sprinkle it across the top before it cools.

Happy holidays from DC Ecowomen!