Posts Tagged ‘local’

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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 The Benefits of Local Brew

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This blog post highlights the benefits of a sustainable local brewery.  DC EcoWomen does not endorse any particular organization but does serve as a resource to communicate sustainable efforts made by all.

By Megan Devlin

Across industries, the consumer trends are clear: people want local. In response to market demands, many companies are shifting business strategy in an effort to be more sustainable and to optimize community impact. While the beer industry isn’t necessarily known for its sustainable practices, a majority of craft breweries keep up with localization by focusing on their regional markets.

Some of the big players like New Belgium and Sierra Nevada have expanded beyond their flagships and opened brew sites in new markets across the country. Smaller outfits have rooted deeper in their communities — with the female-owned Denizens Brewing Co. in Silver Spring, Md., owning that through business as usual.

Denizens cofounders Emily Bruno and Julie Verratti deliver on this region’s demand for hyper-local, fresh beer by brewing three times per week only 75 feet below the taproom.

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Since opening in 2014, Denizens has worked to foster a taproom culture where customers get to know the brewers, owners and staff in a great social atmosphere to drink fresh beer. Denizens draft lineup includes five flagship beers plus five rotating seasonals. While the beers are produced in house, they reflect a global palate, with styles ranging from a Czech-inspired Pilsner to an English extra special bitter (ESB) to a tequila barrel-aged “petit” sour ale influenced by head brewer Jeff Ramirez’s earlier days crafting in Colorado.

The diversity of flavors, aromas and ingredients on the 10-beer menu creates opportunities for pairings with seasonal food items. Traditional pub fare like the burger and fries often pair well with the Born Bohemian Pilsner, while this summer’s spicy mango salad could be accented with the Southside Rye IPA or played down with maltier styles like the Lowest Lord English-Style ESB.

While the kitchen menu is seasonal not all of the products are locally sourced, a common practice that businesses implement to go “green.” Breweries moving in sustainable directions typically focus on partnering with local farmers for beer ingredients or by bringing production in-house, which is a more costly endeavor. Rogue Ales and Stone Brewing Co. have kept costs low by purchasing and leasing farmland, which in turn helps guarantee local farmers business or create agricultural jobs.

Smaller breweries don’t always have the financial resources to locally source beer ingredients like hops, which often require an advanced contract of two to three years and are grown best in regions like the Pacific Northwest, Europe and New Zealand. Despite these challenges, establishments operating under the brewpub model, where beer and food are produced in house, have more flexibility with local sourcing.

Denizens works exclusively with regional vendors for its kitchen items to further drive sustainable business relationships. Because the brewery doesn’t have a freezer on site, its Baltimore-based meat provider and local produce providers help ensure menu freshness.

To minimize waste in beer production, Denizens repurposes some of the grain used in the brewing process for the kitchen’s tomato spent grain toast, topped with pesto, mozzarella and a balsamic reduction. The rest is donated to a Maryland farmer who feeds the grain to his pigs.

Keeping its focus on the community, Denizens partners with the University of Maryland’s Graduate School of Fermentation, which grows a variety of yeast used for the brews: two sour/wilds, two for saison and hefeweizens as well as 3 different bacterias. The relationship is a win-win in that the graduate students get to work with commercial products while Denizens keeps costs low.

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Denizens community-oriented business approach also dovetails with their distribution strategy. Thanks to laws passed in both Maryland and DC, Denizens can self-distribute in Montgomery County and DC, whose border is just three blocks from the brewery. The further beer travels, the more expensive it is to distribute in terms of time, energy and labor.

Self-distributing breweries not only keep more revenue than breweries that go through a distributor, but the ripple effects of minimizing beer miles traveled include local economic growth, lower carbon footprinting and quality control.

“We know exactly where the beer has been at every step of the way,” Verratti said.

Denizens is conscious in identifying bars, restaurants and stores that carry local, independent alcoholic beverages. The neighborhood is also important. Republic in Takoma Park, located less than a mile from the taproom, serves as a perfect example of Denizens “trifecta,” which includes brand affiliation, efficiency, and the volume and speed of beer consumption.

“Our customers are their customers and their customers are our customers,” said Verratti.

Bruno said partnerships like the one with Republic helps Denizens carve its identity as a local brand.

“We want to expand our footprint in targeted ways,” Bruno said. “We’re not trying to be the Budweiser of craft beer.”

As the duo puts their heads together on how to sustainably scale their business, they also keep a pulse on what’s in front of them: beer and community. Over Halloween weekend, Denizens re-released Fear of a Black Beer, a coffee-infused blonde ale, in part to coincide with the brewery’s participation in this year’s annual Silver Spring Zombie Walk, which gathered nearly 700 zombie-clad humans on October 29 for a walk from Denizens to the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center for horror-film watching, ending the festivities at Quarry House Tavern.

“We try to do things to make ourselves really entrenched in the community.”

Megan Devlin is a Program Coordinator of Global Forums at Meridian International Center and was most recently the Editorial Assistant to The Atlantic’s Washington Editor at Large and Editor in Chief of AtlanticLIVE, the magazine’s events arm. Her journalism roots sprouted at Ithaca College where she was Editor in Chief for the award-winning campus newspaper The Ithacan. Megan also bartends at Glen’s Garden Market in Dupont Circle and contributes to DCBeer.com – and trains for marathons, in her spare time.

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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.

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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 That’s a Wrap! A Film Review from the D.C. Environmental Film Festival

By Alix Kashdan

Of Ants and MenOne day after work, I entered the Portrait Gallery in Chinatown, headed downstairs to the museum’s theater space, and settled in to watch a film: “E.O. Wilson – Of Ants and Men.” Beautiful shots of the Alabama wilderness floated across the screen, while the biologist Edward Osborne Wilson described his career in biology, his passion for the natural world, and the early experiences that influenced his life and career.

This was one of dozens of screenings, receptions, and events that are part of the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital (also known as the D.C. Environmental Film Festival, or DCEFF).

The festival began in 1993 and is the nation’s largest environmental film festival, showing more than 100 films at locations across the city over the course of a week and a half each March. DCEFF includes a ton of events including screenings, premiers, local documentaries and international films, shorts and feature-length movies, and discussions with filmmakers, to name a few.

“E.O. Wilson – Of Ants and Men” is one of many films that were screened at this year’s DCEFF. It tells the story of biologist and Harvard professor Edward Osborne Wilson.

The film touches on many themes, including Wilson’s adolescence in Alabama, moving beyond his study of ants to sociobiology and the negative response from many in the scientific community, and finishes with a look at his work with conservation efforts in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park.

Both the film’s story and style are captivating. The entire movie has a sense of lightness and calm while simultaneously delving deeply into complex ideas.

The cinematography is breathtaking, with lingering close-ups and wide-pan shots of forests, tree branches, marshes, and ferns. Even the close-up photography of ants is mesmerizing – even for someone who wouldn’t normally enjoy pictures of insects on a large screen.

Photo from the screening, depicting an abandoned ant colony filled with cement and then excavated.

Photo from the screening, depicting an abandoned ant colony filled with cement and then excavated.

The story and its themes are just as compelling as the film’s look and feel. One fascinating idea the film explores is the rise of sociobiology. It describes how Wilson has studied the cooperation, altruism, and complex social behavior exhibited by ants.

The film goes on to review the limited number of species that exhibit this type of behavior, called eusocial species, and reviews how Wilson expanded on this idea through writing about sociobiology in the 1970s. While today the evolution of social behavior is an accepted idea, at the time it caused a lot of controversy. The film depicts the backlash Wilson faced from scientists who disliked the idea of applying sociobiology to humans and our evolution.

The film “E.O. Wilson – Of Ants and Men” explores the intersection of biology, environmentalism, anthropology, psychology, and conservation science in an interesting and effective way. I highly recommend this movie, which can be watched online from PBS here: www.pbs.org/program/eo-wilson. I would also recommend checking out dceff.org, which includes an archive of festival films from the past few years, plus more information about this year’s festival.

Alix Kashdan works in digital media and communications at a non-profit. She’s passionate about climate policy, international relations, and digital media, including blogging, photography, and mapping. She grew up in the D.C. area and currently lives on Capitol Hill.

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By Tamara Toles O’Laughlin

Think big potato, act small fry

The conclusion of COP21 created much needed space for serious efforts to incite comprehensive, structural change for the planet and its inhabitants. By whatever means, we’ve got a critical mass that at least agrees that merely mitigating the most damaging effects of climate change isn’t enough.

The next challenge is to break from the attitudes, systems, and assumptions that got us into this mess. Huzzah! We are, at long last, looking at the scope of environmental questions through a lens of global, geo-political, inter- and intra-governmental equity, and with no time to spare.

As we shift from old methods to new practices, we rouse the bulwarks of fossil fuel energy—coal, oil and natural gas. We take on a future filled with more people and considerably less time, natural resources, or room for error. And we look with no shortage of hope for technological advancement to make ends meet.

GratisographyIt’s an awesome time to be alive! Each of us has in her own way accepted the vexation of big environmental questions because we are Ecowomen, actively creating kinship to face the challenge of our time: survival.

I propose that in contemplation of the big deal we draw our response to scale. Let’s take ownership of the future with our present day decisions.

As engaged Ecowomen, it behooves us to link grand efforts to ground level actions that support the nearest and most immediate form of power available to us: community.

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

Community is a combination of persons with shared aims, interests, or ends.

Functionally, community is a living thing, composed of living things, organized by choices. It performs as a series of relations characterized by the raising up and pulling down of interpersonal boundaries, replicated in reality. Consequently, community is a construct of our experience and our making.

Community as a creature of proximity

Last year, I heard Bryan Stevenson speak on the subject of pursuing justice. In his conclusion, he issued a challenge that struck me as an entirely elegant mode of approaching problems. He dared the audience to get into proximity with the things we find most uncomfortable. In discussing the tragic folly of mass incarceration, he implored us to “find our way to justice” by avoiding the temptation to sidestep problems that seem too big or scary to handle.

So, let’s start there. As Ecowomen, we unite in concern for the health of our planet. We nourish our bodies with foods on the low end of the food chain, choose glass over plastic, and conserve resources to diminish our ecological footprint. Collectively, we a force for sustainable economics, politics and bionetworks. We begin with people we know and increase capacity in our spheres of influence,plying our individual skills and abilities in the places we work, live, and play.

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Make yourself at home

In the District we don’t need to look too far to find the makings of community. There are truly local environmental concerns of every stripe within the 68.25 square miles we call home.

  • There are trash transfer stations in the Fort Totten, Brentwood, and Langdon neighborhoods that cause residents to question the effects of commercial activities on their long term health.
  • In recent years, the Capitol Power Plant was at the heart of local debate on coal fired plant conversions and the changeover to natural gas.
  • Months ago, residents of Northeast’s Ivy City took up the fight against pollution clustering from a planned bus depot, and won.

Free stock photo dc metro

Community as a creature of necessity

The national news is flush with stories about communities of necessity. Groups who may be friends or neighbors who transcend those associations when faced with out-sized danger, from ecological events or man-made forces.

Communities of environmental concern stretch across borders and boundaries because they are forged by the power of empathy. Its members arrive as strangers drawn together to address a common plight. Whether the cause is contrived deprivation, or rising tides, those who are able go where needed to join with vulnerable peoples fighting corruption and the unfettered evil of scarcity or degraded resources.

There is strength in amalgamated capacity. It supports transformation or avoids catastrophe in the making. When the need arises, community comes together as quickly as is dissipates. And it has, in Virginia, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, and North Carolina, among others.

As change agents, we should add our voices and leverage the strength of whatever agency we possess to tackle local, regional, and national environmental issues because we see ourselves in the plight, the fight, or the solution. And we don’t need permission to do it.

Multiracial earth photoThe larger environmental movement is an aggregate of the actions we take in community. Our level of engagement aides our sophistication; it colors who we see as victims or victors, what we see as wrongdoing, and our response to the call.

So, what are you waiting for? The issues are the invitation.

Tamara is an environmental advocate focused on civil society and justice issues. She holds degrees from The City College, City University of New York and two advanced degrees from Vermont Law School. Her hobbies include reading boring books about politics and neuroscience, writing diatribes about what she reads, traveling, and yoga. 

posted by | on , | Comments Off on Dining for Women and the World

By Brianna Knoppow

It’s a late Sunday afternoon when I walk into the suburban home in Takoma Park, MD. For a few hours I am venturing out of the microcosm that is D.C. and attending the monthly Dining for Women potluck. Glancing at the other attendees, I see more evidence that I’m not downtown anymore – for once I’m the youngest person at an event. But I’m not there to make new best friends. I’ve joined Dining for Women to be part of my first ‘giving circle,’ to meet like-minded individuals, and to partake in an internationally themed monthly potluck.

There are 429 chapters of Dining for Women, replete with 8,200 members.  Dining for Women focuses on supporting international efforts that specifically work to benefit females. What impresses me about the organization is that once a month each of the many chapters hosts a potluck to raise funds for that month’s chosen non-profit organization. Thus the money collected from one chapter is multiplied across the U.S.A. and the other countries where Dining for Women is located.

Rwanda_Classroom_edited In February our chapter watched a short video on Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) before contributing our individual donations. SHE is a non-profit organization with the goal of allowing Rwandan girls to be able to attend school during their menstruation time. I learned that over 20% of girls in Rwanda miss school during this ‘period.’ It’s difficult to contemplate that not every female can stroll down an aisle full of feminine hygiene products, with the most difficult decision being between Playtex and Tampax – or maybe the organic cotton product. SHE creates and distributes Go! pads, made with locally available banana fiber and employs locals in the production process. Additionally, SHE will be providing menstrual hygiene management training for 50 teachers.

Luckily, there is no minimum donation amount. With student loan debt looming in my mind, I handed over my check. It’s only $10, but that’s the beauty of giving circles – the combined donations add up together. For SHE, that’s a total of $44,947.

After watching the introductory video on SHE, our group engaged in a discussion. Many women were excited about the use of local materials. One woman suggests that a reusable DivaCup may be more sustainable.  This led to a friendly, though lively, discussion on cultural norms and practicality.

At another Dining for Women event we Skyped with a 22 year-old Syrian woman living as a refugee in Jordan. We learned that her family had acquired an apartment, albeit without water or electricity. I was horrified to hear that those with refugee status are not permitted to work in Jordan. Jordan suffers from high unemployment and fears that refugees will steal limited job opportunities. The woman we Skyped with has many siblings and one brother who dares to work illegally in order to feed the family. His penalty, if caught, is deportation.  That evening we raised funds for the Collateral Repair Project, which works with refugees from conflict zones. An important focus of the organization is to empower female leaders. Our 22 year-old friend is one of these leaders. Aside from the basic human needs of a refugee, she is hopeful that one day she will be able to return to her education and attain a degree in computer science. As she described her educational ambitions I felt myself becoming less consumed about my student loans and more grateful to have been granted such an educational opportunity.

Potluck_meal_(Indonesian_cuisine),_2015-04-12 March came along and we met to raise money for what I deem one of the most impressive organizations thus far – the Grandmother Project in Senegal. After dining on a potluck reminiscent of Senegal (though mostly vegetarian!), we watched a short introductory video and then Skyped with the founder of the Grandmother Project. We learned that in many rural areas of Senegal girls face female genital mutilation and teen pregnancy, among other issues. Atypical of many aid organizations, the Grandmother Project works to engage and empower the grandmothers – the decision makers in the village – in an effort to change collectively-maintained social norms. There were almost 20 people at this meeting and together we raised nearly $1,000 of the $44,500 contributed to the Grandmother Project.

I’m excited to have stumbled upon an organization, Dining for Women, that works to raise funds to better the lives of women throughout the world. As I take the long Metro ride home from Takoma Park, MD, I contemplate starting a local, D.C, chapter. I know my city apartment is too small for a potluck, so for now I will continue to make the trek and be grateful for the opportunity.

To learn more visit: http://diningforwomen.org/

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

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.

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How to beat the heat without turning up the AC

Dawn Bickett


Well, it’s official. As of this past Saturday, it’s summer. That means we can look forward to months of hot, muggy, energy-zapping weather outside. But don’t fret, and certainly don’t go burning up power with your AC on full blast. There are other ways to stay cool during these scorching summer months. Check out these splashy ways to beat the heat while avoiding excess electricity use.

Public Pools

Washington D.C. is full of them! Whether you are looking for ways to exercise outside without straining in the heat, or just want to relax, public pools are a great option. One of the most popular — Banneker Pool near Howard University — is open six days a week during the summer, including weekends. It is accessible by public transit, has bike racks out front, and it’s free! If you are a DC resident, that is. Don’t forget to bring proof of DC residency for free admission — either a DC driver’s license or a utility bill will do just fine.

Maryland and Virginia also have great access to public pools. Just check with your county’s parks and recreation department to learn more.

Natural Swimming Spots

Not a fan of chlorine? Perfer the shade of a tree to a pool umbrella? You may have to travel a bit outside the beltway (and drive a car), but these swimming holes will help you cool down and get back to nature!

Harpers Ferry, WV – The town Harpers Ferry sits at the junction of the Potomac River and Shenandoah River. Swimming in the Potomac and Shenandoah can be dangerous due to unseen currents, but there are several companies that will help you float down the river in an intertube instead! Harpers Ferry is also public transit friendly — it can be reached from DC via MARC train in about an hour.

Beaver Dam Swimming Club – Located just north of Baltimore, about 70 minutes from DC, this swim club is actually a huge filled-in marble quarry from the 1800s. A swimming hole since the 1930s, Beaver Dam is both a historic landmark, and a great swimming destination. For the more adventurous, it even has a rope swing!

Cunningham Falls State Park – Head to this state park in Maryland if you are looking for a little more than a swimming hole. A 75 min drive from downtown DC, Cunningham Falls has a lake open for swimming, campsites, and hiking. And it lives up to its name. Just take a short hike to see the park’s 78 foot waterfall.

The Beach!

Let’s face it. Sometimes a pool (or a lake) just doesn’t cut it. In preparation of those moments, consider two of the easiest, and least impactful ways to get to beaches near DC.

Sandy Point State Park – At just 45 minutes from DC — outside of Annapolis, MD — Sandy Point is your quickest way to the ocean. Well, technically it’s the Chesapeake Bay, but close enough on a hot day. And it’s not all swimming; it also boasts nearby hiking trails. So grab a few friends and carpool on over to the beach!

Rehoboth and Dewey Beaches – Desperate for a real ocean beach to chill out? BestBus can take you straight from DuPont Circle to the Atlantic Ocean. Tickets aren’t cheap, but it beats driving and burning all that extra gas.

With all these options, don’t hunker down in behind closed windows this summer. Go outside – and stay cool! Did I miss your favorite spot? Leave a comment to share it with other DC Ecowomen.

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You Can Help Save The Bees,  In Four Simple Steps

Written by EcoWomen Board Member Allyson Shaw

With the first days of spring, soon come the baskets of fresh strawberries, bundles of artichokes, brilliant flowers,  and piles of bright, leafy greens. But with the spring bounty comes a startling statistic: according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one of every three bites of food we eat is dependent on pollination from honeybees. And as every beekeeper knows, the bees are in an imminent crisis.

Heidi Wolff, a George Washington University alumna, began keeping bees when she was 17 years old. She says it was the “golden age” of beekeeping.

“You just put them in a box and let them do their thing,” Wolff said.

But just over the past decade, beekeepers have reported an annual loss of 40 to 50 percent of their hives – some have even lost 100 percent. Wolff says she now must feed her bees supplements and constantly check in on them.

While the exact cause of the population collapse is unknown, scientists believe it is a combination of pesticides, disease, poor nutrition, habitat loss, and inbreeding. In particular, more and more studies are now pointing to a certain class of insecticides, neonicotinoids, as a leading cause of bee death. Unlike other pesticides, “neonics” are absorbed into the plant and stay in the plant throughout its life.

Fewer bees means smaller harvests and higher food prices. Last June, Whole Foods partnered with The Xerces Society to show us what the grocery store would look like without honeybees. Our fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are in danger! Luckily there are ways you can help:

Plant things bees like!

It turns out, Washington, D.C. in an excellent home for bees. Wolff said urban bees are often healthier than their country counterparts because city bees can find a wider range of nutrition in a smaller radius. This spring, consider adding one of these native pollinator-friendly plants to your window box:

  • Coreopsis (Tickseed). This lovely daisy-like flower is drought resistant, hardy and easy to grow. It is a great source of protein-rich pollen for passing pollinators, since it has a long bloom time: from June to frost.
  • Passiflora (Passion Flower). This beautiful hanging plant grows like crazy in a pot or in the ground. It is the host to several pretty butterflies and is a very interesting nectar source for passing pollinators. It’s Wolff’s favorite flower!
  • Check out the Center for Food Safety’s handy list of plants for more options!

Use natural pest remedies

Homeowners can sometimes use more pesticide per square foot than farmers, Wolff said, because people “go wild with the Raid.” Neonics are used on common agriculture seeds, like corn, but can also be found in household pest-control products. Please refer to the Center for Food Safety’s list of products that include neonics and avoid those products — instead, you can utilize plants that will help control pests naturally:

  • Lavender smells lovely and also repels fleas, moths and mosquitos.
  • Basil is said to repel thrips, flies and mosquitoes.
  • Catnip can keep away flea beetles, aphids, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, ants, and weevils.
  • Tea tree oil has been known to repel mosquitoes, lice, ants, and many other insects that bite.

Support local farmers

As if you needed another reason to buy local, organic produce! Small-scale farmers are more likely to use integrated pest management strategies, Wolff said, in lieu of neonics.

Call for action

You can sign the Center for Food Safety’s petition to tell the EPA to immediately suspend all outdoor uses of neonicotinoid pesticides. You can also join their BEE Protective Campaign to make change in your community by encouraging your city, municipality or county to suspend neonics until proven safe.

What will you do to save the bees? 

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How To Pack Your Vegan Lunch

Written By DC EcoWoman Katharine Eaton

When the air gets cooler and the leaves turn color, we tend to crave heartier meals. Cue the soups and stews! But these can be precarious on your commute and a hot lunch might give you an afternoon slump.

The recipes below are easy to pack, store well in the fridge, and do not need to be reheated. In fact, they’re best served at room temperature. They are also healthy, flavorful, protein-rich and gluten-free.

All portions serve one but you can easily multiply the ingredients for more.

Butternut Squash Hummus

Autumn is gourd season! This recipe calls for butternut, but you can use any other kind of winter squash or pumpkin instead. Note that this single serving- sized portion will not use the whole butternut squash.

1 small butternut squash
½ cup chickpeas, cooked or canned
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 cup finely chopped parsley
1 cup finely chopped mint
Bread or crackers, for serving

Peel the butternut squash, slice it in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut the flesh into 1-inch cubes until you have 1 cup of cubes. Save the remaining butternut squash for another recipe – or for more hummus.

Steam the butternut squash cubes until they’re tender. Peel and crush the garlic.

In a food processor or blender, blend the steamed butternut cubes, chickpeas, garlic and olive oil into a smooth consistency.

Season with salt and pepper and fold in the fresh herbs.

At lunchtime, give the hummus a good stir and eat it on your choice of bread or crackers.

Raw Beet Slaw

No roasting or boiling, just the season’s sweetest root vegetable in its purest form. This recipe also makes a great Thanksgiving side dish.

1 medium-sized beet (about 1 cup shredded)
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
1 tsp stoneground mustard
1 tsp raspberry jam (or any berry jam you have on hand)
Salt and pepper
¼ cup hazelnuts
1 cup mixed salad greens

Peel the beet and shred it with a box grater or a food processor with a grating blade, using the large hole grater. Put the shredded beets in a bowl and fold in the chopped parsley.

Mix the oil, vinegar, mustard and jam into a paste and thoroughly stir it into the beets. The juice from the beets will thin out the dressing; so don’t be tempted to make more. Season the slaw with salt and pepper.

Heat a pan over medium-high heat and dry-roast the hazelnuts, stirring frequently, until they’re fragrant and their skins start to blacken. Remove the nuts from the pan and let them cool. Place the cooled hazelnuts on a clean kitchen towel, roll it up and rub off the skins through the fabric. Pick out the clean hazelnuts and discard the skins. Roughly chop the nuts.

To pack your lunch, pack the hazelnuts, salad greens, and the beet slaw separately. Combine all components right before you eat.

Kale, Potato and White Bean Salad

Ah, le kahl… The summer pests that feast on leaves are gone and kale flourishes once again. Potatoes and white beans add creaminess and celery adds crunch.

2 small red-skinned potatoes (about 1 cup cubed)
2 large kale leaves (about 2 packed cups chopped)
2 tsps olive oil 2 tsps apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
2 tsps stoneground mustard
¼ cup white beans, cooked or canned 1 stalk celery
1 tbsp capers or chopped pickles, optional
Salt and pepper

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cut the potatoes into 1-inch cubes, add them to the water and cook them for about 10 minutes, until they’re tender but still firm. Drain the potatoes (do not run them under cold water or put them in an ice bath).

Remove the kale stems and cut or rip the leaves into 1-inch pieces. Put the kale in a bowl with 1 teaspoon of the vinegar and 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Using your hands, knead the kale for at least 1 minute. The vinegar will break down the green and you’ll be left with about 1 cup of kale.

Whisk the remaining olive oil and vinegar with the mustard. Chop the celery stalk into small dice.

Carefully toss all the ingredients together and season with salt and pepper. The still-warm potatoes will absorb some of the dressing.

Let the salad cool before storing it in the fridge for next day’s lunch.