Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

posted by | on | Comments Off on Serve your Sweetheart Some Sustainability this Valentine’s Day

By Jackie Marks

We at DC EcoWomen love all things sustainable. On the heels of DC EcoWomen’s visit to local bean-to-bar chocolatier Harper Macaw, and just in time for Valentine’s Day, what better thing to discuss than sustainable chocolate? Chocolate is a popular treat on Valentine’s Day; in 2015, 58 million pounds of chocolate was purchased for Valentine’s Day alone. Read on for a Q&A with Jackie Marks, DC EcoWomen Executive Board Member and Communications & Marketing Manager at the World Cocoa Foundation, for some sustainable chocolate knowledge that you can share with your sweetheart.

EcoWomen: Chocolate is universally loved and can be found around the world – especially around Valentine’s Day. But few people are aware of where chocolate comes from or how it’s made. Can you tell us a bit about chocolate’s origin?

Jackie: Chocolate has a long, intricate history and has been consumed in various forms since the time of the Mayans in Mesoamerica. The primary ingredient in chocolate is cocoa (or cacao) – the ‘beans’ (which are actually seeds) extracted from the cocoa tree. Cocoa pods which hold these beans are the beautiful fruit of the cocoa tree and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. While cocoa trees rely on tropical environments within 15 – 20 degrees north and south of the equator to thrive, you can visit a beautiful, live cocoa tree right here in Washington, D.C. at the Botanic Garden.

Photo by Jackie Marks. Pods, containing the cocoa ‘beans’, grow on trees in tropical climates.

EcoWomen: Wow, cocoa right in our back yard! As consumers, how can we be sure we’re buying chocolate that is ‘green’? What does it mean for cocoa to be sustainable?

Jackie: Cocoa is sustainable when you put farmers first. Cocoa is primarily grown on small farms by men and women who rely on the sale of cocoa beans for income. Many cocoa and chocolate companies support training and infrastructure in cocoa communities to ensure long-term social, economic and environmental viability for cocoa farms and farmers. As a consumer, you can educate yourself about what your favorite chocolate company is doing to help cocoa farmers around the world.

Photo by Jackie Marks. Pods, containing the cocoa ‘beans’, grow on trees in tropical climates.

EcoWomen: Good idea – knowledge is power. Can you tell us three fun facts about cocoa that we can share with our sweethearts?

Jackie:

  1. Like kombucha or kimchi, most cocoa is fermented! This brings out the true chocolatey flavor in cocoa beans.
  2. Ivory Coast – the french speaking, coastal, West African nation – is the number one producer of cocoa. Ghana is second, and Indonesia is third. Latin America is a big contributor, too.
  3. The latin name for cocoa – Theobroma cacao – literally translates to ‘food of the Gods’. How’s that for a heavenly treat this Valentine’s Day?

 

Photo by Jackie Marks. Cocoa seedlings awaiting planting.

Jackie Marks has spent the last three and a half years working with cocoa and chocolate companies to share sustainable cocoa stories with the world as Communications & Marketing Manager at the World Cocoa Foundation. Her background is in non-profit communications focused on environment, conservation and sustainability issues. Jackie joined the DC EcoWomen Executive Board in 2016 and serves on the Communications Committee. When she’s not writing about cocoa, you can find her tending to her garden, inventing new ice cream flavors, sampling craft beer and planning her next adventure. Follow her on Twitter: @JackieMarks.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on A call to action for sustainability enthusiasts at work

sustainability-advocate-blog

By Brittany Ryan

From launching petitions to marching in protests, I’ve come a long way since my environmental activist days. Though still an advocate, I’ve found a different way to channel passion into action. Through my experiences in both the academic and professional sustainability field, becoming a green leader in the workplace has proven to be a very effective strategy.

The first step in triggering a catalytic force behind any social movement is to be the change. The power of Gandhi’s principles resonates with all of us out there trying to cultivate our lifestyle with the hope of inducing a societal paradigm shift. If a more sustainable world is what we wish to see, we must start by polishing our personal habits.

But the next step to inflicting change is motivating others. Even if you’re still working out the kinks in the process of “greenifying” your life, take a leadership role and transform the status quo. Nothing is more frustrating than a person or motivated group that cries out a problem, relentlessly blaming another party, and yet fails to play an active role in the solution. I’m asking all of you eco-folks out there to take what you know and lead – specifically, at work.gandhi

Start with materials management

Somewhere along the path of development, we failed to acknowledge and incorporate life cycle assessments and holistic supply chain management into our operative norms. This led to poor materials management practices, increasing waste, economic inefficiencies, and environmental degradation. Although our nation’s recycling and recovery practices improved over time, as of 2013 we still send over 50% of our generated materials to a landfill. After accounting for recycling and recovery processes, the top three wasted materials are food, plastic, and paper, respectively. This week, take a look at your office trash and recycling receptacles and you’ll notice those three items comprise a majority of what we toss.jdmmm

Your workplace provides great opportunity to inspire change, and I speak from experience. Since joining my company about a year ago, I’ve made it my mission to lead an internal sustainability initiative. Working diligently with my team, we identify opportunities for improvement, promote educational awareness, and implement real solutions. Our materials management efforts bumped our landfill diversion rate to an impressive 86%. The impact is rippling; the staff is eager to
become more educated on the subject, actively share these practices at home, and offer new ideas for building our internal sustainability operations. Our community relationships evolved as we share similar goals with the municipality and help to promote a local veteran-employed organization.

A leader in the workplace does not need to rely solely on passion and the “do-good” feeling to convince an organization to make changes. Waste, by the very nature of its name, is inefficient. Nationwide, major companies – think Google – are capitalizing on revamping their materials management because it not only builds their public relations, but it makes business sense. Better management of materials allows for cost savings through a reduction in use or repurposing and serves as a potential revenue stream.

Waste is more than just what we send to a landfill. Materials management encompasses the materials coming into the company, the way products are used, and the manner in which they are sorted for discarding. Digging into this process sheds light on a breadth of adjustments that reduce materials use and save the company money, ranging from office supplies to kitchenware to cleaning products and beyond. 

Next steps

Start by taking part of a sustainability committee, and if one doesn’t exist, investigate how to build one. Use a team to brainstorm positive initiatives that benefit both the company and its staff – make that business case! Understand the current operative practices and measure the company’s performance over time. Share ideas and results with the staff at large, and solicit their input as a continuous feedback loop. And definitely always champion successes through newsletters, social media, and other communication channels to give credit where it’s due and motivate others to do the same.

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The benefits to leading change in the workplace are multifaceted. Not only does it accomplish altruistic goals of making the word a better place, but also enables you to distinguish yourself amongst a pool of very competitive thought-leaders further advancing professional development. Becoming an agent of change is empowering and as awareness builds and an increasing number of communities (whether a neighborhood, office, or city) manage resources more efficiently, the sooner sustainability transforms from a choice to the everyday norm.

To find out more information about commercial recycling, click here.

Born and raised on the Jersey coast, Brittany became a resident of the DC Metro Area in 2013. She earned her Master of Public Policy from the University of Maryland in 2015 and has since been working for an energy management and sustainability consulting firm in Falls Church, VA. Brittany also has a real knack for pickling cucumbers and making guacamole.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on How Millennials Can Shape Our Climate Future

Blog-Sep 05, 2016

By Ellie Ramm

Governments, businesses and universities are focusing increasing resources and attention on what is now our nation’s largest generation, millennials.

Generally defined as those born between 1982 and 2000, millennials now represent the largest share of the American workforce. They’re more educated than prior generations. They’re more culturally diverse. And they’re more socially conscious.

How will this millennial generation shape our climate and energy future? Consider just two observations about how millennials want to live and get around — housing and transportation.

A study found more than 6 in 10 millennials prefer to live in mixed-use communities. They’re more interested in living where amenities and work are geographically close. More than a third of young people are choosing to live as close as 3 miles from city centers.

As for transportation, millennials drive less than other generations. They’re opting for walking, biking, car-sharing or public transit. From 2001 to 2009, vehicle-miles traveled dropped 23 percent for 16- to 34-year-olds.

Capital BikeShare in Washington, DC

Capital BikeShare in Washington, DC

These preferences point to a future that is low-carbon and more sustainable. Dense urban living and mixed modal transportation options can result in reduced greenhouse gas emissions. A 2014 report from the New Climate Economy notes that “more compact, more connected city forms allow significantly greater energy efficiency and lower emissions per unit of economic activity.”

Millennial demands are influencing other sustainability topics, too. A Rock the Vote poll earlier this year found 80 percent of millennials want the United States to transition to mostly clean or renewable energy by 2030. An earlier poll from the Clinton Global Initiative found millennials care more than their parents’ generation about the environment and would spend extra on products from companies that focus on sustainability.

These facts indicate that this generation of 75.4 million people (in just the United States) wants to live differently than previous generations. Energy policies and technology habits will need to change to keep pace.

Government is paying attention, with President Barack Obama calling on millennials to tackle the challenge of climate change. Businesses, like energy providers, are working to deliver service in a seamless and more socially connected way. And universities are offering more sustainability-focused programs than ever before. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)’s program list is growing, and university presidents are being asked by students to join the Climate Commitment to reduce emissions and improve resilience to climate impacts.

While millennials wield huge influence, the real power of change will come from all generations working together to develop innovative solutions and implement pragmatic policies to shape a low-carbon future and environmentally stable and economically prosperous planet for all who will inherit it.

Photo by Ellie Ramm

Photo by Ellie Ramm

Ellie Ramm works in a variety of capacities to build engagement and action on climate and energy issues of interest to states, cities and businesses to foster low-carbon, pragmatic, and sustainable solutions. She also researches the connection between behavior and sustainability, in an effort to raise awareness about actions that individuals can take at home and in the community to live more sustainably. She is currently the Solutions and Engagement Fellow at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES).

posted by | on , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sustainable Cities are Paving the Way at COP21

By Lindsay Parker

This week, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) 21 has begun. This conference is a very. big. deal. If successful, it could be a decisive moment in the fight against climate change.

Leaders from 150 countries along with 40,000 delegates from 195 countries are meeting to reach an agreement on how to address our biggest environmental challenge. Without international action, our climate is on track to warm up to 5C (9F) above pre-industrial levels, causing weather extremes and devastating our natural resources. The results of these negotiations are critical.

Leading up to the conference, political leaders and activists have responded to the call to address climate change. Countries across the world are setting sustainability goals, federally and locally. In particular, cities are enacting policies that reduce emissions and support mitigation and adaptation to global warming.

Source: Ben Johnson

Source: Ben Johnson

Today, half of humanity – 3.5 billion people – lives in cities , and roughly 5.2 billion people are projected to live in urban communities by 2050.

Cities are hubs for economic and social advancement, commerce, and culture; however, they are also the source of many energy-intensive processes and emissions: building energy consumption, vehicles and transportation, solid waste water treatment, industry, and more.

To ensure a slowdown of global warming, urban areas face a challenge: remaining hubs for jobs  and prosperity, while limiting environmental impacts.


Fun facts about cities:


While cities face a sustainability challenge, they have an opportunity to enact influential climate policy much quicker than federal governments. In the U.S., Congressional inaction towards cohesive climate policy has pushed local leaders to take matters into their own hands. Currently, cities around the world are working to cut emissions, support public transportation, and increase efficiency. They are proving that they can fight climate change while growing economically.

The move toward sustainable and efficient infrastructure will not be cheap. Luckily, cities can benefit from international funding, particularly those in developing countries.  Mexico City, for example, has pledged to commit 10% of the city’s budget to resilience goals. UNFCCC financing mechanisms, such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF), provide grants up to $10 million for urban transport projects and low-emission urban systems to all non-Annex I members of the UN. Likewise, the Green Climate Fund (GCF), also instituted by the COP, finances low emission cities using $10 billion from country pledges.

Today, during a special Summit at the COP21, over 1,000 mayors will join President Obama and Secretary Kerry for the Climate Summit for Local LeadersThe event is co-hosted by Mike Bloomberg, UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo. The event will bring a collection of local actors together to urge action and build upon the efforts of the Compact of Mayors.

The Compact of Mayors is a global coalition of city officials who pledge to create ambitious climate action plans, increase resilience to global warming, reduce urban greenhouse gas emissions, and publicly track progress toward each goal. Currently, 382 cities, representing 345,853,881 people worldwide and 4.7% of the total global population have committed to the Compact of Mayors. Major cities involved include:

Cities are leading as an example for national governments that is it possible to set and achieve more ambitious goals for emissions reductions. These officials will present their ambitious climate action plans at the COP21.

President Obama addresses attendees at COP21 in Paris Source: : https://blogs.state.gov/stories/2015/11/30/follow-along-global-agreement-act-climate

President Obama addresses attendees at COP21 in Paris
Source: US State Department

Earlier this year, President Obama announced his goal for 100 US cities join the Compact by the start of COP21. That goal has been met and exceeded. Across the country and the world, cities are taking action by retrofitting buildings, upgrading transportation, and building efficient infrastructure.

In the U.S., cities are already making great headway:

Internationally, megacities in the C40 network are leading the way with low carbon goals and sustainable urban growth. This group represents half a billion people and 25% of global GDP, and they have promised to shift towards sustainable policies. Below are actions taken by leading cities:

  • London plans to install 6,000 charging points and 3,000 battery-powered cars by 2018
  • Gothenburg and Johannesburg have issued $489 million worth of green bonds
  • Shanghai will invest $16.3 billion over the next 3 years on 220 anti-pollution projects

In sum, the COP21 is on track to have some significant outcomes. If you live in a city, you’re likely to see evidence of these first hand. You can contribute to reducing global warming by taking public transportation, turning off lights, and supporting your local sustainability leader.

Lindsay Parker is a Texas native with a Masters of Public Policy focused on energy and climate policy from the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, Germany. She is currently working at the U.S. Department of Energy on energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. When she’s not hiking, she enjoys choir, running, swing dancing, and yoga.

posted by | on , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sustainable Style in DC: My Fair Vanity

The following is a guest post by Rachel Mlinarchik of My Fair Vanity

A Guide to DC’s #1 Second-hand Style Source

The last time I visited with you, I shared a few eco-friendly options for the office. Today I’m going to sing the praises of one of our local area consignment super-stars. After all, purchasing (and selling my own) lightly-used clothing is my favorite way to:

  • Trade my rarely worn items for cash to buy clothing I will wear.
  • Build quality items into my wardrobe from labels I couldn’t normally afford, thereby avoiding disposable, fast fashion that won’t last.
  • Reuse and recycle, keeping perfectly good clothing and accessories out of landfills and inside my closet—or yours!

Refinery29 has already done a thorough accounting of awesome consignment stores in the DC metro area, so I’m going to focus on what I consider to be the best of the best: Secondi.

I would estimate that more than 50% of my regularly worn clothing and accessories were purchased from Secondi. I can say this with some confidence because, looking back through a gallery of my outfit posts, it’s difficult to find an outfit that doesn’t include at least one item from my favorite local store, whether it’s a bangle, a coat, or a blouse.

Below, I’ve put together just a few examples of the ever-growing Secondi collection I have amassed over the years. Every single item I’ve listed is from Secondi:

 

As you can see, Secondi has me well-equipped for all four seasons, but I made sure to stop in yesterday evening right before closing time to scope out the latest spring treasures on offer for my favorite eco women:

Perfect for a summer wedding or a hot date, these Marc Jacobs sandals are in mint condition.

Tangerine Manolo heels and fuschia Talbots flats are perfect for spring.

A well-cut trench is a key staple for April and summer showers.

These cheery pencil skirts are from JCrew, Tory Burch, Cynthia Rowley and Leifsdottir.

What impresses me most about Secondi is the range of price points they carry and the keen editorial eye of their staff. Any one of the clutches pictured above may be priced at $15, but those who are looking for more of an investment piece can snap up a structured, tomato red Michael Kors bag.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to head back in tomorrow to pick up a few things. Consider this your fair warning that the good stuff at Secondi goes fast, so if you see something that catches your eye, get thee there today!

To continue with me on my quest for personal style that is kind to the earth and the people on it, I hope you’ll visit with me now and again at My Fair Vanity, or better yet, I hope to see you in person at the DC EcoWomen conference in May. I’ve reserved my spot…have you?

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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!

posted by | on , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Thriving At Thrifting

By Kate Seitz

 

 

Growing up, the extent of my thrift store experience involved sifting through racks of old t-shirts at the Salvation Army. Dated Cleveland Indians gear that perhaps no longer seemed relevant to a disgruntled fan. A cast-off souvenir from Jamaica. An outgrown pee-wee hockey league championship memento. For whatever reason, my girlfriends and I couldn’t get enough of these worn tees, and the more random the motif, the better.
It wasn’t until a few years back that I realized the multi-faceted benefits of thrifting and really came to view it as a means of discovering a wide range of unique items (clothing, home décor, kitchen tools, you name it) that still have plenty of life left, and for a fraction of the off-the-shelf price. I have since vowed to embrace my admiration for all things vintage and recycled and take the time to find distinctive, second-hand items instead of rushing to the nearest mall to buy new.
I’ve stepped foot in pretty much every thrift and consignment store within a 15 mile radius. I’ve hounded Craigslist for many furniture and athletic equipment needs. I’ve discovered a charming cluster of antique stores out in Loudoun County, Virginia. And I’ve even turned up some great vintage shops on Etsy. My favorite finds thus far include a hand painted dish set; my current road bike; various vintage necklaces; a leather couch and matching chair; a beautiful oak-framed mirror dated 1906; and various dollar-a-piece picture frames and flower vases, many of which I used as décor at my wedding reception and are now sprinkled around my apartment. All for a pittance of what it would cost to buy these new.

1) A sample of my thrifted jewelry collection

2) A hand painted dish set I found at an antique store.

 

 

Thrifting sometimes gets a bad rap for being tricky and tiresome. It does indeed require patience to sift through other people’s cast offs. It sometimes can lead to buried treasure, and other times leave you empty handed. But boy, is it a joyous occasion when you dig up a worthwhile piece. To me, giving a second life to thrifted finds is simply recycling what would otherwise end up in a landfill. Our country’s consumer-driven nature constantly bombards us with reasons to buy new, upgrade, purchase the latest and greatest. Some of this may be necessary, and in fact good for innovation and economic growth. But many times, it’s downright wasteful.

These days, whenever I feel the need to make a purchase, I first evaluate whether a thrifted item would fit the bill. This mantra continues to lead me to unique finds that have an interesting history, or that perfectly worn-in feel. It truly is a win-win, both for the environment and the wallet. The next time you’re looking for new workout tees, jewelry, dishware, a new kitchen table…whatever!….I encourage you to first check out the multitude of options out there for buying second hand (Craigslist, Etsy, a local thrift/antique/consignment store, a neighborhood yard sale (my fave, especially in the summertime!), an EcoWomen clothing swap) and see what treasures you uncover. Happy hunting!

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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

posted by | on , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on What’s So Sustainable About Greening Your Livable Community?!

By Cheryl Kollin, Livability Project

Defining sustainability

When I mention in casual conversation that I work with “sustainable” organizations, I typically get puzzled, deer-in-the-headlights responses. Sometimes I swap the “s” word with, “livable” or “green”, but still the response is generally the same — confusion. Some people, of course, use the same language to describe their latest ventures. My conversation companion might launch into a story about making a lot of money (a.k.a. “greenbacks”), or describe his or her latest landscaping (greening) project, or even their latest house remodel to make it more “livable”!

Buying local supports the local economy

But when I describe sustainability in tangible terms, like giving up a car and walking or biking more for health and environmental reasons, or shopping at local farmers’ markets to keep money in our community, or switching my utility company to support alternative energy like wind power—most people nod knowingly and share their own story about their lifestyle and business choices. Of course it’s easier to talk to people in Bethesda, a progressive community in the Washington DC Metro Area.

Livability Project defines a sustainable community as one that is economically viable, environmentally healthy and which reflects quality of life. Communities and cities reach this state only by bringing together the diverse stakeholders needed for unified, long-lasting change. The Partners for Livable Communities adds to that definition, “social stability and equity, educational opportunity, cultural, entertainment and recreation”. With these altruistic goals, why isn’t every community embracing sustainable initiatives? Why is it so hard to change?

Unifying fragmented initiatives

I recently interviewed some key players engaged in their own community’s sustainability efforts and heard a reoccurring theme—there was a lack of coordination between environmental, social and economic initiatives. One long-time activist in Baltimore was frustrated that even though “there are active green building, water conservation, and food initiatives [in our community] none of the groups are talking to one other—and no one is talking to the business community”.

Another interviewee believes that “there has to be a balance between improving the environment and earning a profit.” The terms—sustainability, livability, and greening, regardless of their subtle differences in meaning or emphasis all share a common understanding—that the environment, economy, and social well-being are all inextricably linked. The Institute for Sustainable Communities promotes that working toward solutions to community issues such as poverty, hunger, housing, transportation, jobs, pollution, public health, and crime etc., “requires an integrated approach rather than fragmented approaches that meet one of those goals at the expense of the others”. The Institute also recognizes that “sustainability takes a long-term perspective”—instead of a quick fix or short lived initiatives that last only as long as a politician’s term in office.

Making the case for sustainability

One of my first assignments in my sustainable MBA program at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute was to present a convincing case for sustainability. Why should business, government, and citizen groups invest their time, money, and expertise in changing local policies, business practices, and lifestyle choices? If you are a public servant, business owner, or citizen activist who is ready to engage your community in sustainable thinking and approaches, here are a few ways to start the conversation:

1. Sustainability reduces your costs of operations. Everyone has a budget whether you are in business, government, or are a homemaker. Changing your internal operations can save money; improving your bottom line. For example, energy-efficiency improvements in facilities typically reduce energy consumption by 30%.[1]Organizations like The Trust for Public Lands’, Center for Park Excellence show the multiple returns on investment (ROIs)—including environmental, social, and economic net benefits of maintaining urban public parks.

2. Sustainability raises morale; raises productivity; attracts and retains quality employees. In a human resources study, 55% of the respondents reported that a commitment to sustainability improved employee morale; 38% said that sustainability increased employee loyalty.[2] Employees who stay at their jobs also reduce turnover and save on job training costs and become “ambassadors of good will” for the company.

3. Sustainability serves the greater good; by buying locally, we contribute to community economic development. Local businesses yield two to four times the multiplier benefit as compared to non-local businesses.”[3] Author Michael Shuman believes that reinvesting in our local communities is sound economics. In his latest book, Local Dollars, Local Sense: How to Shift Your Dollars from Wall Street to Main Street, Michael offers a compelling case for why we all should reinvest our money locally and gives us new strategies with which to do so.