Posts Tagged ‘Sustainable’

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By Heidi Bishop

As the new administration’s impact on energy policy unfolds, increased interest in pursuing “clean coal” technologies have likely put Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) more squarely on your radar. The new “America First Energy Plan” makes no mention of solar, wind, or other renewable energy resources but does state a commitment to “clean coal technology, and to reviving America’s coal industry, which has been hurting for too long.” For DC EcoWomen active in energy policy, this is a good time to understand the current state of the technology.

While there are several ways to reduce the various harmful emissions from a coal plant so that it can be labeled “clean coal,” most energy plans citing clean coal are referring to the use of CCS as a method for reducing the carbon content from plant emissions to protect coal as a major form of baseload generation. In short, CCS requires a means of separating CO2 from either the fuel or emissions of a power plant, capturing and stabilizing this isolated CO2 in a solid or compressing it in gas, and then storing it over centuries. CO2 can be removed from coal directly through pre-firing degasification, such as in an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plant, or through oxyfiring. CO2 can also be removed in post-processing of emissions. Both approaches are feasible, but expensive, and energy-intensive operations that require significant capital expenditures can reduce plant efficiencies by as much as 20%.

CCS is a complex technology, and there are many useful resources available from the DOE, IEA, or the Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA) to learn more. In more mainstream discussions, however, here are two Clean Coal myths you might come across:

Myth 1: Clean Coal Technologies are Market-Ready

Some proponents point to existing pilots for CCS or utility projects underway as proof that the technology is proven for large scale deployment and poised for growth. While there is significant technical potential for CCS in terms of engineering feasibility and substantial amounts of potential underground storage locations, as a commercial matter CCS is still an infant technology that is likely going to be very expensive initially and is not yet available at a broad scale.

NRG’s Petra Nova plant in Texas, which is paired with enhanced oil recovery to improve its economics, is now up and running as a major success, but the majority of projects are not. Several projects have generally followed a pattern of initial public support, steep cost overruns, engineering problems, eventual public opposition, and suspension or cancellation. Such projects include Future Gen 2 in Illinois. Once the poster-child for CCS, this project was in development as early as 2006, revised beginning in 2010, and then eventually cancelled in 2015. Similarly, the Kemper County IGCC project in Mississippi, which is currently 3 years behind and $4 billion over budget, has recently found that it will be more economic for it to run on natural gas than the coal it was originally intended to use. All of which leads to the next myth…

Myth 2: Clean Coal Plus Lighter Regulations Can Bring Back the Coal Industry

Coal generation and mining have steadily decreased in past years primarily due to competition with low-priced natural gas which makes coal generation uneconomical for a lot of plants. Secondary cases are low load growth, renewable generation, and environmental regulations such as the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) targeting arsenic and metals air pollution from coal and oil plants.

The stayed and now-cancelled Clean Power Plan (CPP) to impose carbon emission restrictions and pricing mechanisms on the power industry is often blamed for impairing coal, but in fact those regulations were not very strong and would have had little impact on an already-suffering coal industry. For example, projections from the Energy Information Administration that do not incorporate compliance with the CPP still include significant retirements of coal resources over the next few years.

Because the falling demand for coal is driven by the availability of lower cost resources, the business case to invest in new coal generation at all is weak—especially for coal with expensive CCS which can increase costs by around 75%.

Despite all these economic forces against coal and CCS, coal generation is not going to be obsolete any time soon. Today’s existing coal plants are often fairly clean in terms of more noxious pollutants like SO2, NOX, and particulates (and can still be improved), have very long engineering lives left, and can continue running on plentiful and fairly cheap coal.

Unfortunately, we are not yet in a position to rely entirely on zero-carbon technologies like renewables because the storage technologies needed to smooth their intermittent availability to meet our consumption patterns are still too expensive for wide use. Technical and economic research in clean coal may still be valuable to address CO2 emissions in parts of the world where coal remains a critical energy supply. Gas-fired power plants also emit CO2, albeit at less than half the rate per kWh as coal, so they also eventually may need CCS. Thus, in many ways, the exact future of clean coal is unsure.

Over the next few years there will be push and pull between regional and national climate policies in the U.S. as well as changes in the economics of competing with natural gas and renewable energy. These influences, however, cannot change the facts that CCS technology is nowhere close to being advanced enough to rapidly expand overnight and that the U.S. coal industry is at best looking to be sustained rather than restored to former levels.

 

 

Heidi Bishop is a marketing and policy associate at a consulting firm based in DC. She specializes in energy policy research, identifying business development opportunities, and developing publications. She has worked on a variety of energy policy topics with a focus on new business models for electric utilities, “Utility of the Future” efforts, distributed energy resources, and retail regulatory strategy. Ms. Bishop received her BA and MBA from Salisbury University and a Master of Public Management – Policy Track, Environmental Concentration from the University of Maryland.

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By Maheen Ahmad

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

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

Local, green eats

Veg

MOM’s Organic Market

Several locations in D.C.

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

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

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

Busboys and Poets

Several locations in D.C.

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

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

Founding Farmers DC

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

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

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

Fitness and sports

extendYoga

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

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

Washington Nationals Ballpark

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

Nats

Beauty and hygiene

Seventh Generation

Seventh Generation sells household cleaning products.

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

The Honest Company

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

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

Zosimos Botanicals

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

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

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

Nusta Spa

Nusta Spa is a LEED-certified spa.

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

Clothes

Kohl’s Department Store

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

The North Face

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

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

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

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

By Amy Loder

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

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

Screenshot 2016-04-15 16.02.32

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

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

Screenshot 2016-04-15 16.03.08

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

Dig in and discover more

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

Begin with a few websites

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

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

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

Read

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

Watch

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

Get even more involved

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

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

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

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

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

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By Amy Loder

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

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

NaturalBeauty

1. Shower Power

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

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

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

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

Shower Tips:

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

2. Skin care routine

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

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

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


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

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

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

3. The natural deodorant debate

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

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

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

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

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

4. Coffee

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

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

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

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

5. The more you know

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Crickets…It’s What for Dinner?

By KC Stover

There has been increasing attention paid to the role of insects as a protein source for humans in the place of meat. Insects do not create the same climate and human health impacts as livestock and they can be raised on a vegetarian diet. Many cultures around the world enjoy insects as an integral part of their diet. There are over 88 countries where insects are consumed regularly and over 1900 species of edible insects worldwide.

Image: Leandra Blei

Image: Leandra Blei

The concept of eating bugs has received a lot of press lately. However, this is not a new practice. As the world struggles to keep up with burgeoning human populations, we are searching for new sources of protein. Insects require much less land to raise and are more efficient at converting feed to protein than most livestock. They also emit fewer greenhouse gases than livestock. The UN has been actively promoting the use of insects to meet our protein needs, and it is an area of major innovation in the food industry.

Currently, there is a $20 million industry around entomophagy in the US, and the concept has received widespread support. However, cultivating and consuming insects on a mass scale is not a simple solution. There are many questions about the real rates of protein conversion, best practices for husbandry and the ideal diet. Regulation has yet to become tailored to this industry and the market is still in its infancy. The Washington Post highlighted that high-density cricket farm operations are still governed by the same USDA regulations as those for livestock.

Some commonly consumed insects are crickets, mealworms, beetles, black soldier flies, butterflies and moths (mostly eaten in their larval and pupal stages), bees and wasps, ants, termites and grasshoppers. Apparently mealworms have a nutty flavor and ants and termites have a lemon flavor to them.

Image: Leandra Blei

Image: Leandra Blei

There are some very unique offerings for insect-based foods. Popular Science reported this month on several new companies, (with 30 insect-based startups since 2012 nationally) including, Critter bitters, Jungle Bar and Chirps (cricket chips) among many others. There are several manners in which insects are being brought to market and the most common is as a protein bar or powder. This powder can be used in a wide variety of recipes, including cookies. Time magazine recently released a list of recipes, including a recipe for deep fried tarantulas.

While insects provide a diverse and more sustainable form of protein than many forms of livestock, integrating them fully into our diet will mean learning to eat in new ways. A nonprofit called Little Herds in Austin, TX has taken on the challenge of changing perceptions and creating markets, and Open Bug Farm is an open forum for insect farming enthusiasts. As consumers and environmentalists, we are presented with the opportunity to help this industry grow in a sustainable way. It will be interesting to see if home production of insects grows in urban environments. An additional challenge is that of bringing production costs down to compete with conventional foods.

Some local DC restaurants, such as Oyamel, are serving insects on their menus. In addition, there is an annual event, the Pestaurant, where restaurants serve insects worldwide. Last year’s event featured a DC restaurant. We can hope to see more insect products on the shelves and I for one will be getting more used to the idea!

KC Stover works on programming for DC EcoWomen and on wildlife conservation issues. With a background in entrepreneurship and the environmental field, she believes that new businesses can create opportunities to address some of our most challenging problems.

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

By Elizabeth Hubley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shaved Asparagus Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients:

Shaved Asparagus Salad:

1 pound asparagus

1 cup cherry tomatoes

2 oz local goat cheese

¼ cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

Honey Dijon Vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon raw honey

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

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

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

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

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

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

By Tamara Toles O’Laughlin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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classic neutrals

Classic Neutrals, all made in USA: Suno, $595; Milly, $425; Vera Wang, $1750

Not sure what to wear to the DC Ecowomen Gala? Something eco-friendly, of course! The #1 most eco-friendly place you can shop is, of course, your own closet, but if you realllllly can’t find anything that gets you excited, then donate or consign those dresses you’re not digging, and start the hunt for a new one.

One of my favorite ways to shop sustainably is by shopping for secondhand and vintage dresses. For vintage, Etsy is one of the easiest stops with the widest variety of sizes and eras, and for secondhand dresses, you can check out Ebay if you’re looking for something specific, or head to a consignment site like Mode Marteau or Snobswap to get a more edited, on trend selection.

Last but not least, don’t forget to hit up the local consignment stores that are right here in DC! These are all small businesses, so you can feel good about supporting them, recycling an article of clothing, and undoubtedly finding a beautiful dress you’ll wear for years. Each of the stores below has well-edited, quality stock that changes almost daily, so you never know what you’ll find:

Ella Rue (Georgetown)

Reddz Trading (Bethesda and Georgetown)

Tari Boutique (Georgetown)

Secondi (Dupont Circle)

If you’re looking for something brand-spanking new, that’s cool, too. There are so many on-trend brands out there that (thankfully) use organic materials, manufacture their dresses here in the USA, or use fair trade labor, and I’ve put together a few of my favorites in the images above and below.

 

2 spring florals

Spring florals:

Black Halo, $375; Lela Rose, made in the USA, $40 from Rent the Runway;  

Vintage dress from Etsy, $98Wayf, made in the USA, $58;

Last but not least, one more eco-friendly way to dress to impress is to rent a dress via Rent the Runway. You choose dresses priced at $1500 and spend $50 to rent them for one evening, empowering several other women to wear it after you. It’s kind of like Zipcar or Car2go for dresses, and I think it’s the bees knees.

If you’d like to see dozens more ethical dress options like the ones above, click over to my ever-growing Pinterest collection of eco-friendly party dresses, and follow along with me on My Fair Vanity. And, of course, don’t forget to grab your tickets for the Gala!

Rachel Mlinarchik blogs about sustainable style that is kind to the earth and the people on it at My Fair Vanity.

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Does your furry friend have an outsized carbon pawprint?

Written by Caroline Selle, the Zero Waste Girl

Each morning, as the cats wind around my legs and meow for their breakfast, I wonder exactly how much damage their canned cat food is doing to the earth. I make every effort to keep my own life sustainable, my carbon footprint low, but I adopted two carnivores.

Dogs can be vegetarian, but cats can’t. They need taurine in their diets, an amino acid that only comes from animals. Forget species: most pet food is problematic anyways. In fact, according to Robert and Brenda Vale, authors of Time to Eat the Dog? The Real Guide to Sustainable Living, a medium-size dog is worse for the environment than an SUV. The worst part of the impact comes from diet. Cats, in comparison, are kind of like a Smart Car. They’re not guzzling gas, but they’re still emitting CO2.

So how can we make our pets more sustainable?

Let’s start with food.

No matter how I budget, there’s only so much of my salary I can afford to spend on sustainably sourced pet food. Plus, my cats like the cheap stuff. Friskies generates more meows than Dave’s, so we’ve settled on Iams, an in-between brand I can still pick up at the local grocery store. None are particularly great options. Purina touts its sustainable practices, but it’s owned by Nestle. I feed the cats a fixed quantity of wet food along with an open supply of higher quality and more eco-friendly dry food.

Vets generally agree that wet food is healthier for pets. If your budget stretches a little farther than mine, you might consider buying dehydrated food, which has a lower carbon footprint when shipped. It’s rehydrated by adding water at home. And if you’re really into getting high quality and eco-friendly food for your pet, you can make your own.  Unfortunately, it’s time consuming and expensive.

My favorite place to find a balanced blend of sustainable and healthy food is the Big Bad Woof, a local pet store chain with locations in Maryland and DC. The employees are always helpful, and there’s a good selection of brands at a variety of price points. The store carries supplies for all common household pets, including birds and small rodents.

Play

If you’ve ever cared for a kitten, you know a balled up piece of newspaper can be just as engrossing as a fancy, ten dollar toy. Cats love boxes. Anything lying around the house. My kitten chases bouncy balls and a laser pointer, and anything tied to a swinging string.

Your cat might chatter at the birds and squirrels outside, but keep them indoors. Not only will the pet avoid being hit by cars, getting into fights with other cats, and a variety of nasty diseases, you’ll keep the predatory instincts in check. Cats are reportedly responsible for billions of small mammal and bird deaths each year.

Dogs, similarly, can be entertained without spending much money. Plenty of parks allow canine companions, and there are several hiking trails in the area that do as well. There are also quite a few companies making more sustainable versions of dog toys, in case you want to pick up something more durable for your pet to chew.

Some smaller pets, like hamsters, enjoy playing in old paper towel or toilet paper tubes.

Waste

The stinky part, and the least exciting part of owning a pet. For cleaning up after a dog, some stores and online outlets sell biodegradable doggy bags. In theory, the whole thing degrades in the landfill. Since most landfills are too tightly packed to allow for much biodegradation, I’m a fan of using plastic newspaper bags, tortilla packaging, or anything else that might end up in the trash.

Cat waste is a more serious problem. About 2 million pounds of litter head to landfills each year. Clay litter (the most popular kind) is strip mined, but it lasts longer and contains smells better than many other options. One alternative is pine pellets, but many cats don’t appreciate the change in texture. Some people toilet train their cats, but my supposedly fastidiously clean animals prefer to use the toilet to drink. The lid stays closed now.

Any animal could, in theory, have its waste composted – but not for any compost you’ll put on edible plants. Plus, there’s the smell to contend with. Small animals that live in wood shavings, like hamsters, produce less waste and therefore less smell. If you’re comfortable composting, go for it! (But keep it very, very separate from anything going near your food).

Can we really shrink the pawprint?

In the end, pets don’t create as much of an environmental challenge as humans. It makes more sense to address our own shortcomings first. However, if you really want to make your pet’s life more sustainable, start with food. Go to your local pet store and talk to some experts. When it comes to toys, reuse, reuse, reuse. And, well, waste is difficult. Composting is probably the best option, but it comes with many challenges.

Finally, this wouldn’t be a piece about responsible pet ownership without a disclaimer at the end. Spay and neuter your animals. Puppies, kittens, and other baby pets are cute, but there are already too many animals without homes.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on What’s Old is New Again: Sustainable Stocking Stuffers

The gifts that go under the Christmas tree seem to get all of the attention, but what about the gifts that fill the stockings, hung by the chimney with care? Stocking stuffers are small, but with a little bit of attention and care, they can be just as exciting as the wrapped boxes around the tree. This year, instead of shopping for last-minute tokens that hold hardly any value, try creating your own stocking stuffers out of recycled items.

Why recycle, you say? Well, not only do gifts that are repurposed and made into something new do a great deal of good for the environment, they also hold a bit more sentimental value than those cheap, store-bought items that are often tossed in the shopping cart as an after-thought.

Let the ones you love know how much they mean to you this Christmas season by spending the time creating special stocking stuffers for them out of recycled items.

Rainbow Crayons

Image Courtesy of ShutterStock

Since all kids love to color, crayons would make such a hit at Christmas. Instead of buying them this year to fill your child’s stocking, make your own! You’ll need:

  • worn-down crayons
  • a muffin tin
  • cupcake liners

Begin by preheating your oven to 250 degrees. Next, remove the paper from the old crayons and crush them up, leaving mostly medium-sized pieces. Line your muffin tin with the cupcake liners and place the crushed crayons into the muffin tin. Place the crayons in the oven for about twenty minutes, or until they have completely melted. Remove the tin and once cool, take out the crayons from each section and peel off the cupcake liners.

This craft is simple and is a great way to reuse the bits of crayons that your kids disregard anyway. With the circular shape and rainbow colors, your kids will love their new crayons.

Homemade Hand Warmers

Keep your loved ones warm this winter homemade hand warmer stocking stuffers, which are much cuter than the ones in the store and use up items laying around your home. Gather:

  • pieces of fabric, such as old t-shirts
  • scissors
  • a needle
  • thread
  • corn kernels

Start by gathering some pieces of fabric – an old t-shirt works best. Cut the fabric into whatever shape you desire, such as a heart or a star. Cut two pieces of fabric out of the same size and sew them together, creating a sort of a pocket. Leave a small section of the ‘pocket’ open and fill it with the corn kernels. Finish by sewing the small section shut and you’re left with a nifty hand warmer.

When it’s ready to be used, just toss it in the microwave for a few seconds to warm up the corn kernels. Although the sewing aspect may seem daunting, these hand warmers aren’t difficult at all and you can use up old items of clothing that you planned to throw away.

Mini Chalkboards

This recycled stocking stuffer idea is perfect for loved ones of all ages and adds a creative touch to a home. You will need some tiles and chalkboard paint to create them.

If you have some tiles lying around the house, use them. If not, head to a home improvement store – it’s likely they have tile remnants lying around which they’ll gladly let you take off their hands. To turn the tiles into chalkboards, simply paint the smooth side with chalkboard paint and let them dry. Once dry, stack the chalkboards together, place a box of chalk on top, and tie it all together with a piece of twine.

Kids can use this stocking stuffer to draw pictures on; adults can use them as personalized coasters (they’ll never misplace a drink again!)

Button Magnets

Image Courtesy of ShutterStock

If you’re like most people, you probably have a collection of unused buttons lying around. Turn these buttons into cute magnets to give as stocking stuffers. Simply gather:

  • buttons
  • magnets
  • a hot glue gun

Gather the buttons you have laying around and lay them out. You can buy circular magnets to go on the back of your buttons, which will save you from having to cut out small pieces of magnet. Apply hot glue to the back of your button and attach the magnet. That’s all it takes! In five minutes, you have cute button magnets that are perfect for displaying pictures and notes – and you won’t have anymore loose buttons hanging around your home.

Doing your part to recycle, no matter how small, helps the earth out in immense ways. With these upcycled stocking stuffer ideas, not only will you be helping out Mother Nature, you will also be giving more heart-felt and meaningful gifts that your loved ones will truly appreciate.

Naomi Shaw is a freelance writer in Southern California. With three kids of her own, she is always on the lookout for creative stocking stuffers and loves how eco-friendly these are. She contributes content to the blog at www.CandyConceptsInc.com, where you can find more of her work.