Posts Tagged ‘women’

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on The Story Behind “Port Lockroy”

By Alyssa Ritterstein, DC EcoWomen Board Member

Anne Christianson is one of the finalists of DC EcoWomen’s 2018 Photo Contest, which captured images of the incredible environmental work our members do each day. One of the categories that we put forward for this year’s photo contest was women providing career growth opportunities for other women, and Anne delivered.

Her photo takes us on a journey to Antarctica. The picture shows women teaching other women about Antarctic climate science with a beautiful snow-covered mountain in the distance. What a classroom! The Antarctic expedition was the culmination of 18 months of training and is part of a 10-year, all-female scientist leadership initiative.

Anne is a woman with a clear passion for environmental issues. During her PhD at the University of Minnesota evaluating international climate change adaptation policies and programs for ecological and social benefits, she interned at the White House Council on Environmental Quality and was a policy fellow at the Committee on Natural Resources. Prior to those positions, she managed the legislative portfolio for Rep. Ellison (D-Minn.) on international and domestic natural resources, energy and environment, agriculture, and Native American issues. She also worked as a lobbyist for Ocean Conservancy for their marine debris and ocean planning programs.

We recently spoke with Anne to hear more about the photo and the story behind it.

DC EcoWomen: Congratulations on being a finalist for this year’s photo contest! Let’s talk about the photo you submitted. What’s its backstory?

Anne Christianson: I was in Antarctica with 75 other female scientists from around the world. This was our final landing on the Antarctic Peninsula, at an historic British base. It was amazing being in Antarctica with these accomplished women! We had botanists, geologists, wildlife biologists, atmospheric scientists, and marine ecologists. Every time someone found a cool rock, saw an interesting penguin interaction, or the weather changed, we had an expert right there. We also learned from each other what it takes to be a successful woman and leader in STEMM [science, technology, engineering, mathematical and medical] fields. Although we were all different ages, from different continents, and in different disciplines, we all had experienced the same challenges as women in science. The solidarity and support we gave each other was a crucial aspect of the leadership initiative.

DCEW: I see that you have a lot of experience working on environmental issues for the White House, on Capitol Hill and at a Washington-based environmental advocacy nonprofit. How did you get from D.C. to Port Lockroy, Antarctica?

AC: I think it is because I had D.C. experience that I was chosen to go! Many scientists struggle to communicate their findings and passion to the policy-makers that ultimately act as gatekeepers – whether that be for appropriations for important scientific institutions, or the decisions made in D.C. that could strengthen or destroy entire fields of study. Being an environmental scientist with direct policy experience has been incredibly useful for my career, and I was able to add insight to the science communication discussions we had on the ship.

DCEW: Let’s switch gears and talk about the future. Where do you envision your environmental work taking you in the future?

AC: I am planning on returning to D.C. soon, but this time around I want to move beyond national policy circles and become more involved in international conservation work. I think some of the most interesting and relevant dialogues about the planet are happening on the international stage. I’ve spent the last year traveling around the world for my PhD research, having conversations with scientists and policy-makers, and I’ve been energized by the hopefulness and determination of these international communities. 

DCEW: You’ve been a member of DC EcoWomen for some time now. What kept bringing you back to the organization, and any advice for those interested in submitting a photo for next year’s contest?

AC: The community of support that DC EcoWomen gives keeps me coming back. The only way that women will see gains in the professional world – in terms of salary, leadership roles, and preventing harassment and discrimination in the workplace – is if we support each other, believe each other, and have each other’s back. DC EcoWomen provides this – a group of women who have similar passions and experiences, and can be there to help each other succeed, rather than be in competition. I found that incredibly refreshing, and it was instrumental to my early professional success. It’s amazing to see all the growth that has happened with the organization since I moved to Minnesota, and I’m excited to take part in all of the new ideas that future boards and members will have!

Anne Christianson is an environmental scientist at the University of Minnesota, where her research examines the social and ecological implications of ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation.

 

 

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on The Passion Behind “Volunteering”

Woman in field. "2018 Photo Contest Finalist Guest Blog"

By Alyssa Ritterstein, DC EcoWomen Board Member 

Tacy Lambiase is one of the finalists of DC EcoWomen’s 2018 Photo Contest, which captured images of the incredible environmental work our members do each day. Her photo features an activity that resonates with many women in our community – volunteering to help protect the environment.

Tacy is not new to volunteer work. In 2013, she led 15 University of Maryland, College Park undergraduates on a week-long, environmental restoration trip with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. During that time, she educated students about environmental issues through service-learning activities and projects.

For the past two years, she’s volunteered as an environmental educator with the Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS)’s Saturday Environmental Academy (SEA). She develops lesson plans and chaperones weekly field trips for sixth, seventh and eighth grade students interested in environmental issues.

Tacy’s photo contest picture comes from one of her trips this past spring, when she participated in a tree planting along the Anacostia River near Bladensburg, Maryland. Her photo follows one of her young SEA students planting a native sapling to stabilize the banks of the river.

We recently chatted with Tacy to hear more about the photo and the passion behind her work.

DC EcoWomen: Congratulations on being a finalist for this year’s photo contest! Let’s talk about the photo you submitted. What’s its backstory?

Tacy Lambiase: We were planting native tree species to help restore a portion of the riverbank along the Anacostia that was experiencing erosion (and a large build-up of trash). For some of the students, this was the first time they had ever planted a tree. How awesome is that?! I love that the SEA program facilitates meaningful experiences like this for students from underserved communities.

DCEW: I see that you have a lot of experience volunteering and working in the environmental field. Can you tell us why you are passionate about this area and how you got to where you are today? For instance, how did you get involved with AWS?

TL: I became passionate about sustainability and volunteering as an undergraduate at the University of Maryland. Participating in the Alternative Breaks Program was a game-changer because I had the opportunity to see environmental protection in action. It wasn’t a theoretical exercise, it was an experience involving hands-on, direct service to my own community, the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Ultimately, that experience inspired me to minor in Sustainability Studies and pursue sustainability-related job opportunities after graduation. It also led me to seek out volunteer positions with AWS.

DCEW: Let’s switch gears and talk about the future. Where do you envision your environmental work taking you in the future?

TL: I currently work on internal communications and employee engagement initiatives for the Urban Institute. I’d love to help foster a culture of sustainability within the organization. I’ve actually be given the opportunity to form a Sustainability Task Force with staff to kick-start conversations around: “How might we create a more efficient, healthy, and sustainable workplace? How can we become better neighbors and environmental stewards of our own community?” So, I’m excited to see how that evolves. And I will definitely keep volunteering with local environmental organizations in my free time.

DCEW: Is there any advice that you’d like to give folks interested in next year’s contest?

TL: Don’t be afraid to share your story! Whether you take care of your own backyard garden, volunteer with an environmental organization, or spend time in nature, your story about connecting with the environment is important. And a good photo can help your story resonate with others.

Tacy Lambiase is a volunteer environmental educator at the Saturday Environmental Academy (SEA), a program of the Anacostia Watershed Society. She also works as an Internal Communications Specialist at The Urban Institute, a nonprofit conducting research to expand opportunities for all, reduce hardship among the most vulnerable, and strengthen the effectiveness of the public sector.

 

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Championing Diversity in Ocean Policy

by Robin Garcia

Last year, I wrote about the low representation of women during Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW), a three-day conference hosted by the National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation (NMSF) where hundreds of people from government, nonprofits, the business sector, and Capitol Hill come together to discuss marine and aquatic policy issues. Last month, I was back at CHOW to hear about the latest policy issues, to network, and yes – to see if there were more women highlighted this year.

Some things have yet to change; once again one women, Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington State, was honored during the Ocean Awards Gala. Yet there were more women on the stage at CHOW this year. Here’s the rundown:

  • Women represented nearly 40% of the panelists compared to 30% last year.
  • The percentage of women that served as moderators dropped from 35% to about 20%.
  • CHOW’s online OceansLIVE sessions saw similar increases, with close to 60% female representation compared to last year’s 55% female representation.
  • More women of color were highlighted as well, with seven women of color featured in both the live panels and OceansLIVE sessions, compared to three women of color last year.
“Closing the Loop on Trash: Innovation and Industry Leadership” panel

“Closing the Loop on Trash: Innovation and Industry Leadership” panel

But since I’m a trained scientist, I had to ask: were these changes actually significant?

Yes, I literally ran the stats to see if these changes were in fact significant.

There was an insignificant increase in the number of women on the panels at CHOW (p = 0.63, t test in case you really want to know!), an insignificant decrease in the number of female moderators (p = 0.25), and an insignificant increase in the number of women of color (p = 0.33). However, there was a significant increase in female representation throughout the OceansLIVE sessions (p = 0.0078).

Marce Gutiérrez-Graudi?š, founder and director of AZUL, speaks with moderator Darryl Fears of the Washington Post during the “The Power of Diversity to Strengthen the Ocean Movement” panel

Marce Gutiérrez-Graudi?š, founder and director of AZUL, speaks with moderator Darryl Fears of the Washington Post during the “The Power of Diversity to Strengthen the Ocean Movement” panel

For me personally, the most exciting panels to watch were “The Power of Diversity to Strengthen the Ocean Movement” and the accompanying OceansLIVE session “Everyone’s Invited: Creating and Inclusive Ocean.” During “The Power of Diversity,” an equal panel of men and women of color discussed the lack of diversity in ocean policy and conservation, and how to empower more minorities interested in marine issues. This panel struck especially close to home for me – ever since I started graduate school for my Masters in Marine Biology, I have become too accustomed to looking around and realizing that I’m often the only person in the room that looks like me. It was mentioned during the panel that this is a difficult conversation, but the consensus was that as uncomfortable as the topic can be, it’s a necessary conversation if we have any hope of creating a marine science and policy community that better reflects the American population in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, economic status, and any other status that can divide us.

Another interesting panel to highlight was titled “Local Voices and Traditional Knowledge for a Sustainable Arctic Economy.” Again, an equal panel of men and women, all of Alaska native heritage, discussed how they can be valuable in the movement to develop a sustainable Arctic economy that both protects the Arctic environment and supports a growing economy.

Overall, great changes have happened and we should recognize and support them. Not only were there some increases in diversity, but there were multiple panels that focused on the benefits of diverse voices in ocean policy.

So, how can we move forward?

What I noticed was that many of the most diverse panels were those that focused on diversity. I would love to attend a CHOW where all panels, whether they’re focus on diversity in the marine community or the future of offshore energy, are diverse in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, and more. Why can’t every panel include an equal number of men and women, an equal number of white people and people of color? That’s the CHOW I want to see next year and in years to come.

Robin is a Policy Analyst at NOAA and a DC EcoWomen board member. A DC native, she enjoys exploring her hometown, developing her yoga skills, and getting out on the water as much as possible. She is especially excited that the season of free outdoor events is finally here. 

posted by | on , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Why Should You Care About Community?

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.

Neighborhood Gratisography135H

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 Women’s Discoveries that Influence Climate Change

by Erin Twamley

The faces of women making positive changes for the environment and planet are often hidden. Many of them may not have known that their research, discoveries and investigations would help address climate change. They conducted some of their environmental work before we even knew the term!

EarthWordle

The following women have done amazing work that enabled us to make strides on curbing climate change:

Sylvia Earle

Dr. Sylvia Earle

Dr. Earle is most notably known as an Oceanographer. In fact, she has spent nearly 271 days of her life underwater. But did you know that data from the oceans and coral reefs is key to understanding the impacts of climate change?

The ocean is one of the largest absorbents of carbon dioxide and helps us to tell the story of the past, present and future on Earth. Dr. Earle’s work helps us understand how we can help keep the oceans healthy.

Dr. Mária Telkes & Eleanor Raymond

Today, commercial and residential solar is booming across the world. But did you know that two women were instrumental in bringing solar power to residential homes in Massachusetts in 1948?

Maria Telkes and Raymond designed a solar-powered house in Massachusetts

Maria Telkes and Raymond designed a solar-powered house in Massachusetts

The idea of a solar powered house in a cold climate baffled most scientists and Americans. But MIT solar energy researcher Dr. Mária Telkes and Boston architect Eleanor Raymond helped to challenge that notion.

Together, they designed and built the first solar powered house in the USA. Breaking or changing perceptions is often a key factor in advancing our clean energy future. It is also important in leading efforts to address climate change. These two women helped people understand that solar energy can power homes and businesses in almost any climate.

Gina McCarthyGina McCarthy

Gina McCarthy is the Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (and is a former EcoHour speaker!). She has dedicated her career to policy work at the local, state and now federal level to address climate change.

She is a strong advocate for decisions and policies that address climate change in the USA and around the world. Her job is to help policy makers and federal agencies make decisions to mitigate climate change.

AdaLovelaceAda Lovelace

Ada Lovelace is recognized as the first computer programmer. What year was that? 1842! Long before typewriters and computers, people were writing algorithms, she wrote an algorithm for the analytical engine, which would later become known as the world’s first computer program.

Today, computer simulations and models are key for understanding the global, regional and local effects of climate change. Without computers and computer programs, we would not be able to predict and understand our climate future.

To see what other women are doing today to address climate change, check out the article, 20 Women Making Waves in the Climate Change Debate.

Erin Twamley is an energy education specialist and adult educator. She is a leader in providing climate and energy information for STEM education efforts. She authored the book, Climate Change: Discover How It Impacts Spaceship Earth to positively engage youth in learning about and addressing climate change.

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By Robin Garcia

Last month I attended Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW) – a three-day conference hosted by the National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation (NMSF) where hundreds of people from various levels of government, nonprofits, the business sector, and Capitol Hill come together to discuss marine and aquatic policy issues. NMSF also holds an annual Ocean Awards Gala in conjunction with CHOW to recognize leaders with a commitment to a healthy ocean. With my background in marine biology, current position in science communication, and interest in environmental policy, I could not pass up the opportunity to experience such a meeting.

"Changing Maritime Commerce Space: The Direction of U.S. Shipping" panel.

“Changing Maritime Commerce Space: The Direction of U.S. Shipping” panel.

While I felt very much at home in the audience among women my age, I couldn’t help but notice that there were few women – literally – to look up to on the panel platform. Women are increasingly participating in the marine science workforce and in academia: my own graduate program is mostly female. But no one could figure that out by looking at the panelists. Women made up only 30% of the panels, and 35% of them served as panel moderators instead of panelists. CHOW’s online OceansLIVE sessions were marginally better with 55% female representation, yet like the panels managed to include a session featuring only men. Women as a whole were underrepresented, but women of color were frightfully scarce. CHOW included only three women of color throughout the entire week. Women were similarly misrepresented at the Ocean Awards Gala. Of the four individuals that were presented with a top award, one was a woman – Laura Bush, who was awarded the Leadership Award in partnership with former President George W. Bush.

"Commanders of the Sea: Women Leading the Way in Ocean Stewardship" OceansLIVE session.

“Commanders of the Sea: Women Leading the Way in Ocean Stewardship” OceansLIVE session.

There were one specific situation in which women were front and center. The last OceansLIVE session was “Commanders of the Sea: Women Leading the Way in Ocean Stewardship”. The session featured women from high school to well-established in her career, and explored the roles that women have played in ocean leadership and stewardship. It is worth noting that while the gender representation in CHOW was similar last year, this session was a clear effort to increase recognition of women in the field.

Overall, CHOW was a wonderful experience. There were lively discussions on topics ranging from sustainable seafood, to collaborative marine conservation with Cuba, to what the American youth think of the future. It was exhilarating to hear the passion behind comments such as “We must accept the science” from a senator and “I am sick and tired of pervasive myths about aquaculture in this country” from a university professor. The material was engaging and exciting, and I hope that CHOW builds upon this year’s efforts and continues to support women in marine and aquatic fields, specifically by inviting more female panelists. There is a wealth of female environmental champions on Capitol Hill to engage with during a future CHOW, including Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, and Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio. There are many female scientists that could contribute to CHOW, including Nancy Knowlton, the Sant Chair for Marine Science at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History; Jackie Savitz, the Vice President for U.S. Oceans at Oceana; Deborah Lee, Director of NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory; and Kimberly Reece, Department Chair of Aquatic Health Sciences at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. These lists are of course not all-inclusive, but they would be an excellent place to start.

Dr. Dionne Hoskins with a group of Savannah State University students at NOAA's 2014 Education and Science Forum.

Dr. Dionne Hoskins with a group of Savannah State University students at NOAA’s 2014 Education and Science Forum.

I would also like to see more diversity in the panelists, for both women and men. Female marine biologists of color that could be featured during CHOW include Dionne Hoskins, a fishery biologist at NOAA Fisheries’ Galveston Laboratory and an Associate Professor at Savannah State University; Danni Washington, Founder of The Big Blue and You; and Shuyi Chen, Professor of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. The need to increase diversity in the marine science community could also be a topic for discussion at a future CHOW and has been addressed by some of these women.

CHOW must remain on the cutting edge of the scientific and social implications of marine and aquatic issues in order to remain relevant to Capitol Hill and to the nation. Over half of the U.S. population is female. The Hispanic population has increased by over 40% in ten years, and U.S. citizens of color support environmental protection at a higher rate than Caucasian citizens. It is time for CHOW to reflect those trends. Next year’s CHOW has already been scheduled for June 7-9, 2016, and I will definitely be attending again and looking to see whether NMSF increases its encouragement of women in this important discussion.

Robin is a Communication Specialist at NOAA and a DC EcoWomen board member. A DC native, she enjoys exploring her hometown, developing her yoga skills, and getting out on the water as much as possible. She is also waiting to see what Shark Week replaces Megaladon with this year. 

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Start a Business for the Win, Part 2: A Beautiful Mixed Bag

By Eva Jannotta

This year I started Simply Put Strategies. I’m a few months in, and learning like there’s no tomorrow. Turns out it’s not all rainbows and butterflies, but it’s still pretty awesome.

Should I work for free? There are other ways to work.

There are also other ways to work besides for money or nothing. I started my organizing business by working pro-bono in exchange for testimonials for my website and before and after pictures. I also barter: a graphic designer friend is designing my business cards in exchange for social media consulting. You could trade babysitting services, pet care, etc. Offering these deals eases pressure on your spending, establishes mutually beneficial relationships, and gives you experience.

Learn everything but don’t do everythingWith the Internet, there is no end to the things you can learn to optimize your success.

You do not need a business degree to start a business. The Internet abounds with resources for everything, which means you basically have no excuse! You can learn to be your own bookkeeper, market yourself, design your own graphics, advertise, ramp up social media, and so on. Of course, doing everything yourself is not necessarily a good investment. If someone else can do it faster and with expertise, it’s worth outsourcing. Weigh if it’s cost effective for you to do, or trade with/hire someone else.

7624914104_16bc3555a6_oHow to cope – Everyone will give you advice and tell you that running a business is hard. Don’t be deterred!

Everyone and their uncle warned me that starting a business is hard. It got old: I knew it would be hard and I like working hard! But it has been challenging in ways I didn’t expect: I didn’t expect the loneliness I feel by spending so much time alone. I didn’t anticipate how easy it would be to get distracted. I hadn’t considered how long some decisions take to make.

Before I started my business, I imagined leaping out of bed every morning and producing badassity until dusk. But sometimes I hit snooze, plant flowers all day, or schedule Skype dates during “business” hours.

When you’re doing your own thing there are no boundaries unless you set them. This is a blessing and a curse: you can work wherever and whenever, which is freeing and invigorating. However, this means that at any given time you may feel like you should be working. Since “working” and “not working” look the same now (they can both be done on your couch or in a cafe) you must consciously designate time not to work.

14360595726_9b6d525bcf_oWork your Network – It may be your best resource.

I put off sharing my business with my network. I worried that sending an email blast to my extended family would be awkwardly self congratulatory. I explained this to my aunt and she said, “you’re going to have to get over that.” She was right.

Part of your unique contribution to a business is your network. You have no idea who wants your services/product or knows someone who does. Take advantage of that as soon as you can – it’s all about people.

Starting a business is a great time to expand your network. If the thought of wearing a blazer and schmoozing grosses you out, think again. Networking isn’t about meeting as many people as possible to use them for your career. Networking is about investing in your community. Putting down roots by meeting people, joining organizations, and learning about your area makes you feel grounded and connected. It has two benefits: it’s good for you as a person, and it’s good for business.

Eva Jannotta is a professional organizer, social media consultant, and the founder of Simply Put Strategies.

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.

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by Eva Jannotta

If you’re thinking about starting a business, congratulations! Anyone can start a business. All you need is your idea, your goals, and a business model (and probably a website). Here are some things to consider as you plan your business:

Find your nicheNo market is too saturated for your unique self.
You need a business idea. What’s your product or service? And more importantly, what makes your business special? The answer to this last question is obvious in a way: you make your business special. Find a way to make it obvious to your customers. What about your experiences or creation makes you unique?

In other words, don’t just be an English major who edits stuff. What are you excellent at and experienced in editing: scientific writing? Technical writing about vacuums? Marketing organic cotton baby clothes? Or what do you know so much about that you can improve a piece by editing it?

Set yourself apart by finding a niche and becoming an expert (if you aren’t already). Develop expertise that your customers can trust. Do this by contributing content; write a blog, guest post on blogs about your topic, write white papers or ebooks, make videos, create Pin boards and use Instagram for visual content. Even curating your Twitter feed is a way to establish expertise. Key in to your industry – establish relationships with media outlets or journalists that cover your topic, volunteer at events in your industry. Pitch presentations at conferences.

Reading three paragraphs on finding a niche makes it sound like it can be done overnight, but I’m still finding my niche! I’m a professional organizer – will my niche by digital clutter? I’m a social media and marketing consultant – will I specialize in social media support for Gen Xers? I’m developing a financial literacy class for students and young adults. Maybe financial education will be my expertise. It’s okay if you’re not sure, or if it takes time to decide on your niche. You can start before you’re certain. Your niche will make itself known as you experiment with your options.

Starting a Business: What are your goals for your business - and your life?

Starting a Business: What are your goals for your business – and your life?

Know yourself, know your goalsThere are more reasons than “make money” to start a business.
When I started Simply Put Strategies, I had a lot of anxiety about making it “successful,” and in my mind that meant making it “pay.” My sister suggested that I change my definition of success from make money to improve peoples’ lives through organization. Not because wanting to make money is bad, but because money-making as a goal made me feel like a panicked failure instead of a powerful person who makes her clients’ lives more joyful and free.

Making money is an important goal, but know your other business goals: to create art that makes people happy or pensive? To support baby boomers as they age? To publish websites that are intuitive for new users?

There are many reasons to start a business, and they can all be goals: build expertise, practice self-management, widen your range of experiences, expand your network, have a back-up option if you leave your job, have an option if you want to work part-time to raise kids or write a book. Can you think of other great reasons to start a business?

Get a business plan modelWhere is the money coming from?
Some people insist that you need to write a business plan, and that’s up to you. But whether you write a plan or not, you DO need a business model: you need to have a plan for supporting yourself.

Few businesses make a ton of money at first. Some never make much at all. However, you need money to live. So make sure you have a business model that allows you to live while you get your business mojo flowing. This could be working full time, part-time, working virtually, contracting, living off savings, doing odd jobs off Craigslist, or dog walking. I do not recommend quitting a salaried job to start a business with no idea how you will support yourself. That is a recipe for sleepless nights and is a terrible business model! My business model is to work part time at MOM’s Organic Market while I build my client base.

Starting a business: you can work for yourself all day in a cafe!

Starting a business: you can work for yourself all day in a cafe!

Starting a business is a big step, and may sound scary. What if it fails? What if you don’t like it? Anything is possible, but what you will learn makes it a worthy investment. If you’re worried about losing money, consider this: it cost me only $300 to start my business (registering in the state of Maryland and paying for my website). You can do it!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Start a Business for the Win.

Eva Jannotta is a professional organizer, social media consultant, and the founder of Simply Put Strategies.

posted by | on , , | Comments Off on Women Leaders Defend the Earth and Champion Human Rights

by Sharon Hartzell

Happy National Women’s History Month! As environmentally conscious women, we have no shortage of role models from whom to draw inspiration as we advocate for a greener planet. Women have steered the environmental movement in innovative directions, highlighting interconnections between environmental issues and human right struggles in the U.S. and worldwide. Here are four female environmental leaders who advocate for both the environment and human rights.

Wangari Maathai

maathaiIn 2004, Wangari Maathai became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to “sustainable development, democracy and peace.” Maathai took a holistic approach to environmental advocacy, recognizing connections between resource management and economic empowerment. One of her lasting contributions was the Green Belt Movement, an organization dedicated to empowering communities, particularly women, to preserve the environment. It was founded in response to concerned rural Kenyan women facing water scarcity, insecure food supply, and a lack of accessible resources for firewood. The Green Belt Movement encourages tree planting to conserve biodiversity, promotes ecosystem restoration, and combats poverty by providing economic resources.

In addition to the Green Belt Movement, Maathai became the first woman in Kenya to earn a doctorate degree, the first woman to chair the Department of Veterinary Anatomy at the University of Nairobi, and a participant in the National Council of Women in Kenya, which led to the creation of the Green Belt Movement.

Winona LaDuke

ladukeWinona LaDuke is a powerful advocate for environmental sustainability and indigenous rights, particularly for women. A member of the Ojibwe tribe, LaDuke became an activist while working on the White Earth Reservation as a school principal, where she helped to found the Indigenous Women’s Network. LaDuke recognized the necessity of conserving both environmental and cultural resources, and founded White Earth Land Recovery Project to recover land that has been taken from the people on her reservation. The organization also implements programs on these lands to preserve the environment and fosters economic opportunities for indigenous people.

LaDuke then founded the nonprofit Honor the Earth, which provides “a voice for the earth and a voice for those not heard.” Honor the Earth promotes environmental justice and works to enhance the political power and leadership of indigenous people. According to the nonprofit’s website: “We believe a sustainable world is predicated on transforming economic, social and political relationships that have been based on systems of conquest toward systems based on just relationships with each other and with the natural world.”

Vandana Shiva

shivaVandana Shiva has dedicated her life to the preservation of biodiversity and indigenous knowledge, which she sees as intrinsically linked. In 1991, Shiva founded the NGO Navdanya (nine seeds), which is committed to the protection of biological and cultural diversity. The organization has set up seed banks across India, promotes fair trade of organic seeds, and trains farmers in seed sovereignty, food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture.

Since the preservation of biodiversity is the foundation of Shiva’s activism, she has been an outspoken critic of seed monocultures, industrial agriculture, and genetically modified food products. Shiva also makes a philosophical argument against a system that attempts to patent life forms, and questions the loss of indigenous knowledge and control over traditional agriculture systems that might result from the practice. Ecofeminism is fundamental to Shiva’s work, and she asserts that more sustainable agriculture will go along with centering the leadership of women in India and worldwide.

Majora Carter

carterMajora Carter is a visionary advocate for environmental justice and an innovative steward of the urban environment. A resident of the Bronx, Carter has committed her life’s work to improving both the environmental quality and the economic sustainability of her community. In 2001, Carter founded Sustainable South Bronx, which spearheaded the initiative to develop the Hunt’s Point Riverside Park in an area that had previously been an illegal garbage dump.

Through Sustainable South Bronx, Carter has also established the Bronx Environmental Stewardship Program, an initiative to train urban residents for green-collar jobs in ecological restoration, green roof installation, urban forestry, and other sustainable fields. Carter’s work recognizes many interrelated struggles facing low-income communities of color, and strives to tackle them in a holistic way. These communities must bear the brunt of environmental pollution, and face less access to green spaces and fewer opportunities for green jobs than wealthier communities. “Green For All,” an organization that Carter founded in collaboration with civil rights advocate Van Jones, strives to tackle poverty and crime by providing economic opportunities for low-income communities while simultaneously building a green economy.

Across continents and communities, women are making vast contributions to the environmental movement and strengthening the linkages between preserving the earth and defending the rights of humans who inhabit it. Which female leaders have inspired you this Women’s History Month? Comment below!

Sharon Hartzell is a graduate student at the University of Maryland College Park, where her research and coursework focuses on Chesapeake Bay contaminant issues. She is a regular blogger on environmental topics with the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, and is always seeking more opportunities to write. She spends her free time enjoying everything the D.C. area has to offer, from the Natural History Museum to Nando’s portobello wraps.