Archive for June 2014 | Monthly archive page

posted by | Comments Off on Happy Independence Day from DC EcoWomen

It’s almost the Fourth of July.

The 238th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence… and a day to relax and celebrate in the nation’s capitol! What better place is there to celebrate our country?

We wish you a happy holiday this year. And if you see some fireworks, let them be green!

Celebrate with your local community. Celebrate our country by exploring its beauty, like hiking at Rock Creek Park on Saturday with fellow EcoWomen.

Happy Independence Day, EcoWomen!

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How to beat the heat without turning up the AC

Dawn Bickett

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

Public Pools

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

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

Natural Swimming Spots

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

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

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

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

The Beach!

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

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

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

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

posted by | Comments Off on The Value of DC EcoWomen

We Devote Our Resources To You!

By Lina Khan, DC EcoWomen Treasurer

As DC EcoWomen’s treasurer, I’m happy to share how we spend our resources to build programs, workshops, and opportunities for our members. In 2003, the founders of DC EcoWomen wanted to establish a community of women to support each other professionally and personally, and help them become environmental leaders. The DC chapter board works hard to keep that community strong, and we couldn’t do it without the funds we raise from member donations. So where does it all go?

About 90 percent of our yearly budget goes to professional resources like mentoring dinners, interview and resume workshops, and to support our monthly EcoHour speaker series—featuring experienced women who have made inroads in the environmental field. Even though some of these events have fees for participants, this does not cover the entire cost of the event, as we strive to keep costs as low as possible for attendees. Even free events like EcoHour carry costs, as we provide dinner for the speaker and a commemorative framed picture as a thank you gift.

We also also fund massive events like the 10th Anniversary Ecowomen Gala, as well as our Hallo-‘green’ happy hour, Holiday Party, and other membership happy hours. Finally, it helps us put on awesome local events that celebrate the environment and our region, like our bike workshop in April and our upcoming camping trip to Assateague, Maryland in July. The rest helps us cover operating expenses like our annual board retreat, which helps us plan our goals and events for the year; maintaining our website and Flickr page; electronic payment fees; and other administrative expenses.

Sporting our EcoWomen shirts with the planet Earth.

When our members tell us what they’re looking to get out of DC EcoWomen, we prioritize our resources to it. For example, when our members, many who are entry-level professionals and still getting their feet wet in the environmental field, said that they would like more opportunities to be mentored by experienced women, we made it happen. We started a terrific series of mentor dinners that have helped women gain continued guidance on their careers.

And we are taking it in new directions, like our recent Mentoring Tea held in May. And last year, we took professional guidance to the next level, and held our first DC EcoWomen Conference — an entire day of professional development workshops and networking to help women jump-start their careers. We’ll continue to listen to your feedback — like create or keep going the programs that help you meet your professional goals — and strengthen our network here in the DC/MD/VA region.

Being relatively new to the environmental field myself, the opportunities we offer and the professional women who speak at our events have made an impact on my own goals, and the steps I’m taking to realize them. I hope our events have made a positive difference for you, too. Thanks for being a part of our community! We appreciate your support!

A toast for the 10th Year Anniversary Gala

posted by | Comments Off on The Pickling Process: Simple Steps to Master the Artisan Pickle

Alexandra Gilliland

There are two kinds of people, those who hate pickles and those who love them. Rarely do you encounter a person without a strong opinion about pickles. I happen to be one of the latter. Growing up, I had such a strong love of pickles that I would often find a jar wrapped up under my family Christmas tree (always in the okra variety) for me. But, something happened in the last twenty years from my days of unwrapping okra pickles: suddenly pickling became hip. It’s now akin to indie music and independent coffee shops, and a far cry from my Grandmother’s pickled beets stuffed in the back of the fridge.

In spite of all my years of pickle loving, and the fact that pickling seems to be the new hip thing to do, I have yet to pickle …until now. So, here are some quick steps to help the first time pickler:

Step 1: Decide On Vegetables

You can pickle almost any vegetable: Brussels sprouts, carrots, beets, green peppers, onions … For my first attempt, I went traditional and pickled cucumbers. Once you decide on your vegetable(s), chop them into your preferred shape. I chopped my cucumbers into thin disks.

Step 2: To Blanche Or Not To Blanche

Some vegetables will come out better if you blanche them first. Tomatoes and cucumbers are so high in water content that you can skip the blanching process, whereas carrots, beets, and okra should be blanched. If you do decide to blanche your vegetables, make sure the vegetables are cool before proceeding to the next step.

Step 3: Place Vegetables Into Sterilized Jar

Boil your jar to ensure sterilization. Place vegetables into the jar, making sure that you leave at least ½ inch space at the top.

Step 4: Add Flavors

Get creative. Use dill, oregano, cumin or any dry seasoning you have on hand. I recommend about a ½ teaspoon of each dry seasoning per jar. For fresh herbs, I suggest using two sprigs. In my case, I used ½ teaspoon of dill.

Step 5: Make Brine

Use a 2 to 1 ratio of water and vinegar (both white vinegar and apple cider vinegar will work). In my case, I used 2 cups of water, 1 cup of apple vinegar, 1 teaspoon of sea salt, and 1 tablespoon of sugar. For a sweeter pickle, add more sugar. Bring all ingredients to a boil, until salt and sugar are dissolved.

Step 6: Add Brine To Jars And Refrigerate

Pour brine into the jar, making sure to cover the vegetables completely. Leave at least a ½ inch between the brine and the top of the jar; this allows room for the pressure that is produced once fermentation begins. Discard any leftover brine. Seal jars and refrigerator for at least 24 hours. Some pickling experts recommend refrigerating for 2 weeks (but who can wait that long for a tasty pickle?).

Step 7: The Hardest Part

Open the jar and enjoy!!!!

posted by | Comments Off on Summer In The City, And A New Year For DC EcoWomen

Jump for June and for DC EcoWomen’s New Year

Written by DC EcoWomen Board Member Maggie Wendler

Even though it may not feel like the year is ending to all of you, here at DC EcoWomen, we’re actually saying goodbye to our 2013-2014 term and gearing up for 2014-2015!

The past year was truly one of the best in DC EcoWomen’s history, celebrating our 10th anniversary with the gala in April and the outgoing board would like to thank all of you for your continued support and enthusiasm for our mission of developing personal and professional relationships among women in the environmental community.

Lots of changes will be happening over the next few months as we say goodbye to some outgoing board members and welcome new members to the board (Board Recruitment Happy Hour Wednesday!) and plan events for the 2014-2015 year at our annual board retreat in August. We want to build off the momentum from this past year and start the next decade of DC EcoWomen off better than ever, but we can’t do it without your help!

DC EcoWomen is run almost entirely through donations from our members and we could not provide the number of networking, professional development, educational, and just for fun events that we have in the past without your continued support. As an organization focused on professional development, we recognize that many of our members are new to the work force and do not have the financial means to pay for membership fees or for tickets to attend events.

This is why we have never had a membership fee, do not charge for the monthly speaker series EcoHour, and keep other events either free or as low cost as possible.

But we’re only able to do this based on our membership’s generosity through our fundraising campaigns in December and June each year. As the DC EcoWomen board, we recognize the importance of these donations to the success of our group and therefore every board member participates in annual giving. The success of DC EcoWomen rests solely on our shoulders as members; we’re all in this together!

So as we look ahead to 2014-2015, we’d ask that you consider contributing financially to DC EcoWomen so that we can continue to expand on our great programming and build on last year’s success. When we sit down in August to plan next year’s events, it is crucial that we have a budget to support our programs which is why we’re asking for member donations from now until June 30th.

Consider donating whatever you can so that we can make 2014-2015 DC EcoWomen’s best year yet! No donation is too small and as a thank-you, any donation over $25 will be eligible to receive an American Apparel DC EcoWomen t-shirt.

Thank-you for your continued support of DC EcoWomen!

posted by | Comments Off on From Farm to Basket: The Ins And Outs Of CSAs

Written by DC EcoWomen blogger Dawn Bickett

A Beginner’s Guide to CSAs

For months, we’ve slogged through barren produce aisles and mourned the loss of our weekend farmers market journeys. No longer. It is finally happening: fresh produce is back! And for me, that means the return of my weekly run to the Adams Morgan Farmers Market — where I pick up my CSA share from Licking Creek Bend Farm.

Maybe you’ve overheard talk of CSAs from your foodie friend or hippie sister — or perhaps you’ve been told CSA horror stories (kohlrabi for months?) that scared you off. Maybe you’re thinking about joining one this season! If any of these sound familiar, this blog is for you. I spoke with Esther Siegel and Charmaine Peters — the women behind Licking Creek Bend Farm and its CSA — to give you the rundown on CSAs, and to help you figure out whether one is right for you.

What is a CSA?

First off, the acronym stands for Community-Supported Agriculture. The concept is new one — developed within the last 50 years — where community members support a local farm directly. But unlike a farmers market stand where you purchase what you want, CSAs rely on members supporting the same farm throughout the season, regardless of the outcome.

Esther explains: “Individuals or families invest in the yield of the farm. The farmers get the money upfront so they could do all the things that they need to do. And in exchange, that family would get a weekly basket of the yield. It’s a shared liability because if there is a disaster, the farmer can’t sell produce and you don’t get a share. But when things are abundant, everyone shares in that.”

And CSAs aren’t just crowdsourcing funds for farmers. CSA are also focused on providing local, seasonal, and often organic produce to their customers.

How would it work for me?

CSAs take many forms, but share a few key features. After customers pay upfront for a share, they receive an fresh-from-the-field bunch of produce or other products every week. Some farms ask you to pick up a bag of produce at the actual farm or at a designated pickup location in the area. Others allow you to pre-order the veggies you want each week and then deliver them to your door.

What are the benefits of a CSA?

Of course, CSAs offer security to local farmers. But CSAs are more than an insurance policy or a loan. Compared to a farmers market or a grocery story, the CSA can be a much more personal experience for both farmers and customers. “There’s something more to the CSA, something more than just providing vegetables,” says Charmaine. And its true. CSAs can bring people together, whether it’s a quick recipe swap,or a potluck with other CSA members.

For customers, CSAs are also an exciting way to eat! New vegetables show up in your share every week, creating great opportunities to experiment in the kitchen. And because CSA members share in any bounty on the farm, a flat of heirloom tomatoes or enough sweet potatoes to last all winter is always possible. This means CSA members can often squirrel away enough produce via freezing, drying, or canning to last well after the season is over.

As Esther describes it: “It’s as if you lived on a farm, and instead of writing a grocery list and going to the store and getting the produce you plan for, you are really going out into the field and seeing what’s for dinner.”

Lastly, CSAs are local so the food they provide is not only seasonal and fresh, it also has a lower carbon footprint than vegetables at the store. Most CSAs practice organic farming methods as well. And as the idea of CSAs has gotten more popular, it’s not just vegetables anymore. You can join cheese, meat, flower, even dessert CSAs!

What are the challenges?

If you’re considering joining a CSA, Esther would be the first to tell you that CSAs aren’t for everyone. “What I tell people is that if you work late every night and you don’t have time to cook, a lot of the food is going to go bad. If you only like certain things that may not be what grows in our environment, this might not be for you. Its a way of life that is exciting, but it’s something that you have to grow into.”

In addition, many CSAs don’t have flexibility on what specific produce they’re offering each week. Then there’s the issue of size. Most CSAs consider a share to be enough to feed 2-4 people in a week. If you go into a CSA alone, the sheer amount of veggies may be overwhelming. At the same time, CSAs aren’t meant to be all the food a person needs in a week, so a trip to the store is still required.

For farmers as well, CSAs offer a specific set of challenges. CSAs require lots of logistics: from recruitment, to managing pick up locations, to making sure that produce is fairly distributed. On top of that, Charmaine details the difficulty of managing people’s expectations in the face of the realities of the local climate: “Our tomatoes aren’t ready here until September, but people see them in the store in June.” And beyond that, she adds, some popular produce like broccoli or rosemary is difficult to grow in the region altogether.

I’m in. What’s next?

You’ve carefully considered your eating and cooking habits, and you have grabbed a friend/roommate/partner who wants to embark on a vegetable adventure with you. Great! Here are some resources to help find the perfect CSA for you in the DC area:

Check out this fantastic interactive map to find CSAs in your area. You can also, visit farmers markets near you to find out if they offer CSAs. And for more on Licking Creek Bend Farm, visit its webpage or just come to the Adams Morgan Farmers Market on 18th and Columbia on Saturday mornings.