Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

posted by | on , , , , | No comments

By: Tacy Lambiase

In 2021, let’s commit to investing and caring for ourselves and our communities.

For many of us, it’s a ritual. When a new year starts, we start to analyze the previous one. What do we wish we could have changed? How can we make sure that we’re somehow better, healthier, prettier, or wealthier in the year to come? Enter: The New Year’s resolution.

While well-intentioned, many resolutions inevitably fail within weeks or months, leading to frustration and disappointment (who knew it would be so hard to start working out five days per week?). But what if there was a way to make resolutions that make us feel good and do good for others in the process? 

Here’s what I’d like to propose: Instead of making a typical New Year’s resolution, let’s all commit to participating in some form of community care this year. 

Community care means exactly what it sounds like: it’s “people committed to leveraging their privilege to be there for one another,” as community organizer and researcher Nakita Valerio describes it. It can involve anything from making dinner for a sick neighbor to participating in a community-led protest. 

While the concept of community care is nothing new, I think many of us would agree that it’s sorely needed. As our greater DC community continues to face the impacts of a pandemic, high unemployment, ongoing racial and social injustice, white supremacy, and climate change, it’s more important than ever for us to foster a culture of care within our own homes, our workplaces, and our neighborhoods. 

If you’re ready to commit to community care, here are a few action items to get you started. 

Care for Yourself

  • You have something amazing to offer to someone else, whether that’s your time, skills, perspective, or passion. Take time to reflect and explore the social change role that you can best play to support the needs of your community. 
  • Community care doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t also practice self-care: it’s hard to support others when your own needs are not being met.Get into the habit of listening to your body and responding accordingly. Maybe that looks like taking a nature walk when you feel stressed, scheduling a doctor’s appointment you’ve been putting off, or asking a friend to be a listening ear when you need one (community care can be both given and received).
Picking up trash during your daily walk is another form of community care.

Care for Your Community

  • Think about your neighbors, but also your community of friends, family members, and coworkers: Who could use a phone call, a card in the mail, or a word of encouragement? Brainstorm a simple action that you can take, totally unprompted, to make someone else feel loved and supported.

Care for Our Common Home 

  • Join a local Buy Nothing group and make gifting, sharing, and borrowing the norm in your community. Items that we own but no longer need could find a second life in the hands of a neighbor, helping us to form stronger relationships and reducing unnecessary waste.

I’m planning to participate in more acts of community care this year. What about you? Do any of the actions on this list speak to your values or goals? Respond in the comments with your plans; I’d love to hear how you’re promoting a culture of care in your community.

***

Tacy Lambiase manages communications and outreach for the Office of Sustainability at American University in Washington, DC. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in sustainability management from AU’s Kogod School of Business. Tacy enjoys kayaking, reading, and spending time with her husband and her adopted cat, Spanky.

posted by | on , , , | No comments

By: Ellie Long

If you’re anything like me, you’re starting out 2021 more than a little exhausted from the events of the past year. Yes, we’re surrounded by messages of “brighter days ahead,” but with COVID-19 still raging, an economic crisis disproportionately hurting the most vulnerable among us, and, oh yeah, a climate crisis spiraling out of control, “Happy New Year” can feel a bit premature. 

While it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all this, taking small, concrete steps toward positive change can have a big impact on lending a sense of control, and even more importantly: hope. Once you accept that you’re not going to single-handedly stop the earth’s temperature from rising or save every tree in the rainforest, you can start focusing on what you CAN do in 2021. Here are a few ideas to get started – and tips and tricks for sticking with it. 

1. Vow to volunteer. 

Whether your schedule allows for once a week, once a month, biannually, or anywhere in-between, setting a firm, realistic target for when you can commit to giving back will help you stick to volunteering more in 2021. In-person opportunities can be harder to come by during COVID-19, but there are still many organizations across the D.C. area that could use extra helping hands – here are just a few to look into: 

  • Washington Parks and People has virtual, in-person, and group volunteer opportunities available with safety precautions in place, including a park cleanup on the 3rd Saturday of every month. 
  • EcoAction Arlington is hosting intermittent in-person cleanups around Arlington County, as well as virtual volunteer social events to connect with your fellow eco-enthusiasts. 
  • Capital Area Food Bank is playing a critical role in providing food to those who need it most around the region. Opportunities include driving to collect and distribute food, sorting and packing, and staffing their community marketplaces. 

2. Make 2021 your year of composting. 

Composting is a win-win for the environment: by sorting out your food waste, you reduce landfill emissions while creating a nutrient-rich soil for gardening or agriculture. Make a resolution to sort out your compostables, such as vegetable scraps, grains, and egg shells, into a separate container, then drop off them off at one of the D.C.’s collection sites (there are also locations in Virginia). Or, if you want to use the compost in your own garden, consider starting an at-home composting system – local governments including D.C., Arlington, and Montgomery County offer bins discounted or free. 

3. Plastic is so 2020. 

COVID-19 can make it feel like we’re making backward progress on eliminating the wasteful use of plastic in our daily lives. Counter the trend when the use of plastic isn’t necessary for health and safety with simple steps such as always carrying your own reusable grocery and produce bags to the store (most stores allow this, but may ask that you bag your own items), purchasing a reusable straw, or requesting restaurants to reduce plastic in takeout when possible (e.g., asking that plastic utensils are not included). 

4. Eat for two – the planet and you! 

Eating healthier is a common New Year’s resolution, but how about eating healthier for the planet? Set goals in 2021 based on your current diet; for example, if you already eat largely plant-based, maybe you’re ready to commit to being vegetarian or vegan (going vegetarian can roughly half your food carbon footprint, while veganism lowers it by about 60%), but if you currently eat a meat-heavy diet, starting small with “meatless Mondays” may be more effective at creating lasting change. You can also think about goals for eating more organic, local, or sustainably sourced food, e.g., “I will only eat seafood that is on SeafoodWatch’s recommended list.” 

5. Make Mother Earth the center of attention by informing others. 

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re probably already fairly interested in and informed about environmental issues. Confront disinformation and disinterest by spreading the word – a few examples of resolutions could include “I will always speak up when I hear or see climate disinformation this year,” “I will share at least one environmentally educational article on my social media each week,” “I will invite a friend or family member to every environmental event I attend,” or *ahem* “I will write a blog for DC EcoWomen!” 

6. Learn about the ongoing shadow of environmental racism. 

The past year brought the terrible toll of racial injustice front and center. In 2021, continue to listen, learn, and act – one way to start could be by reading up on environmental justice and how we can ensure our planet’s resources are enjoyed equally, that environmental catastrophes are not felt disproportionately, and that the movement for justice is all-inclusive. Here are a few resources to start:

7. Don’t forget to donate. 

If you have the means, helping to support the fight for a cleaner planet through donating can make a big difference. Consider establishing a certain amount of money you intend to donate each month, then setting a reminder on your phone so you don’t forget to make it happen. Or for an easy solution, set up a recurring donation with your favorite organization. 

8. Take care of yourself with nature. 

Resolutions around giving back are great, but in these stressful times, never forget to give back to yourself as well. If you have trouble finding the time, resolutions such as “I will hike once a month,” “I will join a birdwatching group,” or “I will go for a lunch walk every day” may help you make space for yourself. 

I hope you’ll find in these ideas some inspiration for a resolution that will work for you in the year ahead. 2021 may not be the brightest dawn we’ve ever seen, but there’s still hope in new beginnings, and setting goals for the benefit of yourself, your community, and the planet can provide a ladder to keep moving forward – step by step by step.

*** 

Ellie Long is a Communications Associate with the Alliance to Save Energy, a Washington D.C.- based nonprofit that advocates for energy efficiency policy. In this role, she assists with content development, media relations, grassroots advocacy, social media, and other marketing efforts for the Alliance. Ellie graduated in May 2020 from California Lutheran University with degrees in Political Science and Global Studies, and previously interned in a Senate communications office.

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on The Fight for Reproductive Health Care Is a Fight for Human Rights

By: Kelley Dennings

ATT: “The Fight for Reproductive Health Care Is a Fight for Human Rights” by Kelley Dennings originally appeared as an essay in the online version of Ms. Magazine. The original version can be found here. This blog is being re-shared with the DC EcoWomen community with permission from Ms. Magazine.

I began using contraception as a high schooler in small-town Nebraska, when I went on birth control for irregular periods and acne. By the time I had a sex life, in college, I had access to health care through the university. Its clinic offered affordable contraception but no contraceptive counseling. 

It wasn’t until I was in my 30s, when I found a compassionate and responsive health care provider, that I learned about other family planning options: IUDs, diaphragms, patches and shots. Before that, I thought the pill or condoms were my only options. 

These days it may be easier to find information on the type of contraception that’s best for you, but the battle for equitable reproductive health care is far from over.

Reproductive Freedom Requires Contraception

On Nov. 10, the Supreme Court once again heard arguments challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, including guaranteed access to contraception. Recently confirmed justice Amy Coney Barrett has publicly criticized the ACA—though it provides access to affordable contraception and lifesaving health care coverage to 20 million Americans. Her opinion could decide the law’s fate.

This attack on contraception coverage is an attack on reproductive freedom—an unpopular one. A recent nationally representative survey by the Center for Biological Diversity (where I work) found that 80 percent of respondents agree that all types of birth control should be legal, free and easily accessible.

Free contraception would have been a blessing when I was in college—just as it is today for students who are supported by the no-cost contraception coverage of the ACA. When it’s not, low-income and marginalized communities suffer the most due to systemic racism, poverty and sexism.

Black women have greater difficulty getting contraception and face greater pregnancy risks associated with climate change. They also experience worse pregnancy outcomes due to inadequate health care access and other economic and social pressures caused by systemic racism. Black communities disproportionately experience gaps in appropriate reproductive health care and exposure to toxic pollution.

In Cancer Alley, in southern Louisiana, residents not only suffer from higher rates of cancer from toxic chemical air pollution, but per capita COVID-19 death rates are higher too. Unfortunately these areas also have an unmet need for health care providers. 

Overall 19 million people are in need of publicly funded contraception, and 95 percent of them live in areas that lack health centers offering a full range of contraceptive methods. These are known as contraceptive deserts.

The 2020 Election

Health care has always been of utmost importance to voters, and the 2020 election was no different. As Americans cast their votes among a raging pandemic, COVID-19 job losses meant that an estimated 4 million women are facing the loss of  their employer-sponsored insurance, affecting nearly one-in-10 women who obtain sexual and reproductive health care.

Abortion ballot measures in Colorado and Louisiana show the divide on the issue. Colorado, one of seven states that currently doesn’t prohibit abortion at any point during a pregnancy, struck down a measure that would nearly have banned all abortion measures after 22 weeks of gestation, the stage at which proponents argue a fetus could survive outside the womb.

On the other hand, Louisiana joined Alabama, West Virginia and Tennessee in approving a constitutional amendment expressing that those states offer no protection for the right to an abortion, meaning it will be difficult to keep abortion legal in the state if Roe v. Wade is overturned. 

Continued gridlock in Congress and the potential alteration or repeal of the ACA next year by the Supreme Court could leave more people vulnerable. Our current members of Congress, who have devised no health care backup plan if the ACA is rescinded, are out of touch with the millions of Americans struggling even more because of the pandemic.

Biden Administration Offers Reason for Hope

Under a Biden presidency, there’s good reason to believe, reproductive health care will once again be treated as a human right.

One of the first things President-Elect Biden will most likely do is rescind the Mexico City Policy, also referred to as the global gag rule, which 70 percent of Americans favor ending. This policy—which denies U.S. funding to health clinics around the world that provide information or services about legal abortion—has been a political football since the Reagan administration, with Democratic presidents rescinding it only to have every Republican president reinstate it.

But President Trump expanded this policy further than ever before by prohibiting any foreign nongovernmental organizations from receiving U.S. global health assistance if they provide information, referrals or services for legal abortion or advocate for the legalization of abortion in their country.

This harmful policy undermines access to contraception, HIV/AIDS services and maternal health care, contributing to more unintended pregnancies and more unsafe abortions. Supporting international family planning and reproductive health programs is essential to empowering women and improving the health and lives of millions of people.

Domestically Biden could reverse the Trump administration’s Title X rule, which undermines the Title X program by promoting natural family planning over other contraceptive methods. It emphasizes discredited abstinence-only messages among adolescents and blocks funding for clinics that provide, refer or discuss abortion services.

Under this “domestic gag rule,” reproductive health care services in low-income communities across the country have decreased by half. By reinstating a comprehensive Title X program, President Biden could once again increase the availability of quality health services for those who need it.

Reproductive Health and the Environment

President-Elect Biden has indicated he plans to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, a global effort to tackle climate change. According to a 2018 United Nations report, climate change and its effects disproportionately affect women globally, as many are highly dependent on local natural resources.

While no one is immune to climate change, women are among the most vulnerable, since they’re more likely to become victims of scarcity, drought, food insecurity and increased disease. Without appropriate health care access and autonomy over one’s reproductive future, educational and economic opportunities can become limited. The climate crisis only exacerbates the gender divide.  

My experience accessing contraception informs my fight to ensure others have access to contraception today and in the future. Until we start treating health care as a human right, we’ll continue to struggle to achieve equality and reproductive freedom.

***

Kelley Dennings (@kdennings) is a campaigner with the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity. She holds a bachelor’s degree in natural resources from N.C. State and a master’s degree in public health from the University of South Florida. She is certified in project management, public health, social marketing, and family planning counseling. At the Center she develops and executes campaigns focused on rights-based solutions from voluntary family planning to the solidarity economy to address how the effects of population pressure and inequitable consumption impact our environment.  Before joining the Center, she worked in waste reduction and forest conservation.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Essential Food and Agriculture Workers Need Our Support During COVID-19

By: Jes Walton and Charlotte Tate

A person standing in front of a store filled with lots of fresh produce

Description automatically generated

Millions of people throughout our food supply chains, from farms to delivery drivers, are risking their health to ensure food makes it to our tables. Many of these workers lack necessary safety nets even as they face greater risk from COVID-19. 

Along with these trying times comes the opportunity to reshape a new normal—one where all people are supported, essential workers are treated as essential, and society works for all people and the planet. Here are actions to support a more just food system locally and nationally:

ACTIONS TO TAKE IN DC

  1. Buy directly from farmers 

Many farmers and farmworkers are feeling the impacts of COVID-19. Some have been able to pivot, selling directly to consumers. When you purchase directly from farms, more money goes to farmers, their employees, and their environmental/agricultural values. 

In DC, farmers markets are open with safety protocols. Farmers and markets have creative alternatives like pre-ordering and quick pick up. Farmers may be selling virtually and even offering delivery—contact your favorites to learn more.

Take action to keep DC farmers markets open and classified as essential

  1. Support local food hubs, CSAs, and co-ops 

Local food hubs make many different types of food and produce accessible to you in one place. Many, like 4PFoods, are offering deliveries or special pick up options. Find your local food hub here. 

Consider joining a local co-op like Green America certified Green Business Tacoma Park, Silver Spring Co-op or find other options on the Cooperative Grocer Network

Look into local CSA programs, many of which may be seasonal but are worth researching for spring.

When shopping from a traditional grocer, try to find a local chain and remember to be kind, patient, and thankful to those putting their health at risk to make sure stores stay up and running. Don’t forget to wear a mask and respect physical distancing guidelines.

  1. Reconsider delivery services

Many delivery drivers do not have access to benefits like paid sick leave because of their employment classification. The delivery apps, like Uber or Instacart, often take a percentage of profits from local businesses. 

If possible, prioritize picking up your food instead of delivery. For other actions, visit Gig Workers Rising to stand with delivery drivers. 

  1. Grow your own food

Gardening is a great lockdown activity that can contribute to your own food security and relieve some of the pressure on our food system. During WWII, millions of Americans grew 40% of the country’s produce in Victory Gardens. 

Today, we’re advocating for Climate Victory Gardens that also prioritize our planet’s health, learning from examples like the Glover Park Community Garden—started in 1939—that’s both an original Victory Garden and modern Climate Victory Garden.

  1. Contribute to local mutual aid funds 

Mutual aid funds are a great way to support those in your community, including food and agriculture workers that may need a little extra help right now. Check out this extensive list of national and DC-based mutual aid funds. 

ACTIONS FOR IMPACT BEYOND DC 

  1. To support ALL essential workers, including those that work in food and agriculture, call on Congress to pass an Essential Workers Bill of Rights!
  1. Protect agricultural workers 

Many farmworkers do not have health insurance or paid sick leave. Our system relies on these workers and takes advantage by not providing the necessary benefits. 

Farmworkers feed us all and many farmworkers are migrant workers. Many workers, especially migrant workers, have been left out of COVID-19 relief efforts, despite being essential and our food system relying on their labor. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a worker-led human rights organization, is calling on the Florida governor to protect farmworkers who supply food to throughout the country —support farmworkers here! 

  1. Ensure grocery store and warehouse workers are protected 

Many chains struggled to respond to COVID-19, resulting in workers not being provided the needed protections. For example, at Whole Food’s parent company, Amazon, over 19,000 employees have contracted COVID-19. A company as profitable as Amazon/Whole Foods should be providing basic workplace protections. Tell Amazon to respect workers and the planet today! 

  1. Support workers in meat packing facilities and buy local, regenerative meats:

More than 44,000 workers in meatpacking facilities around the country have contracted COVID-19 and over 200 have died. Venceremos, worker-driven organization in Arkansas, is calling on Tyson Foods to protect its workers and provide paid sick leave and sign the petition here!

Instead of buying factory farmed and processed meat, look to smaller, local ranchers and processors for meat, dairy, and eggs that come from animals raised in a humane way that’s good for people and the planet. Regeneratively managed flocks and herds are also part of the climate solution.

Know of other local and national groups doing great work to support food and agriculture workers? Please share them with us! 

***

Jes Walton, Food Campaigns Director, Green America

Jes has worked at many levels of the food system, from time spent on a small organic farm to studying federal agricultural policy, with many stops in between. Currently, her work focuses on regenerative agriculture, gardening, and the impacts of pesticides on people and the planet.

Charlotte Tate, Labor Justice Campaigns Director

Charlotte’s work is centered at the intersection of environmental and labor issues, focused on toxic chemical exposure in apparel, child labor in cocoa, and holding online retailers accountable. She works to educate and mobilize US consumers to advance environmental and labor rights throughout supply chains.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Exposed: Educating and Advocating In a Political Stalemate

By: Kaley Beins

“In order to protect public health from chemical contamination, there needs to be a massive outcry–a choir of voices–by the American people demanding change.” When Lois Gibbs reflected on her 20 years of environmental health activism she wrote this call to action in the context of her activism in Love Canal, NY, the birthplace of EPA Superfund legislation. Now, almost 40 years after the legislation was passed, Americans still face the consequences of toxic exposures from waste sites, industrial pollution, and even consumer products. Movies like Erin Brockovich and Dark Waters dramatize industry contamination of communities, while news stories like the Flint water crisis demonstrate the prevalence of toxic exposures, especially for low income communities and communities of color. 

Yet, legislation to prevent such exposures often dies in committee or, worse, on the lips of the politicians espousing it. While we wait for updated and implemented toxics regulations, we can educate ourselves about environmental health and advocate for policies to prevent, or at least mitigate, toxic exposures. 

One of the trickier parts of being informed is understanding how researchers and government agencies define the exposure levels associated with human health effects. Some evaluations, such as IARC and EPA carcinogenicity classifications, are based on the amount of available data from animal and human studies. However, in my opinion, the most meaningful information on chemical exposures is based on exposure dose, or the amount of a chemical you are exposed to. Unfortunately, these values will vary between agencies, but by knowing how exposure limits are determined, you can better understand how protective (or permissive) environmental policies and guidelines are. 

The largest distinction between set exposure limits in the United States is whether or not they are legally enforceable. Legally enforceable limits are upheld by law and are usually determined by the U.S. EPA, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and state agencies. Non-regulatory agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) publish research and guidelines on chemical exposure limits, but these limits are not legally enforceable. The following is a non-exhaustive list of some federal exposure limits and how they’re determined: 

Enforceable: 

  • EPA National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) are measures of allowable air pollution for 6 criteria air pollutants as permitted under the Clean Air Act. 
  • EPA Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) is the legal limit for chemicals in drinking water, as enforced by EPA. When determining MRLs, EPA considers the cost and technology required to remove contaminants in addition to the available health data.
  • OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) are levels of exposure allowed for workers over the course of the work day. 

Not enforceable 

  • ATSDR Minimal Risk Levels (MRLs) are levels derived from toxicological studies in humans or animals. 
  • EPA Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) is the limit for chemicals in drinking water below which no human health effects are expected to occur. Not to be confused with MCLs, MCLGs are determined only using health data. They may be slightly lower than MCLs. 
  • NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limits (RELs) are levels of exposure that NIOSH recommends workers do not meet or exceed during the work day. RELS are often used to help determine OSHA PELs.

The differences between these values can inform how you and your community use them. However, many chemicals may not have any exposure limits, either because they are not regulated or because insufficient health data exist. Nevertheless, information about chemical exposure levels and the risks associated with them is crucial in promoting environmental health. The following resources can help you stay informed about environmental health risks in your community:

As you engage with contamination issues in and outside your community, you can use these resources to arm yourself with information, then organize locally, collaborate nationally, engage politically, and stay involved. As Baltimore activist Destiny Watford said in an interview, “I realized it is important to question why people invested in something, why things are the way they are, and what can I do to change things in a way that isn’t superficial but gets to the root of the problem.” 

***

Kaley Beins, MPH is an environmental health researcher who works at the intersection of public health and toxicology. During her career she’s worked with nonprofits, local health departments, and federal agencies, and she’s learned the ins and outs of chemical regulation and exposure, as well as how much of that information is available to the public. Kaley is passionate about education and empowerment as an avenue for environmental justice and health equity. 

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on The Environmental Impacts of the 2020 Presidential Election or Biden’s Green Plan

By: Artisha Naidu

On November 7th, 2020, a new president was elected, and the future of the environment is looking healthier. The Biden-Harris ticket won the 2020 United States presidential election, making Joe Biden the 46th president-elect and Kamala Harris the first female and person of Asian or African decent to be elected vice president. The change in administration is not only a huge for win history, but also for the planet. While some changes, such as new leadership for the EPA and rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, are conventional, others are revolutionary. President-elect Biden’s plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice details a dramatic shift towards a clean energy revolution. The plan proposes a clean energy federal investment of $1.7 trillion and additional of at least $5 trillion over the next ten years. The key components of the plan are as follows:

  1. Ensure the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions by 2050;
  2. Build a stronger, more resilient nation by investing in smart infrastructure;
  3. Build and maintain global partnerships to combat climate change;
  4. Rectify harm caused by disproportionate pollution towards minority and low-income communities; and
  5. Create green union jobs for all, especially for workers and communities who powered the industrial revolution and subsequent decades of economic growth.

Read the full plan here. The following subsections detail some, but not all, key points of the above components. 

Achieve a 100% Clean Energy Economy and Reach Net-Zero Emissions by 2050

The Biden Administration’s primary goal is to achieve a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions by 2050. While progressive clean energy legislation is expected to pass in the House, passage through the Senate remains difficult. Therefore, Biden plans to sign a series of executive orders to push the green agenda forward while simultaneously pushing for stronger legal protections. Some of his strongest clean energy legislation includes:

  • Setting methane pollution limits for oil and gas operations; 
  • Implementing aggressive appliance- and building-efficiency standards;
  • Protecting biodiversity by conserving 30% of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030;
  • Researching nuclear energy; and
  • Empowering local communities to develop transportation solutions.

Build a Stronger, More Resilient Nation

Citing the rise in natural disasters, the Biden Administration believes stronger infrastructure is vital to mitigating climate change’s impacts. Biden proposes strengthening relationships with state and local leaders to build resilient infrastructure while creating well-paying union jobs. In addition to increasing financial investments, he will:

  • Reform common-sense zoning and building codes;
  • Ensure that the nation creates the cleanest, safest, and fastest freight and passenger rail system in the world; and
  • Lower property insurance premiums for those who invest in resilient infrastructure. 

Build and Maintain Global Partnerships to Combat Climate Change

Biden will rejoin the Paris Climate Accord on his first day in office to strengthen global partnerships. The administration emphasizes the need to collaborate globally to effectively combat climate change. He will further global partnerships by achieving the following:

Organize a climate world summit within his first 100 days in office to persuade leaders of major carbon-emitting nations to further their commitment towards combatting climate change;

  • Embrace the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol;
  • Make future bilateral U.S.-China agreements on carbon mitigation;
  • Demand a worldwide ban on fossil fuel subsidies; and 
  • Provide “green debt relief” for developing nations that commit towards combatting climate change.  

Rectify Harm Caused by Disproportionate Pollution Towards Minority and Low-Income Communities

People of color and low-income people are disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change. President-elect Biden will address the inequities headfirst. In addition to reinstating federal protections designed to protect communities, he will:

  • Direct the EPA and Justice Department to pursue criminal anti-pollution cases to the fullest extent of the law and seek additional legislation if needed;
  • Ensure safe drinking water for all, including Flint, MI; and
  • Prioritize marginalized community members for green union jobs.

Create Green Union Jobs 

Biden will launch a national effort to create the jobs while building sustainable infrastructure for an equitable clean energy future. Beyond creating union jobs already detailed in Biden’s Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice plan, the incoming administration projects to add additional union jobs in the Biden Plan To Build A Modern, Sustainable Infrastructure And An Equitable Clean Energy Future. Biden will ensure that jobs are equitably distributed across rural and urban communities for people of all backgrounds. He will also prioritize providing jobs for workers impacted by the energy transition, like coal miners and power plant workers. He details specific ways he will create well-paying green union jobs below:

  • Infrastructure- By rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, green spaces, water systems, electricity grids and universal broadband.
  • Auto- Creating about 1 million jobs in the auto industry, domestic auto supply chains, and auto infrastructure, by advancing electric vehicle production.  
  • Transit: Providing every city with 100,000 or more residents with zero-emissions public transportation options that will lead to jobs with labor protections. 
  • Power Sector: Creating American-made electricity to achieve a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035. 
  • Buildings: Upgrade 4 million buildings and weatherize 2 million homes over 4 years, which will create at least 1 million jobs with a choice to join a union.
  • Innovation: Drive innovation and commercialization of battery storage, negative emissions technologies, the next generation of building materials, renewable hydrogen, and advanced nuclear in the United States. 
  • Agriculture and Conservation: Create jobs in climate-smart agriculture, resilience, and conservation. At least 250,000 of these jobs will be to plug abandoned oil and natural gas wells and reclaim abandoned materials.

***

Artisha Naidu is a Government and Public Sector Consultant with Deloitte LLC. She is from California and has an extensive background in energy, environmental sustainability, and urban policy. Artisha is launching the Girls’ Leadership Apprenticeship and Mentorship (GLAM) Program, which provides workforce development to high school girls in D.C. She also tutors and mentors youth from marginalized communities and is a Community Outreach Coordinator for IMPACT Now. She holds a Masters of Public Administration from the George Washington University and a Bachelor’s of Science in Community and Regional Development from UC Davis. In her spare time, Artisha loves to travel, hike, read, and laugh.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Looking for Onsite Dining in DC Restaurants that Hold the Plastic? Check Out These Options

By: Susan Schorr

Restaurants have been hit hard by COVID-19. In March, they were ordered to suspend table seating and limited to delivery and take-out. In June, when the Mayor determined the District had reached a sufficient decrease in COVID-19 cases, the Phase II restaurant reopening guidelines required restaurants to operate under strict restrictions for on-site dining. Many beloved establishments have either shut down completely or are hanging on with reduced staff and revenue streams.

It also seems likely that COVID-19 is unleashing a parallel pandemic of plastic pollution. Just think about all those delivery and take-out orders filled in disposable plastic containers! The Phase II guidelines gave eateries the option of serving onsite diners either on disposable or reusable food ware. Restaurants choosing to serve food or drink with disposables in DC were already required to use either recyclable or compostable containers by DC law. But since DC doesn’t have widespread composting, and contamination issues may prevent recyclable containers from being processed properly, restaurants using disposables may be adding to the mountain of trash.  

Fortunately, a number of restaurants across the District opted for reusable food ware for on-site dining. The DC Chapter of the Sierra Club celebrated these restaurants as part of the international #PlasticFreeJuly campaign this year, a month-long campaign that encourages everyone to reduce their plastic usage. 

We reached out to more than thirty restaurants in all Wards to ask about their reusable practices. Some, we found, were still offering only take-out and delivery, one is only open on weekends for on-site dining but using disposables, while many more were clearly so busy, operating with drastically reduced staff, that they weren’t able to chat with us. We did manage to connect with more than a dozen DC restaurants in Adams Morgan, Barracks Row, Chevy Chase, Columbia Heights, Downtown, Dupont Circle and Petworth to find out why they opted for reusables. We shared their moment-in-time responses on the Chapter’s Zero Waste twitter handle, @ZeroWasteDCSC.  Every single restaurant we spoke with — from Lincoln Restaurant to Lavagna– said that they opted for reusables because it saves them money. Serving on reusables means they don’t have to buy disposable plates, cups or utensils or find a place to store them. As Makan explained, going the reusables route has made sourcing much easier especially in these times of disrupted supply chains. That’s because, like Tequila & Mezcal, these restaurants already owned reusable plates, cups and utensils.

Room 11 and The Avenue added that opting for reusables is in keeping with their goal of maintaining a low environmental footprint. Lauriol Plaza said that customers prefer eating on real plates, a sentiment echoed by Duke’s Grocery explaining that reusables provide a more refined dining experience. Dupont Italian Kitchen noted that opting for reusables enabled them to rehire their dishwasher, creating employment during these challenging economic times. In addition to serving on reusables, The Green Zone also reuses liquor bottles to serve water and has replaced paper menus with QR order codes, while Blue 44 sanitizes reusable menus and condiment containers after use. Cinder BBQ and the Parthenon told us they also only provide disposable utensils on request for take-out orders. They realized that because of the pandemic most customers are working from home and don’t need disposable plastic utensils.

These local establishments deserve a lot of credit for taking an eco-friendly approach to reopening.  We’re also pleased that the District’s reopening guidelines provided them the opportunity to do so.

Still, there’s more to do. Our next story will focus on the move to reusable takeout container systems and on-going campaigns to convince delivery companies to limit disposable accessory food ware like napkins, utensils and condiment packets.

We hope that you will join the DC Chapter of the Sierra Club in supporting your local restaurants that are holding the plastic, and sharing ideas on what more they can do to stem the tide of plastic during the pandemic. We also invite you to join our Chapter’s Zero Waste Committee.

As a national organization, the Sierra Club’s work recognizes the impacts of plastics in the environment worldwide, especially in our oceans and waterways. It calls for the minimization and elimination of single-use plastics such as cutlery, cups, lids, straws, bags, beverage bottles, cigarette butts, and expanded polystyrene packaging. While biodegradable and compostable plastics and other materials are often presented as an easy alternative for single-use plastics, such substitution perpetuates wasteful production and throw-away practices. These substitute items may also contain toxic chemicals. Single-use plastics (including compostable plastics) must be phased out, and materials must be redesigned for durability and reusability without toxic chemicals.

***

Susan Schorr is a member of the Sierra Club Washington DC Chapter’s Zero Waste Committee where she leads single-use plastic initiatives, and is also a member of the National Reuse Network

posted by | on , , | Comments Off on How I Navigated a Career in the Environment

By: Nancy Stoner

When I was first launching my career, I never would have imagined that I would pursue environmental law, environmental philanthropy, and environmental non-profit management. Had I known, I may have taken the time to study more environmental science along the way. However, there is an important lesson I have learned along my journey to becoming the President of the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, which is as long as you enjoy learning new things and continue to seek knowledge throughout your life, you can do pretty much anything you put your mind to. Yes, there may have been some merit to what our parents were saying when they shared this cliche line as we were growing up. A willingness to learn will set you leagues ahead in any career, and as you learn, you will discover more about yourself and your interests. You may end up in a pleasantly unexpected place. 

The most important question you should ask yourself about your career is “Is this where my heart takes me?” No matter what career choice you make, you will inevitably work a lot of hours, so make sure you find a career you are willing to devote a lot of time to. I have loved every job I’ve ever had — of course not every minute of every job — but every job has been interesting, rewarding, and fun. I followed my passions and curiosity and have stayed open to new experiences where I felt I could make a meaningful difference, and it has led me to some incredible opportunities. Of course you will also need to make a living with your career — as your parents also told you — so this detail can’t be overlooked. Make sure you are pursuing a career that is sustainable, but don’t forget that time is the most valuable thing you have in your life. Make sure you are spending it wisely. 

You may imagine your future career and have a clear vision of where you want to end up, or you may have no more than a faint idea of where you want to go. Both of these are fine so long as you are open to growth and new experiences, and you are willing to make adjustments along the way. When thinking about where you would like your career to take you, ask yourself where and how you would like to make a difference, because you CAN make a difference. And, if you put your mind to it, you will.

***

Nancy Stoner is president of Potomac Riverkeeper Network.  One of the nation’s most experienced water policy experts, Nancy has a rich and distinguished background in protecting our nation’s water. Nancy also served as Co-Director, Water Program, Natural Resources Defense Council, where she co-directed a national program to promote sound water resource management nationally and in specific watersheds, such as the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, and Anacostia River.

She lives in Silver Spring, MD with her husband, Marc Machlin. She has two grown children, Laura and Jared. She enjoys whitewater rafting, tubing, canoeing, birding, and gardening.

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on A Shared Struggle: The Parallels Between the Plight of Women and that of Mother Earth

By Ngozika Egbuonu, M.A., M.S.

“In the end, all the struggles have the same objective: the defense of life. That is the most important, no matter where we are or what the specific goal of each fight is.” — Ana Sandoval, land defender and co-founder of Communities in Peaceful Resistance “La Puya”, working to resist dangerous mining megaprojects in her community in Guatemala.

You’ve probably seen them: angry video clips of men and women offended by public breastfeeding, endless memes insinuating women in leadership positions are “angry,” “bossy,” or “irrational,” or even my personal favorite, the growing rise of the men’s rights movement, which is built on the premise that men are losing power and status because of feminism. Each of these examples represent aspects of the societal challenges women face daily for simply trying to live their lives or improve the status of them. And the same can be said for our planet’s personified form: Mother Earth. And because she has no earthly voice (pun intended), those who do advocate on her behalf are met with virtually the same ire as feminists and women’s equity advocates and activists. 

Now, why is that?

The answer lies in our inherent femininity. You see, much in the same way environmental advocates and activists struggle to defend conservation and reduce pollution, women fighting to protect themselves and future generations are accused of unfounded or dramatized criticisms. This insistence that climate change is either unreal or being exaggerated by overdramatic environmentalists virtually mirrors the anti-feminine statements being expressed publicly. Let’s take a look at a few quotes about climate change and anti-feminism to try and literally illustrate this point.

  • “We must ask whether these Obama administration policies are worth the lost jobs, lower take-home pay, higher gas and electricity prices, and so on.”—  Sen. John Boozman 
  • “The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.” — Pat Robertson
  • “Get rid of some of these crazy regulations that Obamacare puts in … such as a 62-year-old male having to have pregnancy insurance.” — Iowa Rep. Rod Blum

The above statements highlight attempts to equate progressive environmental and gender equity policy changes to attacks on others’ livelihoods and/or cultural traditions. In addition to being frustratingly wrong, these attacks use exaggerated or misinformed stories to distract individuals from critically thinking about legislation or actions that could help improve the quality of life for everyone.  

Interestingly enough, researchers at both the United Nations and Oxfam America found that women are more likely to bear the burden of climate change. In America, we know that is the case because economically disadvantaged people are impacted more severely when natural disasters happen and women make up roughly 70 percent of individuals living below the poverty line. A similar case can be found abroad as Voré Gana Seck, executive director of Green Senegal and president of the international nongovernmental coalition Counsel des ONG d’Appui au Developpment notes, “Climate change affects women because they are usually the main food producers of crops like rice, millet, vegetables. Because of no rain, climate change affects them. And girls have to drop out of school because they need to start working for their families.” This reality must force all of us to confront the need for achieving both gender equality and turning back the dial on climate change immediately. It seems that in accomplishing one, we are helping increase the impact of the other and ultimately making the entire world better for it.

These realizations are ultimately why I believe every attempt to devalue Mother Earth’s importance in our survival and existence is a subliminal attack on womanhood. Think of the female womb and its importance in carrying a child to birth. Or even the sustenance her body provides from the womb to toddlerhood and beyond. When people devalue mothers and the incredible effort it takes to carry, birth, and/or raise a child, such as in denying women adequate maternity leave or shaming women for having children (as if to imply that in doing so, they cannot function or be as effective in their careers or positions), they are disrespecting the miracle of life that brought each and every one of us into this world. 

Fortunately, there are great examples of how gender inequality has tried but failed to hinder a woman’s success, with my favorite being the life story of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG). Despite being one of the top students in her class at nearly every institution she stepped foot in, RBG experienced difficulty finding work as a direct result of her gender. This personal connection to gender-based discrimination had to have stirred something deep within RBG. That something I think also played a major part in some of her most treasured opinions. 

Recently, Center for Progressive Reform’s (CPR) President, Rob Verchick and several of his colleagues and CPR Board Members recounted their favorite RBG legal decisions and stories. Each person’s testimony beautifully demonstrates why I believe RBG was so adept in understanding the importance of gender equity, as well as the environmental justice both Mother Earth and so many of her inhabitants so desperately need and deserve. RBG could read through the language, science, and noise to understand the most crucial point at the center of the legal battles she decided upon: the defense of life.

One of the subjects that bothers me the most when I hear men or even other women complain about feminism and the fight for gender equality is the gender pay gap. The fact that women still have to fight for equal pay when doing the exact same job as their male counterparts should be enough to upset any decent person. Primarily because gender pay inequality not only hurts the women being unfairly paid, it hurts anyone else who relies on her income for stability or support. 

My first thought immediately goes to single mothers or even women, like RBG, who have to take on the role of both parents due to a crisis (or several) or sudden onset of illness, as was in RBG’s case when she had to be the foundation for her family during her husband’s first battle with cancer. Imagine the feeling of already struggling on one paycheck, but then on top of that, you aren’t even getting the full paycheck owed for the work you’ve done, and the only reason for that discrepancy in pay is your gender? For me, this example is one of the clearest ways of explaining the importance of gender equality to folks who still don’t seem to get it. 

Gender equality is not about putting men down, creating a narrative of male inferiority or trying to attack American cultural norms. In fact, I would argue that it is attempting to do the opposite. Gender equality, much like racial equality and equity, is helping to affirm each individual’s strength and talent by challenging all of us to work harder and be better. Championing gender equality is forcing us to update what we think of as the “American way” of doing things. Maybe the American way is leading by example and properly appreciating the talents that both men and women bring to life’s table. As the eloquent Eleanor Roosevelt stated, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” For those of you who still view the fight for gender equality as an attack on masculinity and manhood, I encourage you to consider looking at it as a way for men and women to recognize that there is always room for growth and trying things a different way. In doing so, we can begin finding new opportunities to do more and be more than we are today. 

I think it is also worth noting the importance of adequately appreciating and acknowledging the work and experiences of all women. From child rearing to practicing law or medicine, teaching to nursing, each and every woman’s positively impactful efforts must be celebrated and valued for both its short term and far-reaching implications. 

In a much similar way, we must celebrate and value our Mother Earth for both her immediate and future contributions to all of our lives. From her diverse terrains to bountiful natural resources, from her unique native flora and fauna to her resilience in the face of natural and human-made disasters, Mother Earth has shown us all more than enough strength and beauty. Unfortunately, for those wonders to be shared and appreciated generations beyond our own, we all have to come to a collective agreement: we must listen to the science. 

Just as you don’t want me attempting to stand in for an eye surgeon with my limited medical experience and squeamishness around anything blood related,  we don’t want politicians or climate deniers to drown out the conversation when the evidence and the research to prove climate change exists are all available. 

We are at a crossroads, friends. Climate change is happening and for many of us in the DC Metro area, you should be thinking more about how this will impact all of our ways of life. Where will you purchase groceries? Will the groceries you want be available and at an affordable price? Think about the food banks and food pantries, the farmers and farm workers. How does climate denial impact them? If science doesn’t resonate with you, then listen to the people already being impacted. We all have a part to play to save our communities and this planet. I hope you’ll join me and my fellow colleagues at DC EcoWomen by sharing the stories of climate change happening in our local and regional communities, as well as voting for policies that affirm your commitment to environmental advocacy and stewardship. 

As the lead pastor of the church I attend, National Community Church (based right here in DC), Dr. Mark Batterson once said, “I reserve the right to get smarter.” With everything being thrown at us right now with regards to the election, climate change, and the fight for social justice both here and abroad, I think it’s safe to agree that we could all benefit from getting smarter, and doing so fast. 

***

Ngozika Egbuonu is a professional fundraiser and content creator with more than ten years of experience working in communications roles for a variety of industries. Currently, she lives in Upper Marlboro with her husband, Gerald, and serves as the Community Engagement Manager at Network for Good. Ngozika is passionate about uplifting female voices, achieving racial equity, and fighting climate change. When she’s not writing, you can find her hiking trails throughout the DMV or posting tons of photos of her new bunny, Thurgood.

posted by | on , , | Comments Off on Spooktastic Saturday vol. 1!

Welcome to the first Spooktastic Saturday installment! Submissions have been made anonymous. Enjoy!

I went backpacking through Saguaro National Park for an alternative spring break. One night, I accidentally slept on the mouthpiece of my CamelBak and completely soaked myself, my tent mate, and all of our belongings in water. We happened to be at the top of a mountain. It was freezing the next morning! It made for a very uncomfortable hike down. 

—DC EcoWomen Member

One of the scariest moments of my life came during a bike trip across Europe. My front brakes were completely worn down, but I didn’t know how to change them. I was flying down the side of a switch back mountain and I took a turn too fast. I lost my balance and my bike nearly tipped over the side of the mountain. 

—DC EcoWomen Member

My professor took our summer class on a field trip to a state park. Our van got stuck in the sand. There wasn’t any cell service and we spent the rest of the day rescuing the van. I still had a final the next day. 

—DC EcoWomen Member

My best friend and I were hiking at sunset in Nova Scotia. We lingered at sunset and then took the long way back, figuring we would be able to hike the remaining 4 miles quickly before it got too dark. Then, we encountered a black bear a few hundred yards away. We froze and tried to backtrack, but it would have been 5 miles back the other direction in the dark. Our phones were quickly running out of battery and the sun was setting. No one else was around. We considered running past the bear or climbing a tree (both bad ideas, by the way). We even considered jumping a high fence into a private residence, but we couldn’t get up the fence. Finally, we decided to walk quickly past the bear and make as little noise as possible. As I passed, I noticed the bear had a long neck. It turns out it was a moose, and not a bear.

—DC EcoWomen Member