Posts Tagged ‘community’

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GAC_KAB_wordmarksBy Jessica Wilmer

For the past 63 years, April has been celebrated as Keep America Beautiful month. The campaign began in 1953 with a simple goal: To engage individuals to take greater responsibility for improving their community environments.

They have successfully launched and promoted dozens of campaigns including The Great American Clean-Up, America Recycles Day and they were even the inspiration behind Earth Day which launched in 1970.

All of KAB’s programs focus on their three goals: End Littering, Improve Recycling, and Beautify Communities.

Unfortunately, over the years Keep America Beautiful has drawn some strong criticism.

Greenwashed

KAB was established in coordination with “a group of corporate and civic leaders… to bring the public and private sectors together to develop and promote national cleanliness ethic.”

factory graphicThis is all well and good, but they left out that many of the corporate leaders were also notorious polluters. Because of this, some argue that KAB was created to deflect blame from the beverage and packaging companies to the wider American public. It’s coincidental that the organization’s message targets individuals without mentioning the corporate offenders.

This, my eco-friends, is greenwashing. The companies involved don’t want anyone looking into their practices, so they spend the big bucks to point the finger elsewhere.

litterbugAnd it is further enforced by the decades’ long relationship between KAB and the Ad Council. Together, they produced dozens of PSA’s condemning the actions of the public. By coining the term “litterbug,” they made it immediately horrifying to be seen throwing garbage on the ground.

Remember the offensive “Crying Indian” PSA? The voice-over firmly states, “People Start Pollution. People can stop it.”

People_Start_Pollution_-_1971_Ad

We can all agree that KAB’s goals are commendable. The problem lies in their message– they take a band-aid approach instead of focusing on preventative maintenance.

Where did they go wrong?

1. Ethical consumerism
As consumers, we need to take our responsibility extremely seriously. We are represented in the dollars we spend. So if you spend the majority of your money at big box stores, what message does that send? Now if you spend your money at a company that pays a living wage and works on improving their environmental footprint, is that more of the message you want to send? I’m looking at you, Patagonia.

Ethical consumerism is both our offense and defense. We have the choice to purchase products that don’t have a negative social or environmental impact and to dutifully patron the companies that produce those goods.

2. Product stewardship

Essentially this is the core of corporate responsibility and the missing piece with Keep America Beautiful. Companies should focus on the environmental, health, and safety effects of their products from creation to disposal.

The product stewardship doesn’t end with companies. Consumers must be product stewards as well. After we consciously purchase our goods, we must take it upon ourselves to reduce their environmental, health, and safety impacts as well.

What can we do?F2681EN-do-not-litter-sign

  • Don’t litter- It pollutes and poisons the waterways.
  • Recycle all items that can be and speak up when other people don’t.
  • Plant trees and flowers not only to make your community beautiful, but to return to the earth what we’ve taken away.

Once you’ve done that, figure out how you can take it a step further.

I’m guessing is the answer is yes.

Let’s refocus

Consumers and companies share a combined responsibility and accountability for waste, excess, and pollution.

So this Keep America Beautiful Month, let’s focus on being ethical consumers and let’s think before we purchase. Let’s strive to become better product stewards and let’s hold all companies to higher standards.

And if it’s not too much trouble, maybe plant a tree or two.

Jessica Wilmer is an aspiring blogger, vlogger, photographer, and activist. She currently works in finance and lives with her boyfriend on Capitol Hill. You can usually find them at the farmers market in their matching Patagonia sweaters looking for new veggies to include in their repertoire of vegetarian dishes.

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EarthBy Erin Twamley

Mother Earth has a fever, and our home is at stake.

We  hear this message day after day. In response, we do what we can to live better: we use efficient light bulbs; we recycle; we carry around  reusable mugs. And we worry about the future. We worry that our actions are not enough.

Many of us want to address climate change more directly. But one of the challenges is conveying to our communities that sense of urgency expressed in the blog post, “Why Should You Care About Community,” by Tamara Toles O’Laughlin.

Don’t get me wrong, the climate agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference  was #onegiantleap forward. A staggering 97% of the world’s carbon polluters signed the agreement and the Green Climate Fund will support the pledge by investing nearly 100 billion dollars toward drastic greenhouse gas reductions by 2030. But climate data from February 2016 show there are still enormous leaps to be made.

COP21

So what else can you do? Let this be your invitation to #takecharge and consider your role in creating a better planet. Because, as the Earth Day Network encourages, a billion individual acts of green can add up to a powerful change.

Here are 10 tips that you can use to encourage your community join the climate change movement:

  1. Use stories about local innovation to start a positive climate change conversation. 

Do you know where the Greenest School in the World” is located? In Washington DC! In 2015, the U.S. Green Building Council awarded this distinction to Dunbar High School for their use of renewable energy sources like solar, water conservation systems and geothermal to power the school.

Pro-tip: Learn which businesses, housing communities and restaurants are addressing climate change. Find out and share what local schools are doing – everyone loves to have conversations about youth and the future.

  1. Capture Images of #ActOnClimate. 

In addition to sharing snaps of your travel adventures, foodie pics and funny shots with your friends, you can use Instagram to send a message about the Earth, the environment or that picturesque day. Photos send a quick and powerful message.

Pro-tip: Use the hashtag #MotherEarth on Instagram.

#MotherEarth

#MotherEarth

  1. Read other perspectives. 

Climate change impacts communities around the world. But how it impacts yours is unique. Read articles, blogs and first-hand accounts of how people are being impacted today. Learn more about the predictions of climate change impacts from Norway to China. The consequences vary around the world, but we are a global community.

  1. Join the movement online. 

Join the global conversation! Use social media channels such as Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook to share blogs, articles, facts and stories with your network. Information can spread far and wide online.

Pro-tip: Use hashtags like: #ActOnClimate #COP21 #Renewables

  1. Be A Climate Mentor. 

Help engage youth to act on climate change. You can connect with a young family member, neighbor or a friend’s kid. Try to come up with ways to save energy, then do an electronics check together. Make sure to explain how our energy use impacts the planet, and make sure to keep your messages positive.

Pro-tip: head outside to enjoy the fresh air together instead of plugging in.
Earth Relay for Climate Action - Brunswick

  1. Get Creative. 

Many people  would love to learn about climate in a unique way. Are you a poet or a budding videographer? Use your talent to talk about climate change.

Pro-tip: The quickest way to go viral is with a video. For example, this poem from a science educator is taking off right now!

  1. Cut Your Waste. 

How much we consume and what we consume makes a big difference.  Did you know that over 10,000,000 clothing items end up in landfills each year? Cheap clothing is not sustainable. Give your clothes additional life by donating or regifting them to friends and siblings!

Pro-tip: Go the extra mile; check out a fellow EcoWomen blogger’s tips for reducing food waste.

  1. Buy Renewable. 

Have you checked with your electricity provider to see if renewable energy is available? Most people are surprised to learn that in most cases, wind and solar can be distributed to your home from your local utility company. The first step in switching to renewable is finding out how to make the change.

Pro-tipDC and Maryland residents have options!

  1. Act Local – Write! 

From the mayor to the city council, we can hold elected officials accountable. In 2015, Washington DC was recognized to be the home to more LEED and ENERGY STAR-certified buildings per capita than any other city in the country. Make known your support for green power in DC.

Pro-tip: reaching elected officials is easier than ever with email and Twitter!

  1. GlühlampeFind your Lumens! 

Instead of looking for “Watts,” determine your desired light bulb brightness  by “Lumens.” It is a new way to help consumers determine the right amount of light for each place in the home. Learn the new vocabulary and change your light bulb shopping habit. Watch this video to learn more.

Note: This article is an adaptation of an original post for children by Erin Twamley, originally published by Nomad Press and STEM Magazine //187V .

Erin Twamley is an energy educator, author and English Kindergarten teacher in Seoul, South Korea. Her books with co-author Joshua Sneideman, Climate Change: Discover How It Impacts Spaceship Earth and Renewable Energy: Discover the Fuel of the Future? aim to positively engage youth in learning about renewable energy and addressing climate change.

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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. 

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Meet The Woman Behind The Josephine Butler Parks Center

Written By Alexandra Gilliland

This April, EcoWomen and its founding chapter, the DC EcoWomen, will be celebrating its 10th Anniversary, and holding an amazing 10 Year Gala to commemorate this occasion! There can only be one place for the location: The Josephine Butler Parks Center.

The Josephine Butler Parks Center is the perfect location for the event. Not only, is it a gorgeous piece of 1927 Renaissance revival architecture, designed by George Oakley Totten Jr., but the center’s mission is to advance the revitalization of diverse community green spaces across the metropolitan area. This alone would make the location great for the event, but what really makes this location ideal is that it was named for one of Washington D.C.’s very first EcoWomen: Josephine Butler.

Here’s a little bit more about the woman behind the park…

Josephine Butler was born on January 24, 1920. The daughter of sharecroppers, and the granddaughter of slaves, Butler would grow into one of D.C.’s most respected community leaders. At a young age, Jo (as she was known) suffered from typhoid fever. To receive medical treatment, Butler moved from the sharecropper farm, where her father worked in Brandywine, Maryland to Washington, D.C. There she would flourish into one of D.C.’s greatest advocates of social initiatives.

Butler had the admirable habit of turning every instance of her life into a cause to champion. She began a career in laundry, and was able to organize her fellow workers into the first union for black women launder workers. This would be the start of her life-long commitment to labor unions and women’s rights.

Following the historic Brown v. Board of Education ruling, she helped to lead the effort to peacefully integrate the white-attended John Quincy Adams Elementary School and the black-attended Thomas P. Morgan Elementary School in 1955. The neighborhood of Adams Morgan, a combination of the schools’ names, now stands as a reminder to honor racial and cultural differences.

Continuing her trend of turning life’s instances into causes to champion, after a bout with tuberculosis in the late 1950s, Butler became a volunteer for the D.C. Lung Association. There, she would become the association’s community health educator, where she would educate thousands of children on the hazards of air pollution, long before air pollution was became a prominent environmental or health concern.

Community was especially important to Jo Butler. She believed children needed a safe outdoor space to develop community. To help create this type of community, Butler campaigned for the revitalization of the Meridian Hill Park, also known as Malcolm X Park. This area had previously been known as one of the most violent parks in the Washington metropolitan area and as a breeding ground for vandalism and drug dealing. Butler and fellow community organizations worked tirelessly to transform this park. They organized nighttime patrols to combat crime, planted trees to beautify the property, and held community arts and educational programs in the park for residents. Gradually the park became the sort of community that Butler had envisioned. In 1994, Butler and the other members of the Friends of Meridian Hill (a community organization partnership) received the National Partnership Leadership Award from President Bill Clinton, to recognize the work that they had done to transform this once crime-ridden and dangerous park into a safe community park that is used and enjoyed by the local residents.

A holistic activist, Butler fought for a sustainable community way before it was trendy. She dedicated her life to economic, environmental and social justice, and believed in the self- determination of all. She was a true DC EcoWoman, a lover of the great outdoors, and a believer that change can happen with hard work and passion.

The festivities, including a keynote speaker, a silent auction, a DJ, unlimited beer and wine, and even a signature cocktail(!),  will take place on April 24th Josephine Butler Parks Center. Get your ticket today!