Posts Tagged ‘green’

posted by | on , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on How the COVID-19 Pandemic Helped Me Rediscover Local Markets

By Kelley Dennings

When Virginia’s governor enacted stay-at-home orders I didn’t run out to get toilet paper. Instead I went to the hardware store for all the container-friendly, spring-vegetable starter plants I could find, including celery, leeks, lettuce and broccoli. 

My motivation was to support my mental health during this time. I wasn’t worried yet about feeding my body. I generally keep a full pantry, and I had five to seven days’ worth of food, which I thought was plenty. 

I was wrong.

Grocery shopping used to be simple. I’m privileged to live in an urban area that has two large grocery stores within walking distance. But as the stay-at-home order wore on and my pantry started to look bare, those big stores weren’t yet requiring face coverings or social distancing, and their delivery systems had two-week wait times. 

I wasn’t comfortable going into the stores, and waiting for delivery wasn’t an option, so I had to get creative. 

The local outdoor farmers market, where I get berries and watermelon over the summer, felt like a safe place to buy my food. But initially farmers markets weren’t considered essential. Thankfully the farmers market was able to support vendors in making pre-order community supported agriculture (CSA) boxes available, complete with social distancing and face covering policies during pickup. 

CSAs are a great way to support local farmers, but it meant that I didn’t get to pick exactly what I wanted, as I used to. I received a lot of potatoes and onions, but for the first time I also got kalettes, a cross between kale and Brussels sprouts. And I thoroughly enjoyed my new discovery once I figured out how to prepare them in the oven with a bit of olive oil. 

Because of the limited selection in my CSA box, and because I needed more than just vegetables, I started looking for stores closer to home where I could make quick stops to fill in what I needed. My next shopping excursion was to my local corner bodega. 

I hadn’t shopped there in the past because they have a smaller selection, but I found they had the fresh fruit I was craving and all the essentials. (Except toilet paper — but by that point, no one was carrying TP). As I paid for my purchases, I was pleased to see that it also offered personal protective equipment (PPE) like face coverings, gloves and checkout shields for the workers. 

As time went on, I purchased a quart of homemade potato salad from my local deli, the best loaf of sourdough bread I’ve ever had from my local bakery, and extra salad dressing and cookies from my favorite local restaurant (where I also got takeout for dinner). The lettuce I planted at the start of all this has already been harvested, and it won’t be long until my celery, leeks and broccoli are fully grown. 

I’ve come to appreciate how fortunate I am to have so many options in my community. Before COVID-19, getting food from multiple sources seemed inconvenient, but it hasn’t been. I do all my errands at one time, wearing a face covering and using social distancing practices. And I get to support local businesses at a time when we’re realizing just how important community is.

While I haven’t gone into a large grocery store chain yet, I did go to my local health-food store. As someone who’s lactose-intolerant, I craved my plant-based cheese, sour cream and cream cheese. While I could’ve gotten by without them, comfort food can help mental health

I went to the store just before closing, with my face covering, to stock up on my plant-based alternative foods and other essentials I couldn’t find in smaller shops. But still no toilet paper.

I was eating well, but starting to think I’d never find toilet paper. Remember all those potatoes and onions from my CSA box? Come to find out the long-lost art of bartering is back. I was able to swap potatoes and onions for rolls of toilet paper with my neighbor. 

None of us knows exactly what the new normal will look like, and I acknowledge that not everyone has access to the same options I do. When I think about life after COVID-19, I’m eager to get back to the gym and eating dinner out. 

But when it comes to grocery shopping, I plan to continue to support my local economy. I’ve reconnected with sharing and bartering, sustainable consumption, and food that’s made by people who care about the community as much as I do.  

Kelley Dennings is a campaigner with the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity working to address the connection between human population growth and consumption and their threat to endangered species and wild places. Prior to the Center, she worked for multiple government agencies and nonprofits focused on recycling, forest conservation and consumption. 

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By Denali Sai

We tend to shape our worldview with clear notions of good and bad. This grants us clarity of mind and groundedness in an otherwise volatile world. However, when we adhere to a binary, we restrict ourselves from thinking about many others’ experiences and needs, too often those of marginalized and BIPOC communities. When we see the world as us vs. them, as good vs evil, we lose sight of swaths of people, without whose voices a vision of a better world is not possible.

As a climate communicator, I am often troubled by the framing of the climate crisis as good vs. evil. In reality, the exponentially increasing and intensifying natural disasters of our changing climate are not disasters in themselves. Rather, they are naturally occurring hazards with disastrous impacts on human and physical capital.

Likewise the palm oil industry in itself is not an evil scheme that should be destroyed overnight. It took moving to the island of Borneo and living in a community of palm oil plantation workers for me to see past this Western misconception. In reality, the industry supports plantation workers who deserve a just transition towards sustainable cultivation practices.

Recently, I’ve been mulling over this conundrum in my garden. As the pandemic limits my movement outside my home, I’ve been spending more time tending to my garden. My most arduous and time-consuming task has been weeding.

Weeding is ultimately an effort to maintain equilibrium and peace in my garden. As I begin to pull out the dandelions, crabgrass, and carpetweed, my hands develop a rhythm, quickly guiding the plot back to equilibrium so that one hungry plant does not sap nutrition and space from the others.

As I do so, I resist the suburban notion that I am rooting evil from my garden. This is an active effort as frustration at their stubbornness and resilience is unrelenting. However, I am mindful of the fact that weeds are only bad in some contexts. The gardener ultimately determines where they are welcome and where they must be cut back.

For example, dandelions belong in lawns, fields, and forests. They are nutritious and contain healing properties. However, in my garden, they compete for the same resources as other, often less hardy, plants.

The value of weeding out some plants is to let others thrive. Maintaining balance is key to protecting the collective spirit of my garden.

In harrowing times like this, it is understandable to cling to binary thinking. As mortal creatures living in a chaotic world, we often use categories to cope with uncertainty. However, when we restrict ourselves in this way, we forget the humanness of every individual on this Earth. We forget that in order to enact change, we need to appeal to many different people, not just people to whom we intuitively prescribe value: Those who look, talk, and live like us. In order to build a better world, we need to build an inclusive world.

As is true in my garden, enacting change involves careful attention to nature’s balance and our collective strength. To emerge stronger from this crisis and beyond, we must listen to one another and actively stand up together to demand a radical transition away from unsustainable, harmful modes of development. We must elevate voices that complicate our current climate narrative, which tends toward sensationalized, Western-centric, sometimes blatantly unscientific stories.

Indeed, with our tender hands rooting blankets of weeds from the soil and planting new growth, we must care for one another and work collectively to nurture a more inclusive world.

Denali Sai is a climate communicator based out of Washington, D.C. She currently works in communications at the World Resources Institute, where she focuses on the economic benefits of global climate action. She co-founded and writes for Entropy Inherited, a climate newsletter that centers BIPOC and marginalized voices.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Relearning our limits (don’t worry, not the calculus kind)

By Rita Foth

Empty shelves in the grocery store. Shortages of essential protective gear for frontline medical workers. Long delays on shipping. 

While these shortages range from severe and life-altering to minor inconveniences, everyone has experienced some degree of product unavailability during the pandemic. 

A light-hearted yet infuriating example is the pillaging and plundering (when did we all turn into pirates?) of the toilet paper aisle. How many of you have gone from store to store looking for toilet paper because you were lucky enough to run out around the start of quarantine? I know I certainly have. 

Obviously, some shortages have greater implications than others, but one implication looming behind every shortage is that they will continue to happen long past the pandemic if something doesn’t change. 

We live in an era where an entire grocery trip is just a click and a delivery away, an era of ordering just about anything off the internet and having it arrive at our door days later. This is the era of seemingly unlimited resources. Businesses have closed the gaps in their operations so efficiently that there is almost never a mistake, never a time where a product is unavailable. Beyond that being a simply remarkable feat, these practices have shifted our perception. Many people no longer look at the world through a lens of limited resources. That concept has been hidden behind the curtain. A consumer who looks at the world as unlimited is a consumer that many businesses want. 

But, if you’re reading this blog, you are well aware of the fact that the planet simply cannot sustain a population that consumes as if resources are unlimited.

Yet here we are. Consuming as if there’s no end in sight.

But what if, among all the devastation and disruptions caused by the pandemic, there is a silver lining. What if this pandemic has made people look differently at the objects they buy and how they use them? 

It is hopelessly optimistic to assume that people will suddenly change the way they purchase and consume items, yet I can’t help but think that staring at barren grocery store aisles won’t have an impact. 

Together with many other people in this country, I’ve been privileged enough throughout my life to never worry about scarce resources or where I will get my next meal. But does a system struggling to keep up with demand force people to reckon with the limited and finite nature of everything around them? Even if it’s an infinitesimal reckoning, it’s still a reckoning. And it is exactly what’s needed to push the environmental movement forward. People have worked for decades to move the environmental movement from the fringe to the mainstream, but the much of the general population continues to choose the easiest path: ignorance. If it’s not affecting me directly, why should I care? Now people know why they should care. In fact, they’ve been slapped in the face with why they should care.

I’ve wondered for a long time whether people would change their behaviors without a major event that forced them to wake up. I always assumed it would take the form of a natural disaster, but the unlikely foe has been a global pandemic. 

My greatest hope is that we can emerge from our homes and emerge from this pandemic a changed world. Not only changed because of the lives lost and the hardships endured, but also changed because we learned to take from the planet with a recognition of its limits. Because recognizing our planet’s limited capacity to sustain us is the first step in the long, arduous journey toward learning to sustain ourselves on this planet.

Rita Foth was born and raised in the mountains of Colorado and went to school in Washington state. She moved to D.C. in December 2019 to see what the “other Washington” had to offer. She is currently looking for jobs in environmental nonprofits.

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By Hannah Nelson

Washingtonians have a complicated relationship with the ginkgo tree. 

The day I discovered the ginkgo outside my apartment was one of those distinctly DC beautiful days: the trees were that fresh green that comes at the end of spring and stays for early summer, the sky so blue you’d think it was cloudless, too.

The tree in question is on the grounds of the National Cathedral, in a pocket of grass that used to be my spot for fair-weather reading. Until this year, I’d never noticed it. Perhaps it was the direction from which I spotted it, coming to it another way, but this year, I felt myself drawn to it, at the whim of the natural—one might say spiritual—powers of this tree.

Up close, I reached up and traced my thumb over the uneven edges of its distinctive fans, half-wondering if there was some genetic pattern to them invisible to human eyes. The leaves called me to hold them and I did, a single leaf between my thumb and index finger. It was like the soft cover of a Moleskine notebook, only thick and indented with lines as I imagine dinosaur skin might have been.

***

Ginkgo are “living fossils” and the only one of their species. Of the five groups of seed plants—simply, angiosperms (flowering plants), conifers (cone-bearing trees), cycads (tropical plants), gnetophyta (woody plants), and ginkgo—it is the only one that consists of a single species (by comparison, there are about 350 million species of flowering plants).

Even more remarkable is that ginkgo trees don’t visibly age and can live for hundreds to thousands of years. In a study published earlier this year, researchers compared gene expression in leaves and the cambium, a thin layer of stem cells between the heartwood and bark that differentiate to help the tree to grow. Although genes associated with cell division, cell expansion, and differentiation exhibited lower expression in old trees, those associated with the final stage of the aging process showed no difference in expression between young and old trees. This finding suggests that while growth slows, ginkgo biloba lives so long because it’s developed a perfect balance between growth and aging.

The trees’ biggest threat? Stress (one can relate). The older the tree, the greater its ability to adapt to changing environments, owing to persistent expression of a large number of resistance genes in addition to accumulation of antimicrobial and antioxidant protectants like flavonoids. But even the ginkgo has not been immune to climate change, which is causing the trees to shed their fruit later every year.

***

As days become shorter and temperatures fall, the petioles, or stems joining leaves to a stalk, of most deciduous trees form a protective scar between the leaf and the stalk at different rates across the tree that causes leaves to drop individually. Ginkgoes, on the other hand, form those scars all at once, resulting in one day per year when tree-lined streets in Northwest DC suddenly come to resemble a sparkling forest floor. Among the leaves, sometimes, when a female tree hasn’t been sprayed with a pesticide at the right time, will be her fruit—called berries that look something like a cross between a green grape of the wine variety and a white apricot.

They smell awful, so every spring, the Urban Forestry Division sprays female trees across the District, but because it can be difficult to time properly and the treatment isn’t always effective, it has implemented a Female Ginkgo Tree Removal Policy allowing property owners to decide to petition for the removal of one or more trees. It promises to replant them with different trees, yet ginkgoes make for superior urban trees, offering shade and resilience to ever-increasing environmental stressors such as increasing levels of carbon dioxide. 

In fact, the Smithsonian Institution has issued a call for leaf samples for its Citizen Science: Leaf Surveyproject, which it will use to study climate change. Not only do ginkgoes serve as a window to the past by providing a record from over 200 million years ago through to the present, but the secrets within their leaves might also allow us to better plan for the future. Scientists can analyze the relationship between carbon dioxide and stomatal index, or the optimal number of “tiny openings on leaves’ surfaces” needed to facilitate the exchange of carbon dioxide with oxygen and water. That information can help us to predict how warm the planet may grow to be and, I’d argue, to understand how different built environments affect nature.

From “Paleobotany: A Sketch of the Original and Evolution of Floras” by Edward W. Berry, p. 356 of the Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, 1918.

***

It can also help us to understand ourselves. Native to China and cultivated starting around 1,000 years ago, ginkgoes were brought to Japan in the late 17th century, where the fan-shaped leaf came to symbolize longevity, and to Europe in the mid-18th century.

They have persisted in Asian art as well as Art Nouveau, both styles represented in the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries. From China, in the Freer Gallery of Art is The Bodhisattva Mile (Sanskrit Maitreya), seated in “Pensive Pose” (Northern Qi dynasty, ca. 575), the Buddha’s Dragon Tree depicted as a ginkgo. In the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery is Reminiscences of Nanjing: Old Gingko at Mt. Chinglong (Qing dynasty, 1707). From Japan, in the Sackler Gallery, is Crow and Ginkgo Leaves, from the series Seitei’s Flowers and Birds (Taish? era, 1916).

Now, in 2020, amidst a global health crisis and an environmental one too, the ginkgo continues to serve as a symbol of longevity, a reminder of the movement of time. It also reminds us that as participants in the world through which time moves, we will endure. We will learn how to live in a world where COVID-19 is an expected part of life. But that endurance also engenders a responsibility to ensure that world is one in which we’d be comfortable waking up and realizing where we are.

With longevity comes unknowing. The onset of COVID-19, with its watch-and-wait requirement, has shown us we can’t predict the future with certainty, and in this context the ginkgo might be considered, above all, a symbol of humility. It has adapted, it has endured, and still it protects us—providing urban havens, sources of wonderment, and scientific information we can use to reconstruct our changing relationship with the world around us.

That is our role now: to assume humility, recognize our unknowing, and take an honest assessment of our actions using the knowledge we are learning. With reverence, we might look to the ginkgo as our past and future, and to this moment as an opportunity to protect the environment and ourselves.

Freeing ourselves from perpetual striving, can we seek that balance between growing and slowing down that the ginkgo has refined naturally and over millennia? Taking pause, can we find the will to finally realize a wholeness within ourselves and with the natural world?

Hannah Nelson is an editorial strategist at the Society for Neuroscience. She holds a BA in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and has an appreciation for narrative journalism, botanical illustrations, wooded areas, and the flora of DC.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Join a Growing Community of Sustainability-Focused Entrepreneurs

By Patty Simonton

Women around the world are looking at entrepreneurship as a way to make a real and lasting impact in their communities and beyond. 

Women are questioning the lack of healthy, responsible, affordable snack options for our children. They’re wondering why we, as a society, continue to tolerate single-use plastic and fast fashion despite the social and environmental impacts. They’re looking around in our grocery stores and noticing that most of the fresh-cut flowers being sold are imported, mainly from Central and South America, where chemical fungicides and pesticides are frequently used. 

But what’s really exciting is that women are increasingly stepping up to address the problems that they notice around them.

Here in the DMV, Margarita Womack at M’Panadas, and Meredith Cymerman at JaM Treats are proving that snacks can be healthy and delicious. Saba Tshibaka is connecting university students with unique, affordable, lightly-worn clothes, and educating them about the impact of fast fashion at Rendered, Inc. Carey Thompson at Elysian is creating 100% compostable packaging out of industrial hemp to replace single-use plastic, and Sarah Daken at Grateful Gardeners has said enough is enough with the chemicals when it comes to fresh-cut flowers, and is selling organic flowers in Montgomery County, Maryland. 

And they’re not alone. All around country, the number of women-owned businesses is growing.

According to the American Express 2019 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, growth rates for the number of women-owned business in the United States continue to rise. The share of women-owned businesses stood at only 4.6% in 1972, but has since exploded to 42% in 2019. From 2014 to 2019, the number of women-owned businesses increased 21% (opposed to 9% for all businesses), total employment for women-owned businesses increased 8% (opposed to 1.8% for all businesses), and revenue growth for women-owned businesses was 21%, paralleling that of all businesses (20%). 

It takes investment to support the growth of these businesses, and Crunchbase reported that as of Q3 2019, over $20 billion had been invested into female-founded or co-founded startups, amounting to one of the highest levels in history. 

Yet access to such funds remains out of reach to many, especially for entrepreneurs-of-color. Shelly Bell, the founder of Black Girl Ventures reports that 18% of all businesses in DC are owned solely by women, and 27% are owned by people of color, in an article on the startup ecosystem for black women entrepreneurs in DC for the DC Policy Center. Bell also provides an in-depth look into the many challenges faced by entrepreneurs-of-color, particularly black women, when it comes to accessing the financial resources entrepreneurs need to grow their companies. I encourage anyone working within the startup ecosystem to read her piece. 

At Bethesda Green, our member companies tackle challenges related to the environment by building solutions in the fields of clean energy, water, climate, natural resources, and the zero-waste / circular economy. They also contribute to a sustainable food supply chain by developing innovations in agriculture, food production, manufacturing, distribution, and retail. We ensure that all members learn how to not only maximize their impact, but effectively communicate their impact to customers, investors, and the broader community.

One-half of the member companies in our current portfolio are female-founded or co-founded, an increase from 44% in 2019, and I look forward to growing that number even more in the coming years. 

If you would like to discuss how you can get involved, please don’t hesitate to contact us at [email protected]

If you would like to meet fellow sustainability-focused community members, I encourage you and the sustainability-focused entrepreneurs you know to join us at Bethesda Green for our Community Welcome Event on Thursday, January 16th from 3pm-6pm at our offices in Bethesda, MD. 

Learn more and register here: 

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/community-welcome-event-tickets-84626124015

I believe that there is something truly spectacular about being a part of a large and growing community of people who see what’s possible and are working toward a sustainable future. Together, we can change the world. 

Patty Simonton believes in the power of impactful entrepreneurship and conscious capitalism, and seeks to harness the power of the startup and creative communities to strengthen community engagement and civic responsibility to change the world.  Patty is the Director of Bethesda Green’s Be Green Business program, which supports innovative “eco-entrepreneurs” through an Innovation Lab, and helps local companies obtain B Lab Certification by providing best practices for key environmental and social impact metrics such as sound governance, support for workers, and sustainability.

posted by | on , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A few tricks to green your Halloween treats

By Erica Meier

For children and adults alike, Halloween is all about the treats. Fortunately, we’ve got a few tricks to share about how to find delicious eco- and animal-friendly treats. We’ve even got a few ways to turn your pumpkins into treats for everyone to enjoy, including our wildlife friends!

Buying healthy treats – for us and our planet

This time of year, stores are loaded with Halloween treat options – however, many of them aren’t healthy choices for our bodies or our planet. To find healthier and greener treat options, take the time to look for foods, candies and treats that are produced locally.

Also, be sure to check labels to see if chocolate and sugar come from sustainable sources. Or you can go online to purchase all natural, sustainable options, including pumpkin-shaped chocolates from the Natural Candy Store or chocolate bites from Sjaak’s (check out their pumpkin spice bites!)

All those candy wrappers…

Creating a zero waste Halloween can be challenging because most candy wrappers aren’t considered recyclable.

TerraCycle offers a Candy & Snack Wrapper Zero Waste Box. How does it work? You order the box, fill it with all your wrappers, send it in, and TerraCycle takes care of the rest for recycling or upcycling. (The program is free if you send in wrappers from energy bars, such as Clif Bar or Lara Bar.)

You can also minimize waste from individually wrapped items by looking for foil-wrapped chocolates from the bulk bin at your local co-op. Lollipops with paper sticks (instead of plastic) are another good option — a few to consider include Yum Earth Lollipops, which are non-GMO, no artificial colors or flavors, and produced in a LEED-certified facility, or Zollipops, which are are sugar-free and tooth-friendly, and Amborella Organics lollipops, which include seeds in the paper sticks that can be planted!

Offer treats without the sweets

Non-candy treat ideas include clementines decorated like jack-o-lanterns, halloween pencils, blooming bugs (recycled paper embedded with seeds, available in other shapes),  animal finger puppets, or friendship bracelets.

Make your Halloween bash eco-friendly

Throwing a party for family, friends or neighbors? Serve your treats with glassware and washable utensils or look for recyclable or compostable plates. Remember to put out recycling bins for bottles and cans.

And before you run to the store to buy more treats, try whipping up these fun and simple ideas that will satisfy the sweet tooth of any ghoul or goblin: Halloween apple bites, made with three ingredients, are easy to make; pumpkin pie pop tarts are a pocket of pumpkin, perfect for making everyone smile; and mushroom stuffed eyeballs are spooky, savory snacks, sure to catch everyone’s eye!

Pumpkins can be treats too

And, of course, it wouldn’t be Halloween without pumpkins. If you’re carving Jack-o-lanterns, be sure to save those pumpkin seeds — they’re edible! All you need to do is wash them, spread them on a cookie sheet, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt (plus other seasonings you might like, such as nutritional yeast), bake them for about 20-30 minutes and – voila! You’ve got fresh roasted pumpkin seeds. Or, simply dry the seeds on a paper towel and save them for planting in your garden. You can also toss them outside for birds and other wildlife to enjoy.

What about the rest of the pumpkin?  If you’ve carved your pumpkins, you can leave them outside for the squirrels to continue eating (since they probably already started anyway).  Once you’re ready to move on from Halloween décor, move your pumpkins into your backyard, under a bush, or near your compost pile. Breaking them into pieces will help them disappear faster.  Another fun option: Turn your jack-o-lanterns into a snack-o-lanterns by hanging them and filling them with seeds!

If your pumpkins are still whole and you’d rather eat them yourself, here a few different recipes to consider – for Halloween or Thanksgiving:

Looking for more ideas to green your holidays? Check out our guide to DIY Halloween Costumes from Your Closet!

Live in the DC-area? Here are some spooky sightseeing tips!

No matter how you celebrate, we hope you have a horrifyingly, happy Halloween!

Erica Meier is a DC EcoWomen board member. She is also the president of Compassion Over Killing, a national animal protection organization that hosts the annual DC VegFest and promotes plant-based eating a way to build a kinder, greener, and healthier world for all.

 

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Teddy Roosevelt’s Mar-a-Lago

By Melissa Lembke

When you think of Washington, D.C., hiking isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.  You more likely think politics, monuments, and museums.  But, truth be told, the nation’s capital is home to hundreds of miles of natural beauty and opportunities for exploration.

According to The Trust for Public Land’s 2016 ParkScore® index, Washington, D.C. (which is 21.9% parkland) comes in third out of the 100 largest U.S. cities for meeting the need for parks.  All those triangles, circles and squares add up, especially when you add in major resources like Rock Creek Park which is enjoyed by 2.48 million visitors a year.

Make that 2.48 million and one, as I recently had the pleasure of joining Melanie Choukas-Bradley, author of the award-winning book “A Year in Rock Creek Park,” for a morning hike.  Melanie has spent hundreds of hours exploring every inch of the park and she shared a few of the highlights at a recent DC EcoWomen event.

We set off walking in the footsteps of our 26th President along the Theodore Roosevelt Side Trail.  While on the trail I was reminded of Teddy’s love for the outdoors.  His favorite resort was Rock Creek Park, and he frequently led members of his “Tennis Cabinet” and foreign ambassadors on grueling hikes here.  To be invited by the President to go on one of those hikes was regarded as a mark of special favor.

My favorite story that Melanie shared was one occasion when the President lead Jean Adrien Antoine Jules Jusserand, the French Ambassador to the United States, on a jaunt in the woods and when they reached the Potomac they shed their clothes and dove in.  The Ambassador sent the following account of the outing to the French Foreign Office:

“At last, we came to the bank of a stream, rather too wide and deep to be forded…But judge of my horror when I saw the President unbutton his clothes and heard him say, ‘We had better strip, so as not to wet our things in the creek.’  Then I, too, for the honor of France removed my apparel, everything except my lavender kid gloves…’With your permission, Mr. President, I will keep these on; otherwise, it would be embarrassing if we should meet ladies.”

The President and Ambassador became fast friends after the outing and remained friends for life.  Today, a monument honoring Ambassador Jusserand – reportedly the only diplomat who could keep up with Teddy on a hike – sits near the trail to commemorate his achievements and love for Rock Creek Park.

As we continued onto the Valley Trail we approached the historic Boulder Bridge.  Melanie explained that the extra large boulders that comprise the bridge resulted from a misunderstanding by the bridge contractor.

“The plans called for ‘man-sized’ stone, which meant stone that could be easily handled by a stone mason.  Instead, the contractor used life-sized boulders.  When the Corps of Engineers head, Colonel Beach, arrived at the site and saw the work underway with the large boulders, he liked the way they looked.”

Not a bad decision as the structure has held up exceptionally well through the years.

Boulder Bridge is also the site of the well-known tale where a prized ring slipped off Teddy’s finger.  After a search failed to turn it up, he placed an ad in the local paper for its return reading:

“Golden ring lost near Boulder Bridge in Rock Creek.  If found, return to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.  Ask for Teddy.”

To this day, his ring has still not been returned.

While that ended our short adventure, it only scratches the surface of the fresh air, landmarks, and years of history that Rock Creek has to offer.  With this green oasis just moments from the heart of the city, there is no excuse not to join Teddy and the other famous users of this “all-inclusive” park featuring a golf course, equestrian trails, tennis stadium, and amphitheater.  No plane ticket to Palm Beach, Florida required.

Melissa Lembke is a DC EcoWomen Board Member. 

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Why “The Why” is Needed to Recycle Right

By Cara Blumenthal

You just finished lunch at your favorite salad hotspot. You get up from the table, gather the plastic bowl and lid, plastic fork and knife, and flexible plastic packaging (that previously packaged the fork and knife) and head over to the trash and recycling bins. Quick! What do you do? Do you stand there, for longer than you are proud of, contemplating into which bin to sort your waste? Perhaps you use some haphazard decision-making process that draws on hearsay and a recent conversation among your coworkers about what is and is not recyclable? If so, welcome to the club.

As an avid recycler, I am often the person to whom my family and friends turn to ask the question, “Can this be recycled?” I am the first to admit, however, that I don’t always know the answers. Recycling rules can be outright confusing. What constitutes narrow-neck versus wide-mouth? What do the plastic identification numbers 1 through 7 mean? To complicate the matter, recycling dos and don’ts vary widely from place to place depending on regulations and the capabilities of the local recycling facility, among other factors.

unnamedBut following recycling rules may be more important now than ever. Recently, the news has been littered (pun intended) with articles about the financial struggles of the recycling industry. A medley of recent trends have contributed to the recycling industry’s crisis—including declining oil prices, low commodity prices of recycled materials, a changing waste stream (most notably “lightweighting” of materials), a quickening trend toward single-stream recycling, and increasing processing costs.

At the same time, there has been a noticeable increase in interest around waste over the past few years. Some trending waste and recycling news stories include Adidas’ sneakers made from recycled ocean plastic and a spike in interest around outrageous food waste statistics. Moreover, an increasing number of cities (including Washington, D.C.) and corporations (such as Procter & Gamble and Sears) are committing to zero waste goals. These zero waste goals should be pursued through waste reduction and reuse first, but they will be achieved largely based on the success of recycling initiatives.

So what can the average citizen do? According to the June 20, 2015 Washington Post article on recycling, one of the biggest challenges with recycling in DC is the problem of “contamination.” Contamination is a somewhat jargony term used in the waste industry when non-recyclable material is sorted incorrectly with recyclable material. When this happens, it can degrade the value of the entire recycling stream, or worse, it can render the entire batch of recycling non-recyclable. In other words, contamination can cause your recycling to end up in a landfill or, for the majority of DC’s waste, to be sent to an incinerator.

To echo the letter to the editor response to The Washington Post’s June 2015 article, consistent messaging and education are needed to solve this problem. Explaining “the why” of correct recycling sorting is a crucial component of this much-needed educational process. People should not just be told what to do and what not to do when sorting their waste. People should be told the reason behind these actions.

Paper_recycling_in_Ponte_a_SerraglioTake for example the recycling of plastic bags. According to the D.C. Department of Public Works (DPW), plastic bags can be included in your residential recycling—with a very important caveat. The DPW website states, “Please put your plastic bags into one plastic bag then place it in your recycling container.” However, there is no mention of the reason why this request is made. (Pssst! The reason is that single plastic bags clog and tangle around the recycling equipment!)

A quick Google search revealed good examples of simple educational tools that municipalities and waste companies have used to educate the public of “the why” in order to influence recycling behavior. Clark County, Washington, for instance, has this simple one-pager with pictures and arrows to show why plastic bags are not allowed in the county’s recycling carts. Similarly, the city of St. Louis, Missouri has an entire webpage dedicated to the details about why plastic bags are not accepted in its recycling stream and tips to reduce plastic bag use.

Simple fliers, websites, videos and other educational tools will be vital to decreasing contamination and supporting the success of recycling in D.C. The recycling industry has the potential to contribute to the D.C. economy through revenue from material sales and job creation in addition to contributing to a cleaner environment and saving natural resources. Let’s give the recycling industry a fighting chance once more. Let’s both educate ourselves and call on our local government to educate us about “the why” so that we have the tools and knowledge to recycle right.

Cara Blumenthal is a graduate from the Masters in Sustainability Management program at American University. She recently started working for the D.C. Department of General Services on recycling and waste management implementation.

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

By Elizabeth Hubley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shaved Asparagus Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients:

Shaved Asparagus Salad:

1 pound asparagus

1 cup cherry tomatoes

2 oz local goat cheese

¼ cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

Honey Dijon Vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon raw honey

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

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

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

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

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

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

By Tamara Toles O’Laughlin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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