Posts Tagged ‘Sustainable’

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. 

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Cooped up at home? Make eco-friendly choices.

By: Skylar Petrik

COVID-19 is impacting all of us. If, like many people, you’re cooped up at home, you may find yourself dreaming of park days or beachside hangs with friends. But just because you may be spending less time in nature, doesn’t mean you’re less likely to make eco-friendly life choices. And, while more of us at home means less greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, there are additional ways you can do more for the environment. Following are a few, simple eco-friendly choices you can make while being cooped up at home. 

  1. Pot a Plant

Add a dose of greenery to your home by potting one or more plants. Pick from easy-to-maintain indoor plants that can enhance your décor and also purify the air, or put them outside where they can get ample sunlight. Don’t forget to water regularly.

2. Opt for Natural Ventilation 

With the hot air that comes with summer in the D.C. area, many of us are likely beginning to turn on the air conditioning. This not only results in a higher electricity bill, but it’s also bad for the environment. Instead, open those windows and doors, and let natural air in. Keep your home naturally ventilated in the morning and evening, and restrict your AC usage to a few hours at noon and night.

3. Switch Off Lights When Not in Use

Every time you leave the room, even if it is for five minutes, switch the lights and fans off. Doing this five times a day will do the Earth some good. Smart bulbs and lights let you control the intensity and on/off features from your smartphone. During the day, let natural light in instead of switching on your room’s light. 

4. Backyard Gardening

Backyard gardening is a great way to grow your own fruits and vegetables and get rid of carbon dioxide in the air to keep your family healthy. Gardening is also a great way to relieve stress. And, a backyard garden reduces food costs and food packaging. 

5. Reuse glass jars

You’ve reached the bottom of a pot of jam, mayonnaise or pickles. Now what do you do with the jar? Reuse it for other food storage, such as wholesale nuts, dried cranberries, or seeds. Or, use it to make crafts. These are great ways to reduce the amount that goes in your recycling and garbage cans each week.

Skylar Petrik is a Community Impact Intern at the United Way of Frederick County. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Policy from University of Maryland. She enjoys cardio kickboxing, running, making art and crafts, cooking healthy food, spending time with her family and friends and traveling.

posted by | on , , , , , , | Comments Off on How to make your kitchen more eco-friendly

By Christy Halvorson Ross

We are in a 24/7/365 battle globally and locally to reduce our carbon footprints, reverse climate change, and improve the health of the Earth.

There are so many ways to contribute on an individual level to a healthier planet…on the roads, in the grocery store, with your consumer habits, and your recycling practices. You can also make a huge impact on your environmental footprint in your own kitchen.  Read on to find out how.

  1. Reduce your food packaging

Shopping at farmer’s markets or being a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) member are the best ways to reduce your food packaging. If you bring your own bags to the farmer’s market, then there is zero packaging between the farmer picking the produce and you putting it in your refrigerator.

The DC area has a plethora of incredible farmer’s markets, many on the weekends and some during the week. Make visiting them your ritual!

With CSAs, you can support farmers directly by purchasing a share for a season or a year. Check out this great list of area CSA’s

As much as I love the produce at Trader Joe’s, I don’t love their food packaging. Many of their items have a cardboard base and then are wrapped in plastic. Whole Foods is a bit better with labels and twist ties on most of their produce.

Wherever you shop, make sure to bring your own produce bags.

If you are a fish or meat eater, you can also bring your own container to the deli/fish counter. Stash one in your bag and have it weighed before the food is put in. This is a great way to reduce your use of plastic.

2. Produce less food waste

Food waste is a big one in the kitchen. At Little Green, we love to come up with ways to use every little bit of the food you have. Following are a few fun tips that ensure you will never need to throw produce away.

  • Veggie stir fries

When the spinach and mushrooms that you had grand plans for begin to look like they may have a day of survival left, it’s time for a stir fry! Saute some onions and add just about any other thing you’ve got in your fridge. Throw in some sesame oil until it’s full of flavor and tender. You can always add coconut milk or hot sauce, and garnish with chopped nuts and cilantro or flat-leaf parsley.

  • Carrot-top pesto

Chop up those amazing carrot top greens from your farmer’s market carrots, and add them to the Cuisinart with pureed walnuts or almonds and some olive oil and salt for a delicious pesto. No recipe needed! Play with the flavors and textures.

  • Smoothies

Are those fresh berries about to go? Throw them in the freezer in a reusable bag (have you heard about stasher bags?) and use them for your next breakfast smoothie.

3. Choose sustainable foods

I have been delving more deeply into the future and the sustainability of food on our planet. Today, we have 7.5 billion people on this planet and 2 billion of them are hungry. By 2050 we’ll have to feed more than 9 billion people. We are discovering foods that require less water and farmland to produce, are grown efficiently, and are highly nutritious. A few examples include:

  • sunchokes [What are sunchokes, you ask? They are also known as Jerusalem Artichokes. They have so many nutrients, fiber, and even protein, and are so easy to grow….we need to start integrating them into our diets more! Check out this elegant salad or main dish that will wow your guests using these inexpensive, modest little gems.]
  • legumes (lentils, beans)
  • dark leafy greens (dandelion greens, kale, swiss chard, beet greens)
  • squashes (delicata, chayote, honeynut)

If you can build these three habits into your routine, you’ll make a big difference for this planet we live on. Have fun with the variety of veggies you get at the market or CSA (and check out our farmer’s market guide here) and enjoy the health benefits too!

Christy Halvorson Ross is the founder of Little Green, which creates sustainable and nutritious recipes, and offers healthy living and plant-based cleanse programs, including food delivery, right here in 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 Five Steps to Make Your Wardrobe More Sustainable

By Hana G.

Fashion has a major impact on the environment. Each year, the United States, alone, sends about 21 billion pounds of textile waste to landfills. Most clothing is made of materials and chemicals derived from fossil fuel-based crude oil. This means that it’s nearly impossible for clothing to decompose. If burned, the materials that make up clothing release harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. When clothes are buried with other waste in landfills, moisture and heat can cause them to emit greenhouse gases such as methane. And, there’s also the environmental impact of items such as buttons, zippers, and studs to consider. There are ways that you can combat fashion’s impact on the environment by doing your part to make your wardrobe more sustainable.

Consider the five steps below as your guide to a more sustainable way of style:

  1. Educate yourself

 First and foremost, taking the time to educate yourself is a fool-proof way to discover sustainable style options. Do your part to research brands that offer eco-friendly apparel as well as companies that strive to minimize the waste they generate from their products. Take note of which fashion lines use only organic, vegan fabric options.

There are also several companies that make it a point to produce smaller amounts of clothing each season to avoid the harmful repercussions of fast fashion. The next time you’re shopping in-store and looking for more information on eco-friendly policies, ask an employee about their stance on sustainability. In addition, most fashion retailers who value sustainability have a section on their website.

  1. Buy for longevity

A great way to get more wear out of your clothes, thus increasing their sustainability, is by buying for longevity. While you might be tempted to browse the sale racks and find five-dollar sweaters for this season, if the prices are too good to be true, there’s usually a reason. In most cases, a lower price point also means lower quality.

Instead of spending money on items you’ll only be able to wear a few times, try increasing the longevity of your wardrobe by spending a bit more on pieces you can wear in years to come. If you keep in mind the closet life of your clothing purchases, you’ll have fewer items that end up in landfills – and you’ll establish staple pieces of your style to keep around for a while.

  1. Buy secondhand

Shopping secondhand is a great way to shop sustainably. Purchasing pre-owned items from thrift stores is the perfect way to shop for what you need and put our planet first. Whether you’re looking for vintage decor for your new apartment or you’re hoping to spice up your style with some eclectic clothing, most local thrift stores have what you need if you’re willing to look for it.

There are also online thrifting options – such as thredUP – that allow you to browse used, name brands from the comfort of your own home. If your taste tends to be on the fancier side, you can find your favorite name brands like Coach for less by looking online instead of in-store.

  1. Restyle your wardrobe

Developing a sustainable wardrobe doesn’t mean you need to go out and purchase all new clothes. Try optimizing your current clothing options by restyling what you already have. Spend a day clearing out every item in your closet, and have some fun putting together new looks you’ve never tried before.

The more use you can get out of what you already have, the more sustainable your wardrobe will be. Whether you decide to turn some of your T-shirts into trendier crop tops, or you fashion some rips into an older pair of jeans, try some DIY to keep your old clothes up to date. This will allow you to get as much use as possible out of all of your current clothes.

  1. Buy from local vendors

You know those cute boutiques you always pass by but never take the time to browse? It might be time to start shopping locally. Most local vendors source their materials within 60 miles, which minimizes the amount of gas used to transport their products – and their carbon footprint.

Buying from local vendors is also a great opportunity to take the time to find out if they value sustainability. While you might be spending a little more than you’re used to on your style, you’ll also be investing in a great cause by buying local.

Hana G. is a creative content creator who values both style and sustainability.

 

posted by | on , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sustainable Baby Steps

By Cameryn Aliya Burnette, Co-Founder and Vice President, Howard University Water and Environment Association

Going green can be difficult to commit to due to the sheer variety of choices you’re faced with in the process. I was confronted with many new questions when I first went green. Natural materials or cruelty-free? Do organic labels matter? and Am I really bout to drop a band on just one dress? I dived into sustainable living headfirst so you don’t have to.

Here’s my list of first steps to going green. These steps are designed to take some of the pressure off any aspiring earth-warriors who would love to be doing a little more to help the cause but don’t exactly know what doing a little more looks like. If that sounds like you, you’re in the right spot – and there’s no cliché stuff like “turn off the water while you brush your teeth.”

Get with like-minded people

Great minds think alike! There are other people out there with ideas on how to live more sustainably. Find a thread on social media, a club on your campus, or a group that meets for dinner monthly. Eco-living looks different for different people, and this is a way to find out how others best incorporate sustainability in their daily lives.

Buy reusables

I know y’all know what reusable water bottles are, and you should be using those, but I have to put you on to reusable plastic bags, reusable straws, and travel utensils. Yes, it is a little extra work to wash these things after using them. But, in addition to reducing pollution, you will save money usually wasted on plastic bags and utensils. Reusables pay for themselves. You won’t need to replace them until they break!

BYOB! Plastic is bad for the earth and you look so much cuter carrying a cool canvas bag back from Barnes and Noble or Trader Joe’s than you do with a bunch of plastic bags.

Here are some honorable mentions for the category of things-that-shouldn’t-be-disposable – cleaning rags, shaving razors, and menstrual products. Paper towels, plastic razors, and pads are things you forget at the store and always seem to run out of during an emergency. The reusable alternatives will last you longer and save you money.

Thrift your wardrobe

Ethical/sustainable/artisan boutiques are hella expensive. There’s a reason that you mostly see influencers and celebrities wearing Reformation. Luckily, there is an alternative you are very familiar with: thrifting! I could go on for years about why you should ditch the mall for a Value Village next time you go shopping, but here’s the bottom line: 1. You save money. A thrift store fit costs 10 dollars on a bad day. 2. You look good. Follow trends if you want, but you will find more unique, one-of-a-kind items at a thrift store. 3. Less stress. Thrift store clothing has already been tested out by someone else, so you won’t have to worry about color fading, garment stretching, or texture changing. 4. Thrifting is fun! Really, there’s no way thrifting can go wrong, so there’s no reason not to get into it already.

Make a shower playlist

This is my favorite sustainable baby step, even though it’s the most basic! Yeah, we need to save water by taking shorter showers, but having to watch the clock or set a timer detracts from the whole experience. The best way to track how long you’ve been in the shower is to make a playlist with 3-5 songs with a total run time of however long you need to get clean. My standard playlist 10 songs, 37 minutes long, and when I hit “Summertime Magic” (song 4), I know it’s time to get out. You can make multiple playlists to spice up your routine or make the same songs part of your everyday routine. Disclaimer: I am not advocating for half-hour showers, but I got a lot of 3c hair to clean, comb, and condition, so best believe I need that extra time on wash days.

Living an eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle is about transitioning to living within a set of principles, not just a few actions. It will take more than a day to fully commit to this lifestyle and everyone’s circumstances will not allow them to be ‘100 percent green’.

Everyone will have a different opinion on these suggestions. The lifestyle is about doing what’s feasible for you. Any step, even a baby step, is a good step! The bottom line – continue to educate yourself and remember change doesn’t happen overnight. Get out there and find how to make it work!

Cameryn Aliya Burnette is an undergraduate student at Howard University studying Civil and Environmental Engineering. She is the co-founder and vice president of the Howard University Water and Environment Association. Have friends, will travel: She’s a native Houstonian, but you can find her running through the streets of any major city, from New York to Berlin, with her crew.

Photo Credits: Pexels, Ecodallaluna CC-BY-SA 2.0, Cameryn Aliya Burnette

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Focus on Food Waste this Holiday Season

By Lesly Baesens

With the holiday season upon us, food is at forefront of people’s minds. However, these joyous occasions also present an opportunity to consider what frequently becomes of our leftovers – food waste. U.S. households are responsible for wasting a staggering 238 pounds of food per person each year. Each scoop of mashed potatoes that ends up in the trash, carries with it the resources used to produce, transport, and process that food. This waste of resources is an economic, social, and environmental harm. For example, food rotting in landfills emits methane, a greenhouse gas with 25 more heat trapping potential than carbon dioxide.

Households are not the only source of wasted food. Food waste is a systemic problem that inhabits all parts of the food production process–from farmers unable to sell produce that fall short of supermarkets’ rigorous aesthetic standards, to restaurants serving portions too big for consumers to finish. As a result, approximately 40 percent of food produced each year in the U.S. is wasted. Despite the pervasiveness of the issue, there are no federal laws, incentives, or enforceable requirements to reduce food waste. Instead, some U.S. cities and states have committed to reduce food waste.

In the first iteration of its Sustainable DC plan, the nation’s capital committed to reducing food waste through establishing curbside organic waste pick-up for composting. Though composting is preferable to sending food waste to methane-producing landfills, it should be a second-to-last resort as the resources necessary to produce the food have already been expended. In my paper, Leading by Example: 20 Ways the Nation’s Capital Can Reduce Food Waste, I closely examined the issue of food waste in the District and provided the city government with recommendations on how to tackle food waste more efficiently and holistically.

The paper’s recommendations range from simple ones, such as establishing a food waste reduction target in the Sustainable DC Plan, to more politically challenging ones, including requiring grocers to measure and publicly disclose wasted food amounts. By establishing a food waste target, the city would be encouraged to move beyond composting to addressing food waste more comprehensively. By requiring grocers to disclose food waste amounts, the city would bring transparency to the amount of food discarded in this sector, which in turn would incentivize retailers to waste less.

Since sharing my paper with the Office of DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and other city agencies, I was pleased to find that the city’s latest draft plan, Sustainable DC 2.0, includes several of my suggested measures. For instance, it steps-up the city’s food waste reduction efforts by committing to a target – reduce DC’s food waste by 60 percent by 2032. In order to develop recommendations on reducing food waste, the city will conduct an assessment of food waste in household and businesses – another one of my proposals. Sustainable DC 2.0 also proposes to educate residents and businesses on food “buying, storage, and disposal […] to minimize waste.” As discussed in my paper, consumer education campaigns can help households become drivers of reducing food waste.

These improved commitments are a major step forward for the District in its efforts to tackle food waste. However, I challenge D.C. to consider adopting bolder, more hard-hitting recommendations. We’ll need them if we want to become a model of food waste reduction in the U.S. and internationally, especially if we want to achieve the city’s goal of becoming “the most sustainable city in the nation.” In the meantime, I challenge you to educate yourself about the city’s efforts by reading Sustainable DC 2.0. Also, think twice before tossing those holiday leftovers. Find ways to reuse them and help our city become a leader in food waste reduction.

Lesly earned her Master’s degree in Global Environmental Policy from American University focusing on sustainable agriculture. A professional with more than 10 years of experience in project management, policy, and research, she is a die-hard food waste reduction advocate and is always looking for opportunities to advance the cause. Lesly volunteers with the DC Food Recovery Working Group, a group focused on food waste reduction and recovery efforts in the D.C. metropolitan area.

Photo Credits: petrr CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons; Sustainable DC

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By Heidi Bishop

As the new administration’s impact on energy policy unfolds, increased interest in pursuing “clean coal” technologies have likely put Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) more squarely on your radar. The new “America First Energy Plan” makes no mention of solar, wind, or other renewable energy resources but does state a commitment to “clean coal technology, and to reviving America’s coal industry, which has been hurting for too long.” For DC EcoWomen active in energy policy, this is a good time to understand the current state of the technology.

While there are several ways to reduce the various harmful emissions from a coal plant so that it can be labeled “clean coal,” most energy plans citing clean coal are referring to the use of CCS as a method for reducing the carbon content from plant emissions to protect coal as a major form of baseload generation. In short, CCS requires a means of separating CO2 from either the fuel or emissions of a power plant, capturing and stabilizing this isolated CO2 in a solid or compressing it in gas, and then storing it over centuries. CO2 can be removed from coal directly through pre-firing degasification, such as in an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plant, or through oxyfiring. CO2 can also be removed in post-processing of emissions. Both approaches are feasible, but expensive, and energy-intensive operations that require significant capital expenditures can reduce plant efficiencies by as much as 20%.

CCS is a complex technology, and there are many useful resources available from the DOE, IEA, or the Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA) to learn more. In more mainstream discussions, however, here are two Clean Coal myths you might come across:

Myth 1: Clean Coal Technologies are Market-Ready

Some proponents point to existing pilots for CCS or utility projects underway as proof that the technology is proven for large scale deployment and poised for growth. While there is significant technical potential for CCS in terms of engineering feasibility and substantial amounts of potential underground storage locations, as a commercial matter CCS is still an infant technology that is likely going to be very expensive initially and is not yet available at a broad scale.

NRG’s Petra Nova plant in Texas, which is paired with enhanced oil recovery to improve its economics, is now up and running as a major success, but the majority of projects are not. Several projects have generally followed a pattern of initial public support, steep cost overruns, engineering problems, eventual public opposition, and suspension or cancellation. Such projects include Future Gen 2 in Illinois. Once the poster-child for CCS, this project was in development as early as 2006, revised beginning in 2010, and then eventually cancelled in 2015. Similarly, the Kemper County IGCC project in Mississippi, which is currently 3 years behind and $4 billion over budget, has recently found that it will be more economic for it to run on natural gas than the coal it was originally intended to use. All of which leads to the next myth…

Myth 2: Clean Coal Plus Lighter Regulations Can Bring Back the Coal Industry

Coal generation and mining have steadily decreased in past years primarily due to competition with low-priced natural gas which makes coal generation uneconomical for a lot of plants. Secondary cases are low load growth, renewable generation, and environmental regulations such as the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) targeting arsenic and metals air pollution from coal and oil plants.

The stayed and now-cancelled Clean Power Plan (CPP) to impose carbon emission restrictions and pricing mechanisms on the power industry is often blamed for impairing coal, but in fact those regulations were not very strong and would have had little impact on an already-suffering coal industry. For example, projections from the Energy Information Administration that do not incorporate compliance with the CPP still include significant retirements of coal resources over the next few years.

Because the falling demand for coal is driven by the availability of lower cost resources, the business case to invest in new coal generation at all is weak—especially for coal with expensive CCS which can increase costs by around 75%.

Despite all these economic forces against coal and CCS, coal generation is not going to be obsolete any time soon. Today’s existing coal plants are often fairly clean in terms of more noxious pollutants like SO2, NOX, and particulates (and can still be improved), have very long engineering lives left, and can continue running on plentiful and fairly cheap coal.

Unfortunately, we are not yet in a position to rely entirely on zero-carbon technologies like renewables because the storage technologies needed to smooth their intermittent availability to meet our consumption patterns are still too expensive for wide use. Technical and economic research in clean coal may still be valuable to address CO2 emissions in parts of the world where coal remains a critical energy supply. Gas-fired power plants also emit CO2, albeit at less than half the rate per kWh as coal, so they also eventually may need CCS. Thus, in many ways, the exact future of clean coal is unsure.

Over the next few years there will be push and pull between regional and national climate policies in the U.S. as well as changes in the economics of competing with natural gas and renewable energy. These influences, however, cannot change the facts that CCS technology is nowhere close to being advanced enough to rapidly expand overnight and that the U.S. coal industry is at best looking to be sustained rather than restored to former levels.

 

 

Heidi Bishop is a marketing and policy associate at a consulting firm based in DC. She specializes in energy policy research, identifying business development opportunities, and developing publications. She has worked on a variety of energy policy topics with a focus on new business models for electric utilities, “Utility of the Future” efforts, distributed energy resources, and retail regulatory strategy. Ms. Bishop received her BA and MBA from Salisbury University and a Master of Public Management – Policy Track, Environmental Concentration from the University of Maryland.

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By Maheen Ahmad

We all want to make smart, eco-conscious consumer choices. In the quest of becoming a conscious consumer, I began to do some digging. I was able to scope out some of DC’s greenest, most sustainable establishments. I used the following criteria to identify green businesses:

  • The business is certified by one or more third party organizations;
  • The business incorporates environmentally sustainable materials in their products and operations;
  • The business contributes to or invests in energy conservation causes.

Local, green eats

Veg

MOM’s Organic Market

Several locations in D.C.

MOM’s Organic Market stores named by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as one of its Top 30 Retail Green Power Partners.

Green initiatives: using low-watt LED light bulbs and sustainable building materials, and having charging stations for electric vehicles.In 2015, MOM purchased 8,300,000 kWh of Wind Power Renewable Energy Credits to offset 100% of the company’s electricity consumption.

Hot tip: MOM’s stores also collect items for recycling – including electronics, compost, and clothes.

Busboys and Poets

Several locations in D.C.

Busboys and Poets is a member of American Sustainable Business Council and Innov8energy.

Green Initiatives: using 100% renewable wind energy, reusing their cooking oil for biofuel, and using recycled materials.In addition, the restaurants locally source their ingredients and serve 100% fair trade coffee and tea.

Founding Farmers DC

Just across from the White House, Founding Farmers DC is LEED Gold-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, rated by U.S. Green Building Council).

Green building features: efficient HVAC and lighting systems and building materials made from reclaimed wood and other recycled materials.

Green initiatives: The restaurant is owned by the North Dakota Farmers Union, and they source their food directly from family farms. They also use cooking oil for biodiesel and purchase carbon credits through carbonfund.org.

Fitness and sports

extendYoga

This yoga studio is an EPA Green Power Partner, running on 100% wind power provided by Ethical Electric. In addition, it is Green Certified by the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection.

Green features: It uses energy-efficient HCAV systems and LED lighting as well as Eco-friendly yoga mats and cleaning products.

Washington Nationals Ballpark

The stadium is LEED-certified, with features including plumbing designed to conserve water and recycled building materials. In fact, approximately 10% of its building materials are recycled. To date, the stadium has recycled a total of 5,500 tons of construction waste.

Nats

Beauty and hygiene

Seventh Generation

Seventh Generation sells household cleaning products.

Green features: Good on the inside as well as outside, they use 100% recycled materials for packaging, and they source products from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified Bioproducts. These are primarily U.S. suppliers. They also supply certified sustainable palm oil.

The Honest Company

The Honest Company sells baby, personal care, and cleaning products.

Green initiatives: It is a certified B Corporation, is Gold-certified by Green America, and is working towards LEED certification for all its facilities. Many of its products are BioPreferred by USDA and EPA’s Design for the Environment standards for use of safer, environmentally-friendly chemicals.

Zosimos Botanicals

soap-sudsZosimos Botanicals consists of an array of skincare, makeup, hair, and bath products.

Green features: The products exclude synthetic materials such as parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, and fragrance oils, opting instead for naturally occurring ingredients such as shea butter and essential oils.

Green initiatives: The Zosimos Botanicals studio in Gaithersburg runs on 100% wind energy, is a certified by Green America as a green business, and recycles its materials and office supplies.

Nusta Spa

Nusta Spa is a LEED-certified spa.

Green initiatives: Nusta is committed to energy efficiency through use of LED lighting, fluorescent lamps, Energy Star appliances, and recycled materials. The spa also donated old furniture to Dinner Program for Homeless Women and DC Preparatory Academy and recycled the construction waste.

Clothes

Kohl’s Department Store

Green initiatives: A member of EPA’s Green Power Partnership, Kohl’s purchased 1.4 billion Renewable Energy Credits, making 106% of its power usage sourced from solar and wind energy. Its major providers are 3Degrees and Carbon Solutions Group. Many of its locations are also LEED and Energy Star certified.

The North Face

Green initiatives: Also a member of EPA’s Green Power Partnership, The North Face purchased over 17 million Renewable Energy Credits, allowing 106% of their power usage sourced from solar and wind energy. The North Face is also partnering with its Chinese suppliers in energy efficiency programs and with industry partners such as Bluesign Technologies to reduce water and energy in its manufacturing processes.

There are many more green, local businesses in DC. Share in the comments if I have left out any of your favorites!

Maheen Ahmad works in energy policy in the D.C. area.  She loves reading, writing, traveling, and finding new places to get coffee.  She has an M.A. in International Relations.