Author Archive

posted by | on , , , , | No comments

By Brenna Rivett, Dating in the District blog author

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to talk about dating. I thought I’d share tips for environmentally conscious dating in Washington, D.C. from someone who loves Dating in the District.

While many of us incorporate environmentally friendly practices into our daily routines – think recycling, using reusable shopping bags, and turning the water off while we brush our teeth, I’ve decided to take it a step further. When thinking about how I could reduce my carbon footprint in my social life, I realized that I spent a big part of it online dating! So, here are some suggestions – all tried by yours truly – for fun, environmentally conscious dates.

Skip the Lyft ride and take public transportation to the date. While it’s tempting to take those extra 15 minutes to get ready and call a Lyft, I’ve found that taking public transportation to my dates is a lot easier (and cheaper!) than taking a Lyft. In cases where I take the bus and arrive early, I’ve taken the opportunity to walk around the neighborhood a bit and check out the side streets. Last fall, while walking around Shaw before my date, I stumbled upon a stationary store that took my colored pen obsession to a whole new level. Totally worth giving up those extra 10 minutes of prep time to catch the 92!

Pick a location that actively promotes or supports environmental work or research.  True environmental science nerd that I am, I love wandering through the Natural History museum and I’ve found it’s a good date spot! If the conversation doesn’t flow naturally, there are plenty of conversation starters throughout the exhibits. Some of my other favorite locations are the National Arboretum, Teddy Roosevelt Island, the Botanical Gardens, and Up Top Acres.

Choose a local distillery or brewery. Did you know that 25 percent of a food’s carbon footprint comes from transporting it to its final destination? By choosing a brewery or distillery in D.C., you’re eliminating that part of the drink’s carbon, and supporting local businesses in the process! Some of my favorite spots with a good, casual vibe for a date include Right Proper Brewpub, Cotton and Reed rum distillery, and Atlas Brew Works.

Take advantage of D.C.’s farmer’s markets and stay in and cook. Whether you love to cook and want to master Julia Child’s Coq au Vin or just want to dabble and stick with pasta and homemade sauce, you can shop local, save money, and reduce your carbon footprint.

This shift to environmentally conscious dating may also bring some great conversations. I’ve found that by actively thinking about reducing my carbon footprint before my dates, I’m more likely to bring it up with my dates. It turns out that this is a great way to see if my date shares my environmental passion, or at least see if they are interested in learning more about why I care so much. Of course, this may lead to your date “mansplaining” climate change, like what happened to me, but hey, you can’t win them all!

Have fun on your next environmentally conscious date!

Brenna Rivett is the author of the blog Dating in the District: One Girl’s Search for Love, Rooftop Bars, and the Perfect Saison. Brenna enjoys finding the humor in these sometimes painfully awkward online dating situations and writing about them, in the hope that other people connect with and enjoy them too.

Photos by Brenna Rivett

posted by | on , , , , , | No comments

By Kyaira Ware, Community Conservation Manager at Potomac Conservancy

During Black History Month, we honor the vast and diverse spectrum of black experiences, perspectives, and cultures that exist throughout the world.

Environmentalists pay homage to greats such as Harriet Tubman, political activist and expert navigator of the forest, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights leader and early advocate of the environmental justice movement.

While Tubman and King have been justly revered as some of the greatest activists of our time, there are countless other lesser-known black leaders whose significant contributions to the environmental movement have been largely forgotten.

This Black History Month, take some time to learn about black individuals who’ve influenced and advanced the movement. Scroll down to read more.

Ota Benga

Ota Benga’s legacy serves as a painful, yet necessary, reminder of the long history of racism and injustice within the conservation movement.

Benga was only 21 years old when his wife, two children, and other tribe members were killed during a raid by a police force under King Leopold II of Belgium in 1904. Benga was eventually captured, sold into slavery, and later purchased by Samuel Phillips Verner, a missionary and explorer from South Carolina, for a “pound of salt and a bolt of cloth.”

After traveling the Congo and appearing as the premier exhibit at the Saint Louis World’s Fair, Verner temporarily housed Benga in the Bronx Zoo as the newest addition to the zoo’s primate house. Each afternoon, spectators awaited to watch Benga share a cage with an orangutan, chimpanzees, and a parrot. The exhibition became the zoo’s most popular and controversial attraction. In September 1906, nearly after its opening, the exhibit was closed due to extreme backlash from the public.

Following the exhibition’s closing, Benga was invited to Lynchburg, Virginia to attend seminary school. After failing to assimilate into his new life and “becoming increasingly hopeless about his future,” Benga committed suicide on March 20, 1916.

While Benga suffered immensely throughout his entire life, learning about Benga’s story affords us the opportunity to remember our past, so we may do better for our future.

Matthew Henson

Matthew Henson’s legacy serves as a source of empowerment for people of color who do not always see themselves represented in the environmental movement.

Born on August 8, 1866, Henson became an orphan at a young age. He spent his early childhood working as a cabin boy on a ship, traveling the world to trading hotspots such as Africa, China, and Russia. Through the instruction of the ship’s captain, he also learned to read and write.

Upon moving to Washington, D.C., Henson became a store clerk before meeting Robert Peary, an American Navy officer and explorer. Peary initially hired Henson as a valet. However, Henson’s experience and navigation expertise soon proved to be far too valuable. He eventually became Peary’s most trusted accomplice on epic voyages across the world. Among many expeditions, the dynamic duo traveled to Greenland. It was also reported, although never confirmed, that they were the first people to reach the North Pole in 1909.

Perry largely overshadowed Henson’s accomplishments. But in 2000, the National Geographic Society posthumously awarded Henson the Hubbard Medal. His experience as an expert explorer continues to inspire people of color to become environmentalists.

Buffalo Soldiers

The “buffalo soldiers” remind us of the early role that African American men played in protecting America’s greatest treasures.

After the Civil War in 1866, Congress passed the Army Organization Act, which created six African-American army regiments. From there, the “buffalo soldiers” were born. While these soldiers are mainly known for their time spent scouting and patrolling the vast terrain of western states and territories, many people don’t understand the extent of their contributions to national parks. As some of the earliest park rangers, they handled everything “from evicting poachers and timber thieves to extinguishing forest fires” throughout great national parks such as Yosemite.

While their accomplishments as top-performing Calvary regiments and expert forest men were not always appreciated during their lifetimes, today we appreciate their service, sacrifice and position in the history of environmentalism.

Kyaira Ware is the current Community Conservation Manager at Potomac Conservancy. She is passionate about connecting urban communities to environmental sustainability and looks forward to the day when we can all agree that climate change is real.

Photo Credits: carmichaellibrary CC BY 2.0; public domain

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on SW Community Stands Up to Companies in Classic Environmental Justice Case

By Claire Jordan, NeRAC volunteer and DC EcoWomen board member

When people in Washington, DC think of Southwest DC, they probably think of Nationals Park, the new DC United Stadium, Superior Concrete Materials, and the construction of the new Frederick Douglas Bridge. Most people, however, don’t think of the Buzzard Point community in DC or the organizing group Near Buzzard Point Resilient Action Committee (NeRAC).

NeRAC officially began in 2017 but has been in the works for much longer. Founded and run by three DC women (Rhonda Hamilton, Kari Fulton, and Alisha Camacho), NeRAC is organizing Buzzard Point community members around the atrocious environmental injustices occurring because of the rampant and unchecked development.

NeRAC’s mission is to “build a resilient community by addressing and solving issues affecting near Buzzard Point residents in Washington, DC.” Its goal is to “empower residents, improve air quality, and improve and secure housing.” It is a think tank of residents, community partners, and experts working together to address pressing issues near Buzzard Point, Washington DC, and tackles air pollution, public health, and housing problems.

Some may see the new development in Buzzard Point as a positive contribution to this community, but with new development and construction comes compromised air quality and very sick residents who weren’t consulted on these development projects. The construction and increased traffic have created dust storms and dangerous levels of particulate matter in the air. Buzzard Point residents are having trouble breathing, asthma flare-ups, and burning sensations in their eyes. So, while people all over the city come to the Buzzard Point Community to experience the new development, residents are left to deal with the very serious health ramifications.

Rhonda Hamilton, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (ANC) representative for Buzzard Point and longtime resident, started working with filmmaker Alisha Camacho and Empower DC organizer Kari Fulton to take stock of the damage in the Buzzard Point Community and organize community members around these issues. Together, they created NeRAC. Today, NeRAC holds regular meetings, testifies in front of the DC City Council and the DC Department of Energy and the Environment, hosts a neighborhood spring cleanup to engage residents on the environmental issues their community faces, and more.

While perhaps unknown to many, the imperative work being done by NeRAC and by the three women founders should not go underestimated. When communities come under attack, we often see women at the forefront leading the charge to defend themselves and their loved ones, and it’s no different this time around.

If you’d like to stay involved and up to date on the fight happening to restore clean air in the Buzzard Point Community, you can follow NeRAC on Facebook and Twitter and attend the monthly meetings. Meeting details are below*.

*NeRAC meets the third Wednesday of every month from 6:30-8:30pm at 1501 Half Street SW, 2nd floor.

Claire Jordan serves on the Professional Development Committee of the DC EcoWomen Board and just recently finished her tenure as advocacy and outreach manager for Trash Free Maryland. Claire lives in Petworth and can be found hanging out at the library, buying tea at Teaism, or riding her bike through Rock Creek Park.

Photo 1:  NeRAC members hand out educational fliers on the issues impacting Buzzard Point to DC United fans as they make their way into the new stadium. Photo taken from NeRAC Twitter Page.
Photo 2: NeRAC Founder Rhonda Hamilton walks with a reporter from the Washington Post around Buzzard Point to showcase the air quality concerns. Photo taken from NeRAC Twitter Page.

posted by | on , , , | 1 comment

By Nichelle Harriott, policy specialist and DC EcoWomen member

I remember a time, growing up in a small rural community in the Caribbean, where my grandfather would disappear into the backyard on Sunday for about an hour and return with a chicken– dead and defeathered– for my grandmother to prepare for lunch. Back then your eggs, peas, and even orange juice came from the backyard. And, if for some reason you didn’t have enough, you called your neighbor over the fence.

These were my first impressions of food and how we eat. Food was not about driving to the grocery store, examining labels, or wondering whether you should pay the extra $2 for the organic version. I may be showing my age here, but while my childhood experience may be from another generation, our food system has changed. Drastically.

Food deserts abound in poorer communities, especially communities of color who, now removed from living in close cooperation with the land — like my grandparents did, fight the challenges of distance and decreasing paychecks to put fresh, healthy foods on their tables. These communities face very real food insecurity challenges that tend to go ignored.

Our diets have also changed. Indigenous varieties of corn, once in shades of black, red or blue have been replaced by yellow– the color corporate agriculture has decided we should prefer. Not only that, but this corn is genetically engineered to resist the pesticides we spray on fields, killing beneficial insects, and poisoning our waterways. Instead of chickens running in open backyards, like those at my grandparent’s house, thousands are crammed into tiny holding cages, often unable to walk and fed antibiotic and hormone-laced grain until they become so large and deformed that they cannot stand.

Let’s face it. The way we grow food and feed our families has changed. And while we are told large monoculture fields, factory farms, intensive chemical application, and corporate takeover of our seed banks is the way we will feed a growing global population, we are beginning to see the ravages industrial agriculture places on our environment and farmworker health.

However, there are sustainable ways we can grow our food system, put healthy foods on our tables, eliminate food deserts, and take pride in the stewardship of the land. Taking the lead are often small beginning farmers, many of whom are farmers of color returning to the ways our grandparents farmed with a few tweaks of their own. These farmers, along with farmer-led organizations that support them, are building collaborative networks in their communities integrating sustainable food production that enhances the environment and social health of people, while improving safe handling, distribution, and consumption of the food they produce.

African-American, Latinx, Native-American, Hmong farmers and others are finding ways to reintroduce indigenous varieties of fresh and healthy food back into their communities. These farmers are building their skills, training other farmers, focusing on building healthy soil, conserving water, and providing habitat for wildlife. They are in rural and urban communities, in food hubs, farmer’s markets, community gardens. They are involved with groups like the Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners (BUGS), bringing together farmers of color, educators, chefs and food justice advocates around conversations like, “Where does our food come from and who provides it?” and “Why don’t we see more Black farmers at the farmer’s markets?”

Unfortunately, at the national level, these farmers are often overlooked for federal funding to expand and retain their operations. For many years, federal policies did not grant the levels of support to farmers of color as they did to their white counterparts. This inequity has historically led farmers of color — often cash-strapped and unable to access credit or pay back loans — to lose their farms, pushing them out of business.

But things are changing and many organizations like the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Rural Coalition, and others, are working on policy to increase farmers of color’s access to agriculture research and funding to sustain their farms. In December 2018, Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill, the piece of legislation that oversees much of U.S. agriculture. There are some significant improvements to programs that support agriculture research for organic and sustainable systems, which will help beginning, underserved/farmers of color, and veteran farmers. These improvements include more funding for training and support. With new funds, these farmers will be able to get the support they need and help feed their communities.

The diversity of what we eat should be reflected by diversity in our food system and the farmers and workers who put food on our tables. A movement of farmers of color are primed to do just that while challenging our relationship with food. Will you join us?

Learn more about these farmers and organizations. Support sustainable food systems that also fight for food justice for all. Recommended Resources: Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners (BUGS) https://www.blackurbangrowers.org/; National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition http://sustainableagriculture.net/; Rural Coalition https://www.ruralco.org/

Nichelle Harriott has spent 10+ years working to educate consumers about the food they eat and advance environmental health and agriculture policy. She is currently a policy specialist at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and lives in Maryland where she plans her next travels.

Photo credits: Pixabay, USDA

posted by | on , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on How Online Campaigns Can Spark Action on Environmental Issues

By Lauren Meling, digital strategist and DC EcoWomen member

2019: it’s the start of a new year and anything is possible! Let this fresh start motivate you to push for more climate action this year. It’s no time to give up, since your voice is needed more than ever. But where to begin?

Look no further: the device you’re using right now can be the starting point for fresh activism in the new year. Online actions can be a crucial part of sparking action on environmental issues. Sometimes they get a bad rap — hence the “clicktivism” pejorative — but the truth is, digital and social media can reach more people at a faster rate than traditional media, educating them and inspiring further action. Don’t believe me? Here are 7 ways digital campaigns helped spur on real change.

1. LEGO: Everything is NOT Awesome

Everything is awesome? Not when you’re a kids’ company partnering with Big Oil. Greenpeace’s emotional video took Lego to task for its $116 million partnership with Shell, a company drilling in the Arctic — devastating the climate for the kids who play with its toys. After just three months and a million people showing their support, Lego ended the partnership. Meanwhile, Shell has halted its Arctic drilling exploration.

2. Clean Power Plan

Did you know the EPA received 1.6 million public comments about the Clean Power Plan — a landmark regulation that placed limits on the amount of carbon pollution emitted by power plants? As part of the federal rulemaking process, the public can submit comments to communicate their support for or reasons against a proposed regulation. Democracy! And in this modern age, you can do it online through regulations.gov.

Nonprofits and organizations across the country banded together to encourage as many Americans as possible to share their support for cleaner power and reducing carbon pollution from power plants.Today, the fate of the Clean Power Plan is in limbo, and the current administration is working on new rulemaking to replace it. If and when that happens, you’ll likely have a chance to get active online and demand stronger carbon pollution regulations. Follow the experts at Union of Concerned Scientists or Environmental Defense Fund to stay updated.

3. Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement — a worldwide commitment signed by 193 countries who promised to decrease carbon emissions in order to prevent climate catastrophe — is the biggest step the world has taken to address climate change. And while the US president says he wants to exit, the fact is he can’t — at least not until November 4, 2020.

So how did this global milestone happen? In short, the pressure had been building for years, with time running short on addressing climate change to keep global temperatures under 1.5* Celcius. By 2015, even the Pope got on board with his Laudato si encyclical. Environmental organizations worldwide combined forces to campaign for a strong agreement using online and social media. Together they delivered 6.2 million petition signatures at the United Nations for the start of COP21.

4. Standing Rock

When did you first hear about Standing Rock? Chances are, you first read about it through social media. Do you remember when everyone was ‘checking in’ on Facebook at Standing Rock and changing their status to “I stand with Standing Rock”? In 2016, a million people checked in to show their opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline (#NoDAPL) in response to a viral post claiming that police were using Facebook to surveill and target protesters on site. Whether that was the case or not, one thing is sure – it certainly called an exponential amount of attention and support to the issue. This battle may have been lost, but the war wages on.

5. Flint, MI

When the mainstream media outlets weren’t taking notice, social media was lighting up with posts about the #FlintWaterCrisis. The problem in Flint still isn’t solved, but thanks to the spotlight shone on the problem first in social media, more organizations, nonprofits, and even celebrities stepped up to help, mobilizing funds and providing immediate assistance for those in need, likely saving lives in the process.

6. #StopSucking

More recently, one single item has earned the ire of social media gadflies everywhere: the plastic straw, making it the ‘biggest trend of 2018.’ Today, cities, states, and corporations are enacting or considering limits to plastic straws. But where did this momentum come from? In short, it can be traced back to one unfortunate sea turtle. After the video went viral, the Surfrider picked up the #StopSucking banner this year to campaign against straws. Soon after, celebrities and influencers showed their support on social media.

Reducing the unnecessary use of plastic straws is one relatively easy step in the right direction. But it’s only a starting point. Now if only people would also curtail their use of single use plastic cups and bottles too!

What can you do?

If you’d like to join in, there are several ways for you to get involved in 2019. First of all, make sure you’re following organizations working on the issues you’re passionate about on whatever social media you use most. That way, you’ll be in the loop when they have actions for you to make a difference. For instance, you can find DC EcoWomen on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and more ways to get involved here.

Another tip: Tag a few of your friends or followers to make sure they get notified when you share an action online. You can also do the same thing by joining a Facebook group focused on your favorite topics, or starting a group chat with a few of your friends who care about the same issue – for example, water issues or reducing single-use plastic. (Just make sure you’re not sending out every message to every one of your friends — no one like a spammer!)

Lauren Meling has dedicated her career to finding what exactly it takes to make people take action online to serve a cause. She uses her digital strategy experience and skillset combining email marketing, social media, search engine marketing, website optimization, and content creation to engage online communities in meaningful action to confront some of the most challenging crises humanity faces today. She may not be a superhero, but she plays one on the internet.

posted by | on , , | Comments Off on Green Gifting: Eco-Friendly Gift Giving & Receiving Ideas

By Nira Sheppard, DC EcoWomen board member

The holiday season is upon us and for me, it’s a mixed bag. I love the dazzling lights, Christmas songs, and spending time with family eating delicious comfort food (pass the gravy please). At the same time, the expectation of giving and receiving gifts makes me dizzy and anxious with questions like, who do I give gifts to during the holidays? What should I give them? How much should I spend? What if they give me a gift and I don’t have one for them? The list goes on and on. If you have these questions too, unfortunately, I have no answers, but I can give you some pointers for making gifting eco-friendly and even pocket-friendly.

Be proactive. “A gift desired is a gift used” – Me. Does it make you feel uncomfortable and a bit guilty to get a gift you’re less than thrilled with receiving? Yes, it’s the thought that counts but all you can think about is, what to do with it (hmm, that’s not my style)? You’re not alone. Take control of your gift destiny and be proactive. Make it known what you would like from those who will likely give you a gift. Be specific or give them a category (good chocolate and natural body butters are winners for me). Also ask them what their preferences are, so you know what to get them. Help them out with questions, such as what type of books/clothes/snacks would they like and where can I get them? Once you know what they like, go the extra mile and try to get a version of the item that hits one or more of these categories: ethical, environmentally sustainable, local, and produced or sold by a woman-owned and/or minority-owned business.

Make a list. Not for Santa, unless you want to do that too (a child lives in all of us). You and those in your gift pool can use Giftster or MyRegistry.com to create a gift list to share with each other. Too much work? Cash or consumables, like wine, chocolate, coffee/tea, or candles should do the trick (please see aforementioned categories in the above paragraph). If cash is not your taste and you know this person doesn’t want or need a thing, gift them a charitable donation. I don’t recommend a gift card unless you’re pretty sure the person will use it because $1 billion in gift cards go unused every year.  

Decline extra packaging. After Christmas, the trash is filled with gift packaging – the packaging that comes with the gift and the extra that we add on top to make it pretty. To reduce waste, there are several options. Decline the gift box and wrapping service at the retailer. Reuse a jewelry box or gift bag you already have and then reuse it for next year. Repurpose it if it is no longer suitable for gift giving and then recycle it when no longer usable. If you don’t care, don’t package gifts at all.

Recycle. Say you decided to reduce packaging, but others did not? Collect the wrapping paper and packaging and recycle them yourself or ask the host about recycling what you collected. You can also take unwanted gift boxes and bags for future gift giving (I haven’t bought a gift bag in years).

Embrace gift-wrapping alternatives. Maybe you’re the person who thrills in watching your loved ones open your beautifully, perfectly, and carefully wrapped gifts. No need to deprive yourself. Here are six eco-friendly gift wrap alternatives and 15 more ideas that look chic, not cheap.

Gift experiences. An idea that is becoming more popular is to forego physical gifts for experiences, free or purchased. For example, you can gift someone movie, concert, festival, sporting event or museum tickets, yoga classes, a wine or beer tasting, etc. You can make the experience a shared memory by doing these things with them. You can perform a song or write a poem for them or give them a homemade gift (it may not technically be an experience for them, but they will appreciate your effort). You can also simply spend time together, perhaps while taking a walk or hike, at a cafe, or eating a home-cooked meal or cookies you made. If they trust you around their child(ren), you can gift them time in another way, free babysitting hours (this may be their best gift ever). Here are some more experience gifting options.

I hope these ideas have been helpful to you. Whatever you decide to do regarding the business of giving and receiving gifts, I hope your holiday season is full of love, warmth, and good cheer. Happy holidays!

Nira Sheppard is a member of DC EcoWomen’s professional development committee. She holds a BA from Soka University of America, an MA in Global Environment Policy from American University and a LEED Green Associate credential. Nira is passionate about recycling, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and waste reduction and is seeking opportunities in environmental sustainability and sustainable development. Find her on LinkedIn

posted by | on , , | Comments Off on The Best Thing to Do is Give Them Away

By Tynekia Garrett, DC EcoWomen board member

The inspiring journalist and social activist Dorothy Day once said, “the best thing to do with the best things in life is to give them away.”

Nov. 27, 2018 is #GivingTuesday – the annual global movement and social media campaign designed to help individuals and organizations give back to their communities. What better thing to do with “the best things in life” you have to offer, than give back to your community?

For me, that means becoming more engaged with the DC EcoWomen board. As the Treasurer, I provide financial oversight for the DC Chapter of EcoWomen. In my role, I formulate future year budgets, balance current year budgets, and support board members in purchasing goods and services for EcoWomen events. This helps other women by supporting their hard work and dedication to providing quality programming to members.

Join DC EcoWomen in participating in #GivingTuesday. Collaborate with our organization.  Help empower women to become leaders for the environmental community. Our hard-working board manages our organization of nearly 6,000 members and puts forward opportunities left and right! For the past 15 years, we’ve provided a space for women to share ideas and events that have focused on everything from professional development to outdoor activities and outings, to our signature EcoHour, which has featured environmental journalists and bloggers, and women leaders from local and national environmental groups and within government. We have much more in store for the new year too!

This #GivingTuesday, I invite you to give back in one of the following ways.

  • Donate – DC EcoWomen is a not for profit organization that accepts donations through PayPal Giving Fund. There are no fees associated with giving and tax receipts are provided via email.
  • Become a Member – We invite you to share and collaborate with DC EcoWomen by becoming a member and bringing your voice to one of our many events. Sign-up for our newsletter and community listserv for notifications of upcoming events.
  • Blog Away – Interested in writing about environmental or women’s issues? Join our Blog Team and provide your voice to the DC EcoWomen platform. Send us a message on Facebook to get started.
  • Raffle Time – DC EcoWomen is hosting its annual holiday party on Dec. 18, 2018. We are seeking non-monetary donations from businesses to raffle off to attendees at our holiday party. Proceeds from raffles will support DC EcoWomen future programming. Contact us on Facebook, if you’re interested in contributing.

All information for opportunities to get involved and donate are located on the dc.ecowomen.org website. I encourage you to join me in giving back the best you have to offer. While you’re at it, don’t forget to share how you’re giving back your best things in life. We’d love to know – tag @dcecowomen and #GivingTuesday!

Tynekia currently serves on the DC EcoWomen board as its Treasurer. She is also a Management and Program Analyst for the District Department of Forensic Sciences, where she manages budget and performance. She is proud to work for a public agency, where women are at the forefront of science. She speaks highly of the scientists, examiners, procurement staff, and the budget team that is comprised of a diverse group of women.

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

posted by | on , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Why We’re Excited about DC EcoWomen’s 2018-2019 Calendar

By the DC EcoWomen Executive Board

In early August, in a community room of an apartment building in Northeast D.C., the DC EcoWomen executive team sat down to discuss the upcoming board year and work on a document that would help guide our efforts – the 2018-2019 Calendar. As we wrote down all the dates, we couldn’t help but get excited. We have upcoming events and content appealing to all types of woman in our DC EcoWomen community. We’re planning speaker events, skill-building workshops, meetings for a special-interest club, outdoor adventures and more. Keep reading for more information.

If you’ve attended an event of ours, it was probably one from our signature EcoHour speaker series. This year, we’re continuing the tradition. On the third Tuesday of each month (except December and August), we’ll hear from a successful woman in the environmental field discuss her work. The free event kicks off with some networking and runs from 6-8 p.m. at Teaism Penn Quarter. The next one will be Tuesday, October 16, and will feature Analisa Freitas, Campaign Coordinator for the Peoples Climate Movement. She’ll talk about how she helps orchestrate large-scale marches for climate justice and organize Latino communities around grassroots advocacy.

In terms of professional development, we’re holding a series of mentoring dinners. They provide a unique opportunity to talk with women in the environmental field in an intimate setting. It’s a time when 6-8 women can get advice and guidance on advancing their careers while sitting down to share a meal with one experienced mentor. The mentors are selected based on their professional accomplishments and alignment with our organization and mission. The next one will be in October.

We’re also planning a few professional development workshops that will focus on helping women develop the skills to succeed in the workplace. Previous workshops included topics like salary negotiation, resume writing and public speaking. Our next workshop will be in December.

As women who are passionate about the environment and getting to know our community, our upcoming programming involves several fun outings, volunteer opportunities and networking events. In October, we have a women-only craft brewery tour & tasting at Right Proper Brewing’s Brookland Production House. In way of eco-outings, we are looking into hikes, rock climbing, cave walking, paddle boarding, and a river clean-up and tour. For the book lovers, our book club will continue to meet to discuss a book or series of small articles, blogs and podcasts with an environmental angle. We’ll have happy hours, and a book and clothing swap, too.

Every year, DC EcoWomen also hosts a spring photo contest. The contest showcases artistic images taken by our members that highlight women in the environment, conservation in action, natural beauty, travel, iconic urban landscapes, etc. Details surrounding the 2019 contest and its themes will be available in the spring. To learn more about the 2018 grand prize winner, Sarah Waybright, check-out this blog on her photo and work at Potomac Vegetable Farms.

To keep current on the various activities that we have planned, please sign-up for the newsletter and track us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We also have the DC EcoWomen blog, which will keep you informed of various topics and issues relevant to our community. Our very own board members will write many posts and we’ll have some guest posts too.

We look forward to seeing you at an event soon!

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on The Story Behind “Port Lockroy”

By Alyssa Ritterstein, DC EcoWomen Board Member

Anne Christianson is one of the finalists of DC EcoWomen’s 2018 Photo Contest, which captured images of the incredible environmental work our members do each day. One of the categories that we put forward for this year’s photo contest was women providing career growth opportunities for other women, and Anne delivered.

Her photo takes us on a journey to Antarctica. The picture shows women teaching other women about Antarctic climate science with a beautiful snow-covered mountain in the distance. What a classroom! The Antarctic expedition was the culmination of 18 months of training and is part of a 10-year, all-female scientist leadership initiative.

Anne is a woman with a clear passion for environmental issues. During her PhD at the University of Minnesota evaluating international climate change adaptation policies and programs for ecological and social benefits, she interned at the White House Council on Environmental Quality and was a policy fellow at the Committee on Natural Resources. Prior to those positions, she managed the legislative portfolio for Rep. Ellison (D-Minn.) on international and domestic natural resources, energy and environment, agriculture, and Native American issues. She also worked as a lobbyist for Ocean Conservancy for their marine debris and ocean planning programs.

We recently spoke with Anne to hear more about the photo and the story behind it.

DC EcoWomen: Congratulations on being a finalist for this year’s photo contest! Let’s talk about the photo you submitted. What’s its backstory?

Anne Christianson: I was in Antarctica with 75 other female scientists from around the world. This was our final landing on the Antarctic Peninsula, at an historic British base. It was amazing being in Antarctica with these accomplished women! We had botanists, geologists, wildlife biologists, atmospheric scientists, and marine ecologists. Every time someone found a cool rock, saw an interesting penguin interaction, or the weather changed, we had an expert right there. We also learned from each other what it takes to be a successful woman and leader in STEMM [science, technology, engineering, mathematical and medical] fields. Although we were all different ages, from different continents, and in different disciplines, we all had experienced the same challenges as women in science. The solidarity and support we gave each other was a crucial aspect of the leadership initiative.

DCEW: I see that you have a lot of experience working on environmental issues for the White House, on Capitol Hill and at a Washington-based environmental advocacy nonprofit. How did you get from D.C. to Port Lockroy, Antarctica?

AC: I think it is because I had D.C. experience that I was chosen to go! Many scientists struggle to communicate their findings and passion to the policy-makers that ultimately act as gatekeepers – whether that be for appropriations for important scientific institutions, or the decisions made in D.C. that could strengthen or destroy entire fields of study. Being an environmental scientist with direct policy experience has been incredibly useful for my career, and I was able to add insight to the science communication discussions we had on the ship.

DCEW: Let’s switch gears and talk about the future. Where do you envision your environmental work taking you in the future?

AC: I am planning on returning to D.C. soon, but this time around I want to move beyond national policy circles and become more involved in international conservation work. I think some of the most interesting and relevant dialogues about the planet are happening on the international stage. I’ve spent the last year traveling around the world for my PhD research, having conversations with scientists and policy-makers, and I’ve been energized by the hopefulness and determination of these international communities. 

DCEW: You’ve been a member of DC EcoWomen for some time now. What kept bringing you back to the organization, and any advice for those interested in submitting a photo for next year’s contest?

AC: The community of support that DC EcoWomen gives keeps me coming back. The only way that women will see gains in the professional world – in terms of salary, leadership roles, and preventing harassment and discrimination in the workplace – is if we support each other, believe each other, and have each other’s back. DC EcoWomen provides this – a group of women who have similar passions and experiences, and can be there to help each other succeed, rather than be in competition. I found that incredibly refreshing, and it was instrumental to my early professional success. It’s amazing to see all the growth that has happened with the organization since I moved to Minnesota, and I’m excited to take part in all of the new ideas that future boards and members will have!

Anne Christianson is an environmental scientist at the University of Minnesota, where her research examines the social and ecological implications of ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation.