Posts Tagged ‘dawn’

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A Breath Of Fresh Air: Ending Coal Use In DC

To visit the largest single source of carbon emissions for Washington, D.C., you don’t have to travel far. Just walk four blocks south of the Capitol and look for two smokestacks, marking the location of the Capitol Power Plant.

This inconspicuous building has been a serious point of contention between local environmental and community groups and government for years. The reason? The Capitol Power Plant burns fossil fuels, including coal, in the middle of the D.C.’s residential neighborhoods.

Right now, the plant continues to be a major contributor of carbon emissions and adds pollutants like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and soot into the air of the Southeast D.C. But the good news is that change may be on the horizon.

The History Of The Capitol Power Plant

The Capitol Power Plant was built in 1910 to generate electricity for the Capitol complex, from the Library of Congress to the Supreme Court. It hasn’t produced the Capitol’s electricity for decades, but it continues to provide heating and air conditioning in the Capitol complex. That blast of warm air you love as you enter a Smithsonian museum in the winter? Thank the Capitol Power Plant.

For most of its history, the plant burned coal — the fossil fuel with the largest carbon emissions and the most severe public health impacts. But in 2009, environmental groups and community members demanded an end coal use in the plant, holding a rally with thousands in attendance.

While the plant has burned significantly less coal since then, it has not ended the use of coal completely. The plant holds coal in reserve for times with abnormally high demand — in response to extreme events like the recent polar vortex, for example. Coal is now about 5% of the plant’s total fuel, with the rest either natural gas or diesel fuel oil.

Health And Climate Impacts

Just because the amount of coal the Capitol Power Plant is burning has declined, doesn’t mean the health risks have disappeared for nearby neighborhoods. The American Lung Association reports that burning coal produces dangerous pollutants which are known to increase rates of asthma, lung disease, cancer, and stroke.

Some Southeast D.C. residents near to the plant can recall days where soot falls from the sky. But there is no onsite monitoring in the neighborhoods, so specific data on local impacts is hard to come by.

It isn’t just D.C. that faces repercussions from the choice of fuel at the Capitol Power Plant. For serious risks associated with coal production, look no further than the disastrous leak in West Virginia on January 9th 300,000 West Virginians without drinking water. And fracking for natural gas has the potential to contaminate groundwater and even cause earthquakes.

Of course, burning any fossil fuels will continue to release large amounts of carbon dioxide, contributing to climate change. In 2007 alone the plant released as much carbon as over 22,000 cars in a year.

Change On The Way

In 2013, the Capitol Power Plant received all permits to build a new natural gas-burning facility that would allow it to run 100% on natural gas. And 18 months after the new facility is complete, the plant will no longer be permitted to burn any coal at all. Although construction of this project has yet to begin, this plan means that the Capitol Power Plant may be coal-free within the next few years.

So for the near future, the Capitol Power Plant will continue to be able to burn coal in the heart of the city. But the end of coal in D.C. may be in sight.

Written By Dawn Bickett

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By DC EcoWoman Dawn Bickett

DC Ecowomen take note: Vegfest is just around the corner.

Never been? Then you are in for a treat. Or—if you are me—several. DC Vegfest is an annual festival of all things meat- and dairy-free—great for ecowomen who avoid animal products, or just enjoy good food.

Next Saturday, you can explore vegan vendors, munch on plant-based foods, and be inspired by speakers and cooking demonstrations all day long (or at least 11am-6pm).

And another plus—the festival is near the Navy Yard Metro Station at Yards Park, so no need to increase that carbon footprint with driving.

Here’s what to expect:

Washington, D.C. has great vegetarian options scattered across the city. But at Vegfest, restaurants like Amsterdam Falafelshop, Bread and Brew, Pete’s Apizza, Sticky Fingers, and Mango Grove are lined up to provide everything from samples to full meals. Vegan sweets shops and stands with new vegan food products also dot the festival with freebies to try or to bring home.


In between meals, there is plenty of time to hear from an assortment of speakers from the vegan and vegetarian community. The speaker lineup ranges from chefs to news anchors, all connected by their advocacy of the plant-based diet. This year, highlights include vegan ultra marathoner Rich Roll and cooking demos by Cupcake Wars winner Doron Petersan and vegan chef Ayinde Howell.

Good Causes

Many of the exhibitors at Vegfest will be there for educational, rather than epicurean, purposes. Animal welfare organizations, health groups, and even the District of Columbia Sustainable Energy Utility will be in attendance to get new folks engaged and excited about their causes.

If you enjoyed the Green Festival this weekend—or you are sad you missed it—then the DC Vegfest may be right up your ally.

Don’t miss out on this chance to explore vegan, vegetarian, and vegetarian-friendly cuisine and organizations in Washington, D.C., no matter what your eating preferences.

For more information on Vegfest:

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By DC EcoWomen and Recent Honeymooners Lisa Seyfried and Dawn Bickett

You did it! You planned a successful green wedding.  You composted, you recycled, you upcycled, you thrifted, you ate local.  You did everything that you could to minimize the impact of your wedding day.

But now there is another hurdle.  You want to plan a trip away from everything (and everyone!) and relax.  How do you carry the green theme into your honeymoon?

Here are a few tips:

1. Go Somewhere Local.

You don’t have to go to Hawai’i or a fancy villa in Tuscany to celebrate with your new partner.  You can go to that little B&B an hour away that doesn’t get phone service.  You can go on those great little day trips that you’ve been meaning to take for years but never had the time. You can go camping in the Appalachian Mountains – and get there with public transportation, too!

2. Practice Eco-Travel Tips.

While you’re on your trip, bring your own water bottles and opt for local snacks. It can be really romantic to wander a new town’s farmer’s market with your new person.  You can also scale up the usual fare by eating at restaurants that serve local, eco-friendly food.  On our honeymoon, we found fancy restaurants that served meat from the area that was grass fed and finished – so yummy!

3. Spend Time with Each Other.

Ok, I know, this is a given.  But you don’t have to get wrapped up in new and exotic activities to make a honeymoon special.  Taking a walk down to the beach in the early evening is just as special as paying tons of money to horseback ride down the beach.  Instead of waiting in lines for planned fun, go off the beaten path and explore what’s right in front of you. Which brings me to the next point…

4. Pick a Hotel or Lodging with Care.

Do your research.  Pick a place to stay that’s close to what you are looking for.  If you like hiking, pick a place that has lots of trails that start right by the hotel.  Make sure it’s public transit accessible.  Find out what kind of place it is; are they also eco-friendly?

5. Consider Ecotourism Destinations.

Dying to go somewhere exotic?  Don’t give up on having a green honeymoon.  If staying local just isn’t your scene, try ecotourism.  Ecotourism programs provide a way for you and your new partner to enjoy fragile parts of the natural world while supporting their conservation.  From Costa Rica to Iceland, you can make memories without the impact of that luxury resort.  And if you are relying on long air trips to get you there, consider buying carbon offsets to start to balance out the cost to the climate.

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By DC EcoWomen blogger Dawn Bickett

One of the reasons I love Washington DC is that its strong public transit and walkable neighborhoods often make owning or using a car unnecessary. But when I tried leaving the city for the great outdoors, I found I could barely get past the Beltway without one.

Turns out, I was wrong. Car-less DC EcoWomen, I have some exciting news! It is possible to hike, backpack, and camp outside of DC without driving there. And not only can it be done, it can lead you to one of the most famous hiking routes in the United States: The Appalachian Trail.

This summer, a friend suggested going on a backpacking trip, and I checked to see if we could get somewhere without taking a car. Looking up nearby hiking trails, I discovered that the Appalachian Trail briefly touches West Virginia in Harpers Ferry. Then, just 25 miles north of Harpers Ferry, the trail runs through the small town of Myersville, MD.

And researching transit lines, I noticed Myersville has a park-and-ride serviced by the 991 MARC commuter bus, and Harpers Ferry is served by MARC commuter trains on weekdays as well as AMTRAK trains on weekends. We had found the perfect weekend backpacking trip – no driving necessary.

The only hitch with using commuter transit was that we had to leave and return on commuter time. We headed to Myersville Friday afternoon on the first 991 bus and came back to DC via MARC train early morning the following Monday. In between those trips were two days of beautiful views, quiet rivers, Civil War sites, the original Washington Monument, and even some tubing down the Shenandoah.

We passed through several state parks, crossed two rivers, and got a small taste of the winding Appalachian Trail. All without a car. Total transit cost? $16 roundtrip.

Unfortunately, most regional and state parks around DC are not as easy to get to, but from Harpers Ferry, hikers can wander up in to Maryland as we did, head down into Virginia, or even just stick around near town.

Cycling ecowomen can also pedal up the C&O Canal, which travels from Georgetown all the way to Cumberland, MD, and has campsites every 6 to 8 miles.

So the next time you want to get out of the city and in to nature – whether or not you have car – consider looking first at public transit or even bike trails. You might be surprised at where you can get!

View of the Potomac River from our campsite near Harpers Ferry

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The following post was written by Dawn Bickett – DC Ecowoman and Running Commuter


Biking to work is an excellent way to reduce your carbon footprint while getting exercise. And as the weather finally improves in DC, staying in the sunshine sounds preferable to travelling through the underground tunnels of the metro system.

But what if you don’t have access to a bike? What if you (like me) have heard too many biking accident stories? Or you simply don’t like biking?

As a recreational runner, I’ve decided to try a different approach: running to work.

I began thinking about running my commute when I noticed that I was passing by my office on morning runs only to have to go back home, shower, and return an hour later. Running to work seemed like a logical way to simplify my routine.

Considering trying your own running commute? Here are a few thoughts on the pros and cons:

Benefits of the running commute:

1. Carbon savings. Just like biking to work, running lowers your dependence on fossil fuels for transportation.
2. Time savings. Running to and/or from work saves you time by combining your exercise and your commute. I find that I can get about a half hour more sleep when running to work.
3. Mental health. Getting the heart rate up and blood flowing before or after the work day can be an excellent stress reliever.

Things to consider:

1. How far away is work? If the distance to your workplace is too far to run twice in a day, you can always run one way and take public transportation the other way. However, if you live 20 miles away, running to work simply may not be feasible.
2. Planning ahead. Unless you have a running backpack, it is not easy to bring things with you. When I plan to run in, I bring my change of clothes and shower supplies the day before.
3. Does your workplace have a shower? If not, running home from work may be the only option.

While the logistics of running to work are bit complicated, running to or from the office certainly beats waiting for the metro or getting caught in traffic. The next time you don’t think you can fit a jog into your busy week or your bike needs repair, try it out!