Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on 10 Ways to Become More Eco-Friendly While Living in the City

By: Jane Marsh

Living in urban regions presents various challenges to the eco-conscious citizen. When renting an apartment in a ten-story building, it is nearly impossible to influence the consumption patterns of every resident. Though managing utilities and choosing appliances is a distant dream, you can alter your lifestyle to shrink your carbon footprint.

1. Skip the Straw

Our local baristas may stick a straw in our iced coffees without a second thought. The thin plastic tubes allow us to drink with ease and cause environmental degradation. These single-use items are non recyclable, spending hundreds of years in landfills.

Most straws are non-biodegradable and break up into microplastics over time. Storm surges and heavy rain carry microplastics into rivers and the ocean. They disrupt the natural composition of the ocean floor, poisoning aquatic life and the marine ecosystem. Urban residents can limit plastic pollution by asking the barista to hold the straw.

2. Take the Bus

In the city, taking public transportation is ten times safer than driving a car. Taking the bus both limits your likelihood of getting in an accident and shrinks your carbon footprint, as the transportation sector generates 30% of American greenhouse gas emissions.

Nearly 82% of all transportation emissions derive from personal cars and trucks. Buses only account for 6% of the carbon released, making it the greener transportation option. Eco-friendly individuals can leave their car keys at home and hop on the public bus.

3. Practice Sustainable Pet Care

Dogs are lovely city companions, making apartment living feel more like home. Many owners bathe their furry friends too frequently, wasting water and harming their coats. Overbathing can cause hot spots, sores, flaking and itchy welts.

You can decrease your water use and improve your pet’s health by bathing them less often. Biodegradable dog bags also offer a sustainable solution to plastic pollution. Individuals can locate compost bins in their neighborhood to dispose of their used baggies, providing nourishment for the earth.

4. Shop at Thrift Stores

Fast fashion companies generate synthetic textiles out of plastic. When we throw away old clothes composed of this material, they pollute the ocean with microplastics. Rather than placing these articles in the trash or financially supporting their production, you can buy secondhand clothing.

5. Adopt a Flexitarian Diet

Beef production emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. The air pollutant contributes to adverse human health effects and climate change. Adopting a flexitarian diet can significantly shrink one’s carbon footprint.

A flexitarian diet consists of fruit, vegetable and grain consumption, with the occasional mean containing meal. Urban residents can limit their meat intake to increase the sustainability of their lifestyle.

6. Bring Your Own To-Go Container

To-go containers made of recyclable materials may end up in the blue bin without food remnants. For example, if an individual can thoroughly cleanse a pizza box of grease, cheese and crumble, they can place it in the recycling bin.

You can limit this challenge by bringing your own to-go container. Individuals can reuse glass and hard plastic containers for many years, decreasing their production of waste.   

7. Get a Reusable Cup

Single-use plastic coffee cups end up in landfills, contaminating soil, water and harming wildlife. The toxins that leak from plastic containers also cause adverse human health effects, like cancer. City residents can reduce environmental and human harm by investing in a reusable cup.

8. Grow Indoor Plants

Indoor plants may increase the aesthetic appeal of an apartment while filtering air pollution. Plants absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis and release clean oxygen. They improve your indoor air quality, helping you breathe easily, and offset your carbon emissions.

9. Transport by Bike

If you live far from a train or bus stop, you can invest in a bike to travel sustainably. You can reduce your carbon emissions by 0.5 tons annually by completing one trip a day by bike. When you travel solely by cycling, your footprint shrinks even further.

You can generate an eco-friendlier transportation method when using a thrifted bike. Rubber production has adverse effects on the environment and patching up tires can reduce negative impacts. Riding a vintage bike can also enhance your style, making you the trendiest cyclist on the road.

10. Make Green Cleaning Products

Conventional, store-bought cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that pollute the air and contaminate the soil. You can make your own eco-friendly cleaning products to reduce your environmental impact.

An all-purpose cleaner that is environmentally safe contains vinegar, water, soap and essential oils. Individuals may fill a reusable spray bottle with a ¼ cup of vinegar, two cups of water and a drop of soap and oil. Shake up the solution, spray and wipe down all surfaces and watch your apartment shine like the top of the Chrysler building.

Small Changes, Big Impacts

Though the eco-friendly methods presented above may seem small, their environmental impacts add up over time. If you are looking to enhance the sustainability of your lifestyle, you can start by adopting a small change, like skipping the straw. When you are ready to make a larger impact, you can hop on a vintage bike for your workday commute. 

***

Jane Marsh is an environmental writer. You can keep up with her work on her site Environment.co.

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By: Jane Marsh

Environmental consciousness is rising, and civilians are taking action. Electric cars, solar panels and smart thermostats aid residents in shrinking their carbon footprint. Much of this technological action focuses on energy use, forgetting to acknowledge another form of degradation.

As the global temperature increases and glaciers disintegrate, we face a severe threat to humanity. Around one and three people globally lack access to clean drinking water. The decrease in water quality derives from an increase in pollution.

When universal sustainability falls behind, society faces fatal consequences. Fortunately, there are direct actions we can take to conserve the aquatic ecosystem. To evaluate these solutions, we must first unveil the troubles. 

Issues in Sustainability and Water Quality

Dead Zones

Farmers use pesticides and fertilizers to yield more fruitful crops. When heavy rains pass through agricultural regions, the water carries these artificial nutrients away from farms through rivers and streams. The discharge filters into the ocean, where marine life consumes it.

Fertilizers promote the overgrowth of algae that zooplankton consume. The microbial specie’s feces exhaust the ocean’s oxygen, making it uninhabitable to all marine life.   

As oceanic fish and plants die, it leaves the ecosystem off balance, setting a rippling effect throughout the sea. Reducing the number of species that filter bacteria and toxins in the water make for the overproduction of destructing elements. It also limits the amount of seafood available to humans, which some regions rely on for sustained nutrition.There are currently 25% of marine mammals on the endangered species list. If humanity continues to use pesticides and artificial fertilizers in agricultural production, this percentage will increase.

Polluted Reservoirs

Many folks source their drinking water from reservoirs, lakes, and other bodies of freshwater. There are two significant human impacts on the conservation of these water sources.

Eutrophication is the overgrowth of harmful bacteria and water species, which an increase in photosynthesizing elements causes. Like the ocean, fresh bodies of water can experience agricultural runoff, which offsets the organic ecosystem. This harms the filtration process of drinking water.

Deforestation around fresh bodies of water also affects its drinkability. Limiting the number of surrounding trees reduces shade, increasing the sunlight needed to promote photosynthesis. This encourages algae blooms, further destroying the aquatic habitat.

A decrease in bordering trees also increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the environment. This further promotes photosynthesis.    

Oil Pollution

Offshore drilling poses a significant threat to marine species. As we continue to drive fossil fuel burning cars, the oil demand will remain high. This demand pushes the production of offshore drilling.Oil spills, leaks, and mismanagement of rigs cause the oil to enter the ocean. This material cannot disintegrate and forms a thick sludge. The substance suffocates fish, blocks sunlight from plants, and destroys ocean floor habitats.

Sustainable Solutions

Humanity may engage in various sustainable actions to limit environmental degradation and increase Earth’s water quality. Enhancing aquatic habitats, reducing pesticide use, reducing stormwater runoff and limiting fossil fuel usage can conserve the purity of bodies of water.

Aquatic Aid

We can support endangered species by preserving their habitat. Built-up sediment and debris at the bottom of lakes and reservoirs constructed by runoff limits aquatic homes. Humans can take action to rebuild this region.

One can utilize dredges to remove harmful buildup on the bottom of a body of water. Digging up and vacuuming away this contaminated sediment allows for aquatic species to flourish in a supported environment.  

Organic Alternatives

Farmers may also reduce their pesticide use to limit oceanic degradation. Rather than using toxic artificial fertilizers and chemicals, producers can utilize organic alternatives.

To keep grasshoppers from disrupting crop growth, farmers can plant calendula, cilantro, or horehound around the perimeter of their land. They can also ward off mice by planting mint and peppermint, two herbs that they despise.

There are various other sustainable gardening solutions that farmers can use to limit pesticide and fertilizer runoff. One can also reduce the amount of water traveling through agricultural regions by collecting and reusing rainwater.     

Rainwater Harvesting Systems

To reduce the number of chemicals and debris carried into the ocean and freshwater sources, one can install a rainwater harvesting system. The technology collects and stores rainwater for residential usage. They vary from advanced techniques to manual aids.

Some barrels hold stormwater and purify it. Homeowners can use the water for showering, washing clothes, and drinking. Basic systems do not filter water, but homeowners can still use it for irrigation, washing cars, flushing toilets and more.

Reusing stormwater reduces environmental degradation caused by runoff and water waste.  

Renewable Energy Sourcing

Society can reduce its carbon emissions by limiting the demand for offshore drilling. Utilizing renewable energy sources to fuel cars, home heating and more can reduce this demand.

Citizens may install solar panels on homes, commercial buildings and farms to limit our need to burn fossil fuels. One may also use wind turbines to source renewable energy to fuel their life. As we reduce our carbon emissions, we limit the amount of oil in the ocean and the climate changes.

Consumer Education

Individuals’ actions influence the sustainability of the planet, but the impact is limited. To access global conservation, we must have difficult conversations with community leaders and government officials.

Prioritizing water conversation can reduce degradation and the threat to clean drinking water. You can talk to your community about adding solar panels to commercial buildings and rain harvesting systems throughout your county. One may also vote to restrict pesticides and artificial fertilizers from the agricultural industry.

When we all work together, we can access sustainable solutions. These actions can preserve the amount of seafood available to coastal residents and species and adequate hydration.

Jane Marsh is an environmental writer. You can keep up with her work on her site Environment.co.

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Five ways to find a green job during this pandemic

By Artisha Naidu

Finding a green job is hard enough. Throw in a 14.7% national unemployment rate, along with a global pandemic, and right now it seems nearly impossible. I’m happy to tell you that it’s not impossible. In fact, with the right effort and tactics it’s still surprisingly achievable. No matter if you’re a seasoned professional or fresh out of school, follow the five steps below to guide your green career search. But most importantly, stay positive and take care of your mental health. The job market has fluctuated and corrected itself throughout history. Today’s situation is no different. 

Know yourself 

If you have the luxury of waiting for a job that fits you, use it. A job search is a two-way street, both you and the employer are looking for the right match. You don’t want to be on the job hunt again in a few months, so take the time to understand yourself and what you need to thrive in a job. Consider the following:

  1. What specifically are you looking for in a job or career? What exactly do you want to do to help the environment? What skills to you want to develop?
  2. What are your strengths? Here’s a free version of the Strengths Finders test to find out. What job will let you use your strengths?
  3. What environment do you thrive in? How long of a commute can you handle? Can you sit at a desk all day?

Know the Green Market

Many organizations have suspended hiring, but several haven’t. Regularly monitor workforce boards, such as Green Jobs and Idealist, for updates. Research agencies before interviewing. How do they treat employees? What are their retention rates? How long have they existed? Don’t limit yourself to just green agencies, many private organizations have positions dedicated to sustainability and environmental improvements. For instance, Booz Allen Hamilton is seeking an Environmental Safety SpecialistHere is a list of major private organizations hiring amidst the pandemic, research them to see if they have sustainability departments. Broaden your search to include as many organizations as possible. 

Network 

A 2016 survey showed that 85% of all jobs are filled through networking. Informational interviews (meetings to learn about the experiences of someone in the organization you’re researching) are key. With stay-at-home restrictions, many people find themselves with free time and are excited to talk. Make sure to ask for additional connections to network with at the end of the conversation. 

For those new to networking, start out by creating a diagram of contacts. At the center, list everyone in your home, then list your family, friends, colleagues and anyone else who comes to mind. Next, list your dream job or company and search for people that fit these criteria. See if someone in your circle can establish a warm contact. If there are no connections, try sending a cold email (tips).  Green virtual networking events can expand your network. Check out the Environmental Law InstituteAlliance to Save Energy, and Eventbrite’s calendars for lists of upcoming events. Email the Sun Day Campaign about their bi-weekly “DC-Area Energy and Climate Change Events” listserv for updates on local events. Join environmental groups on MeetUp. Expand and maintain your networks.

Clean up your resume and social media profiles

It’s important to keep your public-facing profiles up-to-date. Your social media profiles are often your first impression with potential employers. A recent survey found that 70% of employers use social media to screen potential employees, of that 56% have chosen not to hire a candidate based on what they found. Try to keep your social media as positive and green as possible. Portray that you truly care about the environment by posting pictures of a peaceful climate change protest. A good rule of thumb: Don’t post it if you wouldn’t show it to your grandparents. Google yourself and see what comes up. What can you change? Make sure your resume and social media accurately showcase you as a person. Here are some great tips on how to update your resume, published by the Trachtenberg School at George Washington University, and here are some tips on updating your LinkedIn profile.

Create achievable goals

Approach the green job search in a realistic and positive manner by creating achievable goals to guide your search. Create a chart with daily, weekly, and/or monthly goals. Pick things you want to prioritize and set a realistic timeline to complete them. Whether it’s reaching out for informational interviews twice a week, applying daily to a job posting, following up with five contacts in a month — add these goals to your chart. Every time you complete a goal give yourself a gold star, get ten gold starts and give yourself a treat. This is a simple, fun way to keep yourself on track. 

Artisha Naidu is an incoming Government and Public Sector Consultant with Deloitte LLC. She has an extensive background in energy, environmental sustainability, and urban policy. In her spare time, Artisha is launching the Girls’ Leadership Apprenticeship and Mentorship (GLAM) Program, which provides workforce development to high school girls in Ward 8 of D.C. She also tutors youth from disadvantaged communities and is a Community Outreach Coordinator for IMPACT Now.

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

By Rita Foth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Farming as a Woman: A Fresh Look at Entrepreneurship

By Kelsey Figone, local food system and sustainability advocate

I asked my sister to describe an entrepreneur for me. “A man, obviously…he’s in front of a whiteboard, pitching an idea.”

This is our stereotype of the entrepreneur, a man that we simultaneously glorify and mock for his contributions to the changing face of business. But the entrepreneurs I’ve met recently are quite different. They look like women wearing durable pants and driving tractors. They talk about risk and cash flow, but they also talk about gravity-fed irrigation systems and weed control. They slice open a sun jewel melon in the field and pass around tastes during a break in harvesting. They know numbers and long days at work and competition, but they also know what it’s like to “live a life in tune with natural cycles.” These entrepreneurs are women farmers.

I met Liz Whitehurst, farmer and owner of Owl’s Nest Farm in Upper Marlboro, MD, three years ago at the Petworth Farmer’s Market. I joined her community-supported agriculture (CSA) program and our friendship ignited my interest in food and local agriculture.

I’ve carried that interest in my move to Oregon this year, where I met Brenda Frketich via her farm blog. She is the third generation to farm her family’s 1,000 acres of grass seed, hazelnuts, and various other seed crops.

These two women may farm at different scales and with different growing practices, but they are similar in that they both own and operate their own business.

So, what does it mean to be a modern-day female entrepreneur in agriculture? Liz and Brenda shared their experiences with me, and these are their realities.

Agriculture as business

Make no mistake, these women aren’t homesteading or “going back to the land” – these farms are their businesses. Agriculture, in many ways, is the opposite of nature because it harnesses the land for human needs.

“It is easy to romanticize this off-the-grid thing, but I’m totally ‘on-the-grid,’” Liz said. “I’m running a business, number one, that has employees and pays taxes like everybody else. Still, it’s beautiful that it’s not just that.”

While Liz manages her business solo, Brenda’s operation is a family endeavor. Brenda and her husband took over her parents’ land. Right now, the office work is chiefly her responsibility and she does a lot of farming with her three children in tow. The day-to-day of her job often focuses on planning, forecasting, and other typical office and financial activities.

While she grew up on the farm, she hadn’t looked at the farm as a career until mid-way through college. “I knew a lot about harvest because that is when I worked on the farm the most,” Brenda said. “But I had no idea about all the work that went in, year-round, to growing a crop and running a business.”

Women in agriculture

It’s clear that owning a farm shares many aspects of other, more mainstream, entrepreneurial endeavors. Unfortunately, one of those aspects includes a historical resistance to women owners.

“When I first started, I had multiple women approach me, saying that their dads wouldn’t let them farm because of the physical labor side of things,” Brenda said.

She initially encountered some physical barriers, such as adapting equipment to quite literally “fit” her or accommodate her when she was working alone. Now, she feels a lot of that has changed because of “how far farming has come with the use of technology.” “Something as simple as a cell phone has allowed me to stay a lot more involved ‘on the farm’ even when I’m home with my kids,” Brenda said.

She feels part of a generation and a region that has mostly accepted women farmers and encourages women not to despair. “We go to meetings where we are the only woman,” Brenda said. “We joke about it, and we move on because we all know it doesn’t really matter, the soil doesn’t care, the tractor doesn’t care, the plants don’t care. And if a guy does care, then that’s on him.”

Liz admits that she occasionally encounters male farmers who mansplain and assume that she needs help, even some “cool, progressive men.” Still, she doesn’t let it discourage her. She capitalizes on those perceptions of herself as weak and lets them give her a hand, thinking, “whatever, if you’re going to help me out!”

Support for farmers

Neither Brenda nor Liz will deny the incredible help they’ve received from family, mentors, and the broader farming community. Their parents supported them in different ways, with direct farming experience and land, or financial support to purchase a farm.

Today, they go to meetings, workshops, and retreats, where they can learn about the latest technology and methods from peers. They connect with other farmers at farmer’s markets and make trades for massages or meat or a crop that wasn’t successful. They cooperatively buy seed or equipment with neighboring farmers to capitalize on economies of scale. They also respond to inquiries from other young women farmers looking to get started, in order to keep that community going.

Liz views her role as a mediator between the land and the people. This mediator role helps her CSA grow and keeps human interaction at the center of her work. For both Liz and Brenda, farming is more than the land and its plants. They cultivate communities.

Considerations for new farmers

It’s important to note, though, that farming is a challenging field to break into. Both Brenda and Liz are white women, and were steeped in agriculture before deciding to make the career switch themselves. Like Nichelle Harriott’s blog post in January and Leah Penniman’s recent article on Civil Eats point out, communities of color may associate agriculture with slavery and sharecropping.

Also, don’t discount the financial barriers to starting a farm, with its high up-front cost and land access challenges. Most U.S. farm households bring in significant income from off-farm sources, with either a spouse or another family member working an off-farm or off-season job.

“It’s good to look seriously at your relationship with money and things,” Liz said. “If you’re going to be a farmer, you’re not going to be rich, I don’t know any rich farmers.”

Despite the challenges, Brenda and Liz are proud of the work they do every day. They’re entrepreneurs in their own right. As fewer people choose to farm, the population grows, and society increasingly values urban-centered desk jobs, their role in our food system is important. They need our support and investment, just like any other entrepreneur. Consider that the next time you go grocery shopping!

Kelsey Figone designed and implemented international engagement programs with PYXERA Global in Washington, DC. While living in our nation’s capital, she was a passionate advocate for strengthening and diversifying local food systems. She recently moved back to the Pacific Northwest where she is excited to delve into local issues of food and sustainability.

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

By Melissa Lembke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melissa Lembke is a DC EcoWomen Board Member. 

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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.

posted by | on | Comments Off on Serve your Sweetheart Some Sustainability this Valentine’s Day

By Jackie Marks

We at DC EcoWomen love all things sustainable. On the heels of DC EcoWomen’s visit to local bean-to-bar chocolatier Harper Macaw, and just in time for Valentine’s Day, what better thing to discuss than sustainable chocolate? Chocolate is a popular treat on Valentine’s Day; in 2015, 58 million pounds of chocolate was purchased for Valentine’s Day alone. Read on for a Q&A with Jackie Marks, DC EcoWomen Executive Board Member and Communications & Marketing Manager at the World Cocoa Foundation, for some sustainable chocolate knowledge that you can share with your sweetheart.

EcoWomen: Chocolate is universally loved and can be found around the world – especially around Valentine’s Day. But few people are aware of where chocolate comes from or how it’s made. Can you tell us a bit about chocolate’s origin?

Jackie: Chocolate has a long, intricate history and has been consumed in various forms since the time of the Mayans in Mesoamerica. The primary ingredient in chocolate is cocoa (or cacao) – the ‘beans’ (which are actually seeds) extracted from the cocoa tree. Cocoa pods which hold these beans are the beautiful fruit of the cocoa tree and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. While cocoa trees rely on tropical environments within 15 – 20 degrees north and south of the equator to thrive, you can visit a beautiful, live cocoa tree right here in Washington, D.C. at the Botanic Garden.

Photo by Jackie Marks. Pods, containing the cocoa ‘beans’, grow on trees in tropical climates.

EcoWomen: Wow, cocoa right in our back yard! As consumers, how can we be sure we’re buying chocolate that is ‘green’? What does it mean for cocoa to be sustainable?

Jackie: Cocoa is sustainable when you put farmers first. Cocoa is primarily grown on small farms by men and women who rely on the sale of cocoa beans for income. Many cocoa and chocolate companies support training and infrastructure in cocoa communities to ensure long-term social, economic and environmental viability for cocoa farms and farmers. As a consumer, you can educate yourself about what your favorite chocolate company is doing to help cocoa farmers around the world.

Photo by Jackie Marks. Pods, containing the cocoa ‘beans’, grow on trees in tropical climates.

EcoWomen: Good idea – knowledge is power. Can you tell us three fun facts about cocoa that we can share with our sweethearts?

Jackie:

  1. Like kombucha or kimchi, most cocoa is fermented! This brings out the true chocolatey flavor in cocoa beans.
  2. Ivory Coast – the french speaking, coastal, West African nation – is the number one producer of cocoa. Ghana is second, and Indonesia is third. Latin America is a big contributor, too.
  3. The latin name for cocoa – Theobroma cacao – literally translates to ‘food of the Gods’. How’s that for a heavenly treat this Valentine’s Day?

 

Photo by Jackie Marks. Cocoa seedlings awaiting planting.

Jackie Marks has spent the last three and a half years working with cocoa and chocolate companies to share sustainable cocoa stories with the world as Communications & Marketing Manager at the World Cocoa Foundation. Her background is in non-profit communications focused on environment, conservation and sustainability issues. Jackie joined the DC EcoWomen Executive Board in 2016 and serves on the Communications Committee. When she’s not writing about cocoa, you can find her tending to her garden, inventing new ice cream flavors, sampling craft beer and planning her next adventure. Follow her on Twitter: @JackieMarks.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on A call to action for sustainability enthusiasts at work

sustainability-advocate-blog

By Brittany Ryan

From launching petitions to marching in protests, I’ve come a long way since my environmental activist days. Though still an advocate, I’ve found a different way to channel passion into action. Through my experiences in both the academic and professional sustainability field, becoming a green leader in the workplace has proven to be a very effective strategy.

The first step in triggering a catalytic force behind any social movement is to be the change. The power of Gandhi’s principles resonates with all of us out there trying to cultivate our lifestyle with the hope of inducing a societal paradigm shift. If a more sustainable world is what we wish to see, we must start by polishing our personal habits.

But the next step to inflicting change is motivating others. Even if you’re still working out the kinks in the process of “greenifying” your life, take a leadership role and transform the status quo. Nothing is more frustrating than a person or motivated group that cries out a problem, relentlessly blaming another party, and yet fails to play an active role in the solution. I’m asking all of you eco-folks out there to take what you know and lead – specifically, at work.gandhi

Start with materials management

Somewhere along the path of development, we failed to acknowledge and incorporate life cycle assessments and holistic supply chain management into our operative norms. This led to poor materials management practices, increasing waste, economic inefficiencies, and environmental degradation. Although our nation’s recycling and recovery practices improved over time, as of 2013 we still send over 50% of our generated materials to a landfill. After accounting for recycling and recovery processes, the top three wasted materials are food, plastic, and paper, respectively. This week, take a look at your office trash and recycling receptacles and you’ll notice those three items comprise a majority of what we toss.jdmmm

Your workplace provides great opportunity to inspire change, and I speak from experience. Since joining my company about a year ago, I’ve made it my mission to lead an internal sustainability initiative. Working diligently with my team, we identify opportunities for improvement, promote educational awareness, and implement real solutions. Our materials management efforts bumped our landfill diversion rate to an impressive 86%. The impact is rippling; the staff is eager to
become more educated on the subject, actively share these practices at home, and offer new ideas for building our internal sustainability operations. Our community relationships evolved as we share similar goals with the municipality and help to promote a local veteran-employed organization.

A leader in the workplace does not need to rely solely on passion and the “do-good” feeling to convince an organization to make changes. Waste, by the very nature of its name, is inefficient. Nationwide, major companies – think Google – are capitalizing on revamping their materials management because it not only builds their public relations, but it makes business sense. Better management of materials allows for cost savings through a reduction in use or repurposing and serves as a potential revenue stream.

Waste is more than just what we send to a landfill. Materials management encompasses the materials coming into the company, the way products are used, and the manner in which they are sorted for discarding. Digging into this process sheds light on a breadth of adjustments that reduce materials use and save the company money, ranging from office supplies to kitchenware to cleaning products and beyond. 

Next steps

Start by taking part of a sustainability committee, and if one doesn’t exist, investigate how to build one. Use a team to brainstorm positive initiatives that benefit both the company and its staff – make that business case! Understand the current operative practices and measure the company’s performance over time. Share ideas and results with the staff at large, and solicit their input as a continuous feedback loop. And definitely always champion successes through newsletters, social media, and other communication channels to give credit where it’s due and motivate others to do the same.

lfoot

 

The benefits to leading change in the workplace are multifaceted. Not only does it accomplish altruistic goals of making the word a better place, but also enables you to distinguish yourself amongst a pool of very competitive thought-leaders further advancing professional development. Becoming an agent of change is empowering and as awareness builds and an increasing number of communities (whether a neighborhood, office, or city) manage resources more efficiently, the sooner sustainability transforms from a choice to the everyday norm.

To find out more information about commercial recycling, click here.

Born and raised on the Jersey coast, Brittany became a resident of the DC Metro Area in 2013. She earned her Master of Public Policy from the University of Maryland in 2015 and has since been working for an energy management and sustainability consulting firm in Falls Church, VA. Brittany also has a real knack for pickling cucumbers and making guacamole.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on How Millennials Can Shape Our Climate Future

Blog-Sep 05, 2016

By Ellie Ramm

Governments, businesses and universities are focusing increasing resources and attention on what is now our nation’s largest generation, millennials.

Generally defined as those born between 1982 and 2000, millennials now represent the largest share of the American workforce. They’re more educated than prior generations. They’re more culturally diverse. And they’re more socially conscious.

How will this millennial generation shape our climate and energy future? Consider just two observations about how millennials want to live and get around — housing and transportation.

A study found more than 6 in 10 millennials prefer to live in mixed-use communities. They’re more interested in living where amenities and work are geographically close. More than a third of young people are choosing to live as close as 3 miles from city centers.

As for transportation, millennials drive less than other generations. They’re opting for walking, biking, car-sharing or public transit. From 2001 to 2009, vehicle-miles traveled dropped 23 percent for 16- to 34-year-olds.

Capital BikeShare in Washington, DC

Capital BikeShare in Washington, DC

These preferences point to a future that is low-carbon and more sustainable. Dense urban living and mixed modal transportation options can result in reduced greenhouse gas emissions. A 2014 report from the New Climate Economy notes that “more compact, more connected city forms allow significantly greater energy efficiency and lower emissions per unit of economic activity.”

Millennial demands are influencing other sustainability topics, too. A Rock the Vote poll earlier this year found 80 percent of millennials want the United States to transition to mostly clean or renewable energy by 2030. An earlier poll from the Clinton Global Initiative found millennials care more than their parents’ generation about the environment and would spend extra on products from companies that focus on sustainability.

These facts indicate that this generation of 75.4 million people (in just the United States) wants to live differently than previous generations. Energy policies and technology habits will need to change to keep pace.

Government is paying attention, with President Barack Obama calling on millennials to tackle the challenge of climate change. Businesses, like energy providers, are working to deliver service in a seamless and more socially connected way. And universities are offering more sustainability-focused programs than ever before. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)’s program list is growing, and university presidents are being asked by students to join the Climate Commitment to reduce emissions and improve resilience to climate impacts.

While millennials wield huge influence, the real power of change will come from all generations working together to develop innovative solutions and implement pragmatic policies to shape a low-carbon future and environmentally stable and economically prosperous planet for all who will inherit it.

Photo by Ellie Ramm

Photo by Ellie Ramm

Ellie Ramm works in a variety of capacities to build engagement and action on climate and energy issues of interest to states, cities and businesses to foster low-carbon, pragmatic, and sustainable solutions. She also researches the connection between behavior and sustainability, in an effort to raise awareness about actions that individuals can take at home and in the community to live more sustainably. She is currently the Solutions and Engagement Fellow at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES).