Posts Tagged ‘washington’

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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

posted by | on , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Furlough For Enviros: Five Earth-Lovin’ Activities For Your Staycation

As a woman living in the DC area, chances are pretty good that you’re currently on an unexpected paid staycation, courtesy of the government shutdown. But now, almost a week later, you might be running out of ideas of what you can do with all this newfound free time while still remaining friendly to the environment.

There are many ways to spend your furlough days more environmentally-friendly than sitting and watching TV in your air-conditioned home. You can use to take this time to try something new, to rebuild, refresh, and explore – here’s how.

Explore The Area

Even though all your favorite museums and national parks are closed, there are no limits to the places you can explore in and around the district. There is a lot of natural beauty interspersed throughout the city, and as far as I know, the government isn’t allowed to shut down the trees.

As for art, there are many privately-owned art galleries, still open for business, like the Phillips Gallery and the Corcoran. The Eastern Market is still open, the home of many artists selling their work.

Having some extra time means you can go further away, as well. Mount Vernon is just a 10 mile bike ride away once you cross the Potomac. Alexandria is an adorable destination; the riverside parks are ideal for lounging on the beach, and Old Town is full of niche shops and restaurants, and its Torpedo Factory Art Center is a unique – and wonderful – experience.

Create Your Food

Choose real potatoes over couch potatoes! A government shutdown is a great excuse to plant some winter root vegetables, or prep your garden for spring.

But I know what some of you are thinking. Who has the space for a garden in DC? I barely have room for my fake cactus in the corner of the living room! Have no fear.  You can still take the time to create something edible that doesn’t necessitate the use of mulch. Something simpler, and garden-free: Infusion. Infuse olive oil, infuse vinegar, infuse liquor, infuse everything! You can transform a cheap alcohol into a tasty, easy-to-drink concoction, like vanilla or basil-flavored vodka. An herb-and-fruit infused vinegar would make a classy addition to a salad, especially alongside a rosemary-infused olive oil.

Grow Your Network

This is the perfect opportunity to work on improving your professional life. Meet up with an old contact for coffee to catch up and ask for advice. Take the time to think about your goals and career path, and talk about those with your colleagues as well.

Update your resume. Go to a DC EcoWomen happy hour you might have been too busy for otherwise. Know that you are not alone – surely there are meetups for your fellow temporarily-unemployed.

Rebuild Your Home

Is your bland wooden table falling apart, or are you sick of your tired-looking chair? This may be the perfect opportunity to revamp some of your old furniture.  Pull out that toolkit, teach yourself how to repair that broken clock or DVD player – you can learn just about anything on Youtube. Learn how to upcycle your used goods into something new, like old records into a chip bowl, or a wine cork message board (because everyone needs another reason to drink wine!)

Cheap, throwaway goods not meant to last very long have become the norm in our society – it’s quick and easy to throw something away and not think about the consequences, like the ever-growing Great Pacific garbage patch. But now that you have extra time, take the extra hour or two to learn how to fix or upcycle your goods instead. Resist consumerism by repairing, not tossing.

Discover Your Talents

Do you spend endless hours gazing at crafts on Pinterest that you have no time for?  Do you have a burning desire to start a blog or take up an instrument? You can take this week to research that side project that has been burning in the back of your mind. Explore your interests, and you might just find a new thing to love as much as you love being an EcoWoman!

No furlough? No fear!

These activities aren’t exclusively for the furloughed. For all you EcoWomen that don’t work for the federal government, a personal day might be in order!

What other enviro-friendly activities do you plan on doing during the furlough? Let us know in the comments!

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The following is a guest post by Rachel Mlinarchik of My Fair Vanity

A Guide to DC’s #1 Second-hand Style Source

The last time I visited with you, I shared a few eco-friendly options for the office. Today I’m going to sing the praises of one of our local area consignment super-stars. After all, purchasing (and selling my own) lightly-used clothing is my favorite way to:

  • Trade my rarely worn items for cash to buy clothing I will wear.
  • Build quality items into my wardrobe from labels I couldn’t normally afford, thereby avoiding disposable, fast fashion that won’t last.
  • Reuse and recycle, keeping perfectly good clothing and accessories out of landfills and inside my closet—or yours!

Refinery29 has already done a thorough accounting of awesome consignment stores in the DC metro area, so I’m going to focus on what I consider to be the best of the best: Secondi.

I would estimate that more than 50% of my regularly worn clothing and accessories were purchased from Secondi. I can say this with some confidence because, looking back through a gallery of my outfit posts, it’s difficult to find an outfit that doesn’t include at least one item from my favorite local store, whether it’s a bangle, a coat, or a blouse.

Below, I’ve put together just a few examples of the ever-growing Secondi collection I have amassed over the years. Every single item I’ve listed is from Secondi:


As you can see, Secondi has me well-equipped for all four seasons, but I made sure to stop in yesterday evening right before closing time to scope out the latest spring treasures on offer for my favorite eco women:

Perfect for a summer wedding or a hot date, these Marc Jacobs sandals are in mint condition.

Tangerine Manolo heels and fuschia Talbots flats are perfect for spring.

A well-cut trench is a key staple for April and summer showers.

These cheery pencil skirts are from JCrew, Tory Burch, Cynthia Rowley and Leifsdottir.

What impresses me most about Secondi is the range of price points they carry and the keen editorial eye of their staff. Any one of the clutches pictured above may be priced at $15, but those who are looking for more of an investment piece can snap up a structured, tomato red Michael Kors bag.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to head back in tomorrow to pick up a few things. Consider this your fair warning that the good stuff at Secondi goes fast, so if you see something that catches your eye, get thee there today!

To continue with me on my quest for personal style that is kind to the earth and the people on it, I hope you’ll visit with me now and again at My Fair Vanity, or better yet, I hope to see you in person at the DC EcoWomen conference in May. I’ve reserved my spot…have you?

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Warm Spring, Chilly Political Climate: Groundhog’s Day in DC

“Potomac Phil” the Groundhog sees no shadow

On Saturday, February 2nd, “Potomac Phil” – the D.C. local stuffed groundhog – emerged in Dupont Circle to look for his shadow. He searched, but did not find – giving us an early end to winter, and a premature spring.

But how can there be an early spring if there was no winter?

The warmest year on record

2012 was the warmest year in Washington DC since temperatures were first recorded in 1871. This included a record-breaking heat wave, an unprecedented hurricane-force storm, and an uncommonly warm winter. The year 2012 averaged 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the previous warmest year – not an insignificant difference. Did Phil consider that before he roamed around Dupont, shadow-free and carefree?

Maybe Potomac Phil went into an early hibernation when Hurricane Sandy came through. Hopefully, the tropical storm force winds didn’t blow away his home.

Maybe he noticed the premature budding of cherry blossoms last week, or heard the mosquitos buzzing around in the 70-degree weather.  Possibly, he heard of the predicted boom in stink bugs this upcoming spring.

Phil’s Political Predictions

This being Washington, Potomac Phil also made political predictions. And he predicted “six more weeks/months of political gridlock.” Thanks, Phil. With the political gridlock, the possibility of passing climate change legislation is even more unlikely – meaning warm winters and early springs may become more common.

Will Potomac Phil ever see his shadow again? What will happen if Groundhog’s Day becomes inconsequential – will Phil wither away into irrelevancy?

But after all, Potomac Phil is just a stuffed version of his Philadelphian-native brother, “Punxsutawney Phil.” He doesn’t have to worry too much about the effects of climate change. For the rest of Washington, his prediction is disquieting.

This is where the DC EcoWomen come in.

How will the Groundhog’s Day prediction affect your consumer habits?