“Saving Seeds” Bridges the Gap Between Generations of Gardener

Guest post by Carolyn Szczepanski

The demand for fresh, local food has put a premium on community garden space in all corners of the District.

Young people are reconnecting with their food sources, urban planners are preaching the gospel of green space and families are eager to prepare dinner with organic produce they’ve nurtured from seed.

But it takes more than dirt and desire to make a garden grow.

Cultivating that perfect heirloom tomato or harvesting a bumper crop of crisp greens requires one key ingredient: knowledge. In 2008, the Neighborhood Farm Initiative sprouted to fill that void for DC growers.

“While there’s plenty of great gardening books and online resources, NFI was started as a hands-on, educational center to really walk total newbie gardeners step-by-step through their first growing season,” says Liz Whitehurst, NFI’s volunteer coordinator.

And NFI is wise beyond its years. The community garden movement isn’t a new phenomenon, Whitehurst points out. The current trend is just the latest page in a much longer history — one that started with Victory Gardens after World War II.

“While recent initiatives have brought more media attention to people growing their own food in Washington DC right now, several dozen community gardens have existed here since the mid-1970s,” Whitehurst says. “We work alongside several community gardeners who have been cultivating their plots since before we were born, and we recognize that people in our generation didn’t invent the idea of eating homegrown food.”

So it’s fitting that NFI’s fundraiser next week bridges the gap between generations.

On Thursday, NFI hosts Saving Seeds: A Night of Food, Film and Conversation on Urban Gardening Through the Generations. The $25 ticket price — which benefits the nonprofit — includes local, seasonal hors d’oeuvres, an open wine bar, and a cinematic double-header.

The first film screening, Corner Plot, is an intimate and heart-warming window into the life of 89-year-old Charlie Koiner, who’s been gardening his one-acre plot inside the Beltway for decades. The second movie short follows Teen Green, a summer program NFI launched in 2010 to educate local youth about urban farming, from seed to sale.

“When we first saw Corner Plot, we were struck by the difference between Charlie Koiner’s way of life and the lifestyles of the teens we work with every day,” Whitehurst says. “But as we thought more about it, we began to see some powerful connections, and we wanted to give others the opportunity to make their own.”

Those organic connections will be fleshed out after the films, during a Q&A including Corner Plot filmmaker Ian Cook, Koiner’s daughter and several teens from NFI’s summer program.

“Education is at the core of our mission,” Whitehurst says. “We want to teach people to grow vegetables in the city, and we want to connect people to serve as resources to each other.”

Happy Hour Encourages Women to Bike and Be Greener

photo courtesy Revolution Cycles

Guest post by Carolyn Szczepanski

Bicycling is a boys’ club.

There’s no women’s bracket of the Tour de France and it’s a rare sports fan that can name a single female racer.

Here in the U.S., men are twice as likely to ride a bike than their female counterparts and, in DC, barely a third of cycling commuters are ladies. So it’s not surprising that bicycle shops ooze testosterone.

That’s why Revolution Cycles, a local retailer, is using a laid-back happy hour to make biking more welcoming to women.

Katie Knight isn’t just the general manager at Revolution Cycles’ Georgetown location, she’s also an evangelist for its upcoming “Ladies Night” events. At her store, plenty of women work the floor and run the business, but Knight still feels the boys’ club stigma. “Women in particular tend to be a little intimidated,” she says of the bike shop.

That doesn’t mean they’re not interested in cycling. Riding a bike is one of the best ways to both reduce your carbon footprint (33 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2008 came from transportation) and shrink your waistline (more than 22 percent of DC residents are classified as obese). The reason many women don’t commute or recreate on two wheels is simple: They don’t feel comfortable on a bicycle.

Ladies Night aims to change that with a relaxed atmosphere, women-led discussion and, yes, a few glasses of wine. The female-focused event will be hosted at each of the retailers’ five locations, starting Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in Rockville and wrapping up August 12 at the Georgetown location.

At each Ladies Night, women get the basics about buying a bike that caters to female-specific anatomy and tips about what to wear, where to ride, and how to stay safe. But the evening isn’t meant to be a one-way street. Ladies Night is only successful, Knight says, when the lecture is simply a short prelude to mixing, mingling, and meeting other bicycle-curious women.

“The point is really informing women, and connecting them to each other as a community of riders,” Knight says.

And, listen up guys, because research shows that everybody benefits when women start pedaling. “There’s this correlation that when women get on bikes, the community becomes more cycling friendly and cycling aware,” Knight adds. “It’s better for the bike community overall when women get on bikes.”

Event: Pepco’s Appliance Swap

Fridge on the fritz? Air conditioner gone AWOL? Maybe it’s time for an upgrade. Bring your old, inefficient, energy-sucking appliance to Pepco’s 2010 D.C. Appliance Swap on Saturday 7/24 from 10 am to 2 pm at The Home Depot at 901 Rhode Island Avenue in Northeast DC.

At the event, you can drop off appliances for recycling at no charge and pick up applications for rebates on certain ENERGY STAR qualified appliances.

During the event, Pepco will also announce the winners of its $5,000 ENERGY STAR Appliance Rebate Sweepstakes. Five D.C. customers will receive $1,000 gift cards to The Home Depot to be put towards the purchase of new, more efficient appliances.

The event will also feature live entertainment, refreshments, interactive displays on energy conservation, and family-friendly activities. Several D.C. government agencies, including the D.C. Department of the Environment, the District Public Service Commission, and the D.C. Office of People’s Counsel also will be on-hand.

The Eco-Forum Comes to DC

Tired of “Green Networking Events” that are more about socializing and job hunting than truly connecting with other eco leaders? So were the folks over at Go Green Expo, so they have started organizing regional networking groups that focus on bringing together executives from the sustainability world in a more intimate setting.

With a focus on building relationships and education, the eco-forum is an opportunity for innovative thought leaders, business entrepreneurs, and senior executives from all disciplines in the green space to mingle and learn from each other.

The first DC event takes place at Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar on Tuesday July 27th at 6 pm.

Keynote speakers include Christophe Tulou, Director of the District Department of the Environment and Jeff Blankman, Sustainable Manufacturing Manager for McCormick & Company.

Complimentary gourmet and organic passed hors d’oeuvres will be served for all three hours, along with organic signature cocktails courtesy of Philadelphia Distiller and Parducci organic wine.


Apply to attend today (please put “grassfed media” in the “how did you hear about us field”). Cost is $75 and admission is based on corporate affiliation and is only granted to director and C-Level executives, business owners, CSR executives, sustainability executives, and non-profit leaders.

Eco-Forum Regional Founding Members:

Keith Anderson, Head of the D.C. Energy Office
Christopher O’Brien, Director of the Office of Sustainability for George Washington University
Megan Chapple-Brown, Director of the Office of Sustainability for American University
Christophe Tulou, Director of the District Department of the Environment
Charles Dean Connor, President & CEO, American Lung Association
Sacha Cohen, Principal & Founder, grassfed media llc
Eli Hengst, Sonoma Restaurant & Wine Bar
Jeff Blankman, Sustainable Manufacturing Manager for McCormick & Company
Jared Rager, Sonoma Restaurant & Wine Bar

Pitango Gelato Goes Solar

Pitango Gelato has been committed to eco-friendly practices since the company opened its doors in 2007. Now, in addition to the measures Pitango already takes to reduce energy and minimize waste, the company’s dairy facility in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, has converted to solar power.

The dairy is located on Spring Wood Organic Farm, where a single herd of grass-fed cows supplies all of the milk and cream used in Pitango’s organic gelato. The farm’s new solar panels  are generating enough electricity to operate the farm and the dairy.

Aside from long-term economic incentives, Spring Wood owner Roman Stoltzfoos decided to go solar to reduce the farm’s carbon footprint. “It is a substantial investment for us, but it is clearly the right thing to do to make the farm and the dairy greener,” he says. “We’ll be using much less fossil fuel for what we have to do.”

The farm even uses a solar panel on its high-tech “Egg-Mobile,” which houses free-range hens that provide the daily supply of freshly laid eggs used in some of Pitango’s recipes. The hen house on wheels with solar-powered feeders, lights, egg laying boxes, and doors “delivers all of the modern bells and whistles,” says Stoltzfoos, “with minimal environmental impact.”

“It’s not always easy being green,” says Pitango Gelato founder and CEO Noah Dan. “A large component of our product is energy, so naturally we think about it all the time. For us, being green is being smart, and finding a path to improve our product and its sustainability is our ultimate goal.”

The shift toward solar on the farm is only one example of Pitango’s energy-efficient practices. Pitango’s custom-made bancone (gelato cases) used in each shop are liquid-cooled by glycol–an energy-retaining liquid derived from corn. Once the glycol is adequately cooled, it requires very little energy to maintain a temperature that is optimal for storing the gelato at the perfect consistency, with each flavor in its own sealed compartment. Dan estimates that Pitango’s bancone consume as little as one-tenth of the electricity of comparable air-cooled display cases. Pitango also uses biodegradable serving cups, coffee cups and gelato spoons.

Pitango matches its eco-friendly practices with a commitment to create a healthier product. The company’s artisanal gelato contains less fat than premium ice cream, while its sorbets contain no dairy products and are vegan and fat-free.

Made with ingredients, from fresh local fruit to organic chocolate, Pitango’s products contain no flavorings, colorings, or chemicals of any kind.