DC Green Gift Guide

The holidays are upon us. And for many, that means a rush to the megastores to stock up on gifts. Why not zig while everyone else zags by buying from local businesses that offer eco-friendly goodies? By considering these gifts, you’re not only supporting small local businesses, you’re also contributing less to the environmental problems that go along with shipping goods from afar. Here are a few of our local faves:

Be a Soap Star
Stock up on handcrafted balms, salves, bath salts and massage oils made with natural and organic ingredients packaged in adorable recyclable containers from Herban Lifestyle. Owner Mary Kearns never uses chemicals, preservatives, synthetics, artificial fragrances, artificial colors, or GMOs in her products, and she donates 5% of gross sales to the Sierra Club and Herb Research Foundation. The Organic Holiday Cookie Sugar Scrub smells like a yummy dessert but won’t add to your waistline during the holidays, and lip balms in flavors like Tangerine Dreamsicle and Mint Chocolate Chip are all natural and (almost) good enough to eat. Products can be ordered directly from Herban Lifestyle or at Holeco Wellness Medi Spa.

Get Curdied Away
Who doesn’t love a hunk of creamy, tangy cheese? Luckily there are two great cheese shops in the area including Del Ray’s Cheesetique, where you can find Appalachian cheese with shitake mushrooms and leeks from Virginia, as well as selections from around the world. In Penn Quarter, saddle up to Cowgirl Creamery for a divine selection of artisanal cheese from small-scale producers around the country.

Strike a Pose
Infuse your favorite yogini’s practice with pizazz by giving her yoga wear from DC-based Even Keel Yoga. Founded by local yogini Liz Matthews, Even Keel is the place to find comfy, fashion-forward pants, shorts, and leggings made from organic cotton and bamboo in an array of styles and colors. Buy online or at local retail outlets such as Boundless Yoga, Flow Yoga, Caramel, and Inspired Yoga.

Choc Up
Give the chocoholics on your list a box of rich hand-crafted truffles from Alexandria-based Krishon Chocolates. Owner Eric Johnson makes decadent artisanal chocolates using high quality ingredients such as Michel Cluizel Chocolate and organic cream and butter. He can make anything from chocolate, including chocolate ruby slippers and a chocolate likeness of your, um, favorite body part. For traditionalists, a box of five truffles, in flavors like pomegranate and Fair Trade Latte, will set you back a mere $17.

Heel Yourself

Okay, chances are you’re not going to give the gift of shoes to anyone but yourself. And that’s fine….you deserve them. At newly opened Simply Soles in Columbia Heights, you’ll find some shoes that are made either with recycled materials or in a manufacturing method that uses vegetable oils and dyes, instead of petroleum based products.

8 Green Ideas for Enjoying the Last Days of Summer

Make the most of summer before Old Man Winter comes a knockin’. Here’s how:

  1. Pack a picnic with organic goodies from newly opened Sub-urban Trading Co., in Kensington, MD or stock up at one of the many farmer’s markets in the area.
  2. Fire up the grill one last time with free-range chicken and home-made sausages from Let’s Meat on the Avenue in Del Ray.
  3. Stroll through Rock Creek Park or the National Arboretum.
  4. Take a free walking tour, see the sites by bike, or even hop on a Segway.
  5. Check out a green roof.
  6. Build one of your own.
  7. Pick your own fruit at a nearby orchard.
  8. Get an au natural faux tan (well, you can do this anytime, but it’s great for Labor-day getaways)

Now, pile on the SPF and get out there while the going’s good.

You Had Me at “Free Energy Audit”

Does the sight of a Pepco bill fill you with dread? Yeah, me too. With skyrocketing gas and oil prices, what used to be a minor expense has turned into a full-on investment. And while apartment owners are out of luck, those of you who own single family homes can now get a free energy audit courtesy of the DC Department of the Environment. The DDOE Home Energy Rating System program pinpoints your home’s energy deficiencies and provides you with cost-effective, energy improvement recommendations.

First, a RESNET-certified auditor will come to your home and check out existing energy conditions including walls, floors, ceilings, windows, doors, hot water heating, heating and cooling mechanical systems and other related aspects. Once the home audit is complete, you will get a detailed HERS improvement analysis report with recommendations that range from no-cost behavioral changes (turning off lights, conserving water) to major improvements (a new HVAC system, insulation) to reduce energy loss in your home.

To schedule your free audit, email willie.vazquez@dc.gov.

5 tips for being more sustainable

You’ve likely heard the term “sustainable” about a million times in the past few years, but what in the heck does it mean? The most widely accepted definition is that “sustainability is the concept of meeting present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

The good news is that it’s easy to take steps that will turn you from a resource-guzzling biped to an informed, conscientious, and planet-friendly creature.

As this article points out, for many people, sustainability starts with food. Paying attention to where your food comes from, eating more locally, and eschewing fast food chains in favor of independent restaurants are all ways that you can start to be more sustainable.

Here are a few simple changes—from how you commute to what you eat for dinner—that can make a big difference.

  • Get a better buzz. When you need that caffeine fix, choose fair trade and locally grown coffee and tea. And, free yourself from the shackles of disposable cups by bringing your own cup or stainless steel thermal mug.
  • Dress for less. Consider consignment or gently-used clothing and furniture instead of buying brand new stuff. Our blog pal over at Righteous [re[]Style has oodles of great ideas from buying on eBay to decking yourself out in vintage duds from Eastern Market.
  • Buy local. Did you know that most food travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to your table? That’s a long haul that uses up tons of energy and contributes to pollution. Plus, local food generally uses less packaging, is fresher and tastier, and comes in more varieties. You can find locally grown food at area farmer’s markets or through community supported agriculture (CSA) in your area.
  • See the light. Talk about a bright idea. Replace all the bulbs in your home with energy-saving compact florescent lightbulbs. The bulbs, which can replace incandescent, halogen and other electric lights around your house, use between 60% and 80% less energy than their incandescent counterparts. Plus, they typically last between 6,000 and 15,000 hours, compared to 1,000 hours or so for incandescent bulbs.
  • Get trashed. You know you’re supposed to recycle plastic and paper, but sometimes even with the best of intentions, those items find their way into the regular trash bin, don’t they? Make it a no-brainer to do the right thing by outfitting your kitchen and office with a stylish and functional recycling trash masher.