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Building Sustainability in The District

These DC area locations and businesses each go above and beyond 21st-century sustainability expectations in their own unique way, but one thing is constant: their love for this earth and the people who live here.

Busboys and Poets
This quirky gathering hub – home to artists, activists, writers, thinkers and dreamers alike – fights the good fight for Mother Earth by using 100 percent renewable wind energy at all DC locations, brewing exclusively with coffee purchased directly from growers and recycling their food waste into biofuel instead of just throwing it out. Fun fact: Busboys and Poets refers to American poet Langston Hughes, who worked as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel in the 1920s before he was discovered for his true talent. Three locations in NW, DC and one in NE, DC; www.busboysandpoets.com

District Wharf
This waterfront destination set its sights on a LEED Gold certificate even before laying down a single brick of the development. With its expansive walkways and short distance from public transportation, visitors and residents can cut down on their carbon dioxide emission. And with green roofs, 300 new trees and preservation of mature oaks in the area, this new DC hotspot is cleaning the air at the same time. Come enjoy some sunshine and sustainability down at The Wharf. 1100 Maine Ave. SW, DC; www.wharfdc.com

The Emerald Door
This LEED-certified, green beauty spa exclusively uses non-toxic beauty products and natural ingredients during all services to give customers naturally beautiful skin, fingers and toes while simultaneously giving back to the environment. In 2016, The Emerald Door partnered with DC-based Skincando, a line of 100 percent organic skincare products, to create the first Skincando treatment and beauty boutique. Along with its product line, The Emerald Door’s spa room itself features energy efficient lighting, water-saving toilets and faucets, and tiled floor made from recycled materials. 8311 Grubb Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.emeralddoorsalon.com

Founding Farmers
Founding Farmers believes that finding a balance between making quality, accessible food while also giving back to the environment is the best way to approach sustainability as a fundamental, necessary endeavor. As part of the restaurant chain’s effort to embrace great environmental practices, Founding Farmers sources food and ingredients from local farmers, which helps support local economies and keep carbon dioxide emissions down with less shipping. They also have compostable paper straws, which totally amazed me during my first dining experience. Locations in NW, DC (a 3 Star-Certified Green Restaurant® with a LEED Gold-Certified design), Reston and Tysons, VA, and Potomac, MD; www.wearefoundingfarmers.com

MOM’s Organic Market
Prepare yourself for a long list of goodness, because MOM’s Organic Market is doing just about everything it can to help out Mother Earth. I’m just going to fire them off. In 2005, MOM’s eliminated plastic bags from all stores. Five years later, they quit selling bottled water during a campaign to eliminate all unnecessary plastic waste. To reduce carbon dioxide emissions, MOM’s has free car-charging stations at most locations. All stores are powered by solar and wind energy, and use ultra-low watt LED lights whenever possible. They even offset their customers’ gas mileage to and from their stores by collecting zip codes at checkout, calculating average round trip miles and investing the equivalent in clean air projects based on their research. There’s even more to add, but my editor says I’m pushing my word count limit. One location in Ivy City, five in Northern Virginia and a bunch more in Maryland; www.momsorganicmarket.com

National Museum of African American History and Culture
A document about the Smithsonian’s sustainable building practices quotes Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture Lonnie Bunch as saying, “We have the opportunity […] to design and build a museum for the 21st century that will demonstrate our nation’s commitment to sustainable development.” With its compact design optimizing open space, 301 photovoltaic panels soaking up solar energy, an underground detention vault treating storm water before discharging it into the public drain system and more, I’d say this Smithsonian museum is the perfect role model for our nation’s progression in sustainable development. 1400 Constitution Ave. NW, DC; www.nmaahc.si.edu

Nationals Park
Did you know that Nationals Park is the first MLB stadium to earn LEED certification? Now you finally have something interesting to share at the water cooler – you’re welcome. Because Nats Park sits on the bank of the Anacostia River, the quality of storm water runoff is a major concern. To combat water pollution, the park installed screens to capture solid material from storm water in the seating area. Then, the water passes through large, underground sand filters before it’s pumped into the public drain system. That sounds like a homerun sustainability solution to me. 1500 S Capitol St. SE, DC; www.mlb.com/nationals/ballpark

School of International Service at American University
As the first LEED Gold-certified building at American University (AU), the School of International Service (SIS) reinforces AU’s commitment to the environment and community by harvesting solar energy through roof panels and using 30 percent less water through low flow faucets and toilets. The building itself is gorgeous; the open university lawn almost seems to flow right into the lobby of the SIS, bringing life and energy from the outdoors in. 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW, DC; www.american.edu/sis

Photo: Courtesy of Arena Stage
Photo: Courtesy of Arena Stage

Lights, Camera, Eco-Friendly Action: Arena Stage’s Solar Rooftop

For almost 70 years, Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater has impacted countless lives with diverse and groundbreaking work from great artists around the country. They’ve held programs, classes and events to inspire creativity and expression, reaching over 10,000 students every year through community engagement. And in February, they decided to show their love for the community by installing 1,145 solar panels on their expansive rooftop.

To Arena Stage Executive Director Edgar Dobie, being eco-friendly is one of the best ways the theater can serve their network of artists and theatergoers.

“We feel that we need to respect our relationship with our community and our environment,” says Dobie, who has been with Arena Stage for nine years. “We tell stories on our stage, and as an institution, we have stories to tell as well. One of those stories is that we want to be as efficient and respectful as possible to the resources – whether they’re environmental or financial – that are given to us.”

As part of Arena’s renovations from 2007 to 2010, the Southwest Waterfront-based space hired the late Vancouver architect Bing Thom to design a massive glass enclosure that would surround both historical theaters. He even fit a new, third theater in the enormous 200,000-square-foot design. Thom’s idea for using glass came from his environmentally conscious roots. A huge glass wall means lots of sunlight entering the space, and a natural thermal system to save energy. Dobie is certain that Thom would be thrilled with the solar panel design if he were alive today.

With their new 452.3 kW solar system, Arena Stage’s move toward a renewable energy resource is the equivalent to saving 45,231 gallons of gas annually, or taking 85 cars off the road. And to achieve their goal of producing 20 percent of their power supply purely from solar energy, Arena Stage teamed up with EnterSolar, a leading provider of commercial marketplace solar energy options in New York. Dobie says their reputable portfolio isn’t the only reason he’s thrilled to work with them.

“EnterSolar is doing great things, and we are proud to partner with them on this project,” he says. “On top of it all, I love their name. It’s like a stage direction!”

Dobie says that because they’re eventually going to save money with this new energy source, Arena Stage will most likely hire more actors and teachers in the future. Thanks to their initiative and forward thinking, this theater will not only help to save the environment but also step up their mission to bring people together through the arts.

Learn more about Arena Stage at www.arenastage.org.

Arena Stage: 1101 6th St. SW, DC; 202-488-3300; www.arenastage.org

Photo: Courtesy of MOM's
Photo: Courtesy of MOM's

In DC, It Is Easy Being Green

Though it may not be obvious at first glance, the District is filled with green and sustainable organizations, businesses, events and initiatives. Like many cities around the country, we’re taking the lead on reducing our ecological impact, combating climate change, protecting our air, lands and water, and conserving wildlife. Residents are making a commitment to living sustainably, and city officials are taking steps to reduce waste and protect natural places in the city. From the buildings we live in to the food we eat, DC is slowly but surely becoming a more environmentally friendly place to live – one innovation at a time. Check out our roundup of the great work that people are doing to make the city a little greener – sometimes literally!

Casey Trees

The District has long been known as the City of Trees, and our leafy green streets and parks are part of what makes the city special. The team behind Casey Trees, an organization dedicated to restoring, enhancing and protecting DC’s tree canopy, says that trees in urban spaces have many more benefits than most of us realize.

“Our trees do more than just look beautiful,” says Casey Trees Communications Specialist Jona Elwell. “Trees remove carbon dioxide from the air and produce oxygen, [and] DC’s trees annually store 649,000 tons of carbon, which is the equivalent of removing 506,772 vehicles from the road. Green spaces in cities have been shown to help residents combat stress, anxiety [and] depression, and tree-lined streets have a traffic-calming effect, which keeps drivers and pedestrians safe.”

Casey Trees was founded in 2002, and their work has changed a lot over the past 16 years.

“When we first set out, we didn’t know what our urban forest was made of,” Elwell says. “Now, we’re working to measure and identify every tree in the city, and our volunteers and tree planting department annually plant over 3,200 trees throughout the District. Not to mention, we now have fully fledged pruning, advocacy and children’s education programs, too.”

Casey Trees’ work has expanded, but the mission of keeping DC true to its nickname hasn’t changed.

Learn more at www.caseytrees.org.

City Wildlife

Founded in 2013, City Wildlife rescues and rehabilitates orphaned and injured wildlife in DC and the surrounding metro area. That includes everything from squirrels, raccoons and possums to birds of prey, snakes, turtles and even bald eagles.

“Life in the city is hard for all forms of wildlife,” says executive director Paula Goldberg. “Most of the problems people have with wildlife are created by people. A lot of the calls we’re getting right now are nuisance calls, because animals such as raccoons and squirrels are finding openings in peoples’ homes to nest for spring babies.”

Along with the rehabilitation center, City Wildlife has launched several important wildlife conservation programs in the city. Lights Out DC works to encourage businesses and residential buildings to reduce or turn off their lights at night to avoid attracting migratory birds, and the Duck Watch program helps keep DC’s many mallard duck moms and their babies safe during the nesting season. When it comes to wildlife conservation in the city, “many things have changed for the better,” Goldberg says.

“The DC Department of Energy and the Environment has numerous biologists on staff, and then there’s the latest decree by [DC Mayor] Muriel Bowser that made Kingman and Heritage Islands protected conservation areas. We’ve made some incredible environmental strides that make life better, not only for people but wildlife as well.”

Learn more at www.citywildlife.org.

EcoWomen DC

Who runs the world? EcoWomen! With DC as host to the headquarters of hundreds of environmentally-focused organizations, it should come as no surprise that our city is home to a strong and substantial contingency of women working to make the world a greener, healthier place for all. Coming together in a community of shared goals and passions, EcoWomen was founded in 2003 in order to create a “space to build relationships among professional women in environmental fields.” This community now includes more than 40 events per year, and features a speaker and lecture series, monthly book club, skill-building workshops, “EcoHours,” a scholarship fund, joint volunteer days and an active listserv.

Today, EcoWomen is an incorporated nonprofit with local chapters throughout the nation (in Seattle, Colorado and Boston). Members work on issues ranging from wildlife conservation to energy policy to sustainable urbanization, and everything in between. DC chapter co-chair Tamara Toles O’Laughlin says she is constantly excited to find herself in the company of smart, ambitious and generous women, and looking ahead, the chapter’s focus will be on “redefining [its] relationship to power and aligning [its] programs to reflect true diversity as expressed by equity in [members’] expertise and inclusion of every voice working in the space.”

Read more about EcoWomen and how to get involved at www.dc.ecowomen.org.

Green Group Houses

Let’s face it: the cost of living in DC is pretty high, especially when it comes to paying rent. To afford housing, many of the District’s inhabitants get creative; this often involves “group houses,” aka grown-ass adults shacking up with four, five, six or eight other grown-ass adults in one house. But outside of saving dough, another draw of many of DC’s group houses is sharing a life with likeminded individuals. These spaces are often centered around themes like music, religion and acceptance. Co-opt-style green living is also popular here. Residents in green group houses commit as a household to composting, shared meals, recycling, reusing, volunteering for environmental causes and other eco-friendly practices.

For example, JoLeah Gorman chose to join a community formed in 2012 that consists of six people living in two houses in DC’s Northeast neighborhood of Deanwood because she “believe[s] strongly that the earth is precious, good food is a right for all people and being connected to nature is a key part of being human.” Members of Gorman’s community compost, garden, dumpster-dive and make a continuous effort to lower their carbon footprint. Food sustainability and security is especially important to this group. Living in a food desert in Ward 7, Gorman, her husband and four friends worked together to build a space for a year-round garden (with plans for rain barrels and solar panels), which they hope to open to neighbors in coming years.

MOM’s Organic Market

Founder and CEO Scott Nash started My Organic Market (better known as MOM’s) out of his mother’s garage in 1987 as a home delivery service for fresh groceries in the DC area. From those humble beginnings, MOM’s has grown into a local business leader that puts the environment first. Their grocery stores can be found at several locations in DC, Maryland and Virginia, and are full of fair trade, organic, sustainable (and of course, delicious) foods, as well as clothing, beauty products and other green goods. And it doesn’t stop there.

“MOM’s purpose is to protect and restore the environment,” Nash says. “We recently invested in a community solar company called Neighborhood Sun, and [we] are placing a pollinator garden and beehives at MOM’s Solar Farm in Kingsville, Maryland.”

That’s right. MOM’s runs its own solar energy farm and purchases wind energy credits to offset greenhouse gas emissions. The beloved local chain also frequently partners with groups that support human rights, environmental justice, clean water and other causes.

“As MOM’s grows, we’re continually seeking opportunities to further our purpose inside our stores and in the community,” Nash says.

MOM’s dedication to improving our world makes it special; its roots in the area make it ours.

Learn more at www.momsorganicmarket.com.

The Year of the Anacostia

We may all be looking forward to summer, and with it the opening of the city’s public pools, but what about the rivers in our midst? Are we getting any closer to the goal of a swimmable Anacostia? For decades, the river and its surrounding parkland have been abused – and used as literal toxic dumping ground.

“The Anacostia River holds a place at the heart of DC’s economic, cultural and ecological history,” says Krista Schlyer, DC area conservation photographer and writer (her forthcoming book, River of Redemption: Almanac of Life on the Anacostia, chronicles the life of the river in connection to our city). “[It] is also a symbol of our beleaguered urban rivers nationwide.”

But, she adds, “If you look carefully at the Anacostia story, it has the makings of one of the most hopeful stories of ecological redemption.”

And perhaps 2018 will be the year that redemption comes. In January, Mayor Muriel Bowser declared 2018 the “Year of the Anacostia,” pledging $4.7 million toward restoration efforts. According to the mayor’s office, “the Year of the Anacostia is a yearlong invitation to honor history, celebrate progress and enjoy the Anacostia River and its surroundings while envisioning an inspiring future.”

What can you do to get involved? Start by educating yourself (and having some fun) at the Anacostia River Festival on April 15. Learn about wildlife on Kingman and Heritage Islands, recreate in Anacostia Park, bike the Anacostia River and Riverwalk Trails, visit Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, take a free boat ride or paddle, join a cleanup effort…the list goes on.

And even if you prefer wine to water, you can help the river: $2 from every bottle of wine sold at District Winery’s Rose Release Party on Earth Day (April 22) will go to Anacostia Riverkeeper, one of the great organizations working to protect and restore the Anacostia.

Learn more about Anacostia Riverkeeper at www.anacostiariverkeeper.org.


Anacostia River Festival on April 15: Anacostia Park at Anacostia Drive & Good Hope Road in SE, DC; www.bridgepark.org/anacostia-riverfestival

District Winery’s Rose Release Party on April 22: 385 Water St. SE, DC; www.districtwinery.com

Photo: Courtesy of Urbana
Photo: Courtesy of Urbana

DC’s Sustainable Dining Scene

Order up a drink at Hank’s Cocktail Bar and you may notice something’s missing when you take that first sip. The reason? This Petworth hangout, along with its five sister restaurants, only provide straws when requested. This shift is just one way the bar and its parent company, JL Restaurant Group, have been moving to improve sustainability.

“We work really, really hard to use things multiple ways and be as zero waste as possible there,” says beverage director Jess Weinstein, who oversees the bar program at all Hank’s properties.

For example, orange trimmings from the bar’s old-fashioned garnishes are saved and reduced down with sugar into a syrup that’s then used to make a Trash Gimlet cocktail. They dehydrate partially used limes from a night of service for use in future drinks rather than using fresh ones. Weinstein even uses liquid runoff from roasted red peppers in her negroni riff, the Bittersweet Surrender.

These steps toward sustainability might seem small, but they can noticeably improve a business’ carbon footprint and bottom line. And Hank’s is not alone in its quest to become greener. Last year, DC was named the first LEED “Platinum City,” a nod to its leadership in this area.

Urbana in Dupont Circle is the first DC restaurant to use a machine called a Bio-Digester, which converts food scraps into grey wastewater that is then transported for treatment through existing drain systems. Five to One, a craft cocktail bar on U Street, has opted to ditch garnishes entirely. The Dabney recycles all of its oyster shells through Oyster Recovery Partnership.

At Kyirisan in Shaw, chef and owner Tim Ma uses scraps and peelings from vegetables to create stocks for upcoming dishes. He is also one of three national chefs participating in the BlueCart Zero Waste Kitchen initiative, which uses technology to track food waste and map out improvement over time. Ma says thinking about sustainability and efficiency has always been a part of his day-to-day operations – both from an environmental and practical point of view.

“All my restaurants were very small, and it was only just me as the owner, so every percentage point counted to me,” he says.

Being nimble with menu development wherever possible can also pad profit margins as well as help the environment. Kyirisan gets regular emails from producers selling unwanted “ugly” vegetables, often at value prices. Urbana makes use of its rooftop garden for seasonal produce – it sourced 1,500 pounds from onsite growing in 2016.

Weinstein and the rest of the Hank’s Cocktail Bar team also look to the kitchen for ways to use surplus ingredients that would otherwise get thrown out. It’s all part of the push to make each dollar go further in a small profit margin world, while also being a good environmental steward.

There’s still work to be done, of course. Not all restaurants buy exclusively local produce or second-rate vegetables. And when it comes to balancing hospitality with sustainability, some guests still prefer a plastic straw or fresh citrus in cocktails – and may still be new to understanding the sustainability movement.

“That’s something that we are starting to see change in the food and beverage world,” Weinstein says. “But it’s not changed yet.”

Learn more about these eco-friendly spots below.


Dabney: 122 Blagden Alley, NW, DC; www.thedabney.com
Five to One: 903 U St. NW, DC; www.fivetoonedc.com
Hank’s Cocktail Bar: 819 Upshur St. NW, DC ; www.hankscocktailbar.com
Kyirisan: 1924 8th St. NW, DC; www.kyirisandc.com
Urbana: 2121 P St. NW, DC; www.urbanadc.com

Photo: Courtesy of John Nagiecki
Photo: Courtesy of John Nagiecki

Saving the Planet, One T-Shirt at a Time

Imagine you’re a T-shirt – a comfy, cotton blend, perfect for lazing around the house or showing off your favorite sports team. One day, your owner will buy a new T-shirt to replace you, well before you are ready to say goodbye. And more often than not, you will end up rotting to death in a landfill with more than 25 billion pounds of other unwanted textiles that are tossed out in the U.S. each year, according to the Council for Textile Recycling (CTR). It’s really very sad.

Of the 82 pounds of textile waste each U.S. resident produces annually on average, CTR reports that only 15 percent find a new home through donations or recycling. The remaining 85 percent go to landfills, where textiles make up 5 percent of all municipal solid waste generated in the U.S. each year. And it’s only getting worse.

Between 1999 and 2009, the amount of post-consumer textile waste increased by 40 percent, while the amount of waste diversion only grew by 2 percent. CTR estimates that by 2019, the U.S. will generate 35.4 billion pounds of textile waste in a single year. Sometimes it’s easier to just read past these numbers without  taking the time to think about how much a billion really is, so let’s see if this helps.

One billion seconds is 30 years. One billion golf balls laid side-by-side would circle the earth. One billion raindrops would fill approximately 50 bath tubs. And one billion paperclips would weigh as much as 200 elephants.

Now multiply that by 35. That’s how many pounds of textile waste the U.S. is projected to produce in 2019. And this isn’t even including the rest of the world.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation published a report stating that if production continues at this rate, the fashion industry will use up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget by 2050. Half a million tons of microfibers are released into the ocean every year, which is equivalent to more than 50 billion plastic bottles. These microfibers are nearly impossible to clean up and can enter food chains, destroying habitats and species of marine life.

After realizing all of the harm caused by textile waste, we’re left with one question: what can we do to make a difference?

The District’s Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) is trying to find the answer. On March 14, Sustainable DC – the DOEE’s plan to become the healthiest, greenest and most livable city in the nation by 2032 – launched ReThread DC, an initiative to create a culture of recovery and reuse in the nation’s capital through outreach and education. Danielle Nkojo, a sustainability analyst for waste and materials management on the DOEE’s urban sustainability team, founded ReThread because of her personal passion for thrifting and extending the life of her clothing, as well as her experience as a waste policy expert.

“I look at the fact that about 90 percent of the textiles that are out in the waste stream are usually reusable,” Nkojo says. “I thought it would be great to bring my unique interest in that to the core development of eventual policy to divert textiles from the waste stream.”

Sustainable DC has helped waste management policy before. Have you ever noticed that DC restaurants don’t hand out Styrofoam take-out boxes anymore? That’s because in 2014, the DC Council banned all food-serving businesses and organizations in DC from using containers or other food service products made from Styrofoam beginning January 1, 2016. The ban also requires these businesses and organizations to use recyclable or compostable products, which is helping Sustainable DC’s goal of diverting 80 percent of waste in the next decade.

Because they launched only a few weeks ago, ReThread is a long way from working toward major policy changes. However, Nkojo says that will come in the future. Right now, ReThread’s main focus is to answer the question, “What can I do with my unwanted clothing and textiles?” But before we answer that, we need to turn our attention to what you can do to reduce your personal textile waste output in the first place:

***

Now, imagine you’re a T-shirt again. Maybe you’re a different one this time. You’re about to be thrown out and cast aside, but instead, you end up in the arms of a new owner – one who treats you like a diamond in the rough or buried treasure, who discovered your worth after hours of digging through bins full of other tees that are also waiting to find their next home. Feels good, right?

When you feel like cleaning out your closet this spring, you can do your ex-favorite T-shirt one last favor by donating it to a local organization that will help find its next owner. And that next owner could really be in need of a new shirt. That’s where Clothing Recycling Company (CRCO) comes in.

Since 1999, CRCO has served the DMV with its attention to detail, local touch and family-owned approach to redistributed second-hand textiles. The organization partners with Interfaith Works in Maryland, Christ House in DC and A-SPAN in Arlington to help low-income families and the homeless gain access to nice, affordable clothing and wares.

CRCO Assistant Director Vlad Brostky says that one of the special things about the organization is its connection to the community. Because CRCO only collects and distributes in the greater DC area, the operation is small – but the impact is great.

When asked about why keeping it local is so important to the organization, Brostky says that CRCO wants donators to know exactly where their clothing and wares are going – whether it’s to homeless people through A-SPAN or families in need through Interfaith Works.

“This is why we’re staying small and local, but there are bigger companies that recycle huge amounts of clothing, and they are focusing on just getting as much as possible,” he says. “Basically, it’s just a mass market of clothing recycling.”

He’s referring to the secondhand clothing trade – a goliath operation where certain secondhand clothing collectors export their surplus donations to developing countries in Africa. Since 2016, the governments of the East African Community laid out a plan to prohibit all secondhand clothing imports by 2019 to boost domestic manufacturing.

In March, the Office of the United States Trade Representative responded with a threat to impose trade sanctions on African nations and announced an out-of-cycle review of the eligibility of Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda to receive benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which enhances U.S. market access for qualifying Sub-Saharan African countries.

The reality is that although the exporters themselves benefit the most from this secondhand clothing trade, there are still many people and communities that receive help from foreign organizations dedicated to empowerment and positive change in developing nations.

***

One such organization is Planet Aid, a nonprofit based in DC that collects and recycles used textiles to protect the environment and support sustainable development around the world. Planet Aid uses its proceeds from selling used clothing overseas to implement programs that support teacher training, help subsistence farmers find a path out of poverty, educate people on HIV/AIDS prevention and more.

Planet Aid Communications Director John Nagiecki says that while there is little demand for secondhand clothing in the U.S., the secondhand economy in the developing world is very robust and provides a good source of employment and an affordable source of clothing. He also says that Planet Aid sells its clothing instead of giving it away because “such an attempt would undermine the secondhand economy on which so many people rely for their livelihood and countries thus refuse to accept such handouts.” Although there are conflicting opinions about the secondhand clothing trade in developing countries, both sides can agree that something greater must be done to fix our massive textile waste problem.

“The real issue that must be addressed is the rise of fast fashion in the U.S. and other developed nations,” Nagiecki says. “We simply consume too much clothing.”

Brostky concurs.

“[CRCO] recycles thousands of pounds of clothing a month, which is nothing compared to what America really consumes, but we still are helpful,” he says. “People should be more educated about it.”

Ultimately, Nkojo, Brostky and Nagiecki all agree that one of the best ways to fight textile waste is to educate and inform the public so that they can make their own decisions on buying less and recycling more.

“The function of how we get people to care is just letting them know how much is being wasted, and how they could change simple habits that could really have a huge impact,” Nagiecki says. “To the extent that they can, we encourage people to adopt these practices so that their clothing consumption can go much further.”

Picture this. You’re a T-shirt on its way to the clothing recycling bin at the end of the block. You’re sad to say goodbye to your beloved owner, but there’s some reassurance in the new opportunities waiting for you on the other side. You could become a ball of yarn, then woven into a new scarf or blanket. You could become a quilt or a handbag or fancy needlework on someone’s hand-designed jeans. Your future is bright, and you’re happy knowing that you did your part in keeping the earth clean. Let’s keep it that way.

Learn more about these DC-based organizations and initiatives at their websites.

Clothing Recycling Company: www.clothingrecyclingcompany.org

Planet Aid: www.planetaid.com

Sustainable DC: www.sustainabledc.org

Photo: SweetWater Brewing Company
Photo: SweetWater Brewing Company

Green Brewing Options

With thousands of options out there, make your choice matter by opting for a brew from one of these eco-friendly and sustainable breweries. From clean water initiatives to preserving the Appalachian Trail, these 11 breweries each have their own approach to doing what they can for the environment. Check out our list below to find a brewery with a cause that speaks to you. And who knows, maybe you’ll even find your new favorite beer while you’re at it.

Abita Brewing Company

As the first brewery in North America to install an energy-efficient Merlin Brewhouse system, Abita has a long history of protecting the environment and serving the surrounding New Orleans community. The Merlin, which reduces boiling time and carbon dioxide emissions, uses 70 percent less energy than traditional brewing methods. Plus, Abita’s glass bottles are endlessly recyclable, their trucks run on emission-decreasing accelerated processing units (APUs) and their used grains find their final resting place in the troughs of local farms. From beginning to end, Abita is brewing green. Try their seasonal Mardi Gras Bock or one of their many year-round mainstays – the Purple Haze never disappoints. www.abita.com

Atlas Brew Works

DC’s own Atlas Brew Works won the 2016 Department of Energy & Environment Sustainability Award for claiming the title of the District’s first and only solar-powered craft brewery. In addition to their massive 67.5-kilowatt solar array, Atlas also tries to recycle as much as possible during the brewing process by recapturing water for reuse and donating saturated grain as feed to local farms. If you’re into sours, check out their seasonal Blood Orange Gose – it’s to die for. www.atlasbrewworks.com

Deschutes Brewery

Lovers of this Oregonian brew are in luck; Deschutes recently opened a tasting room in downtown Roanoke with a brewery to follow suit in the next few years. In 2016, the Business Intelligence Group awarded Deschutes with a sustainability award for renewable energy usage and their partnership with Deschutes River Conservancy to restore a billion gallons of water to the Deschutes River each year. Try their year-round Fresh Squeezed IPA or their seasonal Red Chair NWPA. www.deschutesbrewery.com

Devils Backbone

Appalachian Trail hikers call them “trail angels” for a reason. Ever since Devils Backbone Basecamp Brewpub & Meadows settled into the valley only a few miles from the Appalachian Trail’s Reed’s Gap trailhead, they’ve been a welcoming spot for hikers and adventurers alike. In 2018, Devils Backbone became an official sponsor of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) in order to help preserve and maintain the trail. With every purchase of Trail Angel Weiss, their award-winning, Bavarian-style Hefeweizen brew, Devils Backbone donates to the ATC. www.dbbrewingcompany.com

Great Lakes Brewing Company

In February of last year, this Cleveland-based brewery installed a 62-panel photovoltaic array to soak up the sun for some sweet solar energy. These panels offset 13 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, which is like planting 200 trees. Great Lakes also created the Burning River Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to improving, maintaining and celebrating Cleveland’s freshwater resources. Together, they host Burning River Fest, an annual summertime celebration to spread awareness about the importance of keeping our freshwater resources clean. With crisp, bright flavors and a hint of citrus and pine, the Burning River Pale Ale is the perfect way to toast the Great Lakes. www.greatlakesbrewing.com

Hardywood Park Craft Brewery

After a decade of brewing experience, lifelong friends Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh came together with a mission to brew with purpose by minimizing environmental impact and giving back to the community. Their vision came to life in 2011 when they founded Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, Virginia’s first brewery to use 100 percent renewable power. Take a day trip to the Richmond-based taproom to try their flagship pilsner – and check out their gorgeous tap handles crafted from fallen trees while you’re at it. www.hardywood.com

Milkhouse Brewery at Stillpoint Farm

Milkhouse Brewery is the pinnacle of local sustainability, with an onsite supply of Maryland hops from its family-owned and operated farm in Mount Airy that visitors are welcome to explore. Pick a warm spring afternoon to drive out to the countryside and enjoy a picnic at Stillpoint Farm with a pint of Milkhouse’s Homestead Hefeweizen. www.milkhousebrewery.com

New Belgium

They aren’t trying to fool anyone. They know they pollute; they even admit it on their own website. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t do anything about it. New Belgium tackles this reality head on by diverting 99 percent of their waste, using solar thermal and solar photovoltaic energies, reducing their carbon footprint and conserving water. With their profound self-awareness, New Belgium has perfected the most efficient way to make a damn good beer. Try their year-round, Belgian-style Fat Tire or opt for a special seasonal brew like the Tartastic Raspberry Lime Ale. www.newbelgium.com

Sierra Nevada

With their local landscapes in mind, Sierra Nevada takes great care to reduce the amount of waste and pollution their brewery emits by recovering 99 percent of their total solid waste through reusing, recycling and composting. When they opened their Mills River brewery in North Carolina, their first move was to restore the surrounding forest to its former glory by hiring a team of natural resource specialists. This proactive approach to saving the environment one step at a time is admirable – and so is Sierra Nevada’s newest beer: the hop-heavy Hazy Little Thing IPA, brewed with hops grown onsite at their brewery in Chico, California. www.sierranevada.com

SweetWater

During their annual Save Our Water campaign, SweetWater donates $100,000 to five nonprofit organizations dedicated to maintaining, improving and cleaning freshwater resources. This year, SweetWater fans can even lend a hand by picking up a Protect Natural Habitats Variety 12-pack, which features favorites like 420 Extra Pale Ale, Goin’ Coastal IPA with pineapple, TripleTail tropical IPA and their brand new summer seasonal, Tropical Lover Berliner Weisse. A portion of sales from this variety pack will go toward the campaign, so you can feel good about contributing to a great cause while cracking open a summer seasonal beer. www.sweetwaterbrew.com

Wild Wolf

For the third consecutive year, Wild Wolf Brewing Company earned the Virginia Green Travel Alliance’s Green Brewery of the Year Award for their top-to-bottom environmentally conscious practices, including water and energy conservation, recycling and composting. They also grow their own hops in an onsite, chemical-free hopyard where free-range chickens and ducks roam around to their heart’s content. And by packaging their beer in the lighter option of cans rather than bottles, they use less fuel when shipping specialty brews like Blonde Hunny, a refreshing, Belgian-style blonde ale. www.wildwolfbeer.com