News & Politics

The Blogger Beat: Going Green DC

We’re back! To start 2009 off on the right foot, we sat down with local ecoblogger Sacha Cohen and asked her to green us for the New Year.

Ecoblogger Sacha Cohen at the US Botanic Garden. Photograph by Chris Leaman

Sacha Cohen is a seasoned writer and editor; she’s been at it in print and on the Web for more than 15 years. In 2006, she delved into environmental and green writing, a natural extension of her interest in organic food and cooking. While job hunting last year, she started Going Green DC as a way to continue to write regularly. “There wasn’t a good local online resource for all things green, so I decided to fill the void,” she says.

Now Cohen has been blogging for about a year, posting at least once a week on environmental news, products, restaurants, and sustainable living. To celebrate her blog’s birthday this month, Cohen is opening her writing space to outside contributors. If you’re interested in writing for her ecoblog, click here for details.

Before moving to Washington at age seven, Cohen lived in England, where she says she was “raised on whole-wheat bread and organic food before it was chic.” We put her to the test recently and picked her brain about all things ecofriendly. Where to shop? How to be green at work? What to compost? Read on for her answers.

The biggest environmental issue facing our area:
“Traffic congestion and the resulting pollution.”

Greenest building in town:
“I don’t know if it’s the greenest, but the Natural Resources Defense Council building on New York Avenue has formaldehyde-free carpets and ceiling tiles, countertops made of soybeans and recycled newspapers, an energy-efficient lighting system, and energy-saving computers and appliances. There are also a bunch of buildings with green roofs including the USDA, Lofts 11, and One Judiciary Square.”

Three simple ways to green a home:
“Replace regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs). Turn out the lights and unplug electronics when they’re not in use. Install programmable thermostats to turn the heat down in the evening and up—ideally to 68 degrees in winter—during the day. Clean with vinegar instead of Windex.”

Three products, items, or things people would be surprised to learn have organic alternatives:
“Doughnuts, bed linens, and vodka (there’s a dirty joke in there somewhere). I stumbled on the doughnuts at a Smashing Pumpkins concert in Charlottesville a few months ago. The creation of a husband-and-wife team known as Carpe Donut, they’re made with organic flour, organic eggs, local apple cider, and organic spices. Addictive.”

An item people would be surprised to learn is able to be composted:
“It’s kind of gross, but you can compost vacuum dust—except if you have mostly synthetic carpet. Honestly, though, I haven’t been near a compost since I lived in the UK. Apartment living doesn’t lend itself to composting.”

How to help your office go green:
“Recycling programs are crucial. Get the powers that be to ditch bottled water and opt for a filtration system instead. Encourage people to take public transportation, carpool, or bike to work. Allow telecommuting. Don’t print documents unless absolutely necessary. Remember the ‘paperless’ office? We’re definitely not there yet.”

An ecofriendly New Year’s resolution everyone should make:
“The last thing I want to do is be holier than thou and preach about what others should be doing. Self-righteousness is such a turnoff. What I will say, though, is that for me personally it’s about being more conscious about what I buy. When I shop, I think, ‘Do I really need that?’ You’d be surprised how many times the answer is no. Last year, I went for about six months without buying anything except essentials—soap, toilet paper, food. And you know what? I didn’t feel deprived.”

Most ecofriendly local restaurant:
“My faves include Java Green and Founding Farmers. Both have good recycling programs and source local ingredients whenever possible. Founding Farmers is DC’s first LEED-certified restaurant and features farm-silo-shaped booth seating made of recycled steel, Paperstone countertops in the restrooms, reclaimed barnwood floors and communal farmhouse tables, green-sourced power, and low-VOC emitting paints. Java Green is independently run and a tasty organic vegetarian/vegan alternative to the downtown chain-restaurant scene.”

Favorite place to shop green:
“I’m trying to shop less, not more. However, I’ve heard Greater Goods has a nice selection of green cleaning products, housewares, and gifts.”

Favorite place to indulge your (organic-only) sweet tooth:
“Sticky Fingers in Columbia Heights. Being right around the corner from me, it’s just a little too convenient.”

Best city or town in the area for recycling:
“Bethesda is setting an excellent example with its recycling efforts. Thanks to Bethesda Green, there are now recycling bins throughout downtown Bethesda, and the organization supports other environmental programs like an electronics-recycling day.”

One thing you hope Obama does to help the environment:
“Increase funding for environmental programs and alternative energy sources.”

Best use of a recycled object you’ve ever seen:
“Do ex-boyfriends count? Just kidding. I’ve seen bike helmets and takeout containers turned into planters.”

Biggest environmental pet peeve:
“SUVs. And seriously, how can anyone drive a Hummer and not be mortified?”

How to buy locally:
“Farmers markets are great for produce and cheese. I also love the organic and natural bath products from Herban Lifestyle in Falls Church.

The latest green trend:
“Recession chic. It goes hand in hand with two core tenets of a greener lifestyle: reuse and recycle. Instead of buying something new, have a clothing swap with friends or update clothes you haven’t worn in a while by having them tailored.”

Favorite local green blog, besides your own:
Righteous (re)Style.”

Next week, the Blogger Beat talk shop with Joel Gwadz of the bicycle blog Gwadzilla. We find out his favorite bike path, where he shops for gear, and his biggest bicycling pet peeve. Check back next Wednesday for the interview!

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