Digital Strategies: Engaging Influencers, Creating Champions

by Roshani Kothari and Heather Ratcliff (co-organizers of NetSquared DC)

Nonprofits often struggle with creating effective content and engagement* strategies. It’s not enough to just share stories about your impact, but how do you mobilize and engage people who are passionate about issues you’re working on? NetSquared DC organized a panel discussion at the innovative co-working space, 1776, on Engagement Strategy: Empowering Champions* and Influencers* on November 3, 2015, to delve into this question.

The panelists included:
o Dale Pfeifer, CEO of GoodWorld
o Maddie Grant, Founding Partner at Culture That Works & NTEN Board Member
o Andrew Nachison, Founder & CEO, WeMedia

Net2DC
NetSquared DC Engagement Strategies Panelists–Maddie Grant, Andrew Nachison and Dale Pfeifer (left to right).

Here are some of the key points shared during the discussion, plus a couple of our own thoughts.

1. Put People at the Forefront of Your Stories
Your audience will respond to stories that immediately grab their attention. For example, a story that begins with a big emo­tional impact will leave the reader ask­ing ques­tions and want­ing more infor­ma­tion. It will keep them reading, and that’s what you want!

One of the best ways to do this is to tell the story from someone who has been impacted by your work. Interview people who are your influencers and champions, and find out why. Create meaningful relationships with both of these groups. Write their stories exceptionally well (hire someone for this if you need to; great stories told well are priceless). Share their stories with your audience.

2. Break Through the Noise
As a society, we are drowning in stories, so you have to break through the noise out there. Besides producing great content, and writing about your champions and influencers, we have a couple of other tips that can also make a big difference.

In terms of the length of stories, keep it brief or go in-depth. Your stories can be told different ways across multiple mediums. Blogs will be longer pieces, while Facebook posts much shorter. Tell the same story in multiple ways.

o Break up the story with headings, sub-headings and bullets, so it’s easy to scan.

o When possible, integrate video, audio, and images to create multimedia stories.

o Remember that most content is consumed and discarded, and so use content as a teaching moment, and a way to engage and involve your audience in your work.

o Don’t forget that great stories stay with you. There’s NPR’s Serial or Chicago Public Media’s This American Life and Radiolab. Also here’s Heather’s blog series on The Power of Written Storytelling, which points out many of the ways these kinds of stories are so unforgetable.

3. Offer a Call to Action
Give readers an action they can take after reading your content. When it’s engaging, your readers want to know what they can do to help. It doesn’t have to be a big donate button. It can link to another piece of the story, a petition, or you can offer the option to send a pre-populated tweet. Whatever you choose, the link should go to your website or social media channels. Check out this article on How to Craft a Strong Call to Action on Social Media in GoodWorld’s Social Giving School.

4. Make Sharing Your Content Easy
Not only should your audience be able to share your content with the click of a button, they should also be able to add their own comments to what they share. And it should be obvious when they share the content where it came from. Brand it and test it. If you’re using out-of-the-box online tools, change the code if you have to. Or, find a new tool.

Ultimately, you want your audience’s friends to also share the content. Once someone in your audience shares it, you have a better chance of getting their friend to share it. People trust and react to something shared by people they know (because it already has an endorsement from someone they trust), rather than something shared by an organization.

5. Create and Keep Champions (or Super Fans)
Think of a team, group, community, or organization that you’re really passionate about. What makes you so engaged with them?

If you’re having trouble thinking of something, just think of your favorite sports team or band and how excited you are to go and cheer like crazy for them. What makes you so excited at an event or on social media?

That is how you want people to feel about your organization — to be a cheering, raging and super expressive fan. However, there seems to be a disconnect between how we feel about engagement individually (like a team or band) and then how we communicate it as an organization (likely from a media office). But it has to be a two-way relationship.

What can you do to create and keep super fans?

o The Skim has an ambassador program. It invites its super fans to join a private Facebook group, with useful information and a facilitated discussion Members can get to know each other, which is rewarding because they can create value for each other.

o REI is showing everyone what a great company it is by giving its employees Black Friday off and encouraging them to go outside. What better way to make a statement about how much REI values the outdoors and its employees. Panelist Andrew Nachison pointed out that it’s not a typical retail store. It’s a cooperative that pays its members a dividend annually.

o World Domination Summit is known as the place to go if you’re an entrepreneur. It has created a tribe for people building a meaningful business.

o PowerFull Fitness is a fitness boot camp run by Laura Waller for moms and kids out of northern Virginia. She has done an amazing job of creating a niche community in a private Facebook group page. She posts challenges, free popup classes, badges of pride, games, recipes, and polls asking what her audience wants. She has created a community around making fitness fun and also a little bit crazy.

6. Connect with Millennials
We talked about millennials, admitting that there are actual problems with the term, millennial (or those referred to as Generation Y, or those born between 1980 and 2000). But in general, many millennials want things to be easily accessible on their phones. They tend to have strong values and believe deeply in a cause. Hence, a call to action is critical for this group. And giving them a way to have their voice heard and make a difference is essential.

7. Engage Offline
Even though we’re spending a huge amount of time talking about connecting with champions and influencers online, don’t forget word of mouth marketing. It can be even more powerful, and, depending on what your organization does, it can be what makes the difference between success and failure. Even entrepreneurs that run their business almost solely online offer plenty of webinars. They want to be able to connect with you.

Ideally, however, you’ll be talking about your organization with your audience in many ways — rallies, meetings, focus groups, or ambassador programs. You can’t beat that in-person connection. People remember how you make them feel though, so be authentic and enthusiastic.

8. Focus on the End Goal
Don’t get lost in the numbers. Determine your ultimate goal and focus on that. Your ultimate goal isn’t the number of likes, retweets, or email subscribers you have. Instead, there’s a meaning behind those numbers. Figure out what actually happens after you send out an email, and evaluate your approach based on that. And remember, it’s quality over quantity. An email list with 1,000 subscribers, but only 20 who regularly read it is worth a lot less than an email list of 500 if 100 of them always read it.

9. Prioritize Mobile & Responsive
Responsive websites and emails are important, but what’s more important is that you look at how your audience is visiting your website. Are they really visiting through a mobile device, or are you just listening to everyone else talk about how everyone is on mobile? Look at the analytics and see for yourself. And if that is where your audience is coming from, configure your website and emails with this in mind. Also, consider whether you should create a text messaging list or a mobile app, depending on how you want people to engage with your organization.

10. Measure, Segment, and Tailor Your Messages
Use Google Analytics, email list analytics, and social media measurement tools to understand where you are getting the most traction and interest. As much as possible, segment your list and tailor your messages to what people care about the most. For example, you can find out what topics interest people when they are registering for your email list.

You can also segment your list based on how people connected with your organization. Did they attend a workshop? Did they make a donation? Did they sign a petition? You can also use tools like Attentive.ly to get a better understanding of how your supporters are using hashtags that relate to your organizations’ work.

Resources
o Check out GoodWorld’s Social Giving School
o Get a free chapter of When Millennials Take Over
o Sign up for WeMedia’s One Thing newsletter
o Subscribe to Heather’s newsletter at How to Reach People

*Definitions
o Engagement — Generally, we’re referring to involving supporters through an interactive two-way strategy.
o Champions (or super fans) — Fans of your organization that are huge supporters or customers.
o Influencers — People who are thought leaders for specific issue areas and tend to have a large following on social media.

Share Your Tips & Questions
We invite you to share your own digital strategy tips and questions.
o What’s worked really well in terms of engaging influencers and champions?
o What has been challenging?
o What tools do you use to track and measure your success?

>> Sign up for Jan. 28: Generating Buzz & Loyalty Online

Digital Trends Panel Discussion
As a follow up to the November event, we partnered with NTEN to organize a panel discussion in December on Digital Trends: Look Back at 2015 & Look Ahead at 2016. Check out the event video below.

Posted in Technology Tagged , |

Exhibit: Dreaming of Cuba…Soñando de Cuba

The Dreaming of Cuba exhibit is now being shown at the Teaism at Lafayette Park located at 800 Connecticut Ave. NW. This follows the November 10 exhibit and dialogue on Cuba at the Petworth Citizen, which took place during FotoWeekDC.


About the Exhibit
Close your eyes and think of Cuba…What types of images does it conjure in your mind? In spite of its isolation or maybe because of it, the forbidden island of Cuba is incredibly diverse and rich in terms of its history, culture, arts and the environment. In spite of their continuing struggle or perhaps because of it, the Cuban people have become stronger and more resourceful. I traveled to Havana, Trinidad, and Viñales. All these places were beautiful! Whether I was walking the street in Havana, horseback riding in Viñales, or listening to live music in Trinidad, everywhere I went I stumbled across beautiful colors and captured these images.

Cuba Resource Links
o NPR
o Washington Post
o Washington Office on Latin America

About Me
I was born in New Delhi, India and grew up in Ahmedabad, Gujarat and later in Houston, Texas. I have traveled to over 30 countries and lived in Thailand, Bolivia, Zimbabwe and El Salvador. My favorite countries are India, Mexico, Ghana, Brazil, Cuba and Turkey. I have lived in DC on and off since 1995.

Musings About Photography
Photography immortalizes the magic of people and places. The flexibility and mobility of the photographic medium lends itself to spontaneous exploration. It helps me to create images from transitory, fleeting moments by freezing them in time. My images may have diverse themes, however, they all have one thing in common–my eye, my way of seeing, and my relationship with people and places. Some of my images are purely aesthetic, while others are of a documentary nature giving insights into the people and culture of a particular place. Photography allows one to challenge his or her temporary, momentary existence in a two dimensional way. It transforms one’s fleeting existence into “permanent immortality.”

Posted in Photography, Travel Tagged |

All About Tiny Homes: Interview with Brian Levy

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On May 16, 2015 I had the pleasure of going to the Micro Showcase Open House. This was no ordinary open house! The tiny home I visited was in a hidden area in the alley. When I walked inside the gate, I was struck by all the vegetables, herbs, and flowers flourishing in the garden. In fact, the garden area was larger than the tiny home. Brian Levy, owner of the tiny home and founder of Micro Showcase, was talking to a group of people and sharing tidbits about his adventures in tiny home living. He explained to live well you don’t have to live in a big home. After going to the open house, I interviewed Brian, so he can share his story in his own words.

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1. Can you please share what inspired you to create a tiny home?

In part, having seen many tiny house plans that felt a bit too compromised, I was drawn to the design challenge of reimagining what a micro house could be.

Inspiration also came from my own living arrangements throughout my life, where I noticed that my happiness was almost never correlated with the size of my living space. And practically, for me, I feel life is too short to live big- to spend more of our precious life energy than needed dedicated to the gods of designing, building, financing, cleaning, furnishing, decorating, maintaining, and repairing, when we might better be loving, discovering, creating, traveling. There is a joy to be had in embracing certain limits.

I think many in the micro house movement experience a simplicity of existence, the elegant economy of form of a well designed small structure, an added freedom when unshackled from unneeded rooms and unwelcome mortgages. And last, there are clear environmental costs of living large that we simply can no longer afford for the sake of our civilization.

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2. Can you please share how you deal with cooling and heating the home? What systems does the home have?
Sure, you can learn more about how I cool and heat my home at the links included here.


3. How do you capture water? Any tips about types of systems to use?

All the water is supplied by the rain, then treated to be potable. I have lots of information on how this is done here.


4. What type of composting toilets have you found to work the best?

I have an incinerator toilet, not ideal but 100% sterile and no waste.


5. How much does a Minimhome cost? Who builds them and what types of materials are used to create them?

Around $75K complete. We (Minim Built LLC) are working with a manufacturing partner to build them.


6. How have you dealt with zoning challenges in DC? Any good resources you would like to recommend?

My advice is to always do a bit of research, then head down to DCRA, in person, take a number and have a chat with a zoning official, who can help you understand what is and what is not possible on your lot. Depending on the type/scale of the project, a good real estate lawyer is also recommended.


7. Are there online communities and resources you would like to recommend for those who want to get involved with tiny homes?

We are hoping that Microshowcase.com continues to grow into a well researched, curated resource for micro living. There are many other great sites out there and on Facebook. Find out about upcoming open houses.

Posted in Green Homes

Smart Girls Interview Uncut

It was great to reconnect with Karen Graham, Idealware’s new Executive Director, at the NTEN/NetSquared Community Organizers meeting following the Nonprofit Technology conference in Austin from March 4-6, 2015. After the meeting, she emailed me to see if I would be willing to do an interview for her blog Smart Girl Consulting. I responded I would be happy to do it, but it was not an easy task.  I stayed up late one night to finish answering her interview questions and included some other topics as well.  It turned out to be quite a long post, so Karen edited it before posting it.  Here’s the link to the blog post interview.

For those who would like to read the unedited version, I am sharing it below. Remember, it was quite late at night (1:27 am to be precise) when I finished writing it, so it does evolve into a bit of stream of consciousness towards the end. Special thanks to Karen for inspiring me to reflect a bit, in these times when everyone is rushed, and there is no time to sit and ponder. Enjoy!

Tinkering Around
I have always been inquisitive and curious. When I was young, I used to love taking things apart and figuring out how they worked. When I was in school, I took computer classes and learned BASIC. It was fascinating to see how I was able to create simple animations using code. Later in life I took html and information architecture classes on the side.

Exploring the World
However, my major interests in college were cultural anthropology, journalism and education. I really wanted to be a foreign correspondent when I was younger. I loved traveling, learning languages and exploring the world. I was selected for the Peace Corps internship in Thailand while studying at Trinity University. Later I studied abroad in Bolivia for six months taking sociology and cultural anthropology classes. After college, I was selected for the Rotary Ambassadorial scholarship, which I applied to a nine month certificate program in Grassroots Development & NGO Management in Zimbabwe through the School for International Training. I went to to get a MA in International Development from George Washington University, and worked in international development in El Salvador for a year and later with international development organizations in DC. As I traveled to different countries, I started documenting my experiences through photography. I did photography exhibits about countries I traveled to starting with an exhibit on Bolivia called 500 years of Resistance. Over the years I have continued to travel and do photography.

Networking, Learning and Community
My attention shifted from international development to nonprofit technology when I started working for OneWorld.net in the U.S. in 2001. My job focused on managing and growing the community of nonprofit organizations. I organized monthly Peer Learning Exchanges where individuals working at nonprofits could share best practices around fundraising, communications, technology and other topics. I continue to bring people together around nonprofit technology issues through my work as a volunteer co-organizer for NetSquared DC.

CiviCRM & Open Source
In terms of my current work, I am the Director of Strategy and Engagement at Ginkgo Street Labs, a company that helps nonprofits to implement CiviCRM projects. CiviCRM is an open source software that helps organizations to manage all their constituent relationships in one place, and it integrates with Drupal, Wordpess and Joomla. Instead of using different tools for different activities, such as email lists, fundraising and events, they can use the same tool, so their data is integrated, instead of being fragmented. They can segment their communications and really get to know how people are engaging with their organization. Since CiviCRM is open source, there are no licensing fees, and there are developers all over the world helping to improve the code, so you can benefit from other people’s work and others can benefit from the work you do with your code once it’s contributed back to the community. Another thing that’s great about CiviCRM is that it can be customized to fit your exact needs. You don’t have to be stuck with what you have like with most proprietary tools. Finally, you have control over your data, instead of having it stuck inside a proprietary tool.

Looking Ahead
Technology is changing at such a fast pace. We can no longer access data that was stored on a floppy drive and later on a cd. Now people store their data in the cloud. Instead of printing a photograph, it sits in the cloud. We are shifting from material to ephemeral. I think life is but a dream, and everything is “maya” illusion and we came with nothing and leave with nothing!

The way we communicate and work is shifting so quickly with mobile technology. I use my cell phone for photography, work and personal use. Wow, talk about all-in-one! We are connected, yet so disconnected. We sit in the same room, but with our face down in our devices. We communicate less face-to-face, more mobile-to-mobile. Through technology we are close to people who are far away, and far away from people who are close to us. We are engaged, but distant at the same time. We are not in the present moment. We are in a far away place sometimes quite unaware of our environment and people around us.

Despite its drawbacks, I do embrace the power of mobile devices and their potential. I think we are way beyond thinking about the web. It’s not about adapting a website to mobile. It’s about using technology native to mobile devices as a way to share content and engage people. We have only scratched the surface when it comes to mobile and its potential. In other countries, people and organizations are much more sophisticated in terms of how they use mobile devices. We have to think outside the box, and learn to solve problems the “mobile” way.

With the rise of social media and content sharing, people are empowered to both share their thoughts and ideas and learn about new things. People go onto Youtube to learn how to fix things. Who knew Youtube would be used as an educational tool? Organizations are no longer relying on the media to talk about issues they care about. They can publish their own content and create a community to share this content with. There is a lot of power and responsibility that comes with the ascent of social media and content generation. We are all content creators and content gatherers. However, how do we know what’s real? Is there anything such as objective journalism? What is the truth? Is it all subjective? Can we see through the content haze and decipher the truth? Perhaps, sometimes, and sometimes not…

Finally, what is happening in the world around us? Who really controls what’s happening around us? What is the role of governments and the role of multinational corporations? How do we evolve from a consumeristic, throw away culture, to a culture that values things that last? How can we shift from enjoying fast food to slow food? How do we take care of our natural resources, especially the air and water, around us? We are often disconnected, and don’t appreciate the impact of our actions on the world around us. How can we hold food corporations and pharmaceutical companies accountable for filling us with junk food, sodas and drugs that are harmful to us? How can we let companies like Monsanto bully farmers worldwide and patent seeds, and destroy our soil with pesticides? We need to better understand everything that is happening around us, and wake up to the realities of what’s happening around us and how we can come up with small ways to make a big difference in the world!

Posted in Technology

Poem: Bulbs Emerging

I was inspired to write this poem after reading Solas Nua (New Light in Irish) @solasnuacht ‪#‎heresthestory‬ and getting gorgeous Spring bulbs for the garden.

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Bulbs Emerging
Roshani Kothari
April 5, 2015

Buried deep within the dark, moist soil
Listening to the winds, sounds of birds chirping
Wondering what lies above
Wondering what this Spring will bring

Alas, one by one they break through the soil
Emerging slowly from their long dormancy
Revealing green stems, leaves
Forming buds in all shapes and sizes

One day after being drenched by the rains,
thirst quenched and warmed by the Sun’s warm embrace
They blossom into beautiful yellow, pink, purple,
red and a myriad of other colors
Purple crocuses emerging followed by grape hyacinths,
yellow daffodils, pink tulips…

Now swaying in the wind, dancing to the bird songs
What once seemed so distant and far away above
the soil was now there all around them
Bulbs emerging, performing on Spring’s stage
Delighting in all the admiration, attention
from passersby

Remembering, cherishing these joyous Spring days
for they knew it was all momentary, fleeting
and soon they will return to their home below the soil
waiting to rise, emerge once again the following Spring…

Posted in Gardening Tagged , , |

Drupal for Good: Interview with Porter Mason, U.S. Fund for UNICEF

In preparation for the BoF on Drupal for Good at Drupalcon in Amsterdam, I asked Porter Mason, Director of Digital Platforms, with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF to share their Drupal experience.

If you work with a nonprofit and would like to share your Drupal experience, share your experience by filling out this form.


unicef1. Please provide a brief overview of your organization.
The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF’s work, and other efforts in support of the world’s children, through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States.

2. Why did your organization move to Drupal and what were you using before? 
We moved to Drupal starting in Fall of 2013 and then completely moved over in Spring of 2014. We had been using Convio Luminate before that as well as WordPress for blogging. We started with 7.23. We work with Jackson River and their Springboard platform, which is a set of modules built for non-profit digital marketing that integrates with Salesforce and an email platform (we use SilverPop).

3. What have you appreciated the most about working with Drupal?
I like the lack of limitations on what we can/can’t do. At the beginning of a project, we can focus more on user and businees needs, and worry less about the what the platform can’t do. Drupal can do anything. Though some things are harder and more expensive than others.:)

4. What has been the most challenging about working with Drupal?
Three things. The flip side of the unlimited possibilities of Drupal is that picking and choosing what we should do becomes a much more involved part of the process. It has forced us to plan and prioritize and make a product roadmap in ways we hadn’t needed to before. Next, switching to a model where customizing the platform is mainly on us means making internal stakeholders understand that changes have a cost. Yes, you can do anything, but everything takes time and/or money. Finally, the admin interface is not friendly or intuitive without a lot of difficult customization, especially for average users used to WordPress for blogging. We’ve had to spend significant time and money improving the UX of the CMS, and it’s still hugely inferior to WordPress.

5. How can the Drupal community better support NGOs in their work?
It would be amazing if there were a structured way for us to put out support tickets to a community of developers interested in non-profit pro bono work. We have a lot of stuff that needs fixing, some of it small and easy, and it would be a great way for developers to help us out. If something like this already exists, and the model doesn’t take a ton of time for us to engage in, please let me know!

6. Has “Headless” or “Decoupled” Drupal played a role in your site or will it in the future?
It’s something we’ve discussed to circumvent some of our issues with the platform (see above about admin interface) but we haven’t done more than discussed it.

7. How are you preparing for Drupal 8?
Nothing much as of yet.

8. What are some tips you would like to share with NGOs that are considering switching to Drupal?
Be prepared for the shift in how you think about your platform. Drupal gives you great power to control your Web presence. With great power comes great responsibility. :) You’ll now become a product manager, if you weren’t already.


Porter Mason
portermason2Porter has worked in online communications in the nonprofit world since 2005. Currently, he serves as the Director of Digital Platforms at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF where he develops the organizational strategy on established digital products. Prior to UNICEF, Porter worked for many years at Environmental Defense Fund doing web project management, production and strategy. Porter also does pro bono digital work for some smaller non-profits, such as Reach Incorporated and the Scott Carter Foundation. Porter is a published cartoonist and taught improvisational comedy for many years at the prestigious Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City. Follow Porter on Twitter.

If you work with a nonprofit and would like to share your Drupal experience, share your experience by filling out this form.

Posted in Drupal, Technology Tagged , , |

La Conquista del Tomate

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I harvested these beautiful tomatoes this morning from my garden and they inspired me to write this poem. Since tomatoes originated in the Andes, I decided to write the poem in Spanish first and translate it into English afterwards. Wow little did I realize how difficult it is to translate poetry from Spanish to English!  It’s not just about translating the words, but translating the essence!  To learn more about the tomato’s journey around the world, click here.

This poem is dedicated to all the tomato lovers, cooks, poets and nomads traversing the globe. Special thanks to Ivan Chaquea from Colombia for editing the Spanish version.

La Conquista del Tomate
by Roshani Kothari, September 6, 2014

Me escapé de noche
de las montañas frías de los Andes
Me fui primero al calor de México
pero allá no me detuve!
Me sorprendí un poco encontrar
que no importa donde fuera
todos se enamoraban de mi.
Pero no podía quedarme en un solo lugar
Me bañe en la luz dorada de la puesta del sol
y me preparé para mi próximo viaje
Cuando la luna salió y me dio un beso
continué mi viaje hacia España, Italia, Medio Oeste,
África y la India…
En todo lugar dejé un par de hijos y hijas
para continuar mi destino
Conquistando el mundo con mi sabrosura
a veces muy dulce, a veces agria y a veces agridulce
y con mis colores maravillosos rojos, naranjos, amarillos
que nadie podía resistir
así complete mi destino seduciendo al mundo!

Tomato Journeys
by Roshani Kothari, September 6, 2014

I escaped during the night
from the cold Andes mountains
to the warmth of Mexico
but I didn’t stop there!
I was a little surprised to find out
that no matter where I went
People fell in love with me
But I couldn’t just stay in one place
I bathed in the golden light of the setting sun
and prepared for my next journey
When the moon rose and gave me a kiss
I continued on my journey to Spain, Italy, the Middle East,
Africa and India…
Everywhere I went I left sons and daughters
to continue my destiny
Seducing the world with my delicious juiciness
sometimes very sweet, sometimes sour, and sometimes sweet and sour
dressed in bright red, orange and yellow
Alas no one could resist me
and so I go on fulfilling my destiny and
seducing the world!

Posted in Uncategorized

Exhibit: Plant Journeys

Join me in this journey not to another country, but to another kingdom–the Plant Kingdom! Gardening is both rewarding and challenging for me. I am always learning new things. For example, it is so important to continually build and nourish the soil. Gardening is not just about growing plants, but growing the soil. Check out the film Symphony of the Soil. Also it is so important to have plants that help to sustain beneficial insects, like bees, to help pollinate crops. Open-pollinated seeds are important because they allow people to save seeds. I am appalled at what Monsanto is doing worldwide with their patented seeds and pesticides. They pretend like they are helping farmers, but instead they are wreaking havoc on rural communities worldwide and putting our global food supply in serious jeopardy. Check out Seed Savers and Millions Against Monsanto.  Want to test your Plant IQ? Take the Plant IQ quiz.


Plant Journeys – Images by Roshani Kothari

Posted in Gardening, Images, Photography

Plant Quiz

Posted in Gardening

Green Your Home: Resources You Can Use

greenhomeresourcesphoto
Greening your home can help you save money and save the environment at the same time.  Some people don’t care about going green, but most everyone cares about saving money.  Little changes you make in your own home have ripple effects and help to make a difference locally and globally. You may wonder if the effort you make to switch to energy efficient appliances and water-saving devices really matters in the long-run.

Facing Reality: Limited Energy & Water Resources
The reality is that we live in a world with finite resources. Although there may be an illusion of plenty when it comes to energy and water, they are limited.  We grow up in urban environments like Washington, DC where we don’t know what happens to our trash, where our water is purified, or how our electricity and gas are generated.  We don’t come face to face with the consequences of our actions.  I am just as guilty as the next person for not always realizing the ripple effect of my actions or having an understanding of how I am using limited energy and water resources.

Buying a Green Home
When I bought my first home, I didn’t think about how green it was.  I was only concerned about the location, size, layout and amenities.  These things are undoubtedly critical when purchasing a new home, but when you are considering two similarly priced homes in the same neighborhood, it may be helpful to consider each home’s ecological footprint and features.

Selling a Green Home
If you are considering selling your current home, it may be helpful to look at everything you can do to make your home greener.  It will help to set your home apart from the rest of the homes on the market.  You may think that you have to spend a lot of money to green your home, but you can make small, inexpensive changes like adding water-saving devices to adding weather stripping to windows and doors to prevent air leakage.   If you have a bigger budget, you can consider replacing your appliances, getting a solar hot water heater and other adding solar panels on the roof.


Green Tips
Here are a few green tips.  This is not meant to be a complete, exhaustive list of everything.  Feel free to add other green tips by commenting below.

1. Choose a zero-VOC paint – Improve indoor air quality
When you are considering repainting the interior of your home, choose zero-VOC paints.  They may cost a little more, but they make a big difference in terms of the air quality in a home.  VOC paints give off harmful fumes.

2. Weatherize your home – Prevent air leakage
You may have a very efficient furnace, but if your windows and doors are leaking air, you will end up spending more money heating or cooling your home.

3. Add water-saving devices – Limit your water use
Low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators are inexpensive ways to save water.  You can also consider upgrading to a water-efficient dishwasher and clothes washer.  If you have the space, consider attaching a rain barrel to your downspout and use this water for your garden.  All of these devices will help you save water and save money.

4. Compost, recycle & reuse – Generate less trash
Be sure to recycle plastic, glass, cardboard, and paper in the blue trash cans provided by DC government.  If possible resuse bottles and containers for food storage.  If you have a garden, create a simple composter by taking the bottom out of a trash can and drilling holes in the sides.  Make sure there is lid that fits tightly, so it doesn’t attract rodents.  You can add all your vegetable and fruit scraps in the compost.  No cooked food, meat or dairy.  Add in some Fall leaves, mix the compost once in a while and you will see how your scraps slowly decompose.  Once the compost is ready, you will be lucky enough to have the most rich “black gold” for your garden.

5. Clean with a Conscience – Improve indoor air quality and avoid water pollution
Many cleaners are filled with harmful chemicals that we end up inhaling.  For cleaning the shower or tub, you can use white vinegar and Bon Ami or baking soda.  Avoid bleach–it’s bad for you and the environment.  Buy eco-friendly dishwashing liquid, detergent, soap, and cleaners.  Some of these may cost more, but they are better for you in the long-run. Remember you may save money in the short-run with the cheaper harmful cleaners, but keep in mind the long-term consequences of some of these products.


Green Designation
I recently received the National Association of REALTORS®’ (NAR’s) Green Designation, the only green real estate professional designation recognized by NAR.

I achieved this designation after completing 18 hours of course work designed specifically for REALTORS®. More specifically, I was trained in understanding what makes a property green, helping clients evaluate the cost/benefits of green building features and practices, distinguishing between industry rating and classification systems, listing and marketing green homes and buildings, discussing the financial grants and incentives available to homeowners, and helping consumers see a property’s green potential.

If you are looking to buy or sell a green home, email me at Roshani[at]GreenLineRe.com to schedule an appointment.


DC Area Green Resources
Here are some of the local green resources.  Feel free to suggest others by commenting below.

1. RiverSmart Homes – Reduce stormwater pollution by getting rain barrels, getting a rain garden installed and much more.

2. DC Green Homes – Join this online community to share questions and resources about greening your home.

3. DC SUN – Join this neighborhood coalition that focuses on all things solar.

4. Groundswell – Get home energy audits, make energy efficient upgrades and participate in collective buying to purchase clean energy.

5. Helicon Works – Ecological architecture & building collaborative.

6. DC Greenworks – Get a green roof and more.

7. Amicus Green Building Center – Buy green building supplies.

8. Community Forklift – Surplus, salvaged, green building materials.


Other Green Resources

1. Green Home Resources – Green REsource Council

2. Green Home Guide – U.S. Green Building Council

3. Green Guide for Everyday Living

4. Green Home Solutions – EPA

5. Green Guide – National Geographic

6. Good Guide – Green, Healthy Product Guide

7. Green Building Supply

8. Green Pages – Green America

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