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  • Writer's pictureMfon Edet

"Loving the Earth" Spotlight: Ward 8 Woods Conservancy

As living beings, our connection to nature is undeniable. Therefore when our natural environment becomes polluted with air, water, and land pollution with the latter two being caused by trash litter, it disrupts our home and ultimately our livelihood, physically, mentally, and spiritually. So what does caring for your home, caring for the natural environment within your neighborhoods look like? Well it looks like Ward 8 Woods. Ward 8 Woods Conservancy is a grassroots environmental organization that works to “increase and rejuvenate the beauty, ecological health, and public enjoyment of over 500 acres of forest in Ward 8 of Washington, DC.” Along with removing litter from parks, Ward 8 Woods also works to design trails within these woods to provide a safe and inclusive natural environment for members within the community. What began as the Committee to Restore Shepherd Parkway in 2011 has now transformed into a nonprofit organization almost a decade later and still continues to grow and impact the local community in a sustainable way.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview the Executive Director and Founder, Nathan Harrington to learn more about the amazing work Ward 8 Woods has been doing over the years. During the interview I asked Mr. Harrington how this organization is able to get local community members (i.e. residents in Southeast DC) engaged with the organization’s work. His explanation, captured below, highlights the organization’s grassroots spirit, compassion for nature, and respect for local residents, a trifecta of sustainable community impact:

Nathan Harrington: Probably the most important in my view is that when we go into a wooded area, to clean it up, we try to knock on the doors of those who live in the immediate vicinity to let them know why we’re there and what we’re doing. And that’s challenging because people are not used to having strangers knock on their door. But it is the best way that we’ve found to do outreach that’s hyper-targeted. We just don’t reach out to people in a particular neighborhood. We reach out to people who are on a particular block or in a particular business because they are the ones who can see what we’re doing. And if we’re removing trash, they are the ones who can help make sure that those areas stay clean.

We also have an online presence (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) and attend community meetings like ANC (Advisory Neighborhood Commission) meetings. And something that we started to do in the last couple of months before the pandemic hit was [in response to the] DC bag law that started about 5 years ago, Citywide, a lot of people are bringing their own reusable bags and the disposable shopping bags being sold have decreased but we see in Ward 8 that it’s not working; most people are not bringing their own bags and they are paying that fee; it seems like the ones who can barely afford that fee are the ones paying it. Also, we are still seeing too many [plastic] bags floating around Ward 8. So our solution to that is to combine our outreach by letting people know about our work and making people aware about how they can contribute by bringing their own grocery bag. We have a thousand of the [reusable grocery bags] from the DC Department of Environment in which we give it out to residents in the Ward 8 community when we’re canvassing…

Committed to the welfare of both local residents in Ward 8 and ecological health in our underserved neighborhoods, is why we chose to celebrate Earth Day by putting a spotlight on the amazing work that Ward 8 Woods is doing for our communities which is impacting our mental, spiritual, and physical health.

Due to the current health pandemic caused by COVID-19, volunteer events have been cancelled but you can still stay connected. To get involved and connected with Ward 8 Woods, make sure to follow them on social media and join their mailing list by signing up on their website.

Social media handles:

Facebook - @ward8woods

IG - @ward8woods

Twitter - @8_woods

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