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Reflecting on the Past, Ready for the Future!

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The new year is a time to reflect on the past and set goals for the future. The past year brought us satisfaction and challenges that allowed us to grow as individuals and as a team. We hope 2018 comes with opportunities to help communities become more sustainable.  

Over the past year, we have continued to grow in the region leading projects such as Vision Zero in Alexandria, VA, providing technical research on innovative beneficial reuse of dredged materials in Maryland while expanding our reach to our not-so-distant neighbor Philadelphia, PA to lead the University City District Just Spaces project.

At home in DC, we are continuing our work on projects such as the Southeast Boulevard and Barney Circle Environmental Assessment as well as the GreenWrench Automotive Pollution Prevention Program.

While these projects represent a snippet of the contributions we are making in the planning and environmental realm, we anticipate continued growth in this new year. Our main goal for 2018 is to continue developing and implementing creative solutions that will help communities achieve their social, cultural, economic, and environmental goals. As such, we look forward to working with new and existing clients; meeting other communities and leaders; and learning and implementing other methods and practices into our projects, such as public art.

We pride ourselves on being forward-thinkers; therefore, we believe that creative solutions are the most effective way to tackle the challenges facing communities today. Later this month, we will tell you a little bit more about our “refresh” for 2018. We look forward to an exciting and fulfilling 2018.

On behalf of the entire Nspiregreen team, we wish you a Happy New Year!

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I bought a fixer upper in Brightwood

Homebuying in the District is not easy given the rising home prices, but it is also not impossible. After four months of searching and putting in an offer on three houses, we finally closed on a single family attached (duplex) in Brightwood Manor Park. (I’ve since learned that my specific neighborhood is Manor Park)

Did we get what we want?

In my last post, I talked about what was important to us as we started the homebuying process. Fortunately, we got most of what we wanted.

  • Affordability: The home was within our budget. We crunched the numbers and determined that we could pay the mortgage on the home and the condo with one person’s salary.
  • Location: As a co-owner of a DC Certified Business Enterprise, staying in the District was important to maintaining our status as a District-owned business, meaning the business’ owners are residents of the DC. The baseline criteria for the CBE is being District-based business, but we get additional points for being District-owned as well. We have a slightly longer commute to work than from our apartment in Navy Yard. Our previous commute was each 25 minutes and now I have a 35-minute one seat ride on the 63 Metrobus. My boyfriend’s commute is 45 minutes via walking and Metrorail.
  • Low Maintenance Green Space: We have two small patches in the front, a small side yard/walkway, and a small rear yard. Since the house sat vacant for two years, the weeds were taller than me. It took us two weekends, a machete, a chainsaw, and weed killer to remove all of the weeds. We mulched the front yard and decided to use the rear for parking. Needless to say, we won’t have to cut grass.
  • Schools: Our boundary schools are Whittier Education Campus and Coolidge High School. The Whittier Education Campus had a boost in test scores this past school year and Coolidge is in the middle of a renovation. There are also plenty of good charter schools in walking distance.
  • Walkability: We are within walking distance to recreation centers, the public library, mom and pop restaurants, and grocery stores. Admittedly, we did buy a used car, after being carfree for over five years, to accommodate the multiple trips to the hardware store to fix up the house.
  • Size: Our home has three bedrooms, two full bathrooms, and a finished basement. It’s a perfect size for us now and as we grow our family. The main floor is semi-open, which is great for entertaining.

Trade-Offs

To get everything we wanted, including affordability, the compromise was the condition of the home. We viewed a few “flipped” homes that were move in ready. However, I had concerns about the quality of the renovations after the experience of my friends and WAMU’s reporting a few years ago about how developers sometimes cut corners to quickly flip homes.  The house we purchased was a rental property for a decade, then sat vacant for over two years. It took us about a month to get the house in move in ready condition, including upgrading the electrical and plumbing systems, deep cleaning, and putting on a new roof.

Over the next year we will completely gut and rebuild the kitchen and basement. During the basement reconstruction, we will remove all the remaining galvanized steel pipes in the house. The downside is having to live in the house during construction. However, we will have the peace of mind knowing everything was built to our specifications and standards.

Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.

 

 

 

Balance

The Elusive Work-Life Balance

We all crave the elusive work-life balance. It comes up again and again in the events I’ve hosted for WTS’s Mentoring Program. It’s always interesting to see how panelists and speakers respond, because a lot of them haven’t figured it out either. I remember the first career panel I hosted as co-chair of WTS’s Mentoring Program, someone asked how to achieve this balance and the first panelist answered, “if you figure it out, let me know”. Over the years, however, I have been able to piece together some helpful advice. I gave a brief synopsis in my last blog post, Lessons from WTS-DC’s Mentoring Program, but there was too much to say so I’m breaking it out into a separate post.

Hearing stories from numerous panelists and working with my mentors, my approach to work-life balance is continuously evolving. I used to think there were specific jobs that offered work-life balance and I just had to find them. While it’s true that some jobs are more or less conducive to work-life balance than others, I’ve learned that in almost any job in any sector, you can fall prey to working way too many hours and burning out. When my Mentoring Program co-chairs and I brainstorm people to invite to the panels, we make sure we have a representative from each sector. For example, this year’s panel included someone from the Federal government, local government, non-profit, and someone who currently works for a transportation agency but has worked for private consulting firms in the past. They all have the same challenges when it comes to work load – in every single sector, in almost every position they’ve been in.

So how do you find work-life balance? To sum everything up in one sentence: you have to set the boundaries to achieve work-life balance – it won’t fall into your lap. No one is going to know how much you can handle except for you. You need to be your own advocate. Sure, but how do you turn down additional work? While these of course won’t work for everyone, our panelists had the following tips:

Focusing on the Essentials
What can you take off your plate? What is not essential? If you take too much on, your work will suffer (not to mention your physical and mental health). Instead, figure out which tasks at work and at home are most important and stop doing anything else that isn’t absolutely necessary. If you are able, delegate to a coworker, ask your boss for an intern, outsource household chores, etc. You can then excel at whatever you choose to focus on and that is what makes people want to work with you.

Alternative to Saying ‘No’
On a related note, instead of just saying ‘no’ when asked to take something else on, provide alternative options. At work, instead of telling your boss you can’t take on a new task, say you can do it but you need help. You and your boss can work together to figure out how your team can get the work done so that it’s not all piled on you. This can Work-Life-Balance-Signsimilarly be used for extra-curricular activities. For example, if you’re asked to speak on a panel, join a board, or volunteer at an event, and you just don’t have the time, recommend someone else who can take your place.

Get Out of the Office
Your time outside of work is important. If you have a flexible schedule and worked more at the beginning of the week, make sure you actually leave work early at the end the week. People make this mistake with vacation too when they don’t use all of their PTO. Taking time off makes you more productive and will improve the quality of your work. And when you take time off, truly be out of the office (i.e. no answering emails or work calls).

Self-Care
Take care of yourself, know your limits, and trust that you are appreciated and respected enough to take a step back without impeding your career. In fact, easing up when necessary will probably improve your career in the long run.

Again, some jobs and professions (and some bosses) are more conducive to these techniques than others and sometimes this advice just isn’t possible. But I think a lot of people would be surprised about what is possible when you ask for it, as long as it’s a well-thought-out, reasonable request.





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