Barbara Duncan receives a Founders Earth Leadership Award at the May 16th 20th Anniversary Celebration

Barbara Duncan receives a Founders Earth Leadership Award at the May 16th 20th Anniversary Celebration

Last week the Northwest Earth Institute celebrated its 20th Anniversary with a celebration in Portland, Oregon with over 220 people in attendance, including past and present board members, staff, community partners and discussion course organizers from throughout the region as well as the country.

We were honored to present the Founders Earth Leadership Award to Vermont’s Barbara Duncan and Oregon’s Betty Shelley. Barbara has been working with the Northwest Earth Institute community since the late 1990s, having created the Vermont Earth Institute and Catamount Earth Institute (partner organizations to NWEI). Through the NWEI discussion courses, she helped create a network of sustainability groups throughout the state of Vermont. By 2012 she had led efforts in starting at least 600 NWEI courses and engaging some 6000 people in Vermont and New Hampshire!

Betty Shelley and NWEI Executive Director Mike Mercer at the NWEI 20th Anniversary Celebration

Betty Shelley and NWEI Executive Director Mike Mercer at the NWEI 20th Anniversary Celebration

Betty Shelley has been actively volunteering for NWEI during the span of NWEI’s 20 years. As a community volunteer, she teaches waste reduction courses for citizens in the Portland area, and has been highlighted for her and her husband’s efforts to generate only one can of trash per year. Betty has volunteered on nearly every NWEI discussion course development team and several major revisions, as well as has volunteered to support nearly every NWEI North American Gathering and Volunteers Retreat – both locally and around the country. She also served on NWEI’s Community Building Committee for many years.

NWEI Executive Director Mike Mercer notes, “Some people do a great job of creating an example in their personal choices for others to emulate. Others set a very high standard in their public contributions to the sustainability movement. Those that are in the top 1 percent in both realms are leaders who deserve to be recognized for contributions that truly move the dial…Betty Shelly is such a person.”

NWEI Founders Earth Leadership Award Nominees and Recipients at the 20th Anniversary Event on May 16th, 2013

NWEI Founders Earth Leadership Award Nominees and Recipients at the 20th Anniversary Event on May 16th, 2013

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sneak-peak-homepageAt NWEI, we believe the solution to many of Earth’s biggest challenges lies in the power of collective change: by taking action in our own lives and inspiring the people around us, each of us contributes to a world of impact. Over the last 20 years NWEI has helped nearly 145,000 people around the world make small steps that lead to big changes for our planet.

Today, on the day we celebrate NWEI’s 20th anniversary, we are launching new tools for you to create your community of change: a brand new website and online community EcoForum. All of our new tools make change even more social, fun and possible.  

NWEI’s new online platform will build a global network of people changing for good, connecting the many small communities around the globe who are using NWEI programs. This state-of-the-art online tool will expand opportunities for shared discovery and support.

Please visit our new website, explore our new course organizing support tools and share your stories of change and “aha!” moments today in our new EcoForum

NWEI Executive Director, Mike Mercer

NWEI Executive Director, Mike Mercer

Sustainable Business Oregon highlighted NWEI’s 20 years of work with the business community in an article published today. Read below for Andy Giegerich’s reflections on how NWEI has been “bringing businesses back to Earth” since 1993. For the full piece, click here.

A key player in Oregon’s early sustainable business movement is marking its second decade this week.

 

The Northwest Earth Institute, launched by former Stoel Rives LLP attorney Dick Roy and his wife Jeanne, will host its 20th anniversary party May 16th at Portland’s Left Bank Annex. As part of the celebration, the group is unveiling new strategies, including an updated online platform, that Executive Director Mike Mercer believes will move the group to the next level.

 

The Roys formed the group to push air quality and solid waste issues. Since then, it has also worked to improve Portland neighborhoods, through the Neighborhood Sense of Place Program, and formed the Sustainable Investment Institute as a way to train investment advisers on green issues.

 

The new Change for Good effort that’ll launch Thursday aims to “close the gap between the sustainability behavior people want to do and what they actually do,” Mercer said…

“This isn’t a solitary pursuit, it’s a social pursuit,” Mercer said. “We want to make it easy for someone who’s busy to get involved.”…Mercer has led the group since 2006 and participated in its programs since the mid-1990s.

 

“Twenty years ago, people weren’t having this discussion around sustainability,” he said. “It was a small group of change agents, maybe 1 percent or 2 percent of the population. Over the last 20 years, NWEI reached out to the middle part of the population who realized that change is permanent but didn’t know how to get there just yet.”

 

The group has increasingly focused on the higher education sector, such as faculty members who are incorporating sustainability tenets in their teaching and projects. About half of the group’s 10,000 members are in the higher education realm.

 

“Four years ago, it was zero” percent, Mercer said. “That’s in recognition of faculty members and institutions saying, we need to educate students for a different future, not just in renewable energy but in terms of dealing with the planet.”

NWEI is turning 20 this week! We’ll be celebrating our 20th Anniversary this Thursday as well as will launch a new website and online community EcoForum!

Join us tomorrow, May 14, at 12pm PST for a sneak peek at our new website and online discussion course platform.We invite you behind the scenes to see how you can use our discussion courses and new tools to create your own community of change.

Register today and we will email you your Go2Webinar log-in information before the event.

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Through shared learning, shared stories and shared action, NWEI has helped hundreds of businesses and organizations align the actions of their employees with organizational sustainability goals. This includes corporate leaders such as The Standard, Intel, Hewlett Packard, Nike, Microsoft, and Starbucks. Find out more in this short video.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

Below is a guest post from NWEI Board Member Eric Park – in honor of NWEI’s forthcoming 20th Anniversary and the launch of our new website and online platform next week. Enjoy!

This quote is often a source of inspiration for organizations like NWEI, committed to working towards creating positive change in the world. However, while this quote is inspiring, it doesn’t offer any insight into how to “spark” this change.

NWEI has spent the last twenty years, working to spark change. As we move forward into our twenty-first year, we will be launching a new online platform to extend the reach of the organization. But more importantly, we will move forward with a deeper understanding of the importance of mastering the art of the “aha” moment in order to accelerate the pace of change towards a more sustainable future.

We believe the key spark for behavior change is the “aha!” moment. We’ve all experienced “aha!” moments, from eyebrow raising to life-changing; moments when we discover something new about the world or ourselves that inspire us to make a change. NWEI has worked to understand the conditions necessary for individuals and small groups to have “aha!” moments, knowing that this is the spark for individual and collective change.

But sparking these “Aha” moments isn’t easy. When is the last time you actually changed your mind about something, or resolved yourself to make a small or significant change in the way you were doing things? Turns out for many, this doesn’t happen very often.

What we do know, is that most people who participate in an NWEI discussion courses or our annual Ecochallenge event do make a change. And we believe it’s because these activities engage people in a social process of learning, action, or story-telling that creates the conditions for them to have “Aha” moments.

As we launch our new on-line platform, we hope to encourage more people to participate in activities that trigger more personal “Aha” moments, because while we know change is hard, we also know that change is inevitable. And we’re committed to accelerating this change by becoming masters of art the “Aha” moment.

With our on-line platform, we hope it will be easier for you to share your “aha” moments and make it easier for you and others to create the conditions for your circle of family, friend, or co-workers to have theirs.

NWEI’s Executive Director Mike Mercer’s guest opinion piece, We Can Reconcile Moral Values and Self-Interest to Encourage Sustainability,  was featured in yesterday’s Oregonian. Read below for Mike’s perspective on reconciling values and self-interest in pursuit of a more sustainable community.

Our sustainability “tent” can be broadly defined as all the people who have decided to do something large or small about the environment. It’s growing, but it still only covers a small segment of the population. If we really are to achieve a thriving, sustainable future, the sustainability tent has to be large enough to include the diverse perspectives found among our citizenry.

 

Most folks on the street, if asked, would describe a sustainability advocate as urban, spiritual, politically liberal and intellectual. If this view is accurate, we have two approaches: Try to convert all those who don’t fit this profile to think like an advocate, or find a path to meet people where they are, appealing to the values they hold most dear — the well-being of ourselves, family and friends.

 

Let’s step back and define the real problem pushing us away from a prosperous future for all: We simply consume too much stuff, much of our waste is toxic and the biosphere that enables life can’t keep up with the pace of human progress. As consumers, we determine the success of advancements in technology, policy and market forces. The majority of citizens understand that we should change our ways.

 

A 2010 study conducted by Yale University highlighted the “say-do gap,” the gap between what we say we should do and what we actually do. The study examined a wide range of “sustainability” behaviors and the gap between beliefs and actions. For example: 76 percent of the respondents said that it is important that we walk or bike more regularly instead of driving, yet only 15 percent said they do. It is important to use reusable shopping bags, 81 percent said, yet only 33 percent do.

 

On the surface, this study suggests that for a significant majority, guilt or education is not enough to elicit a change in behavior. A significant reason is because we have too much on our plates; other priorities take precedence. So then, how do we help citizens care enough to overcome barriers and change behaviors toward a sustainable future? One successful approach is to help them link the change to the values that matter most to them. At the NW Earth Institute, we take two proven approaches to closing the say-do gap. First, we use the power of fun, shared learning, shared discovery and support. Second, we encourage citizens to reflect on their values (current and evolving), not ours, and consider why thriving human and non-human communities might matter to them.

 

There really is room for both altruistic and self-interest values to achieve a future that includes clean water, healthy air and material possessions to meet our needs. On the surface, self-interest and community values don’t appear to be great bedfellows, but actually, they co-exist within many aspects of our lives. For some, eating local and organic food is primarily a choice for better health, but this choice also has the side benefits of building stronger local economies, reducing greenhouse gases, cleaner waterways and better outcomes for those involved in food production. I started riding my bike in 1989 because I couldn’t afford a second car and I wanted to maintain good health and look the way I did … yes, a bit of vanity! My reasons for riding today are much broader, but they didn’t start that way.

 

If we really are to achieve the broad-scale change necessary for a thriving, sustainable future, I am for making the tent as big as possible with room for those open to change, without prescribing the values motivating that change.

To read Mike’s guest column online, click here.

Transition-Challenge-LogoDuring the month of May 2013, thousands of landscapes and homes will be transformed, retrofitted and revitalized as part of the Transition Challenge, hosted by Transition US. Thousands of people will take to the streets, the garden, schoolyard, home, apartment and city hall to take actions big and small. Participants will grow food, conserve water, save energy and build community.

Our partners at Transition US say it well: “Amidst a dizzying array of crises and mounting despair, together we will bring the hope of transition and show what we are capable of with our heads, hearts and hands aligned in action. It’s time for action, rooted in a shared vision and voice.”

If you would like to join this Challenge, you can create a project and register your action by clicking here.

NWEI Staffer Liz Zavodsky and OCI Chef Instructor Ramona White

NWEI Staffer Liz Zavodsky and OCI Chef Instructor Ramona White

Oregon Culinary Institute Chef Instructor Ramona Lisa White has begun what is now an ongoing commitment to using the NWEI course books Menu for the Future and Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability in her ongoing culinary arts classes. “The students really responded positively to the readings,” says Ramona. At least 45 students have already completed her first course using the NWEI course books, and her second course began this week. Student Michael Gent noted “I thought the readings were helpful. I have noticed my general attitude regarding (food) ethics have changed over the course of the class.”

At NWEI, we believe the solution to many of Earth’s biggest challenges lies in the power of collective change: by taking action in our own lives and inspiring the people around us, each of us contributes to a world of impact. Over the last 20 years, NWEI has helped more than 140,000 people from around the world make small steps that lead to big changes for our planet. Thanks to the Spirit Mountain Community Fund, Northwest Earth Institute is pleased to offer 1,000 free discussion course books to Portland-area students during the 2012-2013 school year. Oregon Culinary Institute has been one of the most active participants in the Spirit Mountain Community Fund Grant.

More than 300 colleges and universities throughout North America have successfully used NWEI course books in a wide range of academic disciplines and institutional settings. The student-led curriculum encourages critical thinking and active learning, and helps students find “Aha!” moments about the way they live, work, create and consume.

Oregon Culinary Institute student Tom Kelch reflected that “whether the readings were sad or uplifting didn’t matter because I learned things I never  thought about before.” Emelio Sansone noted that “each reading served very valuable lessons and I am making a great deal of effort to apply them to my life whenever possible.” Other students in Ramona’s class cited the NWEI readings as “eye opening” and “useful not only in our career life but in our personal lives too.”

indexNWEI partner organization Catamount Earth Institute  just wrapped up a two week EcoChallenge, inspired by NWEI’s annual EcoChallenge held each October. For the past two weeks, leading up to today’s Earth Day, participants with Catamount Earth Institute in Vermont have formally challenged themselves to change at least one habit for the good of the Earth. Many participating maintained a blog about their adventures in taking action to address Food, Energy, Transportation, Trash and Water issues. Click here to browse stories of change.

The Catamount Earth Institute EcoChallengers are meeting today, on Earth Day, in Norwich, Vermont for a celebratory potluck and an exchange of challenges and solutions.

Happy Earth Day to all in NWEI’s broader community!

In just one month we will launch our fancy new website and *brand new* online discussion course platform. Having spent the better part of a year in the design and development phases, we are very excited to move on to the LAUNCH phase!

Today we want to share a couple sneak peek screen shots and an invitation to find out more by participating in our Sneak Peek Webinar.

We look forward to showing off the entire website and course platform on May 16th, until then check out this sneak peek! (Click on the photos to enlarge them.)

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For those in the Portland area, please join other NWEI volunteers and staffers at the  Do the Math Tour Documentary Premiere and Panel Discussion, to be held Sunday, April 21st at 6pm at the Ecotrust building, 721 NW 9th Ave., Portland. NWEI Executive Director Mike Mercer will be talking about NWEI’s work as part of the panel discussion. Below is an invitation from Mike Rosen, who is organizing the showing.
What better way to spend Earth Day Eve than at the Portland premiere of 350.org‘s documentary on the Do the Math Tour?  Doors open at 5:30 pm, at Ecotrust (located at 721 NW 9th Avenue, 2nd floor).  Join us for a 1 hour panel discussion at 6pm with local leaders to learn about their efforts to combat Global Warming.  From 5:30 to 6 and from 8 to 9 you can browse our information tables.  At 7 pm we will have the Portland premiere of the Do the Math Tour documentary.  After the film our panel will reconvene for further discussion. The $3 charge covers the cost of the venue.  Anyone needing free tickets should contact Mike Rosen @ mikanter@comcast.net

mail.google.comToday we feature a guest post from Angela Hamilton, Education and Student Programs Coordinator at Portland State University’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions, NWEI volunteer and member of the planning committee for our 20th Anniversary Celebration.

By Angela Hamilton

Like many of you, I have my own personal story of change inspired by NWEI’s discussion courses and EcoChallenge. I was introduced to NWEI in 2008 during my first class in the Leadership for Sustainability Education master’s program at Portland State University. The professor integrated a discussion course as a group assignment and brought in a guest speaker from the Earth Institute to speak to our class. I dreamed of becoming part of a curriculum committee for one of the discussion courses, and ventured to volunteer with NWEI. Instead of planning life-changing programs with a committee of like-minded folks, I found myself instead doing data entry, a much less “sexy” volunteer job, for which I had the right skills. What, you might ask, kept me around for the five years since?

Spending time in the NWEI office, I noticed two things that keep me connected to NWEI and its meaningful work. First, I learned how far NWEI’s influence stretches. Before volunteering, I knew that NWEI was a cool Portland nonprofit that had put together some amazing materials that I couldn’t wait to utilize in my future educational opportunities. But I had NO idea how many people had used the discussion courses to create change in their communities — thousands upon thousands of people in neighborhoods, universities, churches, and organizations across the world are taking action and creating change because of the Earth Institute! I became excited to support such an important organization working to bring forth a thriving future. Second, I realized that the organization is supported by a community. I watched as people came into the office and were welcomed as old friends. Because of the heart and commitment of the staff and board, NWEI brings meaning and community into people’s lives–locally, nationally, and internationally.

Over the past five years, I have deepened my relationship with NWEI by convening a Voluntary Simplicity discussion course, tabling for NWEI at the Portland Earth Day festival, attending the 2011 North American Gathering in Port Townsend, serving as a liaison at Portland State University for integrating the discussion courses into curricular and co-curricular learning, and promoting the courses via the nonprofit that I co-founded, Earth Wisdom AllianceWhen Mike called me in January 2012 to ask if I would be interested in joining a committee to work on the Change for Good campaign leading up to the 20th Anniversary Celebration, I was honored to be invited to increase my commitment to NWEI.

During the Voluntary Simplicity course that I convened, one of the participants quit her second job as a result of reassessing what she wanted more of and needed less of in her life. Witnessing this and hearing the other stories of individuals, groups, and organizations that are using NWEI’s courses to do amazing things —to make sustainable magic— in this world where change is sometimes challenging, my inspiration is renewed. I can’t wait to see NWEI’s powerful new platform for cultivating communities of leaders, which will launch at the 20th Anniversary Celebration.

I hope you’ll join me on May 16th at the Celebration, I promise you a night of fun and inspiration!

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imagesAs many of you know, NWEI founders Dick and Jeanne Roy went on to found another non-profit based in Portland: The Center for Earth Leadership. NWEI founder Jeanne Roy shared the following invitation for NWEI community members: Please join the Center for Earth Leadership for an evening event celebrating Earth in honor of Earth Day on Friday, April 19th from 7:30-9pm. The event will be held at the First Unitarian Church, SW 12th and Salmon St., Portland. Set aside this special time to celebrate our remarkable planet. Although damaged by excess development, Earth continues to nourish and sustain us.  The program includes instrumental and vocal performances, meditative singing, and poetry.

For details click here.  RSVP to 503-244-0026 or Jeanne@earthleaders.org.

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