Meet Shelly Randall, our Guest Conference Blogger! She’ll be posting throughout this week’s conference on sustainable food and communities on what she’s seeing and learning, so if you wanted to join us but can’t, we hope this will be a way to share the learning.  Also, its not too late to join us!  There are still spaces available!  Click here for this week’s conference info!

Salutations from Port Townsend, where I know many of you will be heading in the next couple of days for NWEI’s biannual North American Gathering. Let me introduce myself as the conference’s guest blogger.

I’m Shelly Randall, a 35-year-old freelance writer and mother of a just-turned-3-year-old, and I’m thrilled to be launching my new blog, Sustainable Together, concurrent with the conference. In fact, the impending conference date circled on my calendar has been the kick in the pants I needed to pull off the blog project. I first heard about the NWEI gathering through Local 20/20, our umbrella sustainability organization, and couldn’t shake the idea I had to be there. At the time, I was contemplating “my life’s purpose” as part of a personal finance plan, and when I inputted “sustainability” as the personal and professional goal, everything else fell into place.

So I registered for the conference two months ago and have been working steadily ever since to organize my thoughts into a mission statement and to essentially rebrand my communications business, shifting from a maritime focus to a sustainability focus. You see, I sailed—I really did!—into Port Townsend more than a decade ago. For two years after college I had been crewing as a shipboard environmental educator, first with a program on Long Island Sound, then with Sound Experience, on the schooner Adventuress. I met my future husband here at a contra dance and decided to stay. My first job was reporting for the weekly newspaper, covering the port and shipyard beats, among others. I later worked for the Northwest Maritime Center and freelanced for maritime publications.

It was my newspaper’s publisher who encouraged me to take my first NWEI discussion course, Choices for Sustainable Living. This was in 2000 or 2001, and he had just completed the course with other city and county leaders and thought it would be worthwhile for his staff. Obviously, it was!

Back to the present: I  have enrolled in NWEI’s EcoChallenge  from Oct. 1-15th (view my profile) to kick off my own “ecochallenge” for Sustainable Together. My year-long experiment, which I’ll be tracking on my blog, is to strengthen my community networks by and for living more sustainably. My hypothesis is that support systems (of family, friends, and institutions like food co-ops) are absolutely necessary for and a happy byproduct of moving along the sustainability spectrum. To that end, I will be getting involved in Local 20/20, joining the barter network Fourth Corner Exchange, and using an NWEI course this fall to bond with other like-minded parents of young children. These are all worthwhile activities I have meant to do for years, but have not prioritized until now. You can read all about these endeavors and more on my blog, and subscribe to get ongoing free tips and inspiration for “going sustainable together.”

Thank you to Deb McNamara for offering me this plum position (!) as guest conference blogger, and I look forward to posting throughout the conference on the lessons learned at presentations and break-out sessions.

P.S. At the conference, I’ll be actively seeking success stories of “going sustainable together” to feature on my blog over the coming months, so if you would like to impart how you share the journey toward a more sustainable life, please seek me out!

Shelly Randall blogs at and can be reached at or 360-301-2540.