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We are happy to share an invite to an upcoming webinar hosted by one of NWEI’s partners, The Cloud Institute for Sustainability. The topic will be on Educating for Sustainability. The Cloud Institute prepares K-12 school systems and their communities to educate for a sustainable future by inspiring educators and engaging students through meaningful content and learner-centered instruction. For more info on this webinar opportunity, please click here. Here is a description of what will be addressed:

In this 2-hour interactive webinar, we will begin by exploring the whole system of EfS and the rationale for our approach.  Then, we will zoom in to discuss what it takes for a school to educate for sustainability, and what it looks like (and what it doesn’t look like) in curriculum.  Finally, we will walk through the practice of “sustainablizing” units of study so that students are prepared with the “different way of thinking” required to lead with us the shift toward a sustainable future.

At the end of the session, participants will be invited to beta test our “EfS Reality Check,” a new tool designed for educators to determine the extent to which their school is already educating for sustainability, and to provide insight on strategic next steps.

Wednesday, December 7th | 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM EST    OR     Saturday, December 10th | 10 AM – 12 PM EST

For more info: click here.


While searching for some ideas on how to have a more eco-friendly Thanksgiving this year, I came across this post just published this week on tips for a locally sourced holiday meal from Chef Bryant Terry, cookbook author and food justice activist. He’s written Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine and Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen, and is passionate about food, particularly the availability of food for all. Read on for a few tips:

Focus on locally-grown, seasonable produce

Eating locally and seasonally could mean your usual Thanksgiving recipes needs an update. Chef Bryant says, “Plan your Thanksgiving menu around local, seasonal and sustainable produce growing in your area, and create new family traditions — incorporating into your meal original recipes that celebrate your cultural foodways and use local produce and value-added food products.”

Visit the farmers market

Chef Bryant emphasizes that as consumers, we play a vital role in ensuring the survival of small farmers. “If you can’t harvest food from your home or community garden, buy fresh produce from a local farmers market or food co-op,” the sustainable chef suggests. “Check to find farmers markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area.”

Use the foods you have

Before you run to the grocery store for Thanksgiving ingredients, consider using what you have on-hand. “Even if it is hard to grow food where you live in November, it is typically easy to grow herbs in a kitchen windowsill,” recommends Chef Bryant. “Also, incorporate fruits and vegetables preserved from the summer and fall.”

Drink locally

“If you plan to serve alcoholic drinks, buy local (preferably organic) wine and beer,” encourages Chef Bryant. “In addition to supporting a healthier environment by minimizing fossil fuel use associated with shipping, supporting small businesses helps ensure communities thrive economically.” The chef also recommends serving homemade kombucha for teetotalers.

Go a’picking

Whether you do it before Thanksgiving or as part of the post-feast activities, Chef Bryant recommends planning an apple-picking trip with family and friends. If there are orchards nearby, then use your harvest to make locally-sourced holiday dishes. “Make homemade Apple-Cranberry Sauce using fresh cranberries and locally grown apples,” the chef adds. “You can even make hard apple cider or Cinnamon-Apple Jack Toddies from your bounty.”

Minimize food waste

Plan your Thanksgiving meal before rampantly buying ingredients to avoid throwing unused food away. In addition, Chef Bryant suggests getting the most out of the food you buy. “For example, if cooking pumpkins or other winter squash for your meal, roast the seeds — they can be eaten as a snack or used as a garnish for soups or stews,” he explains.

Ditch the disposable dinnerware

Though paper napkins and plastic dinnerware are convenient and require little clean-up, they also contribute to waste. “Instead, buy cloth napkins from a local flea market or even make your own,” says Chef Bryant. “Also, buy your plates, bowls and serving platters from local artisans. Besides adding unique dinnerware with unusual designs to your collection, you are putting money in the pockets of independent craftspeople.”

Share your Thanksgiving

Give thanks by giving others a reason for Thanksgiving. “In the spirit of Thanksgiving, share your bounty (both ingredients and finished dishes) with friends, family and community,” concludes Chef Bryant…

For the whole post, click here.

And, HAPPY THANKSGIVING from all of us at NWEI!


I recently got to meet Jody Dorow, one of the authors and publisher of a fabulous book on the simple joys of eating and food: Tender. Jody attended NWEI’s North American Gathering and gifted myself and the NWEI staff with copies of this inspiring book in honor of our shared commitment to sustainable food. As book author Tamara Murphy says, “sometimes we forget how good simple things can be,” and this book takes us right back to the simple pleasures of the kitchen- as well as reminds us about the joys of connection to the land through farming or gardening.

The book has an associated blog, Farmers, Cooks, Eaters, which is full of inspiration and information pertaining to sustainable and delicious food. They recently profiled NWEI’s newest course, Hungry for Change, in the post excerpted below. For the entire post, visit their blog.

Farming, Butchers, Spices, Money and Gardening: What do they all have in common? You’ll know just a bit more about all 5 at the end of this post. We’ve got another collection of posts, articles, and stories that caught our eye over the last couple of weeks. Some helpful tips, some good news, some bad news… we’ve got it all…

Incredible Shrinking Farmland – “We’ve become a little casual about our attitude about farmland,” said Dennis Canty, director of the Pacific Northwest regional office of the American Farmland Trust (AFT). Farmland Trusts provide a sustainable approach to to preserving our land, our food and the health of our community, with PCC Farmland Trust serving as a great example of innovation and partnership.

Pizza is a Vegetable – At least congress thinks so. This is an excellent summary of the sad state of affairs that is the school lunch program in our country.

The Lost Art of Buying From a Butcher – I’m a big fan of A&J Meats at the top of Queen Anne here in Seattle and someone sent me this article about the rise of the butcher and why they are such a great resource. My big draw is the (much) better taste combined with the knowledge that I’m supporting a good farm. What I often forget until I get there is the skill and service that comes along with it. They tell you how much, what kind, and will cut it exactly to your liking. I’m a proud convert!

Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability – a six session course book exploring the interconnected nature of food systems and our relationships to them. Northwest Earth Institute has created course books with readings, short assignments and discussion questions on different subjects as a great way to help participants become more aware and commit to lasting change. This is the most recent course. A great tool for a neighborhood or work group conversation.

Gardening Is Good for You – I’m sure you knew that but this creative infographic breaks down exactly what you gain from growing at home. Burn calories, improve your home’s value and save money. Also, eat some of the best produce you’ve ever had! …

To read the full post and learn more about the book Tender, click here.

This week we are happy to share a guest blog post by Patricia Damery, author of Farming Soul: A Tale of Initiation and a novel, Snakes. She and her husband farm a Biodynamic organic ranch in the Napa Valley, California area, and she maintains two blogs: and

I think that I shall never see

A poem as lovely as a tree. – Joyce Kilmer

Several years ago I attended an evening performance of several ecological poets and songwriters at an annual International Society for Ecological Restoration conference in San Francisco.  I remember one songwriter straight out of the tradition of 1960’s, who accompanied her song about star thistle with her guitar. The song was a call for attack on this invasive plant that is, in fact, hard to get rid of and threatening native perennials of our California grasslands. But I found my attention flagging.

Then came poet Elizabeth Herron. She had collected statements from north coast tribal people who traditionally depended on salmon for their sustenance and incorporated these into a poem/song. As she read, a young man “played” a rain stick and dancers bedecked in blue and green filmy streamers danced. Any of us who had doubts about the divinity of the salmon became believers. We fell in love with salmon and with the waters so important to their healthy ecology. After that performance, there is nothing I would do to hurt such a fish. Love is motivating!

Recently I remembered that performance while reading Jean Bolen’s most recent book, Like a Tree: How Trees, Women, and Tree People Can Save the Planet . Both a Jungian analyst and a long time activist, Jean says there are three questions to ask yourself when you come across a cause you are considering. First, is it a cause personally meaningful to you? There are many causes, but does this one pull you?  Second, will it be fun, although hard work? And last, and certainly not least, is it motivated by love?

Jean wrote the book as a way to deal with her grief about losing her beloved Monterey pine that sat outside her kitchen door. I met this tree once. It was a gracious tree with large and stretching thick branches that provided a micro climate of its own, catching the fog of the coastal atmosphere and dripping it onto the surrounding area. A neighbor wanted it cut to provide a view and ended up getting her way. Jean poignantly describes returning from a meeting at the United Nations to find her tree gone, how the micro climate changed, becoming dry and harsher, and how different plants grow there now. This is small example of what is happening globally as ancient forests are cut for timber and for farming.

There is the lovely biology of the tree, too, how trees take carbon dioxide out of the air, “fix it” into matter, while releasing oxygen back into the atmosphere. Trees are the lungs of our earth. In understanding the science of the tree, one understands why we need to support economies that do not cut forests. As my sister, Judy Parrish, a botanist and ecologist, says, one of the most important things that we can do for our planet is plant trees, and certainly to stop cutting them!

I am reminded how what each of us does is important, that each of us has power in the present, and that is it important that that power be motivated by love. The tree we love and protect, the neighbor we are kind to, all of it adds up…

Tomorrow, November 15th, is the deadline to take advantage of our offer to Hungry for Change course organizers! If you convene a group and place your order by tomorrow, we will give you (the course organizer) a free copy of the course book. Just give us a call if you are ready to go!

*As a special preview of one of the articles in the new course book, below is a quote from Vanessa Barrington’s The Ecology of Food, which you will find in Session One, The First Bite.

“…Ultimately, I think we need to look at food and nutrition ecologically. Each nutrient is part of a functional system and each food that we ingest is a part of the body’s functional system. Beyond that, the food we eat is also part of our larger socio-economic and cultural system around food. When I shop for food I think a lot about the different levels of nourishment in it. Does it nourish my heart, my soul? Does it nourish my pleasure centers by tasting good? Does it nourish the relationships I have with the people I’m eating with? Does it nourish the environment, or cause harm? Does it nourish the people who produce it, or exploit them?

To take an ecological view of food is to understand that the physical, cultural, social, environmental, and economic results of ingesting a food or nutrient cannot be predicted or understood in isolation. Foods interact with one another, in the body, around the table, and in society—all of which contribute to their overall ability to nourish… Next time you’re shopping, instead of thinking about whether the food in your cart is going to provide you with the proper balance of Omega-3s and 6s, sufficient antioxidants to prevent cancer, or enough fiber to lower your cholesterol, think about how it will taste, who you will eat it with, how you will prepare it, where it came from, who produced it and if it’s in season. In short, think about whether that food is the right thing for you to eat right now. The marketing of functional foods is not just annoying because it takes advantage of consumer confusion and fear around nutrition, it’s also dangerous because it assumes we don’t have our own holistic understanding of food and, in the end, dis-empowers us to make our own decisions about what to eat…”

Food for Thought:
1. Do you agree with Barrington’s statement that we need to look at food and nutrition ecologically? Why or why not?
2. When you are food shopping, what filters do you use? (Omega 3s, antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, packaging, seasonal, local, organic,
nourishment, cravings, family, etc?) Would you like to use other filters?
3. What is one food choice that you make or could make to nourish the environment more and cause less harm?

Northwest Earth Institute courses have been used in the business community and at workplaces of all kinds since our founding in 1993. In fact, the first discussion course to take place was in a law office, setting the template for thousands of organizations to follow in gathering employees to discuss pressing environmental and social responsibility concerns. As the former Director of Business Partnerships for NWEI, I was particularly excited to find a communications blog, Change Conversations, where blogger Sally Kieny wrote about how NWEI’s discussion course on Voluntary Simplicity prompted a business group to reflect on how our written and verbal communications can be simplified through getting back to basics.  Read below for Sally’s reflections and find the full post here.

Recently I signed up for a discussion course entitled Voluntary Simplicity, offered by the Northwest Earth Institute. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but was intrigued at the thought of bringing more simplicity into my life. Immediately I was conjuring up ideas of clean and organized closets, a streamlined home office and less stuff in my life. And while I hope to reach that level of uber-organization in my personal life, I’ve also come to realize that this concept offers much for the marketing-communications world.

I think this particular quote on the course booklet says it all:

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”—Hans Hoffman

Think about it. Removing the clutter from your marketing, your written and verbal communications, is so important. It ensures that your message is clearly defined and to the point—and that’s essential if you want to be effective. It’s all about being focused and deliberate with your marketing...

Simplifying and Getting Back to Basics: We use a tool called a positioning worksheet to help our clients bring focus to their marketing activities and determine how they want to be perceived in the marketplace. Through a series of work sessions, we work with our clients to develop a statement that identifies the business they are in, the specific needs of their customers, who their competitors are and the unique benefits of our clients’ products or services. Using this statement, we are then able to evaluate all potential marketing activities (advertising, sponsorships, PR activities, etc.) to determine if a particular activity would support—or detract from—the client’s positioning. This tool simplifies and brings a clear focus to their marketing activities.

So the next time you find yourself weighing various advertising options or determining which trade shows to attend, ask yourself, with your positioning statement in hand: Is this activity taking my business where I want it to go? Will it meet the needs of my customers? Is this activity “on position” for us?

If you can’t answer “yes,” then ditch the activity and move on.

The bottom line: Simplicity can be a wonderful thing in your life and your work. Don’t make things more complicated than they need to be. Don’t try to do too much. Simplify to bring clarity, to discover what’s important and to be deliberate in your marketing activities.
A good reminder that simplicity can work in all areas of our lives…

NWEI recently learned that Menu for the Future, one of our sustainable food discussion courses, inspired Pat Wilborn and Amy Otis-Wilborn to initiate the Port Washington, Wisconsin Aquaponics Model through their organization, Portfish. Portfish’s vision is to create a working model of an aquaponics system based on best practices that can be replicated to promote and engage communities in local sustainable food production. They are actively working to raise awareness of issues and concerns regarding our current and future food supply and to educate local communities about sustainable and healthy alternatives to food production and supply. They’ve also started a Winter Farmer’s Market and have compiled a local foods database for their community.

Below is an excerpt from their organization’s website: 

Pat and I initiated the Port Washington Aquaponics Model in March of 2009. Our interest in local sustainable food production, however, developed over time – and, only in the last few years has it taken on a more urgent tone.

Pat and I come from very different food “histories.” His includes a very large family garden, necessary to feed a family with 8 children. His mother stretched and used everything in creative ways. This included okra, not one of Pat’s favorite vegetables to this day. And, he can only eat spinach in certain ways. Pat’s memories include being assigned a row in the garden to take care of. Punishment also included going to the garden to weed. Canning was an annual event to supplement winter menus. My history is like many my age – we were a city family growing up in the 50’s. My food memories include meals from cans and boxes. Cream of mushroom soup had a million uses and a treat was a TV dinner.

In 2006, we were introduced to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). We signed on to receive fresh vegetables from Wellspring Farm in Newburg, WI. I couldn’t name most of the vegetables we received in the first year. I also had no sense of the growing season. We continue to buy shares from Wellspring and have learned how to cook “root” vegetables and anticipate the lettuces we receive early in the season and the black radishes, celeriac, and squash that come later.

But, our commitment to doing something about food grew out of a Menu for the Future discussion course. Menu for the Future was developed and sponsored by the Northwest Earth Institute in Portland, Oregon. Pat and I met with friends weekly for eight weeks, hosting our group in our homes. We read articles, talked about our food histories, our concerns about food, the environment, and sustaining healthy lifestyle options for our children. At the last meeting, the question posed was, “What do we do next?”

Pat took this question very seriously. His first idea was to develop a local food council. We had read about food councils and ways in which a council could help to focus communities on local food, sustainable production practices, and to serve as a catalyst to creating local food options.

While the group didn’t settle on this idea, it did decide to visit a local food operation in Milwaukee; Growing Power. Growing Power was receiving a lot of attention, locally and nationally. According to its website, Growing Power “is a national nonprofit organization and land trust supporting people from diverse backgrounds, and the environments in which they live, by helping to provide equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food for people in all communities.”

Growing Power’s founder and director, Will Allen, attributed his growing success to worms. He has perfected growing worms as an organic medium for growing plants. He also has developed quite a composting system that heats hoop houses, sustaining a growing season through the winter. But, the project that most intrigued Pat was raising fish. Growing Power raises tilapia using an aquaponics system. Aquaponics is a system that cultivates plants and fish in a recirculating system. It is a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics.

What is the advantages of such a system to food production? It’s local, it is safe, and it is sustainable. A closed system continuously moves water from the fish to the plants. The plants take up the nutrients provided by the fish waste and send clean(er) water back to the fish environment – the cycle continues. The system relies on a natural relationship that maintains an environment that supports the fish and the plants.

Our interest in aquaponics as a means of supporting local and sustainable food production grew as we continued our research into food, food production, distribution, and the industrialized food system that has developed since World War II. Some facts that convinced us that investing time and money in aquaponics was important:

  • Less that 1% of food is local; on average, food travels 1,500 miles;
  • Most people, saddest of all children, do not know or pay attention to where their food comes from;
  • Current large scale industrial farming depends heavily on petroleum products for planting, harvesting and distributing;
  • Food safety is at stake with chemical fertilizers and pesticides that degrade farmland and waterways;
  • Growing concerns about access to safe food sources, particularly protein-based foods;
  • Increasing use of additives and genetically modified foods in processed food;
  • Increase in obesity, illnesses, and diseases that can be attributed to poor diets and limited access to healthy food alternatives.

Thanks so much Pat and Amy for your work!

As you know, NWEI launched it’s newest discussion course, Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability, this month and we are thrilled to see the response thus far! We are also excited to offer course organizers a free copy of the new guide when organizing your group this Fall. Place your group’s order before November 15th by calling us and simply mention this blog post and we’ll send you a free copy of the guide along with your group’s books. (*Please note: you must place your order for your group in order to receive your free copy.) We hope you’ll join the hundreds of others who are getting ready to sit down and dig deep into how to make more sustainable and ethical food choices.

Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability explores the true meaning of the phrase “you are what you eat.” In four to six sessions, this discussion course challenges participants to examine their roles, not only as consumers of food, but also as creators — of food, of systems, and of the world we all live in. Each session includes readings, short assignments and accompanying discussion questions that address the impact of individual food choices on a range of issues, including ecosystem health, the treatment of factory and farm workers, and the global economy. Many sessions also include video clips, podcasts and websites to deepen the learning experience. Hungry for Change helps participants commit to lasting change by developing and sharing personal Action Plans with each session.

Give us a call at 503 227 2807 for more information, or visit our website. You can also read NWEI Curriculum Director’s blog post on the new course here.

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