You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2011.

Assessments that Produce Learning for a Sustainable Future

We are delighted to share information on an upcoming webinar hosted by one of NWEI’s partners, The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education.

Are you educating for sustainability? How do you know?  In this 2-hour interactive webinar, participants will learn about the attributes of assessments that produce learning for a sustainable future.  We will then explore and discuss exemplary EfS assessment instruments , and engage in the process of analyzing student work for evidence of the knowledge, skills and attitudes that characterize Education for Sustainability. Finally, we will celebrate what the research is telling us about the impact EfS is having on students, teachers, and communities.  

At the end of the session, participants will be given a “take home” tool to self assess their own assessment practices so that they can identify the next steps they want to take to improve their practice.

Wednesday, January 4th | 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM EST     OR     Saturday, January 7th | 10 AM – 12 PM EST. Click here for more info.


As we dive into Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we are delighted to share a guest blog post by professional writer Isabella Woods, who offers a few tips on a green Christmas. Tuck these away for next holiday season as well! Happy Holidays to all from us at NWEI…

We’re Dreaming of a Green Christmas

It’s that time of year again: when the festive sweaters see the light of day again and when we all come together to celebrate this most wonderful time of the year. And just like the rest of the year, when you should be switching off lights and sleeping on organic latex mattresses, it’s a time when we can focus on sustainable solutions. In fact, there are potentially more things you can do around the holidays to save energy and help the environment than any other time of the year. You just need to know where to look. There are lots of tips you can follow to make sure that this year’s Christmas is the greenest one yet. So while we may all be dreaming of a white Christmas (or so the carol goes), here are just a few tips to make sure you have a green one too.

Go easy on the Christmas lights

They may be one of the hallmarks of the holiday season, but Christmas lights are one of the most energy-hungry forms of lighting, period – at least the traditional filament bulb versions, anyway. So to keep your environmental impact down without sacrificing the lights altogether, you can simply use fewer lights than you normally would (perhaps limit them to just the tree), or use LED lights instead. LED, or light emitting diode, lights use up to 97% less energy than their traditional counterparts, so they’re a great choice for the energy conscious Christmas lover.

Wrap your gifts in recycled paper

Each and every Christmas, four million tons of wrapping paper will be thrown into the trash. That’s a lot of trees, and a lot of waste. You can do your part to lower this figure in a couple of ways: either make doubly sure that all of your Christmas wrapping paper makes its way into the recycling bin, or buy paper from a recycled and sustainable source. This latter method has twice the benefits because the person you’re giving the gift to will surely be thrilled that their present is helping to protect the environment. Once the festivities are over, make sure you give your home a quick once-over to check for any stray paper, then get all of it into your recycling bin.

Look for ‘battery free’ gifts

We’ve all been there: surrounded by kids playing with toys that buzz and beep and whir – it’s all part and parcel of the Christmas experience. But not every toy needs to be battery operated, and in fact those that aren’t are much better for the environment. Batteries are one of those items that are near impossible to dispose of. Once they’re empty they usually end up on the rubbish dump, never to be used again. It doesn’t need to be said that this is terrible for our environment. So, to avoid adding to the number of batteries we throw away each year, why not go for battery free gifts? Stuffed toys, musical instruments, toy cars, dolls – there are plenty of options. You could even go one better and make the gifts yourself from sustainable materials.

Go for a ‘live’ Christmas tree

It may seem logical to go for a plastic Christmas tree and hence lower the number of trees that are chopped down for use at the end of the year, but this can actually be the worse option. The reason is that plastic Christmas trees, especially the cheaper ones, are often made of non-biodegradable plastics that cannot be recycled. This means that if the kids get bored of the same tree each year, it’ll end up on the rubbish dump and damage the environment. By choosing a ‘live’ Christmas tree, you’ll get a more authentic festive experience and it’ll be simple, easy, and environmentally friendly to dispose of.

Make your own Christmas cards

This one ties in quite nicely with the wrapping paper point, and the same logic applies: by making your own Christmas cards from recycled paper, you can help the environment and reduce the damage done by mass produced cards. A phenomenal amount of energy goes into powering the factories that make these cards, and that’s something you could help reduce. Plus, home-made cards are so much nicer to receive!

These are just five quick tips for a green Christmas: there are plenty more – so don’t forget to experiment and find your own sustainable festive tips!

Happy Holidays!

I can’t think of a better time to pursue a life that’s simpler, richer and more fulfilling than right now.

Year-round NWEI helps you to experience the “Aha!” moments that change the way you live, work, create and consume. NWEI’s work to spark the conversations that create change, through our discussion courses and the EcoChallenge, wouldn’t be possible without your support.

As we reflect on the past year, and a year of inspiring stories of positive action relayed by our participants, we also give thanks for the donors who support our work. As a nonprofit, we rely on the support of the people for whom our work resonates. Perhaps you were inspired by a discussion course—recently or years ago– to take action to simplify your life. Maybe participating in the EcoChallenge launched a lasting new behavior to save water or energy, or choose more sustainable food options. Or, you might be one of the thousands of people each year who take part in a discussion course and find the inspiration to make changes at home or in your community to reduce your impact. Whatever your “NWEI story”, you are a valued member of our community. And, your support as a donor will go directly toward our efforts to create a simpler, richer, more sustainable future for us and generations to come.

Make your gift today knowing that your donation will be invested wisely. NWEI is a nonprofit with a strong volunteer base and small staff, and we work year-round to ensure that we’re having the greatest impact possible.

Every dollar truly does count. Thank you for your generosity today. On behalf of NWEI’s entire staff and Board of Directors, we wish you happy, healthy, joyful holidays.

A guest post by Duncan Berry

Duncan Berry has spent most of his life as a designer turned business man at the intersection of values based businesses like the global organic cotton movement. He is currently a partner in Ecosystem Services LLC whose business incubator is the coastal temperate forests of North America where he labors happily to strike a lasting balance between human communities and the natural systems of which they are an inextricable part.

I have had 2 questions on my mind ever since I spent 30 days in seclusion with the systems thinker and deep ecologist Joanna Macy 4 years ago.

What does it mean to be indigenous?

Can one become so in a single lifetime by living in deep relationship with a place?

 My wife and I live on the edge of a continent, where 5000 miles of open ocean meets the buckled, young lands of Oregon’s coastline. We are the minority in this majority of wildness and we spend as much time as we can out under the sky working, exploring, feeding ourselves and occasionally slowing down long enough to lose our sense of separation in this wild place.

Read the rest of this entry »

Thanks to the Center for a New American Dream for sharing this inspiring video!

In this short animation, psychologist Tim Kasser discusses how America’s culture of consumerism undermines our well-being. When people buy into the ever-present marketing messages that “the good life” is “the goods life,” they not only use up Earth’s limited resources, but they are less happy and less inclined toward helping others.

The animation both lays out the problems of excess materialism and points toward solutions that promise a healthier, more just, and more sustainable life.

Grace Wilson-Woods of Sun Lakes, Arizona recently convened Arizona’s first Voluntary Simplicity course. She took the time to write some reflections about the experience, shared below. Thank you, Grace!

“The NWEI North American Gathering Conference was coming up September 15-18th in Port Townsend, Washington and I was excited to go. The Hans Hoffman statement on the cover of the Voluntary Simplicity course book touched me deeply: “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”  I knew I needed to simplify my life.  Once back in Sun Lakes, Arizona, I along with 8 other family members participated in the NWEI Eco-Challenge from October 1-15th.  This increased my motivation to immediately form a discussion group.

I decided to invite ladies from my church (Seventh-Day Adventist), ladies from Church of God in Christ(COGIC) and ladies from Community Church of New Thought.  I purposely selected 10 ladies from different religious denominations to make sure we had a variety of views in our discussion.  Also to prove that voluntary simplicity has no boundaries.

The first article “Living Deeply” resonated with me immediately and I was convinced to begin living a simpler life.  Some of the things I plan to focus on as a result of the course include: Have a zero balance on my credit cards; Shed excess clutter and clothing (donate to homeless shelter, etc.); Select organic produce as often as possible and buy smaller amounts to prevent waste; Become self-sufficient in the basics of life such as growing more food in my garden- move from gardening as a hobby to a sustainable food source; Buy local by ordering a “farm box” twice a month; I also plan to decrease spending – buy only what I need, not everything I think I want.

I have already stopped the newspaper delivery so I don’t see the numerous ads with percentage off offers that convince me to buy something.  I have also decreased my TV watching and will downsize my cable capacity in an effort to cut my cable use and cost, which will save on electricity use and costs as well.   I am retired but I plan to join a sewing group where I live to increase my skills and perhaps find a niche for a home business or craft shows.   But with all the changes to reduce my impact on this earth, my underlying goal is to save money and use it to cover my expenses when I volunteer (at some future date) with Marantha Volunteers International.  This group uses volunteers to build One Day Schools and Churches in remote areas for people who would otherwise not be able to have a school or church.  There is no age or skill limit for volunteers just as with Voluntary Simplicity.  Each person can do something!  I believe that this course had an immediate impact on me, but will impact me well into the future…”

Thanks to Grace for organizing her group – and to the 10 ladies to joined her weekly for discussion and tea around the theme of simplicity!


With the holiday season upon us, I wanted to remind you that NWEI course books and memberships make wonderful gifts. Share the gift of simplicity with your loved ones, and wrap up a copy of NWEI’s newly revised Voluntary Simplicity book. Or, provide your friends and family with the information and inspiration to pursue sustainable food choices with a copy of our newest book, Hungry for Change.

To share NWEI’s mission and message with your dear ones year-round, an NWEI gift membership makes a perfect present. For $30 you can purchase a gift membership for a friend or family member, or for $45 purchase a gift membership package, which comes with the NWEI book of your choice (shipping is on us!).

Simplify your shopping and support NWEI in the process by ordering NWEI books and memberships for everyone on your list who’s interested in creating a life that’s simpler, richer and better!

To order gift membership packages (memberships+ a book) please call us at 503-227-2807 and reference the holiday gift membership package. Gift memberships and books can always be ordered separately on our website too: for gift memberships click here, and to order course books click here.

 Happy Holidays!

Order NWEI Books

Find us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

Make a Donation to NWEI

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Twitter Updates

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.