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This week I had the chance to speak with long time NWEI volunteer and Metro’s Recycling Hotline Operator Betty Shelley about how she manages to produce just one can of trash a year. Indeed, the Shelleys found a way to gradually drop garbage collection service to one can a month, then to on-call service, followed by two cans annually and, finally, one can per year since 2004. How do they do it?

Betty credits the Northwest Earth Institute with teaching her that everything comes from the Earth. “NWEI gets credit for where we are in life with our awareness. It is harder to make changes without a support system,” she says of her and her husband Jon’s efforts to live more sustainably. Betty says the first thing to do is to look in your garbage can and see what is in it, then find one thing to change. “It builds from there. You do it slowly and surely over time. Focusing on one habit at a time is essential so as not to become overwhelmed. I see it not as a challenge that is overwhelming but more as an opportunity.”

She suggests being clever and examining purchases closely so as to avoid waste from the beginning. “I examine purchases in the first place. Do I really need it? Can I borrow it? We are always asking how we can avoid putting something in the garbage. It makes us more creative,” Betty says. She also says that “sharing is key, and borrowing from friends in moments of need.”

Betty offers the tips below for reducing waste (these are taken from Metro’s website, where you can learn more about both recycling as well as Betty’s efforts). Betty has also created a Facebook page entitled Reduce your Waste, where you can post questions and learn more. She also recommends the film The Clean Bin Project, a documentary about zero waste.

Some ideas to get you started:

  • Switch to cloth napkins
  • Eliminate paper and disposable single-use products
  • Compost yard debris and kitchen scraps
  • Take recyclable materials to drop-off sites if they aren’t accepted curbside
  • Avoid nonrecyclable items
  • Buy products in bulk, storing them in your own reusable containers brought to the store. This eliminates food waste by helping ensure you buy only what you need.
  • Share or exchange items with friends, family and neighbors to avoid unnecessary purchases.
  • Explore new uses for old items. When Betty and Jon took down their fence, they recut the wood, building a compost corral and a screen in the garden. The old pier posts from their deck were flipped over for use as pathway stepping stones.
  • Choose products and practices that support sustainability, focusing on quality over quantity, for example, and repairing rather than tossing.
  • Store noncompostable food waste – bones, grease and meat wrappers, for example – in the freezer until garbage pickup.
  • Set aside unwanted, still-good items for schools, shelters and other organizations that accept them.
  • Cook from scratch rather than buy packaged foods.
  • Buy from thrift stores.
  • Before buying an item, consider what you’ll do with it when you’re done.

For more inspiration, watch an interview with Betty on KATU. 


Elise Lind washes local green beans; Elise’s 2011 EcoChallenge was to eat only food produced in Washington and Oregon.

Chances are there’s something on your “to-do” list for the planet – whether it’s replacing the front lawn with a veggie garden, installing rain barrels, getting a bus pass or kicking the bottled water habit, most of us have something we’ve been meaning to change in order to reduce our environmental impact, save money and live better.

This October 1-15 is the perfect opportunity to seize the moment and change your life for good by joining the Northwest Earth Institute’s annual EcoChallenge.

During the EcoChallenge, participants choose one action to reduce their environmental impact and stick with it for two weeks. Ecochallengers pick a category—water, trash, energy, food or transportation—and set a goal that is fun, stretches their comfort zone and makes a difference for themselves and the planet.

Everyone who logs at least 10 successful days of the challenge or raises more than $50 is eligible for raffle prizes including gift certificates for green retailers, service providers and restaurants.

Past EcoChallenges include: not driving a car for two weeks, doing a “100 mile diet,” and cutting household trash by 80 percent.

In 2011, EcoChallenger Sarah Crump selected trash for her challenge category and carried all of her trash with her for 2 weeks. To find out what Sarah learned, what surprised her and why she loved the challenge, check out her 90-second video profile (as well as the profiles of other EcoChallengers) at:

Sarah Crump opens her portable trash bag; Sarah’s 2011 Ecochallenge was to carry all of her trash with her at all times.

The EcoChallenge is the perfect opportunity to move from “I should” to “I am!” Instead of struggling to change on your own, the EcoChallenge gives you built-in support from thousands of other participants and fun and easy ways to share stories with friends and family. In fact, most EcoChallengers discover that what starts as a two-week challenge becomes a lifetime of meaningful change.

Learn more and choose your challenge today at:

About the Northwest Earth Institute:

Based in Portland, Oregon, NWEI is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire people to take responsibility for Earth. By creating dialogue and inspiring action, the Northwest Earth Institute helps people make lasting changes in their lives, communities and the planet. The EcoChallenge (launched in 2009) is our annual event to help people kick-start change and inspire friends and family.



This week we are excited to share a video clip highlighting Mark’s EcoChallenge: to cut home energy usage and use cloth diapers while raising a new born. Watch the clip for inspiration and if you haven’t already, join us in choosing one action to reduce environmental impact and stick with it for two weeks from October 1-15th.

We know change can be tough and sometimes it takes a kick-start to make it happen. Common wisdom says it takes two weeks to change a habit: if you can stick with a new behavior for 14 days in a row, you’re a lot more likely to keep it up for good. Rich parked his car for two weeks. Carrie cut her family’s trash by 80%. Steve set up a grey water system and saved 150 gallons of water. What will you do?

Click here or below to watch the video and click here to register!

The 2012 EcoChallenge is fast approaching! The EcoChallenge is an opportunity to change your life for good. For two weeks every October, the Northwest Earth Institute challenges you to change one habit for Earth. You choose your challenge (water, energy, food, transportation or trash), we connect you with other EcoChallengers, and collectively we prove that small actions create real change.

Watch this short video of Sarah discussing her trash reduction EcoChallenge for ideas and inspiration and sign up today at

We hope you will join us!

Reminder! Help the environment, support NWEI and enter for a chance to win an iPad® from our partners at NW Natural when you enroll in their paperless billing program before August 31st.

Between July 1 and Aug. 31, 2012, NW Natural customers can cast their vote for one of four local environmental nonprofit organizations to receive a portion of a $25,000 donation by enrolling in paperless billing. Currently NWEI is in second place and in a great position to receive financial support! Please help us by casting your vote if you haven’t already.

The four nonprofit organizations are: Northwest Earth Institute, Oregon Wild, The Friends of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and Focus the Nation.

Here’s how it works:

  • Customers can vote for one of four nonprofit organizations to receive a portion of a $20,000 donation when they enroll in NW Natural’s paperless billing program by Aug. 31. Paperless billing helps save time and reduces bill clutter and paper waste.
  • Donations made to the nonprofit organizations will be based on the percentage of votes they receive from customers.
  • The nonprofit that gets the most votes will also receive a $5,000 bonus donation.
  • Customers can vote when they enroll at Currently enrolled customers are also eligible to vote.
  • NW Natural customers who participate in the program also have a chance to win one of three iPads®.

Cast your vote for NWEI when you sign up for NW Natural’s paperless billing today! Thank you for your support!

Its that time again! October 1-15th brings NWEI’s 5th Annual EcoChallenge: an opportunity to change your life for good. For two weeks every October, we challenge you to change one habit for Earth. You choose your challenge, we connect you with other EcoChallengers, and collectively we prove that small actions create real change.

Check out this EcoChallenger Profile Video for ideas and to learn about NWEI volunteer Elise Lind’s Challenge from last year: to eat only food produced in Oregon and Washington. Then, choose your own challenge and sign up to participate now.

We look forward to your stories of change to come!

Thanks to NWEI volunteer Erin Butler for the following Guest Blog post as well as for sharing this information on sustainable wineries in Oregon and Washington. 

One of the many pleasures of living in the Pacific Northwest concerns our wine culture and proximity to vineyards. Is there any way to make this experience even more pleasurable? How about knowing all the strides Oregon winemakers are taking to make their product more environmentally friendly? The majority of Oregon winemakers see themselves as stewards of the land; after all, they derive their livelihood from the fruits of the earth.

While LEED is a fairly familiar word in sustainability, other buzzwords abound in the wine industry. These include LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology), Salmon Safe, OCSW (Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine), and Oregon Wine Industry’s Carbon Neutral Program. Chris Serra, the Executive Director of LIVE, shed some light on some of these different sustainable acronyms and organizations in the wine industry.

According to Serra, “LIVE is a certification of vineyards and wineries in the northwest, and therefore has a very specific type of membership, namely vineyard and winery owners and managers.” It’s similar to the LEED certification process but just for the wine industry, where they can “really drill down into the details of winemaking and vineyard management.” LIVE actually partners with Salmon Safe, which is an organization that focuses on certifying ecologically sound watershed management to help native salmon spawn and thrive. So, because vineyards are land, they affect watersheds. If a vineyard is LIVE it is also Salmon Safe.

The Carbon Neutral Challenge was a pilot program managed by the Oregon Environmental Council, and LIVE helped set up the certification process…In an attempt to unify all this wonderful, sustainable energy in the wine industry, the Oregon Wine Board attempted to combine certifications under one name: Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine (OCSW). These certifications include LIVE, Organic, Biodynamic, Salmon-Safe, and Food Alliance.  Chris Serra explains, “The idea is that a winery could source grapes from say, a LIVE vineyard and an Organic vineyard and blend them together in a LIVE winery, then put the OCSW label on it. This label would be backed by consumer marketing dollars.”

While there are a number of wineries in the Willamette Valley striving for goals in sustainability, Torii Mor, Stoller and Left Coast Cellars are a few operations of note. Check them out the next time you’re in wine country.

Torii Mor: Located in Dundee, Torii Mor is only two of LEED Gold certified wineries in the Willamette Valley. It garnered its 42 points through sustainable site development, water and energy efficiency, material selection and Indoor Air Quality.

In addition, Torii Mor is both a LIVE Certified Vineyard and Winery. Part of its certification is from its Gravity flow winemaking process. The winery is built to avoid using pumps that interfere or damage the fermentation process and also avoid using energy to move the wine from tank to tank. An example of the process can be found at Willakenzie’s website, which happens to be the first LIVE certified winery.

Stoller: Stoller winery is located in Dayton, and it is the first LEED Gold certified winery in the United States. Like Torii Mor, it integrates gravity flow winemaking techniques in addition to a passive solar design to reduce carbon emissions. The winery is built into the hillside, and in conjunction with air vents, the naturally cool evenings keep this building at an optimal temperature throughout the entire day. In addition, solar panels and wastewater reclamation increase this winery’s sustainability quotient.

Stoller is an Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine, Salmon Safe, LIVE and a participant in the Carbon Reduction Challenge.

Left Coast Cellars: Located in Rickreall, Left Coast takes land stewardship very seriously. They participated in the Carbon Neutral Challenge (now dubbed Carbon Reduction Challenge) along with 14 other wineries. Aided by solar panels and gravity fed irrigation, this winery was up to the challenge. In addition, they consider biodiversity and indigenous flora on their 306 acres, 100 of which are dedicated to grapes. Most of the vines are planted on west facing slopes, leaving 200 for fields of wildflowers, cultivated gardens, old growth white oak trees, fruit orchards and waterways. You can read more about their push for sustainability here.  The attention to detail in the landscaping is evident moments after driving through their beautiful gates. With wildflowers and grasses, xeriscaping has never been so beautiful. 

To celebrate Earth Day, LCC introduced its “Bee Sustainable” Earth Month Pinot Noir. A 1.5 liter magnum bottle can be filled for $45 and refilled for $30. Think of all the wine bottles being saved, not to mention money.

These are just a few of the many wineries in the Willamette Valley that are making concerted efforts to be good stewards of the land. Another topic for further study in sustainable wines: urban wineries. You can bike to these! Oregon Wine Press wrote a great article on these ventures.

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