You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2012.

On Thursday, November 8th at 7:30 PM, Bill McKibben and will introduce Portland to the next and most powerful campaign to fight global warming, the “Do the Math Tour.”  Tickets for the live show are sold out but thanks to Portland State University you can see a LIVE SIMULCAST FOR FREE at the PSU Smith Center Ballroom. Join others from the NWEI community at this event. Tickets are free but going fast!  Click here to get your ticket.


Today we have a guest post from our friends at EarthShare of Oregon. If you don’t already participate in EarthShare’s important initiatives, please consider doing so! It is easy to set up a giving program at your workplace. And thank you to those who chose to donate to NWEI through EarthShare’s programs! Read below to learn more:

Threats to our natural world are growing, as are demands on the lands, water, food, energy and other resources people and wildlife need to thrive. As green as Oregon is, it’s simply not enough. We need more people and businesses supporting the environmental movement. EarthShare is working to make that happen.

EarthShare Oregon engages people at their workplaces, bringing new support to the environmental movement, both across Oregon and around the world. Through a single gift to EarthShare, you can easily support more than 70 of the best environmental organizations — or you can choose your favorites.

Northwest Earth Institute is a proud member of EarthShare Oregon. What does this mean to you? If you work for the State of Oregon, the Federal Government, Kaiser Permanente, NW Natural, PGE, or one of more than 100 companies, you can choose to have a donation sent automatically to your favorite Oregon conservation groups, including Northwest Earth Institute. Its workplace and online giving options are easy ways for you to share responsibility for stewarding Oregon’s environmental legacy.

Please invest today through EarthShare to help us plant more trees, recycle more waste, move more quickly to clean energy, protect more threatened land, and safeguard more clean water. Not only are you protecting Oregon’s environmental legacy, but you’re inviting and inspiring others to share in that responsibility.

If your workplace is not currently involved in an EarthShare giving campaign, establishing one is easy. EarthShare will work with your employer to set up a program that meets your company’s needs.

With your contribution through EarthShare, you can share in the responsibility for protecting Oregon’s natural legacy. For more information, please contact Jan Wilson at EarthShare: (503) 223-9015 or; or visit

This week KOIN Channel 6 reported on a how the NWEI EcoChallenge impacted one Portland family who took on a waste reduction challenge. The entire Tust family took on the EcoChallenge, each choosing a different action to focus on for the two week period.

Robert Tust reduced his shower time to 2 minutes a day and Meghan Tust chose trash reduction as her challenge, reducing packaging waste and buying more bulk foods at the store (she also eliminated disposable sandwich bags). Even five year old daughter Kaia Tust took on the EcoChallenge, reducing paper use for her arts and crafts and “saving trees” by only using recycled items for her art projects.

Watch Channel 6’s coverage of how this family’s EcoChallenge reminded them that “small changes do make an impact.”

For the short video, click here.

October 24th is Food Day, a nationwide celebration and a movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food. If you haven’t already, consider learning more about sustainable food and taking action by organizing one of NWEI’s food focused discussion courses: Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability or Menu for the Future.

For more on the state of food in the United States, read Hilde Steffey’s Food Day Blog Post: This Food Day Remember Good Food Starts With Family Farms:

It is an exciting time when it comes to good food. Farmers and consumers are organizing locally and regionally, creating markets close to home via farm stands, farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. Farm to school programs are found in more than 12,000 schools, in every state in the nation. The U.S. organic food market continues to outpace conventional food sales. These are signs that there is a clear and growing demand for good food from family farms.

While these trends are promising, the largest, most industrial farms are getting bigger. By 2007, just 6 percent of US farms were producing 75 percent of agricultural product. Meanwhile, our small and mid-sized family farms continue to disappear at an alarming rate. Between 1982 and 2007, USDA numbers show a loss of 40% of farms making between $10,000 and $250,000 – an average of 353 farms a week! These are the very farmers and farms best positioned to grow and strengthen local and regional markets; but they’re also the same farms most threatened by failed policies that seek short-term gains and favor large corporations at the expense of public health, the environment, local economies and community well-being…

For the full post, click here.

We recently connected with Bonney Parker of Toms River, New Jersey per her past and present involvement with the Northwest Earth Institute discussion courses (she and her group are currently doing Discovering A Sense of Place).

Bonney told NWEI staffer Rob Nathan of how she and her sister have been presenting cooking workshops at a local organic farm three times a month (she has also written a cookbook based on this venture with her sister). Bonney says, “Some of our NWEI discussion group people are faithful attendees at the workshops, which have grown over the past two years from about 5 people to 30 people coming each time!” We asked Bonney if NWEI courses had influenced the process in any way (she and her group had done NWEI’s Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability course earlier this year). Here is what she said:

“Some of the attendees of the workshops became members of our discussion group, so NWEI has had an influence. Our thoughts and actions regarding the workshops and the subsequent cookbook have been influenced by what we have read.  For instance, we now ask folks who come to the workshops to bring their own eating utensils and cloth napkins with them.  I always have a supply of forks and spoons for those who forget, but that number is very small.  We usually ask the owner/farmer who is present at the workshops to talk about how he farms and what certain plants are and how they grow and are useful, etc, in addition to our nutritional information about the dishes we make.” 

Thanks Bonney for your continued involvement with NWEI, and for sharing this inspiring story with us – and for sharing an example of connecting to place and fostering sustainable food choices. Bonney notes that for the workshops her sister Maureen (pictured above at right) picks the seasonal produce with the farmer for that night’s workshop.

If you’d like to order the cookbook, or learn more about Bonney’s grassroots efforts, you can contact her at






Today’s post is an excerpt from Eco Mothering Blog, where Donna DeForbes has been blogging about this month’s NWEI EcoChallenge and the implications of parenting ‘green.’ Here are some of the top things she and her family learned from participating in this year’s EcoChallenge (for their challenge they committed to doing one green thing every day):

  • Being outside makes us feel good. I’d forgotten how much since I don’t ride my bike to work anymore. (My husband continues to bike to work daily, even in downpours. He’s my alternative transportation hero!)…These past two weeks, I’ve felt more connected to nature whether it’s feeling the wind in my ears as I bike to zumba class or inhaling the damp earth and noticing leaves drift downward from their summer perches as I walk in the rain to a nearby meeting. It feels great.
  • Parts of items can be recycled. Like the cardboard pieces from new toy packaging… if I just take the time to separate them from the non-recyclable plastic bits. And aluminum yogurt lids that just need a quick rinse. And juice boxes minus the straw. I slowed down these past weeks to inspect items I usually toss quickly into the trash for any salvageable parts. Sofie rescued the plastic covers that came with our electric toothbrush heads – for what purpose, I don’t know, but I’m thrilled she got caught up in the reuse and re-purpose theme...
  • Turning computers off at night is pretty darn easy. My husband discovered this in his quest to be more energy efficient. (He remembered to turn lights off more frequently too!) When I asked if he’d continue this after the EcoChallenge, he said it seemed easy enough. And it’s saving us $100 per year!
  • I could be a vegetarian (almost). A lacto-ovo vegetarian, that is, because we still ate eggs and dairy. My body has felt really good, and I might attribute that to being on the fifth day of our vegetarian week… I had fun developing a veggie menu and really enjoyed eating the meals. I never left the table feeling hungry, which is something I envisioned, as if I needed meat to really fill me up. Admittedly, at this point, I am longing for a good burger or my bacon, beer and Brussels sprout soup. But I also feel like I can reintroduce meat slowly, and I aim to maintain a veggie menu several days per week. Doing this EcoChallenge as a family was a fun effort in working together to go green...

*For the full post, click here.

Today is the final day of EcoChallenge 2012! For today’s blog we are featuring Portland based Catlin Gabel School Sixth Graders, 55 of whom took on the EcoChallenge with a goal of reducing cafeteria food waste. Here is what team captain and teacher Carter Latendresse writes on his EcoChallenge blog:

“I teach 6th grade at Catlin Gabel School, and I will be the team captain for a team of 59: 55 students and four teachers. We will take on the Sustainable Food Options EcoChallenge that attempts to cut back on food waste while at school. We will weigh the food waste we generate as a group in a compost bucket for two weeks to see if we can decrease that amount over time…Our goal is to reduce our cafeteria food waste by 100% over a two-week period.”

Over the course of the two weeks the sixth graders have been weighing their food waste and composting it, learning about composting as well as becoming more aware of unnecessary food waste. Thanks to all the students for participating. And thanks to all who have participated in this year’s EcoChallenge!

One of our 177 EcoChallenge teams this year is headed up by Portland Mayoral Candidate Jefferson Smith. As team captain, he’s recruited 22 others to join him in the EcoChallenge, each contributing to a more sustainable campaign. Here is an excerpt of what they are up to.

As a campaign, we’ll work toward trash reduction by eliminating the use of disposable plastics and growing our existing office recycling. This will mean ordering less takeout. Pausing to figure out where we’re going to throw those coffee grounds. Taking a cup to the tap instead of reaching for a bottle of water. To do this we’ll have to slow down slightly from the rapid pace of the campaign. But it’s worth it.

Additionally, each of us will take on an individual challenge to stretch us personally. Chefs will learn how to cook with organic ingredients. Lifelong carnivores will learn that it’s not so bad to be vegetarian. Starbucks addicts will go local. And a very busy candidate will discover the side-benefits of taking just five minute showers…

To learn more about what this team is taking on, and to read the full story, click here. And thanks to all of our EcoChallengers who are on day 12 of the EcoChallenge!

This week we are happy to highlight EcoChallenger Bradford McKeown’s guest blog post about his experience with NWEI’s EcoChallenge. For last year’s EcoChallenge Bradford did all of his trips by bike or foot (riding 225 miles in 2 weeks!). This year he is taking on sustainable food as his EcoChallenge. Thanks Bradford for sharing your thoughts with us!

It seems like I always have a running mental list of changes I want to make in my life. Some of the things on the list would be good for me (like getting to the gym a little more often) and some would be good for me and the planet (like cutting back on red meat). But with a full-time job and a busy social life, it’s hard to get around to crossing them off the list.

That’s why October 1-15 is my favorite time of year—that’s when the Northwest Earth Institute’s EcoChallenge gives me an annual opportunity to focus on kick-starting personal (and environmental) progress.

Here’s how the EcoChallenge works: participants choose one change that will reduce their environmental impact and stick with it for two weeks. Challengers pick from one of five categories—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. Each EcoChallenger shares their challenge with friends and family (via e-mail, social media and the EcoChallenge website), which provides an extra incentive to stick with the goal for two weeks.

For my first EcoChallenge, I committed to using human-powered transportation (my bike or my feet) for all local trips of less than 10 miles one-way.  

Prior to the EcoChallenge my bike hadn’t seen much use in a while. When I hauled it out for a tune-up and a few upgrades it was a dusty mess with two flat tires. The first time I saddled up I was a bit apprehensive. My commute was only four miles each way, but half of the route was on a rural road with a 45mph speed limit and a narrow, bumpy bike lane with a steep ditch to one side.

At first, a couple of trips into town and back in a single day left me pretty worn out.  However, I was surprised at how quickly my stamina and confidence increased. Finding better routes and giving myself a little extra time so I didn’t have to pedal quite so hard also made a big difference.

Perhaps my most pleasant discovery during the EcoChallenge was how much more engaged with my environment I was when biking.  I could hear the fellow playing the guitar on his porch as I passed by, smell the chicken pot pie someone was cooking and feel the difference between a chilly morning and a sunny afternoon. 

And after riding a few miles I was also more awake and alert than I ever was after a cup of coffee (not that I’ve given up my morning coffee). The extra calories burned certainly didn’t hurt my waistline, and I found I was even sleeping better.  An added bonus was spending less money at the grocery store when going shopping on my bike, as I had to consider how much I wanted to haul home (though I should note that I was impressed with how much I could carry with a couple of panniers and a few bungee cords). I received all kinds of encouragement from friends and family too—some were even inspired to try biking more themselves.

At the end of my first EcoChallenge I’d ridden approximately 225 miles that I would have otherwise driven, and I had also saved enough in gas money in two weeks that I’d already paid for half of the cost of the upgrades I made to my bike. Today, two years later, I’m still biking to work all the time.

For this year’s EcoChallenge, I’m committing to choosing sustainable food options. It should be an interesting adventure, since I‘m not much of a cook. But I know from past years that I’ll learn a lot along the way and my life (and diet) will end up better for it.

If you’re interested in joining me, find out more and choose your own challenge at

*It isn’t too late to sign up and join in the fun through the 15th!

Sally Schoeller is president of the Green Team for the DoubleTree by Hilton Portland.

Yesterday Sustainable Business Oregon covered DoubleTree’s EcoChallenge efforts, where Green Team President Sally Schoeller is working to replace packaged food items with more sustainable alternatives. They have already begun buying in bulk and making their own granola bars in house while searching for options less dependent on packaging. Below are excerpts from Sustainable Business Oregon’s article:

As the president of the Green Team at the DoubleTree, I have a role, along with my team members, in challenging the hotel to meet sustainability goals and creating opportunities to advance eco-friendly practices. This means coming up with innovative ideas that increase our impact and leveraging our leadership to help drive corporate sustainability at the top.

When I learned about Northwest Earth Institute’s EcoChallenge, we were in the process of installing lower wattage, energy-saving light bulbs in the five-story DoubleTree parking garage. With this project complete, we were ready take to on a new endeavor, and the EcoChallenge could not have come at a better time.

The EcoChallenge event challenges businesses and community members to try bold, new sustainability practices over the course of two weeks and — if it goes well — adopt a new habit by the time the event is over. We saw the EcoChallenge as the perfect opportunity to take DoubleTree’s sustainability to the next level. The majority of our departments are participating in this event and taking ownership over their green practices.

One EcoChallenge goal that we are particularly proud of will have a lasting impact on hotel operations after the event concludes. By October 15, the DoubleTree aims to replace prepackaged food items currently offered in our Executive Meeting Center with more sustainable alternatives. In food packaging alone, Americans discard 570 million pounds each day. Excess packaging waste has taken a toll on our environment and continues to be a growing concern.

The DoubleTree is already making progress towards reaching our goal. We immediately removed individually wrapped candy and are now offering these sweets to our guests in serving dishes filled with candy that we purchase in bulk. We have been making granola bars in-house as a temporary solution as we look for new food vendors who can offer these and other customer favorites in bulk…

The NWEI’s EcoChallenge has inspired the DoubleTree to move further along our path of sustainability. We are committed to lead by example, sharing our successes and failures with the Portland community and our industry partners. We encourage others interested in participating in this year’s challenge to sign up online today. It is not too late to join us, set a goal that stretches your comfort zone and makes our state a more sustainable place to live.

For the full piece, click here.

Kudos to EcoChallenger Chantal Angot, who is running her restaurant by bike for the duration of NWEI’s two-week EcoChallenge! Chantal, who runs Tapalaya Restaurant in Portland, Oregon, has decided to lock up her car keys and conduct all her business by bike. She’s also created a Tapalaya EcoChallenge Team with 22 participants choosing their own challenges.

Here are some highlights from Chantal’s EcoChallenge Blog:

My challenge is to run my restaurant by bike!  I will lock up my car keys and only ride my bike for the whole two weeks.  On shopping days, I will make use of my friend’s bike trailer to haul the groceries…

October 5th, 2012
The trailer full of groceries seemed just a little bit heavier today, I must admit.  My legs were burning on the hills but, with weather this amazing, I can’t really complain!

October 4th, 2012
Beautiful (if a bit windy) day to be out and about.  Had to make the dreaded trip to Hayden Island – discovered a great bike route and had a pleasant ride – a little slower on the way back with a cooler full of ice + crab in the trailer.  Overall a success!…

To read more about Chantal’s challenge and the Tapalaya EcoChallenge Team, click here.

As we enter day five of the 2012 EcoChallenge, a blogger interviews participants on why they signed up and what they are challenging themselves with. Here are some snapshots of EcoChallenge participants and the reasons they’ve committed to two weeks of action. For the complete blog post, click here.

Why did you decide to sign up for EcoChallenge?

Kelli- I decided to sign up for the EcoChallenge for a couple of reasons. First of all, it sounds like fun. I love finding new ways to be green, and this type of challenge is right up my alley. I have been recycling and upcycling and the like for years now and love encouraging others to do so as well! However, the EcoChallenge is especially important to me because (confession time) for the last several months I have been completely slacking and haven’t been doing any of the aforementioned things. When we moved, we left behind our recycling and composting centers. Despite building new ones being on my to-do list, it simply hasn’t happened yet. So the EcoChallenge is the perfect motivation for me to get my butt back in gear!

Jessica – I signed up for EcoChallenge so that I could have a sort of deadline to help me focus on some goals that had been floating around in my life for a while. I have been wanting to set a realistic number of bags of trash that we should produce and I’ve also been focusing on all the disposable things in my life. I’m trying to cut back on those.

Xza– I work well on deadlines and goals. EcoChallenge filled both of those needs so I wouldn’t procrastinate making my home greener and safer… Like Jessica, I wanted to reduce the amount of garbage we put out each month as well as get rid of disposables (plates, cups, napkins, etc.) and EcoChallenge put my desire in motion.

Geneva– I signed up for the EcoChallenge because all of my friends were doing it, so I figured I should hop on the bandwagon.  😉  But on a more serious note, I signed up because I believe that Ben and I run a very green household (we only put out our garbage once a month but we have two recycle bins) and I was interested to see if we could become even “greener” than we already strive to be.

Risa- I signed up for EcoChallenge for a few different reasons: (a) it is an organization that my best friend works for and he inspires me in so many ways to be more eco friendly, (b) I love the concept that NWEI has come up with this challenge. It is such a great way to get involved and get friends and family involved by actually doing something small that will leave a huge impact. (c) Although I have gotten better at being more green, there are still ways to improve. I want to challenge myself and my family to be more Earth friendly on a daily basis.

What is the way you are challenging yourself for the two-week time period? How do you plan on executing the change?

Kelli- For the two-week time period, I plan on recycling as much as possible to reduce our waste, composting, drying ALL of our clothes on the clothesline (instead of just part of them), work on energy reduction and water conservation. I plan to achieve these goals by building a new recycling center to organize our recyclables, making a new compost bin (and pulling my counter top compost bucket back out), unplugging unused appliances, turning off lights when not being used, taking shorter showers, and so much more. I can’t wait!

Jessica- I plan on producing only one bag of trash in the next two weeks, recycling as much as possible, and going to 100% cloth diapering.

Xza – I would like to limit my amount of trash to 1.5 bags.I know I know, weird number, but that reduces the amount of waste we put out by 50%. We will also be using 100% cloth up until October 13 (we leave for a trip and can’t use CDs during that time) and I will only order coffee or tea if I have my reusable cup with me.

Geneva– As I was browsing through the EcoChallenge topics, I noticed one on sustainability and eating.  We haven’t always been responsible with sourcing our food in ways that are good for the environment, so we are going to increase our purchases of fresh foods and decrease the amount of food packaging we recycle every week.

Risa- I plan on working on my family’s energy usage. This means hand-washing dishes, hanging clothes to dry, and of course making sure my kids remember to shut off the lights. I, too, plan on being more responsible with our food-buying habits. We will be integrating more fresh fruits and veggies into our meals and buying as much food in bulk as possible to reduce the amount packaging.

For the full post, click here. If you haven’t already, you can still register to participate at

Donna DeForbes in Warwick, RI is taking on the EcoChallenge and is doing one green thing each day. Below is an excerpt from her EcoChallenge musings on her Eco-Mothering Blog.

So the EcoChallenge begins, and I am filled with motivation. I’ve shepherded my family into this (some less willingly than others) as we follow the green-brick road to sustainable living…I’ve decided to do one green thing each day during this two-week challenge…

Energy Efficiency
My first order of business was to support clean energy utilities…Encouraging renewable energy companies is a green brick on the road. In my ultimate green vision, our house would operate completely on wind and solar power, which would be cheaper, cleaner and would occupy the kids with games of ring around the wind turbine…

I’ve gently steered my husband toward some energy-saving actions such as turning off lights (he’s a bit absent-minded) and turning off his laptop instead of keeping it in sleep mode. U.S. Department of Energy guidelines suggest powering down if you’re away for at least two hours. This technical blog figures that you can save close to $100 annually per computer just by turning it off overnight…
Alternative Transportation
For this EcoChallenge, I’m committing to walk or bike to places within a mile of my house (except the grocery store). This means biking to my three-times-per-week zumba class…

Trash Reduction
Sofie’s focus appears to be recycling. She’s been monitoring our bathroom use, darting in to claim toilet paper rolls for her kindergarten class…While our family recycles quite a bit, I’ve not been industrious about toilet paper tubes, mostly because my habit is to toss it right into the bathroom trashcan instead of saving it for the kitchen recycle bin. So, kudos to my daughter for picking up the slack there.
On this issue, I went to recycle the plastic container of deli ham I had bought and realized it was a #7. The #7 plastic is typically not recyclable (although Rhode Island now takes them), and it can contain BPA, which studies have shown leaches potential hormone disruptors...Perhaps next time I could wait in line at the deli and bring my own containers? Or forgo the ham altogether and go meatless more often. That’s in my plan for next week. Stay tuned.
For the full story and photos, click here.

From now until January 1st, Whole Foods on Fremont and 15th in NE Portland will be supporting NWEI as one of its wooden nickel non-profit donation recipients. When you bring your own grocery bags to the store, you will receive a nickel back for each bag.  You have the option to take that nickel off your bill or better yet receive a wooden nickel and donate it to a local non-profit.  There is a box located at the front of the store to collect these wood nickels and they really do add up!

Please bring your own bags and shop at Whole Foods Fremont this Fall. The store is at 3535 NE 15th in Portland. Your 5 cents donated to NWEI via wooden nickel donations will go a long way in helping NWEI continue to offer valuable sustainability programs.

Thanks for your support!

bePortland covered Friday night’s EcoChallenge Launch Party and here is what they had to say:

The Green Drop Garage, an environmentally friendly auto garage located in SW Portland was a unique yet fitting setting for the 2012 EcoChallenge launch party on Friday night. The crowd at the event gathered together around a lot full of old cars and inside a garage littered with disassembled motor parts to listen to some free music, have some drinks, eat some food  all while working towards a greener earth.

EcoChallenge is an annual event that challenges everyone to make small changes in their life to help reduce their impact on the environment. For two weeks participants are asked to take part in different categories ranging from transportation to trash, energy and food. The EcoChallenge is helping its participants become aware and make a change in the way they do things in their everyday lives in hopes of creating a lifelong change for the better.

Three Portland based bands played for the event…Also in attendance was Jefferson Smith, one of the mayoral candidates for Portland. The candidate was the perfect politician to speak at the eco event, with his own campaign dedication to sustainability as well as environmentally minded policies. Smith mixed it up, going from genuine humor and then getting serious and launching into the importance of some of the more crucial environmentally issues affecting the Portland area…

The evening was a lot of fun but most importantly it helped remind the audience about the importance that one change in their life can also make on the world as a whole. The festivities helped to bring awareness to EcoChallenge and their idea that a small change in the lives of a few can create a great change in the world…

For more photos of the event and the full story, click here. Also, its not too late to register! Click here to register.

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