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Barbara Duncan receives a Founders Earth Leadership Award at the May 16th 20th Anniversary Celebration

Barbara Duncan receives a Founders Earth Leadership Award at the May 16th 20th Anniversary Celebration

Last week the Northwest Earth Institute celebrated its 20th Anniversary with a celebration in Portland, Oregon with over 220 people in attendance, including past and present board members, staff, community partners and discussion course organizers from throughout the region as well as the country.

We were honored to present the Founders Earth Leadership Award to Vermont’s Barbara Duncan and Oregon’s Betty Shelley. Barbara has been working with the Northwest Earth Institute community since the late 1990s, having created the Vermont Earth Institute and Catamount Earth Institute (partner organizations to NWEI). Through the NWEI discussion courses, she helped create a network of sustainability groups throughout the state of Vermont. By 2012 she had led efforts in starting at least 600 NWEI courses and engaging some 6000 people in Vermont and New Hampshire!

Betty Shelley and NWEI Executive Director Mike Mercer at the NWEI 20th Anniversary Celebration

Betty Shelley and NWEI Executive Director Mike Mercer at the NWEI 20th Anniversary Celebration

Betty Shelley has been actively volunteering for NWEI during the span of NWEI’s 20 years. As a community volunteer, she teaches waste reduction courses for citizens in the Portland area, and has been highlighted for her and her husband’s efforts to generate only one can of trash per year. Betty has volunteered on nearly every NWEI discussion course development team and several major revisions, as well as has volunteered to support nearly every NWEI North American Gathering and Volunteers Retreat – both locally and around the country. She also served on NWEI’s Community Building Committee for many years.

NWEI Executive Director Mike Mercer notes, “Some people do a great job of creating an example in their personal choices for others to emulate. Others set a very high standard in their public contributions to the sustainability movement. Those that are in the top 1 percent in both realms are leaders who deserve to be recognized for contributions that truly move the dial…Betty Shelly is such a person.”

NWEI Founders Earth Leadership Award Nominees and Recipients at the 20th Anniversary Event on May 16th, 2013

NWEI Founders Earth Leadership Award Nominees and Recipients at the 20th Anniversary Event on May 16th, 2013

sneak-peak-homepageAt NWEI, we believe the solution to many of Earth’s biggest challenges lies in the power of collective change: by taking action in our own lives and inspiring the people around us, each of us contributes to a world of impact. Over the last 20 years NWEI has helped nearly 145,000 people around the world make small steps that lead to big changes for our planet.

Today, on the day we celebrate NWEI’s 20th anniversary, we are launching new tools for you to create your community of change: a brand new website and online community EcoForum. All of our new tools make change even more social, fun and possible.  

NWEI’s new online platform will build a global network of people changing for good, connecting the many small communities around the globe who are using NWEI programs. This state-of-the-art online tool will expand opportunities for shared discovery and support.

Please visit our new website, explore our new course organizing support tools and share your stories of change and “aha!” moments today in our new EcoForum

NWEI Executive Director, Mike Mercer

NWEI Executive Director, Mike Mercer

Sustainable Business Oregon highlighted NWEI’s 20 years of work with the business community in an article published today. Read below for Andy Giegerich’s reflections on how NWEI has been “bringing businesses back to Earth” since 1993. For the full piece, click here.

A key player in Oregon’s early sustainable business movement is marking its second decade this week.

 

The Northwest Earth Institute, launched by former Stoel Rives LLP attorney Dick Roy and his wife Jeanne, will host its 20th anniversary party May 16th at Portland’s Left Bank Annex. As part of the celebration, the group is unveiling new strategies, including an updated online platform, that Executive Director Mike Mercer believes will move the group to the next level.

 

The Roys formed the group to push air quality and solid waste issues. Since then, it has also worked to improve Portland neighborhoods, through the Neighborhood Sense of Place Program, and formed the Sustainable Investment Institute as a way to train investment advisers on green issues.

 

The new Change for Good effort that’ll launch Thursday aims to “close the gap between the sustainability behavior people want to do and what they actually do,” Mercer said…

“This isn’t a solitary pursuit, it’s a social pursuit,” Mercer said. “We want to make it easy for someone who’s busy to get involved.”…Mercer has led the group since 2006 and participated in its programs since the mid-1990s.

 

“Twenty years ago, people weren’t having this discussion around sustainability,” he said. “It was a small group of change agents, maybe 1 percent or 2 percent of the population. Over the last 20 years, NWEI reached out to the middle part of the population who realized that change is permanent but didn’t know how to get there just yet.”

 

The group has increasingly focused on the higher education sector, such as faculty members who are incorporating sustainability tenets in their teaching and projects. About half of the group’s 10,000 members are in the higher education realm.

 

“Four years ago, it was zero” percent, Mercer said. “That’s in recognition of faculty members and institutions saying, we need to educate students for a different future, not just in renewable energy but in terms of dealing with the planet.”

NWEI is turning 20 this week! We’ll be celebrating our 20th Anniversary this Thursday as well as will launch a new website and online community EcoForum!

Join us tomorrow, May 14, at 12pm PST for a sneak peek at our new website and online discussion course platform.We invite you behind the scenes to see how you can use our discussion courses and new tools to create your own community of change.

Register today and we will email you your Go2Webinar log-in information before the event.

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Through shared learning, shared stories and shared action, NWEI has helped hundreds of businesses and organizations align the actions of their employees with organizational sustainability goals. This includes corporate leaders such as The Standard, Intel, Hewlett Packard, Nike, Microsoft, and Starbucks. Find out more in this short video.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

Below is a guest post from NWEI Board Member Eric Park – in honor of NWEI’s forthcoming 20th Anniversary and the launch of our new website and online platform next week. Enjoy!

This quote is often a source of inspiration for organizations like NWEI, committed to working towards creating positive change in the world. However, while this quote is inspiring, it doesn’t offer any insight into how to “spark” this change.

NWEI has spent the last twenty years, working to spark change. As we move forward into our twenty-first year, we will be launching a new online platform to extend the reach of the organization. But more importantly, we will move forward with a deeper understanding of the importance of mastering the art of the “aha” moment in order to accelerate the pace of change towards a more sustainable future.

We believe the key spark for behavior change is the “aha!” moment. We’ve all experienced “aha!” moments, from eyebrow raising to life-changing; moments when we discover something new about the world or ourselves that inspire us to make a change. NWEI has worked to understand the conditions necessary for individuals and small groups to have “aha!” moments, knowing that this is the spark for individual and collective change.

But sparking these “Aha” moments isn’t easy. When is the last time you actually changed your mind about something, or resolved yourself to make a small or significant change in the way you were doing things? Turns out for many, this doesn’t happen very often.

What we do know, is that most people who participate in an NWEI discussion courses or our annual Ecochallenge event do make a change. And we believe it’s because these activities engage people in a social process of learning, action, or story-telling that creates the conditions for them to have “Aha” moments.

As we launch our new on-line platform, we hope to encourage more people to participate in activities that trigger more personal “Aha” moments, because while we know change is hard, we also know that change is inevitable. And we’re committed to accelerating this change by becoming masters of art the “Aha” moment.

With our on-line platform, we hope it will be easier for you to share your “aha” moments and make it easier for you and others to create the conditions for your circle of family, friend, or co-workers to have theirs.

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