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Transition-Challenge-LogoDuring the month of May 2013, thousands of landscapes and homes will be transformed, retrofitted and revitalized as part of the Transition Challenge, hosted by Transition US. Thousands of people will take to the streets, the garden, schoolyard, home, apartment and city hall to take actions big and small. Participants will grow food, conserve water, save energy and build community.

Our partners at Transition US say it well: “Amidst a dizzying array of crises and mounting despair, together we will bring the hope of transition and show what we are capable of with our heads, hearts and hands aligned in action. It’s time for action, rooted in a shared vision and voice.”

If you would like to join this Challenge, you can create a project and register your action by clicking here.

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indexNWEI partner organization Catamount Earth Institute  just wrapped up a two week EcoChallenge, inspired by NWEI’s annual EcoChallenge held each October. For the past two weeks, leading up to today’s Earth Day, participants with Catamount Earth Institute in Vermont have formally challenged themselves to change at least one habit for the good of the Earth. Many participating maintained a blog about their adventures in taking action to address Food, Energy, Transportation, Trash and Water issues. Click here to browse stories of change.

The Catamount Earth Institute EcoChallengers are meeting today, on Earth Day, in Norwich, Vermont for a celebratory potluck and an exchange of challenges and solutions.

Happy Earth Day to all in NWEI’s broader community!

imagesAs many of you know, NWEI founders Dick and Jeanne Roy went on to found another non-profit based in Portland: The Center for Earth Leadership. NWEI founder Jeanne Roy shared the following invitation for NWEI community members: Please join the Center for Earth Leadership for an evening event celebrating Earth in honor of Earth Day on Friday, April 19th from 7:30-9pm. The event will be held at the First Unitarian Church, SW 12th and Salmon St., Portland. Set aside this special time to celebrate our remarkable planet. Although damaged by excess development, Earth continues to nourish and sustain us.  The program includes instrumental and vocal performances, meditative singing, and poetry.

For details click here.  RSVP to 503-244-0026 or Jeanne@earthleaders.org.

20th Celebration postcard change photoNorthwest Earth Institute is excited to announce our nominees for The Change for Good Award, which will be given to an organization who in their own right has integrated sustainability principles into the core of their operations and, working in partnership with NWEI, has helped make our surrounding community a healthier, more sustainable place to live. The following five organizations have worked closely with NWEI over the years in engaging students, community members and employees in sustainability discussion and action.

Intel – As the number one purchaser of renewable energy credits in the US since 2008 (according to the EPA) and a strategic investor in renewable energy start-up companies, Intel is helping lead the development of the clean energy industry. Intel supports employee-initiated grassroots efforts, including the Intel Employee Sustainability Network (IESN), a chartered employee group. IESN, in place at Intel since 2004, provides employee networking, volunteering, and educational opportunities that align with Intel’s corporate environmental focus areas. The group’s activities have included Northwest Earth Institute discussion courses delivered at multiple Intel sites around the world, with more than 400 Intel employees having participated in NWEI discussion courses over the years.

imagesThe local (Oregon based) contingent of Intel employees are worthy of special recognition for their efforts, both internally and externally. In 2011, 35 Intel volunteers took the NWEI discussion course program into 20 local high schools, engaging over 400 high school students in the Greater Portland area. Using NWEI’s Just Below the Surface discussion course, Intel volunteers mentored high school students and facilitated dialog and critical thinking around the use of energy.

imagesNW Natural – NW Natural is committed to reducing fossil fuel impact on local and global environments. Through promoting more efficient energy use and environmental stewardship, NW Natural is doing its part to limit carbon emissions and slow or stop the greenhouse effect—a proven factor in global climate change. Since at least 2007, NW Natural has been engaging employees in NWEI discussion courses. They have also been an active participant in and sponsor of NWEI’s EcoChallenge with employees committing to sustainability actions each Fall. Their paperless billing campaign donates significant funds to local nonprofits, including NWEI, and encourages customers to go paperless. NW Natural also funded an employee to serve as a consultant for NWEI in 2008. NW Natural is committed to offsetting 100 percent of the CO2 associated with natural gas heating use for the next five years.

imagesPortland Community College – Since at least 2008, hundreds of students have participated in NWEI courses in a variety of classes. SPARC, which promotes sustainability throughout the curriculum, has actively connected faculty with NWEI resources and PCC faculty have organized ongoing NWEI discussion courses for faculty and staff. PCC Student Government has also hosted several NWEI courses on sustainability topics. From environmentally sound operating practices to a curriculum that supports sustainability, PCC demonstrates sustainability leadership. The Rock Creek Campus vermicomposting system creates a closed loop that takes pre-consumer cafeteria scrap, composts it and uses it in the garden to grow food to serve again in the cafeteria; the Sylvania Learning Garden is beginning to create a similar system. PCC has developed programs in renewable energy systems, alternative fuels, solar voltaic manufacturing and sustainable building. PCC Sylvania Campus President Linda Gerber is a member of NWEI’s Board of Directors, providing valuable input about NWEI’s ongoing collaboration with campuses.

indexThe Standard – The story of sustainability at The Standard begins with a handful of employees who had a vision for the company’s future. They had participated in Northwest Earth Institute’s Choices for Sustainable Living discussion course, and it led them to form The Standard’s first Green Team with a few like-minded employees. Since then the Green Team has nearly 100 members, is guided by an executive-sponsored steering committee and is behind significant changes at The Standard, including powering the Tanasbourne Campus in Hillsboro, Oregon by Clean Wind renewable energy and solar panels, their newest building on the Tanasbourne Campus is LEED Gold-certified by the U.S. Green Building Council and is 34 percent more efficient than a conventional building, and the downtown Portland Standard Plaza building is also LEED Gold-certified and is Energy Star rated by the Environmental Protection Agency. The NWEI courses have been an integral part of The Standard’s ongoing Green Team activities, and The Standard has also been an active participant and sponsor of our EcoChallenge each Fall.

indexUnitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth – UUMFE has been connecting and inspiring Unitarian Universalist communities across North America to work for for environmental justice, spiritual renewal and shared reverence for Earth since 2005. Since building a partnership with Northwest Earth Institute in 2007, UUMFE has been able to engage over 1,000 members of UU fellowships throughout North America in NWEI discussion courses. In 2011 and 2012, Nancy King Smith, UUMFE Board Member, was able to organize over 20 NWEI discussion courses in Cleveland, Ohiocontributing to the creation of more local and sustainable food systems. In the past two years, UUMFE has brought Earth justice education and action campaigns to their members and congregations (NWEI serving as a primary delivery model) and created an advocacy coalition for environmental justice issues in collaboration with other Unitarian Universalist (UU) partners. UUMFE has been able to collect stories of success from their UU congregations, particularly around Earth Day.

Congrats to our nominees, and thanks to each organization for their continued partnership with NWEI as well as their work to create a more sustainable future! Stay tuned to find out which organization won the first ever Change for Good Award! We’ll announce the winner at our 20th Anniversary Celebration and then here on our blog.

In honor of Northwest Earth Institute’s 20th Anniversary, NWEI is awarding an outstanding individual in our network who exemplifies creating change for good and inspiring responsibility for Earth. Below are the nominees for the Founders Earth Leadership Award, an award created to recognize just a few of the amazing individuals who are part of the Northwest Earth Institute community. The recipient will be announced at NWEI’s 20th Anniversary Party on May 16th. Please join us in celebrating these individuals and their work to create a more sustainable future!

Judy wearing whiteJudy Alexander is one of the founders of Jefferson County Earth Institute, a new partner organization to NWEI. She has been involved with NWEI since 2000 as an active steering committee member and course organizer in Port Townsend, Washington, where she has helped to organize over 150 NWEI discussion groups, with over 800 participants! Judy has offered every NWEI course in her community. She was a key inspiration behind NWEI’s 2011 conference, held in Port Townsend, WA. She worked tirelessly in the planning and implementation of the event which focused on leadership, sustainability and sustainable food. She was also instrumental in getting farmers, restaurant owners, farmers markets, consumers and citizens together to talk about and take action around creating more local, sustainable food options in Jefferson County during a Menu for the Future community organizing push a few years ago, which served as an example for other groups in the US, with Cleveland, Ohio and Vermont replicating her efforts.

mail.google.comTami Boardman has been an active and very committed NWEI volunteer since 2008, and has participated in many NWEI courses. She has provided the leadership and inspiration in starting discussion courses at her workplace, spawning organizational sustainability action. Tami has also been an active EcoChallenge participant in past years, and has also chosen to be an EcoChallenge fundraiser for NWEI.  Tami plays a leadership role on the EarthShare Board of Directors, serving as NWEI’s representative and developing communications materials. Tami is currently participating on the NWEI Curriculum Committee, her efforts supporting a forthcoming revision of NWEI’s most popular course, Menu for the Future.

BD at Flower HillBarbara Duncan has been working with the Northwest Earth Institute community since the late 1990s. She has tirelessly worked to begin courses via two non-profit organizations she helped to create: 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 (the Sustainability Network is still connected and takes on a variety of sustainability projects). By 2012 she had led efforts in starting at least 600 NWEI courses and engaging some 6000 people in Vermont and New Hampshire! In 2011 she did a large Menu for the Future push similar to Port Townsend’s efforts (with 25 discussion groups starting). Of this effort Barbara notes, “Menu for the Future has been phenomenal. Vermont has been strong in the localvore movement and I had been doing localvore activities since 2000. However, having Menu for the Future made it so that people who had been paying attention to the movement could take this course and say YES we can do more. More community gardens started because of the course and support for farm to school programs grew.” Barbara has personally started 50 Menu for the Future groups!

Image by Dero Sanford

Image by Dero Sanford

Shelley Green has been involved with NWEI since 2006 when she began organizing discussion courses. She founded the Arkansas Earth Institute, a partner of NWEI, shortly thereafter and has been actively community organizing and networking on behalf of sustainability and social change throughout Arkansas. She has worked to form discussion groups on college campuses, via Heifer International, the Clinton Foundation, Wild Oats, the Architecture Institute of America, and has collaborated with Arkansas Interfaith Alliance and the Climate Justice Campaign, amongst many others. Shelley is also co-founder of the Sustainable Business Network of Central Arkansas and helped to form the Little Rock Sustainability Commission. She has also founded The Green Corner Store, which she owns and operates, offering a hub of sustainability for the community in Little Rock, Arkansas, where she was recently hailed as being an Eco-Hero.

mail.google.comEric Park has served on NWEI’s board for the past three years, currently serving as Board Vice Chair. He is an active participant in each meeting in helping fellow board members stay in tune with the essence of NWEI and how to best articulate the impact of our work. He was instrumental in contributing to NWEI’s current Strategic Plan, joining the NWEI staff retreat in 2011, where he presented a systems perspective model for NWEI’s work. Eric has also helped the NWEI team extend the new Change for Good online platform far beyond what was initially envisioned. As a result, the forthcoming new online platform will guide new and experienced users through a process that will allow them to achieve their dreams as a leader in the sustainability movement. Beyond his work with NWEI, Eric is a sustainability leader at Ziba Design, a consumer design group, where he is able to address consumer values around sustainability.

mail.google.comRick Reber lives out his environmental convictions every day in his job at The Standard and in his volunteerism in Portland. Rick is a founding member of the Green Team at The Standard, and is a member of the GreenTeam Employee Education committee. Rick demonstrated the power of NWEI’s Choices for Sustainable Living discussion course when he organized this course at The Standard more than 10 years ago, planting the seeds for the creation of The Standard’s first Green Team. Rick has been a member and volunteer at NWEI since at least 1994 (if not before). He has also been one of our primary Mentor and Presenter Trainers over the past seven plus years. His encouraging presence helps new volunteers to feel comfortable. He has filled virtually every volunteer role NWEI offers:  mentoring new discussion groups, presenting on NWEI’s work, training new mentors and trainers, representing NWEI at The Standard volunteer fair and other events, actively organizing discussion courses, helping to develop past discussion courses and even hosting out of town NWEI community members during NWEI events!

douglas-richDoug Rich has been involved with NWEI for at least 12 of NWEI’s 20 years, serving as an NWEI board member for seven years, actively organizing and mentoring discussion courses and well as participating in NWEI’s EcoChallenge. He was instrumental in catalyzing sustainability community organizing in Lake Oswego, Oregon, where nearly 40 NWEI discussion groups have started over the years due to his efforts! Through this network of sustainability advocates, he has worked with fellow citizens as a leader in stewarding natural resources in and near Lake Oswego and has served as a member of the Natural Resources Advisory Board.

mail.google.comLena Rotenberg was integral to the formation of Simplicity Matters Earth Institute, one of NWEI’s partner organizations in the Washington DC metro area, and served as a steering committee member for many years. Over the years they have been one of NWEI’s most active partners, with Lena organizing and promoting ‘simplicity circles’ in the DC area, using NWEI’s Voluntary Simplicity course book amongst others. Lena has also been instrumental in the development of many of NWEI’s discussion course books, serving as an active volunteer curriculum committee member for several revision and new course creation processes.  In 2011, Lena started a local foods co-op, Valley Co-op, in conjunction with several others in her community, citing NWEI as the inspiration to do so. In her words, “95 percent of my sustainable actions are a product of NWEI influences. The other 5 percent come from friends. Once the activist lens comes down, you can’t go back.”

mail.google.comBetty Shelley, a recycling expert for Portland’s Metro, 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.”

Congrats to our nominees for the Founders Earth Leadership Award! If you are able, please join us on May 16th in Portland to celebrate 20 years of Northwest Earth Institute’s impact and community!

Third Fork Creek, recently adopted by NWEI Partner South Durham Green Neighbors after a Discovering A Sense of Place discussion course

Third Fork Creek, recently adopted by NWEI Partner South Durham Green Neighbors after a Discovering A Sense of Place discussion course

We recently heard from South Durham Green Neighbor Founding Steering Committee Member and NWEI Liaison Mark Bruhn, who told us that a recent Northwest Earth Institute Discovering A Sense of Place discussion course had resulted in SDGN adoping a local stream, Third Fork Creek. South Durham Green Neighbors, a partner organization of Northwest Earth Institute, is an all-volunteer community group organized in July 2010  to inspire individuals in Durham County (North Carolina) to take responsibility for Earth via small group dialogue and discussion groups. Since 2010, SDGN has sponsored more than 20 small group discussion courses using the Northwest Earth Institute model in local libraries, faith centers and work places with more than 150 participants.

“We have adopted a nearby stream, Third Fork Creek, and are organizing creek clean up events 2-4 times a year in coordination with the city of Durham, as well as performing stream monitoring and water quality testing.  This grew out of our experiences in the Discovering a Sense of Place course,” says Mark Bruhn.  SDGN is also using the NWEI inspired watershed course developed by the University of Washington and is adapting the water course for the Durham area, entitled “Knowing Our Local Watersheds,” to be offered in North Carolina this Spring.

Finding empty soda cans and other trash near the creek

Finding empty soda cans and other trash near the creek

Mark Bruhn and his family carry out the trash they picked up

Mark Bruhn and his family carry out the trash they picked up

Portlanders: Join Oregon Environmental Council for an evening dinner and discussion event at 5:30pm Thursday September 27th, 2012 exploring climate change, the role of women and population.

Women at the Center: Climate Change, Consumption and Reproductive Health” explores the role of consumption and population for combating climate change, and how empowering women is key to sustainable development. The September 27 evening event and dinner will feature OEC’s Andrea Durbin, Erik Assadourian from Worldwatch Institute, and Suzanne Ehlers from Population Action International, as well as a clip from PAI’s short film, Weathering Change.

If America’s consumer habits contribute to climate change, how can we change our approach to consumerism as a climate solution? What is the role  women play as climate solvers? If women and girls bear the greatest burdens from floods, food scarcity and other climate extremes globally, can they also be empowered to strengthen their families and communities to cope with impacts of a changing climate?

What: Dinner and conversation, featuring OEC’s Andrea Durbin, Erik Assadourian from Worldwatch Institute, and Suzanne Ehlers from Population Action International 


When: September 27, 5:30 – 8:30 PM

Where: Portland Art Museum, 1219 Southwest Park Ave, Portland, OR 97205

Cost: $20 each ticket. $15 for OEC members

Registration: http://www.oeconline.org/women-at-the-center

Washington State University (WSU) Jefferson County Extension has developed two water discussion courses inspired by the NWEI discussion courses. The first is tailored to those living in the Pacific Northwest (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington) and the second course is focused on the Puget Sound.  The courses are offered without charge and are found online here.

These self-directed water courses were designed to:
• Provide basic knowledge about our water and watersheds in the Pacific Northwest and in Puget Sound
• Raise awareness about water issues confronting watersheds and the communities within them
• Provide a structure to learn more about our specific watersheds and actions an individual can take.

Several NWEI partners have been inspired to create their own regionally focused water courses, following the template developed by WSU. Most recently, South Durham Green Neighbors in North Carolina has customized the “Our Watershed” course from the Washington State/Puget Sound team, creating a resource applicable to the Durham area.

Thanks to our colleagues at WSU for making these resources available!

NWEI partner Simplicity Matters Earth Institute in Maryland continues to foster momentum and discussion around climate change while promoting NWEI courses.  

During the recent 350.org-promoted event “Connect the Dots,” Lore Rosenthal and her colleagues at Simplicity Matters Earth Institute (SMEI) helped folks connect the dots among climate change, extreme weather and energy production by holding a discussion and demonstration at a local coal-fired power plant. SMEI used the momentum from this 350.org event to encourage folks to participate in NWEI’s Powering a Bright Future discussion course.

It’s one thing to talk about and imagine the complexities of climate change, but it’s another to have conversations on the ground with the issue staring you right in the face…

In what creative ways are you introducing sustainability issues or engaging folks in NWEI discussion courses? We’d like to know!

For those of you attending the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in Phoenix this year, make sure to meet up with our Director of Outreach and Technology Rob Nathan! Rob will be attending the GA Wednesday, June 20th through Saturday, June 23rd. If you’d like to set up a time to meet with Rob while he’s there, call him at 503.227.2807 or email him at rob@nwei.org. Rob is excited to hear about what’s going on with your congregation, as well as to tell you about some of the exciting happenings at NWEI right now.

While you’re there, make sure to visit NWEI partner Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth’s booth (#209) in the exhibit hall. UUMFE is also facilitating a workshop on Immigration and Environmental Justice:

Immigration & Environmental Justice

UUMFE’s own GA workshop.
Friday, June 22, 9:00-10:15 am at Phoenix Convention Center, 121 AB.

Panelists Rev. Earl W. Koteen, Amy Petré Hill, Lara Helfer, and Linda Herrera will discuss how environmental degradation (polluted air, land, and water; ocean acidification; severe storms and droughts; mass extinctions; melting glaciers) disproportionally impacts disadvantaged communities and contributes to migration and injustice. Find out how your congregation and state advocacy network may work with environmental justice organizations and coalitions addressing these issues.

We hope to see you there!

This article just in from Axiom News per the effects of Northwest Earth Institute’s programs and the work of Clevelanders in creating more sustainable local food systems. Thanks to all the people taking part in this inspiring effort! Read on to see what Clevelanders are doing as a result of participation in Menu for the Future.

With its array of homemade goat cheese, pasta made with basil pesto grown onsite, chili with local venison and spicy collard greens, a local food potluck last night captures the difference a growing underground movement around local food is making in Cleveland.

The potluck’s location, Gardens Under Glass, is a story in itself. Situated in Cleveland’s downtown Galleria mall, the core of Gardens Under Glass is a demonstration greenhouse with food grown there now used in some of the food court businesses…Then there’s the fact the potluck was held at all.

Clevelanders talk local food.

Capping off six weeks of small group conversations around food, it was intended to be a celebration of what the more than 30 people engaged in these conversations have learned, and the new micro-communities they’re beginning to create.

Perhaps most powerful is how these conversations are sparking change at the citizen level, as people shared at last night’s event, says champion for the effort Nancy King Smith.

A young couple has been inspired to start growing some food even though they don’t have any garden space. So they put buckets of dirt on their balcony and have planted several vegetables.

Someone else has learned more about CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture), and now he and his family have joined one.

A woman noted that in spite of her busy schedule, she has a new commitment to put time into her food choices and preparation because that’s what’s important to her.

The owner of a local business  is now committing to become a City Fresh stop and provide fresh, local, sustainably-grown produce in the Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood.

One urban farmer noted that through these conversations he could “see the light bulbs” of understanding going off for people.

Based on a curriculum developed by the Northwest Earth Institute, called Menu for the Future, the conversations spin out of handbook readings and a set of questions. They have been credited with changing the nature of the food conversation in the community of Port Townsend, Washington.

The goal for the budget-less Cleveland project, relaying entirely on word-of-mouth, is that 50 groups have met by the end of the year, with a farmers’ potluck in the fall to celebrate and share experiences.

“They had a fall potluck in Port Townsend, and people did share some pretty exciting things that they were motivated to do as a result,” says Nancy, noting she’s hoping for a similar experience in Cleveland.

The Menu for the Future movement was sparked at last year’s Sustainable Cleveland 2019 summit, an initiative to turn the city into a world-leader in sustainable practice.

For the initiative, a theme is chosen for each year, with events, education and activities all lifting it up. Local food is the 2012 theme.

The city’s chief sustainability officer, Jenita McGowan, who is the lead connection point on this citizen-driven project, points to Menu for the Future as a favourite example of several highlighting the growth of the local food ecology in Cleveland.

It certainly aligns with what she sees as the greatest possibilities for the local food movement in the city in 2012, which is “lots of unsolicited comments from regular Clevelanders around the fact that their city is a leader in local food, that they’re proud about it and know how to participate in it.”

For the full article, please click here.

This week we are sharing a letter written to fellow Unitarian Universalists from Bill Sinkford, Senior Pastor at First Unitarian Universalist Church of Portland. As many of you may know, Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth is one of NWEI’s 30 organizational partners. Thanks to Bill and the hundreds of congregations who are putting NWEI programs into action in their communities!

A recent Yale study highlights a significant gap between what we as citizens say we value and the actions we take.  For instance – “76 percent say it is important to buy locally grown food, but only 26 percent ‘often’ or  ‘always’ do.”

I’d like to think that, as Unitarian Universalists, our values and myriad food choices are much closer in alignment. Many of us engaged in the reflective process leading to the adoption of the Statement of Conscience on Ethical Eating last year. But even we have more work to do as we take this process deeper and broader.

How much thought have you given to the social justice implications of your food choices? Have you considered the environmental impacts of the food we waste? What are the real and potential impacts of our food system on wild lands here and abroad?

Shortly after I accepted the call as Senior Minister here at First Church in Portland, Oregon, I was introduced to the Northwest Earth Institute (NWEI). Our church has used its discussion courses for several years and found them to be an invaluable resource. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should tell you that I was so impressed that I agreed to serve on the NWEI’s Board of Directors.

Recently NWEI released a new discussion course on sustainable and ethical eating titled Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability. Many UUs have used NWEI’s previous curricula to create awareness, action and common purpose on these issues. Hungry for Change ties directly to our UU Ethical Eating Statement of Conscience by exploring the social justice, environmental and health components of a food system shaped by our individual and collective food choices.  

A recent UU participant had this to say, “The Hungry for Change course book and the dialog served up a huge dose of reality, but at the same time gave me the skills to take action for a healthier environment, a healthier humanity and a healthier me.” We used the course at First Church this winter.

I recommend Hungry for Change as a resource for your congregation in taking its next steps. More than 130,000 people have tested the self-facilitated process of shared discovery, personal reflection and action. It might also help to know that Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth (UUMFE) gains a bit of financial support with each course started. You can learn more about the course by contacting either NWEI or UUMFE.

 

One of NWEI’s 30 partner organizations, Catamount Earth Institute, is wrapping up their Healthy People, Healthy Planet initiative, celebrating 17 discussion courses completed this Winter and Spring! They ran 12 World of Health groups, 4 Choices for Sustainable Living groups and one Menu for the Future group. CEI is now gearing up to host two programs on lawn chemicals as follow up, providing tangible information and action opportunities for course participants. Follow up offerings will focus on “Creating a Healthy Landscape” and how to have lawns without chemicals.

Catamount Earth Institute director Barbara Duncan says “It was Northwest Earth Institute activists from Port Townsend, Washington that spurred me on to try organizing multiple groups of one program…” There are two more World of Health courses starting in April at the Richards Free Library in Newport, NH and the Canaan Town Library in Canaan, NH. The Catamount Earth Institute focuses outreach in the Upper Valley region of Vermont and New Hampshire.

One of our long time course organizers, Nancy King Smith, has been busy mobilizing community dialogues around food and sustainability in the Cleveland, Ohio area with a  working group that emerged out of the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 Summit. Nancy not only serves on the board for Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth (one of NWEI’s 30 partner organizations), but also is actively starting courses in the metro Cleveland area via an initiative inspired by NWEI organizers in Port Townsend, Washington. The Lakewood Observer just posted this article with details:

The Menu for the Future project is involving Lakewood residents in learning about and discussing the issues affecting their daily food choices. The expected outcome is to create more literate consumers, which in turn will drive sales of local, healthy food. The program is based on a six-week course developed by the Northwest Earth Institute that involves selected readings and self-facilitated discussion. It is part of the Local Food Celebration Year for Sustainable Cleveland 2019.

In September of 2011, a working group came together at the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 Summit and set a goal to get as many groups as possible to use the Menu for the Future course within their faith community, organization, business or neighborhood during 2012. About a dozen pilot groups, with a farmer or food producer in each one, are meeting in February and March, and plans are in motion to scale up during the remainder of the year.

The course, designed for groups of eight to twelve participants, is based on a source book of readings that includes directions for self-facilitation by the groups for guided conversation about our food systems. The course has been successfully used in Port Townsend, WA, where they ran 25 simultaneous courses with a farmer or food producer in each course (most groups were ten to fifteen people). It changed the nature of the conversation about food in the town and established relationships between producers and consumers that have been of economic as well as personal benefit…

Currently groups are meeting in a variety of settings and geographic areas: River’s Edge, Carnegie West Library, the Galleria, the Catholic Diocese Headquarters, Preterm, Gates Mills Library, Unitarian Universalist churches in Shaker Heights, Akron and Kent, and a Hudson Ecumenical group. The pilot groups and interested conveners will hold a celebration potluck at the Galleria on April 19th. Additional groups will launch in April and May, including a group at the Lakewood Public Library. Anyone interested in convening a group (no special expertise needed) or joining a group should contact menuforthefuture@gmail.org or call 216-264-0181.

NWEI’s New Hampshire based partner organization, Global Awareness Local Action, will be hosting Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability January 26th through February 9th, 2012.   Hungry For Change explores  the true meaning of the phrase “you are what you eat.” 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 share. Each session addresses 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.

G.A.L.A Study Circles are a great way to come together with other community members in an informal, yet inquisitive, atmosphere to deeply explore issues of social and environmental concern. The discussion courses provide an enjoyable, supportive setting in which to examine personal values and habits, engage in stimulating conversation, create meaningful community, and consider ways to take action towards creating a more sustainable future.

As a partner organization to NWEI, and the New Hampshire point of contact, G.A.L.A. can help your group get a Study Circle up and running by providing guidance, advice, assistance with press releases and promotional materials etc.  If you are in New Hampshire, contact G.A.L.A at 603-539-6460 or email contact@galacommunity.org

Congrats also to G.A.L.A for their recent grant to expand their Sustainable Home Makeover Program! More information to follow on this program that will be available nationwide.

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