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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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For those in the Portland area, please join other NWEI volunteers and staffers at the  Do the Math Tour Documentary Premiere and Panel Discussion, to be held Sunday, April 21st at 6pm at the Ecotrust building, 721 NW 9th Ave., Portland. NWEI Executive Director Mike Mercer will be talking about NWEI’s work as part of the panel discussion. Below is an invitation from Mike Rosen, who is organizing the showing.
What better way to spend Earth Day Eve than at the Portland premiere of 350.org‘s documentary on the Do the Math Tour?  Doors open at 5:30 pm, at Ecotrust (located at 721 NW 9th Avenue, 2nd floor).  Join us for a 1 hour panel discussion at 6pm with local leaders to learn about their efforts to combat Global Warming.  From 5:30 to 6 and from 8 to 9 you can browse our information tables.  At 7 pm we will have the Portland premiere of the Do the Math Tour documentary.  After the film our panel will reconvene for further discussion. The $3 charge covers the cost of the venue.  Anyone needing free tickets should contact Mike Rosen @ mikanter@comcast.net
The Loveland Garden Club in Omaha, NE hosts NWEI's Choices for Sustainable Living

The Loveland Garden Club in Omaha, NE hosts NWEI’s Choices for Sustainable Living

At NWEI, we believe the solution to many of the Earth’s biggest challenges lies in the power of collective change: each of us contributes to a world of impact. Over the last 20 years, NWEI has helped 142,000 people from around the world make small steps that lead to big changes for our planet.

Today we are calling upon you, our partners, volunteers and course organizers, as well as those new to NWEI, to help us reach 145,000 participants in NWEI’s sustainability focused discussion courses by June 30, 2013. That’s 3,000 people in three months – ambitious, but attainable with your help. If you’ve been considering organizing a course, please take the first step today. We’re here to help you get started too – call us at 503-227-2807 or email contact@nwei.org.
With your help to engage 3,000 participants this Spring, 145,000 citizens over the course of twenty years will have been motivated to take action in their own lives and inspire the people around them. 145,000 citizens taking action, like those in Durham, North Carolina, Cleveland, Ohio, the Columbia Gorge here in Oregon, and Jefferson County, Washington, is no small feat.
Thank you for stepping up today to help reach our goal—3,000 people, 3 months, let’s do it!

p070621Last month we featured Betty Shelley, long-time NWEI volunteer and waste reduction expert on our blog. Betty and her husband Jon generate only one can of garbage per year. Yep, per YEAR. Applaudable, and for the rest of us, seemingly impossible, right? I signed up for Betty’s “Less is More: Getting to One Can of Garbage Per Year” class to find out just how she does it, and how I could reduce my family’s garbage.

We’re no strangers to the 3 R’s — reduce, reuse, recycle — but are hard-pressed to keep our family’s garbage to one can per month. I signed up for the class hoping to learn some new “tricks” from Betty, but after participating, I’m finding the biggest benefit to attending the class was that it inspired me to take a deeper look at some of the issues, and reignited my motivation.

The class featured a video demonstrating how a landfill works. Like many people I suppose, I hadn’t given any thought to how a landfill works, and I had no idea that landfills are engineered to prevent their contents from decomposing. So those biodegradable dog poop bags I’ve been buying? They are, like everything else at the landfill, sealed off from water and air, lingering in perpetuity. Hmmm.

The class also called upon participants to do a waste audit of their household trash. My small family: two adults, a baby, a dog, a cat, and three chickens, has two problem areas revealed by the waste audit: packaging and poop. It seems that all snack foods, even the healthy or organic options, come in non-recyclable packaging. For instance, the items of convenience that make it easier to get through a busy day, like Lara Bars and Cheerios for the baby, are often in non-recyclable packaging. The poop problem is probably familiar to anyone with pets and babies. While we cloth diaper 90% of the time, disposable diapers are handy for traveling and at night. But they also generate a lot of trash! And the pets add to the problem between needing to maintain our good-neighbor status by picking up after our dog, and dealing with the litter box.

The Less is More class inspired me to do some additional research, and while an animal septic tank is out of the question here in Portland because of clay soil, it’s good to know that there are other options. I’ll also be skipping the biodegradable bags, because given where they are going to end up, it seems like a better option to reuse a plastic newspaper bag and at least give the bag a final use.

My “Less is More” wake up call has been the need to really consider my options and weight the benefits of convenience with the reality of waste disposal. While the garbage truck takes our trash “away”, it stays with us far too long (some things probably forever!) to justify taking the convenient route all of the time.  I don’t think we’ll approach the one can per year mark, but every little bit helps, so I’m keeping that in mind!

In just over two months, we will host our 20th Anniversary Celebration here in Portland, Oregon. We know that the NWEI community spreads far beyond our hometown in Portland, and that there are people from across North America who will be celebrating with us in spirit. We have another way for you to get involved in the Celebration if you can’t attend in person too.

We are inviting donations to support members of our community who are “living lightly” and may not be able to afford a full-price ticket to the celebration. Students, full-time volunteers and those who are pursuing part-time work for example, will be able to attend our celebration thanks to the generosity of the NWEI community. We are collecting $60 donations, which will support two people attending the celebration at half-price, or one person attending with a full “scholarship.”

We will recognize all of the donors who sponsor a Living Lightly ticket at our 20th Anniversary Celebration and thank you for considering this opportunity to be involved in the event even if you can’t attend in person.  To make a tax-deductible Living Lightly ticket donation click on “Get Tickets” on the event website, or call me (Kerry) or Liz at 503-227-2807. Thank you for being part of NWEI’s celebration of 20 years of connection, reflection and action!

20th Celebration postcard change photo

And if you’re interested in applying for a Living Lightly ticket, please fill out this quick formWe will be in touch with people who are interested in Living Lightly tickets in April.

Maryann Calendrille, photo by Kathryn Szoka

Maryann Calendrille, photo by Kathryn Szoka

Annette Hinkle with the Sag Harbor Express newspaper in New York recently interviewed Northwest Earth Institute course organizer Maryann Calendrille, who will lead a Voluntary Simplicity discussion course at Canio’s Cultural Café in Sag Harbor beginning in late January. Below is an excerpt from the interview.

How would you define Voluntary Simplicity and the goals of the program?

…It calls for an intentional choice about how we’re using resources, how we’re consuming things and how we’re spending our time.

What’s the basis of the program and how does it work?

It’s based on a book by Duane Elgin that came out in 1981 and was re-released in 2010 — that’s where the phrase “Voluntary Simplicity” comes from. It’s moving toward a way of life that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich. It addresses the many aspects of our life — personal, public, work life — and how we’re now really called upon to make conscious choices.

The concept is any community group can come together — say 8 to 12 people — and it’s a shared responsibility to move the course forward. Each participant volunteers to facilitate for one night during the five weeks. It’s a very democratic structure. There’s no hierarchy, no experts. We learn from the readings and they ask high quality questions. There are action plans, suggested ways of putting theory into practice. I found it thoughtful and high quality material.

What are some of the wider issues you expect to address in the workshop?

In terms of helping to develop awareness about choices we make, one of the goals for this movement is to create greater equality all over the planet. We consume more fuel and food than anywhere… If we’re buying strawberries in January in the Northeast, where were they grown and how did they get here? What’s the cost? Is it healthy? Or a $2 pair of socks from China — what were the costs of making them? How does my choice here perpetuate a system that leaves other people at risk?

Another goal is to connect with others who are making changes and figure out what we can do in our corner of the world. We may not be able to do everything we want, but we can become more aware and see where we can make a shift. This is voluntary. It’s not compulsory. You do within reason what’s possible and seems manageable.

…We really need to be living more mindfully to create a sustainable future…

On a local level, is part of the simplicity focus just finding ways to reconnect personally with others in the community?

…I think a lot of people are feeling stressed out by the constant call to be connected either on line, or available 24/7 via cellphone. I think people are exhausted by it and are missing the one-on-one conversations. There are pockets of people saying this is unhealthy, this is not progressive in any way and we need to create some new ways of being together.

To read the full interview, click here.

We are gearing up  to celebrate our 20 Year Anniversary this year. Our Anniversary Celebration will be Thursday, May 16th from 6-9pm at the LeftBank Annex in Portland. 

We will present two awards in honor of  20 years promoting leadership and sustainability.  The Change for Good Award  will be awarded to a business or organization that has worked to promote sustainability and provide leadership to other organizations, as well as standing out as an organizational leader. We will also present the Dick and Jeanne Roy Earth Leadership Award to an individual, in honor of NWEI founders Dick and Jeanne Roy. This award will be presented to a person who has worked tirelessly to enhance the environment, and whose work in the sustainability field has inspired others to take action. We look forward to sharing the inspiring stories of the nominees and celebrating with you throughout the year and at May’s event.

You can stay up to date with Anniversary party details at www.nweix20.splashthat.com. We hope you can join us on May 16th to celebrate 20 years of change for good!

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Sustainable-Food-WordsOur friends at The Food Tank recently shared the following 13 resolutions to change the food system in 2013. We think the NWEI community should join in! As we start the new year, many of us will be working to improve health and effect new changes in our food system. The Food Tank proposes that a broader collection of farmers, policy-makers, and eaters need new, bigger resolutions for fixing the food system. As Food Tank co-founder Danielle Nierenberg says, “We have the tools—let’s use them in 2013!”

Here are The Food Tank’s 13 resolutions to change the food system in 2013:

1. Growing the Cities:  Food production doesn’t only happen in fields or factories. Nearly one billion people worldwide produce food in cities. In Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, farmers are growing seeds of indigenous vegetables and selling them to rural farmers. At Bell Book & Candle restaurant in New York, customers are served rosemary, cherry tomatoes, romaine, and other produce grown from the restaurant’s rooftop garden.
 
2. Creating Better Access:  People’s Grocery in Oakland and Fresh Moves in Chicago bring mobile grocery stores to food deserts giving low-income consumers opportunities to make healthy food choices. Instead of chips and soda, they provide customers with affordable organic produce, not typically available in their communities.
 
3. Eaters Demanding Healthier Food: Food writer Michael Pollan advises not to eat anything that your grandparents wouldn’t recognize. Try eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole foods without preservatives and other additives.
 
4. Cooking More: Home economics classes have declined in schools in the United Kingdom and the U.S. and young people lack basic cooking skills.  Top Chefs Jamie Oliver, Alice Waters, and Bill Telepan are working with schools to teach kids how to cook healthy, nutritious foods.
 
5. Creating Conviviality: According to the Hartman Group, nearly half of all adults in the U.S. eat meals alone. Sharing a meal with family and friends can foster community and conversation. Recent studies suggest that children who eat meals with their families are typically happier and more stable than those who do not.
 
6. Focus on Vegetables: Nearly two billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies worldwide, leading to poor development. The World Vegetable Center, however, is helping farmers grow high-value, nutrient rich vegetables in Africa and Asia, improving health and increasing incomes.
 
7. Preventing Waste:  Roughly one-third of all food is wasted—in fields, during transport, in storage, and in homes. But there are easy, inexpensive ways to prevent waste. Initiatives like Love Food, Hate Waste offer consumers tips about portion control and recipes for leftovers, while farmers in Bolivia are using solar-powered driers to preserve foods.
 
8. Engaging Youth: Making farming both intellectually and economically stimulating will help make the food system an attractive career option for youth. Across sub-Saharan Africa, cell phones and the internet are connecting farmers to information about weather and markets; in the U.S., Food Corps is teaching students how to grow and cook food, preparing them for a lifetime of healthy eating.
 
9. Protecting Workers: Farm and food workers across the world are fighting for better pay and working conditions. In Zimbabwe, the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ), protects laborers from abuse. In the U.S., the Coalition of Immokalee Workers successfully persuaded Trader Joe’s and Chipotle to pay the premium of a penny-per-pound to Florida tomato pickers.
 
10. Acknowledging the Importance of Farmers: Farmers aren’t just farmers, they’re business-women and men, stewards of the land, and educators, sharing knowledge in their communities. Slow Food International works with farmers all over the world, helping recognize their importance to preserve biodiversity and culture.
 
11. Recognizing the Role of Governments:  Nations must implement policies that give everyone access to safe, affordable, healthy food. In Ghana and Brazil, government action, including national school feeding programs and increased support for sustainable agricultural production, greatly reduced the number of hungry people.
 
12. Changing the Metrics: Governments, NGOs, and funders have focused on increasing production and improving yields, rather than improving nutrition and protecting the environment. Changing the metrics, and focusing more on quality, will improve public and environmental health, and livelihoods.
 
13. Fixing the Broken Food System: Agriculture can be the solution to some of the world’s most pressing challenges—including unemployment, obesity, and climate change. These innovations simply need more research, more investment, and ultimately more funding.

And a 14th: If you haven’t already, organize Menu for the Future or Hungry for Change this Winter and join in educating and inspiring people to act!

Save the date! The Northwest Earth Institute is turning 20 years old next year! Please join us in celebrating NWEI’s 20th Anniversary next May 16th, 2013 at Left Bank Annex in NE Portland. We’ll be in touch with more details as the event nears. In the meantime, thank you for being part of NWEI’s community!

On Thursday, November 8th at 7:30 PM, Bill McKibben and 350.org 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.

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 bonnpark7@aol.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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

With just over three weeks until the start of the EcoChallenge, we are excited to have over 140 people registered so far. We’re off to a great early start and look forward to having many more people join the 50+ teams who are signed up already!

We welcome you to participate as an individual or to create a team and take on the EcoChallenge with your coworkers, friends, family members, congregation or fellow students. You’re welcome to join the NWEI Community Team, too.

For inspiration, watch this video of EcoChallenger Bradford McKeown who is choosing to travel only by bike, bus or foot for the duration of his Challenge. If you haven’t already, sign up here to change one habit for Earth! The EcoChallenge runs from October 1-15th, 2012.

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. 

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