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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.

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!

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!

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. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more and choose your challenge today at: www.ecochallenge.org

About the Northwest Earth Institute:

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

We hope you will join us!

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

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

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

Here’s how it works:

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

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

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

Between July 1 and Aug. 31, 2012, NW Natural customers can cast their vote for one of four local environmental nonprofit organizations to receive a portion of a $25,000 donation by enrolling in paperless billing.

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

Here’s how it works:

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

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

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