CELL study abroad students participate in an NWEI discussion course in Iceland - Spring, 2013

CELL study abroad students participate in an NWEI discussion course in Iceland – Spring, 2013

For over six years, NWEI has been working with the Center for Ecological Living and Learning to offer quality discussion based curriculum for students studying abroad throughout the world. CELL offers four study abroad programs for college students who want to focus on fostering sustainability through community. CELL students wrote a series of letters to NWEI staff in 2006 urging NWEI to consider expanding its work into higher education settings, and the students’ letters prompted NWEI to embark on a new strategic direction, with NWEI discussion courses on campuses now comprising some 40% of our course offerings! Below are some reflections from CELL Director Dave Oakes, as well as from some of the students having participated in NWEI discussion courses.

In 2007, The Center for Ecological Living and Learning (CELL) pilot tested four NWEI discussion courses as part of its college semester program in Iceland focused on a theme of “sustainability through community.” The NWEI materials dovetailed beautifully with CELL’s experiential, service-learning curriculum and were embraced enthusiastically by all CELL students. Today, we use the NWEI discussion courses in our field programs in Central America, Iceland, East Africa and the Middle East. CELL instructors model the facilitation of the first session and then students take turns in pairs facilitating most NWEI sessions.  

What do CELL students say about these materials? One student shared that “the NWEI materials made us realize the power of “simplicity” and the impact that one person can have.Other students shared that the NWEI courses provide a balance of the right amount of information, with a balanced array of viewpoints. Below are several reflections from students having participated in NWEI discussion courses via their study abroad experience with CELL.

Students in Iceland, 2013

Students in Iceland, 2013

“As a discussion facilitator, it was great to have such quality
discussion materials designed to facilitate “discussions” as opposed to
“lectures.” The materials spurred introspective reflection and group
probing of issues.

“Use of the NWEI materials enabled us to see how “we” (our group)
are a piece of a larger sustainability discussion group – part of the NWEI’s
initiative to spur global discussion on sustainability.

“Having students teaching/facilitating the material was why this program worked so well.  When we took it upon ourselves to learn and teach the information, our class became a much more valuable tool than information being lectured at us.”

Thanks to CELL and all the students over the years who have participated in NWEI programs abroad!


More than 300 colleges and universities worldwide have successfully used NWEI’s discussion course books to strengthen academic communities and foster learning about sustainability, both in and out of the classroom. This short video will tell you more about our work on campus.

NWEI courses are sparking shared learning, shared stories, and shared action in a wide variety of campus-based settings—from first-year to graduate level classes, with community-based learning initiatives, in residence halls and learning communities, as professional development for faculty and staff, and in other campus-wide programs. Find out more in this NWEI on Campus video and on our website at nwei.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.

NWEI is celebrating 20 years of shared discovery, shared story and shared action – and we’re calling on you, our supporters both new and old, to help us reach 3,000 more participants before June 30th. We’re aiming to have 145,000 participants connecting, reflecting and taking action by June, and need your help!
One way you can help us reach this goal is to organize a Menu for the Future discussion course, using the newly revised and updated version of this course book, available on Earth Day. The updated Menu for the Future discussion course helps you explore the connection between food choices and sustainability with new authors, including Wes Jackson of The Land Institute, Alexandra Zissu, Gary Paul Nabhan and Robert Gottlieb.
Find out more about our new Menu for the Future here,and join us in celebrating Earth Day 2013 and NWEI’s 20th Anniversary by organizing a discussion course in your community.

imagesPortland, Oregon based Edible Portland (published by local nonprofit Ecotrust) just named six Sustainable Food Heros, and Dancing Roots Farm’s Shari Sirkin was amongst those honored. Shari was NWEI’s first employee in 1993 when the organization was founded. She will be joining us at NWEI’s 20th Anniversary Party and running the food Eco Station. See below for an excerpt from OPB’s article:

Who are your local food heroes? Edible Portland, a magazine published by environmental nonprofit Ecotrust, holds a Local Food Hero contest every year to recognize businesses that go the extra mile for social, environmental and economic sustainability.

Since 2009, the group has taken nominations for food heroes in six categories: Farm/ranch, restaurant, food artisan, beverage artisan, retailer and nonprofit. The winners are determined by a public vote. Check out this year’s winners, based on around 2,000 votes:

Dancing Roots Farm – Shari Sirkin and Bryan Dickerson grow heirloom, organic veggies on 10 acres in Troutdale. They’ve been offering their harvest to CSA members for 17 years, and they’re up to 150 members. They also collect donations for a CSA “scholarship” program to help others afford a membership. Sirkin advocates for strong connections between local farmers and eaters as the president of the Portland Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition, and farm supplies numerous Portland restaurants including Nedd Ludd, Genoa, Park Kitchen and Navarre.

Congrats to Shari! To read the full piece, click 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!

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!

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!

2013 Biannual Conference FlyerWe are looking forward to gathering in La Crosse, WI  this summer to share inspiration, stories and resources around leadership and sustainability. Please visit our University of Wisconsin-La Crosse conference website to access all the information you need to know about this year’s conference: Cultivating A Community of Leaders, where we will also celebrate 20 years of Inspiration and Change! NWEI is excited to announce the following additions to our program:
  • Tia Nelson, Executive Secretary, Board of Commissioners of Public Lands for the state of Wisconsin and daughter of former Senator and pioneering conservationist Gaylord Nelson will speak about Earth Day and Beyond

Please visit http://www.uwlax.edu/conted/nwei to see our early bird list of speakers, workshops, and breakout sessions. Stay tuned in April for more announcements as we get closer to our biannual event!

*Don’t miss out on registering for our biannual conference early and saving $50. Early bird registration will expire after March 31st. We hope you can join us!
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

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.

imagesKory Goldberg, an instructor in the Humanities Department at Champlain Regional College Saint-Lambert in Quebec, Canada, discovered the Northwest Earth Institute in 2009 when planning for a Green Living course. Since 2010 Kory has been engaging students in NWEI’s Choices for Sustainable Living curriculum, with 66 students participating last year. “Students enjoy the diversity of the texts,” says Kory. Since he began using the texts in class, nearly 300 students have participated in the Choices for Sustainable Living small group discussion process developed by the Northwest Earth Institute.

Professor Goldberg offers the following on his experience of using the NWEI resources in his classroom: “The organization and selection of readings in Choices for Sustainable Living provides an excellent range of topics concerning the human relationship with the environment.

The vast majority of the students in my “Green Living” classes have raved about the relevance of the readings and discussions in their own lives. Many have claimed that Choices for Sustainable Living has not only helped them think deeply about the environment for the first time in their lives, but that it has empowered them to make realistic changes in their day-to-day living.

From the standpoint of a college teacher instructing first-year undergrads, the book has helped me introduce the work of great intellectuals, scholars, and activists to my students in ways that are neither onerous nor dull. My compliments and appreciation to the helpful staff at NWEI.” 

Thanks to Kory and Champlain College Saint-Lambert for continuing to engage students in shared discovery and participatory learning via the NWEI course books!

imagesSince 2004, Starbucks’s Partners for Sustainable Living employee group has offered over 40 Northwest Earth Institute discussion courses in the Seattle, WA corporate office, most recently completing Menu for the Future. Most of the NWEI courses have been offered as a voluntary lunch hour offering for employees, hosted by the Partners for Sustainable Living group. PSL has some 400 members, most of which have participated in NWEI courses. The PSL Leadership Team has completed at least seven NWEI courses over the years. Approximately 10% of all employees at the Seattle corporate office have gone through at least one NWEI discussion course. One PSL member notes that “the discussion courses from NWEI have always been popular,” and cites an increased sense of community as one of the benefits of participation.

Former PSL member and Starbucks employee Tim Nuse says “There were lots of questions from partners about what they could do and how to work for corporate social responsibility. We piloted two Northwest Earth Institute groups and there were 15-20 people in the first discussion groups…Partners for Sustainable Living became a grassroots, employee driven venue for making change.” Thanks to Starbucks employees for creating organizational change through shared learning and shared action, and for using the Northwest Earth Institute resources along the way.

“NWEI courses complement Starbucks commitment to sustainability by enriching internal discussions and giving participants a clear understanding of their direct role in the conservation of natural resources. As a result, these individuals are better equipped to assess environmental issues and embrace innovative solutions in the workplace and in their personal lives. We highly recommend NWEI programs to organizations that believe in driving change from the inside-out.” Ben Packard, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility, Starbucks


imagesThis week we are happy to share a guest post from Mary Shaw who works at the Ashland, Oregon Food Co-op, where participants recently completed NWEI’s Voluntary Simplicity discussion course. Participants shared a variety of reflections upon completion of the course, with one participant noting “I am thinking more deeply and intentionally.  It’s helping me be accountable to get rid of things I’m no longer using.” Another course participant mentioned that “the Voluntary Simplicity group has prompted me to consider and eliminate internal and external clutter in my life…When making purchases I now ask myself is this a need or a want?” Thanks to the Ashland Food Co-op for sharing these reflections with us!

Simplicity can be viewed as a practice to create a more purposeful way of life in a complex, consumptive society.  To simplify is to reduce what you have to the essentials; to streamline and to clarify.  

Participants in the Co-op’s first offering of the Voluntary Simplicity discussion course are making life changes one step at a time. Weekly readings and discussions are followed by an action plan which helps participants commit to change. For example, one of the action plans with the theme “Intentional Living” prompted some participants to do the following: cook 5 good meals during the week; check email only three times a day instead of every 30 minutes; and take regular walks.  Part of each session is then spent sharing the successes, challenges, and inspiration experienced while implementing these commitments. Some of the participants will be starting a new group in April.  If you are interested in joining them, contact Mary Shaw at 541-482-2237 ex 261.

“Voluntary Simplicity has made me realize there are too many of us wanting too much from the planet and there are choices we can make to lessen these demands.”- Voluntary Simplicity course participant, Ashland Food Co-op


The Northwest Earth Institute staff is back in the office this week after our annual Staff Retreat in Parkdale, Oregon. For the past six years staff has gathered once a year in a donor’s home that borders the Mount Hood National Forest, with majestic Mount Hood and a several hundred-year-old Ponderosa Pine tree presiding over our annual visioning and strategic planning sessions. This year marks NWEI’s 20th Anniversary, and the retreat was focused on planning for the launch of our new online platform and website this Spring, as well as our upcoming 20th Anniversary party on May 16th.

In celebration of 20 years, NWEI staffers’ families were also invited for a day of feasting on home-cooked foods and walking in the woods. The next generation was also represented with two new babies and a three-year-old joining in the fun!

NWEI Staff, friends and family members enjoy snow and sledding near Mount Hood in Parkdale, Oregon last week

NWEI Staff, friends and family members enjoy snow and sledding near Mount Hood in Parkdale, Oregon last week

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