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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!


Last month from October 1-15th 1,188 EcoChallengers and 179 teams took on EcoChallenges related to energy efficiency, water conservation, sustainable food options, alternative transportation and trash reduction, with 49 EcoChallengers raising $20,000 (all of which will go to support NWEI’s sustainability programs). Teams participating included corporate teams, higher education teams, faith organizations, families and community groups. We were thrilled to have The Standard, Portland General Electric, Energy Trust, 200 Market Building, Catlin Gabel School, Portland Community College, Davis Wright Tremaine and Portland Center Stage amongst the teams participating in this annual event.  98% of participants plan to continue their EcoChallenge activities.

Here are some quotes from 2012 EcoChallengers highlighting their favorite part of the Challenge. Thanks to all who participated last month!

“My favorite part was that in less than two
weeks my challenge became a habit.”

“Knowing that making small changes in our daily
routines can have a significant positive impact.”

“It always helps me realize how much it improves
my life to become more sustainable. Not only
does it improve the world around me but oft en
I save money, eat healthier, and help the local

“Teaching my family to conserve.”

“Feeling a sense of community responsibility
when I thought about my actions each day.”

“Raising my consciousness – I thought about
the challenge throughout each day.”

“I liked having a daily emphasis on trying to
do something new that’s good for the earth.”

“I thought about it everyday, leading up to
and during the challenge. I think my behavior
has changed and doubt I will slip backwards.”

“Learning how to identify and incorporate
green’ living into my life. It made me aware
of my surroundings and how I can help as an

This week KOIN Channel 6 reported on a how the NWEI EcoChallenge impacted one Portland family who took on a waste reduction challenge. The entire Tust family took on the EcoChallenge, each choosing a different action to focus on for the two week period.

Robert Tust reduced his shower time to 2 minutes a day and Meghan Tust chose trash reduction as her challenge, reducing packaging waste and buying more bulk foods at the store (she also eliminated disposable sandwich bags). Even five year old daughter Kaia Tust took on the EcoChallenge, reducing paper use for her arts and crafts and “saving trees” by only using recycled items for her art projects.

Watch Channel 6’s coverage of how this family’s EcoChallenge reminded them that “small changes do make an impact.”

For the short video, click here.

Today is the final day of EcoChallenge 2012! For today’s blog we are featuring Portland based Catlin Gabel School Sixth Graders, 55 of whom took on the EcoChallenge with a goal of reducing cafeteria food waste. Here is what team captain and teacher Carter Latendresse writes on his EcoChallenge blog:

“I teach 6th grade at Catlin Gabel School, and I will be the team captain for a team of 59: 55 students and four teachers. We will take on the Sustainable Food Options EcoChallenge that attempts to cut back on food waste while at school. We will weigh the food waste we generate as a group in a compost bucket for two weeks to see if we can decrease that amount over time…Our goal is to reduce our cafeteria food waste by 100% over a two-week period.”

Over the course of the two weeks the sixth graders have been weighing their food waste and composting it, learning about composting as well as becoming more aware of unnecessary food waste. Thanks to all the students for participating. And thanks to all who have participated in this year’s EcoChallenge!

One of our 177 EcoChallenge teams this year is headed up by Portland Mayoral Candidate Jefferson Smith. As team captain, he’s recruited 22 others to join him in the EcoChallenge, each contributing to a more sustainable campaign. Here is an excerpt of what they are up to.

As a campaign, we’ll work toward trash reduction by eliminating the use of disposable plastics and growing our existing office recycling. This will mean ordering less takeout. Pausing to figure out where we’re going to throw those coffee grounds. Taking a cup to the tap instead of reaching for a bottle of water. To do this we’ll have to slow down slightly from the rapid pace of the campaign. But it’s worth it.

Additionally, each of us will take on an individual challenge to stretch us personally. Chefs will learn how to cook with organic ingredients. Lifelong carnivores will learn that it’s not so bad to be vegetarian. Starbucks addicts will go local. And a very busy candidate will discover the side-benefits of taking just five minute showers…

To learn more about what this team is taking on, and to read the full story, click here. And thanks to all of our EcoChallengers who are on day 12 of the EcoChallenge!

This week we are happy to highlight EcoChallenger Bradford McKeown’s guest blog post about his experience with NWEI’s EcoChallenge. For last year’s EcoChallenge Bradford did all of his trips by bike or foot (riding 225 miles in 2 weeks!). This year he is taking on sustainable food as his EcoChallenge. Thanks Bradford for sharing your thoughts with us!

It seems like I always have a running mental list of changes I want to make in my life. Some of the things on the list would be good for me (like getting to the gym a little more often) and some would be good for me and the planet (like cutting back on red meat). But with a full-time job and a busy social life, it’s hard to get around to crossing them off the list.

That’s why October 1-15 is my favorite time of year—that’s when the Northwest Earth Institute’s EcoChallenge gives me an annual opportunity to focus on kick-starting personal (and environmental) progress.

Here’s how the EcoChallenge works: participants choose one change that will reduce their environmental impact and stick with it for two weeks. Challengers pick from one of five categories—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. Each EcoChallenger shares their challenge with friends and family (via e-mail, social media and the EcoChallenge website), which provides an extra incentive to stick with the goal for two weeks.

For my first EcoChallenge, I committed to using human-powered transportation (my bike or my feet) for all local trips of less than 10 miles one-way.  

Prior to the EcoChallenge my bike hadn’t seen much use in a while. When I hauled it out for a tune-up and a few upgrades it was a dusty mess with two flat tires. The first time I saddled up I was a bit apprehensive. My commute was only four miles each way, but half of the route was on a rural road with a 45mph speed limit and a narrow, bumpy bike lane with a steep ditch to one side.

At first, a couple of trips into town and back in a single day left me pretty worn out.  However, I was surprised at how quickly my stamina and confidence increased. Finding better routes and giving myself a little extra time so I didn’t have to pedal quite so hard also made a big difference.

Perhaps my most pleasant discovery during the EcoChallenge was how much more engaged with my environment I was when biking.  I could hear the fellow playing the guitar on his porch as I passed by, smell the chicken pot pie someone was cooking and feel the difference between a chilly morning and a sunny afternoon. 

And after riding a few miles I was also more awake and alert than I ever was after a cup of coffee (not that I’ve given up my morning coffee). The extra calories burned certainly didn’t hurt my waistline, and I found I was even sleeping better.  An added bonus was spending less money at the grocery store when going shopping on my bike, as I had to consider how much I wanted to haul home (though I should note that I was impressed with how much I could carry with a couple of panniers and a few bungee cords). I received all kinds of encouragement from friends and family too—some were even inspired to try biking more themselves.

At the end of my first EcoChallenge I’d ridden approximately 225 miles that I would have otherwise driven, and I had also saved enough in gas money in two weeks that I’d already paid for half of the cost of the upgrades I made to my bike. Today, two years later, I’m still biking to work all the time.

For this year’s EcoChallenge, I’m committing to choosing sustainable food options. It should be an interesting adventure, since I‘m not much of a cook. But I know from past years that I’ll learn a lot along the way and my life (and diet) will end up better for it.

If you’re interested in joining me, find out more and choose your own challenge at

*It isn’t too late to sign up and join in the fun through the 15th!

As we enter day five of the 2012 EcoChallenge, a blogger interviews participants on why they signed up and what they are challenging themselves with. Here are some snapshots of EcoChallenge participants and the reasons they’ve committed to two weeks of action. For the complete blog post, click here.

Why did you decide to sign up for EcoChallenge?

Kelli- I decided to sign up for the EcoChallenge for a couple of reasons. First of all, it sounds like fun. I love finding new ways to be green, and this type of challenge is right up my alley. I have been recycling and upcycling and the like for years now and love encouraging others to do so as well! However, the EcoChallenge is especially important to me because (confession time) for the last several months I have been completely slacking and haven’t been doing any of the aforementioned things. When we moved, we left behind our recycling and composting centers. Despite building new ones being on my to-do list, it simply hasn’t happened yet. So the EcoChallenge is the perfect motivation for me to get my butt back in gear!

Jessica – I signed up for EcoChallenge so that I could have a sort of deadline to help me focus on some goals that had been floating around in my life for a while. I have been wanting to set a realistic number of bags of trash that we should produce and I’ve also been focusing on all the disposable things in my life. I’m trying to cut back on those.

Xza– I work well on deadlines and goals. EcoChallenge filled both of those needs so I wouldn’t procrastinate making my home greener and safer… Like Jessica, I wanted to reduce the amount of garbage we put out each month as well as get rid of disposables (plates, cups, napkins, etc.) and EcoChallenge put my desire in motion.

Geneva– I signed up for the EcoChallenge because all of my friends were doing it, so I figured I should hop on the bandwagon.  😉  But on a more serious note, I signed up because I believe that Ben and I run a very green household (we only put out our garbage once a month but we have two recycle bins) and I was interested to see if we could become even “greener” than we already strive to be.

Risa- I signed up for EcoChallenge for a few different reasons: (a) it is an organization that my best friend works for and he inspires me in so many ways to be more eco friendly, (b) I love the concept that NWEI has come up with this challenge. It is such a great way to get involved and get friends and family involved by actually doing something small that will leave a huge impact. (c) Although I have gotten better at being more green, there are still ways to improve. I want to challenge myself and my family to be more Earth friendly on a daily basis.

What is the way you are challenging yourself for the two-week time period? How do you plan on executing the change?

Kelli- For the two-week time period, I plan on recycling as much as possible to reduce our waste, composting, drying ALL of our clothes on the clothesline (instead of just part of them), work on energy reduction and water conservation. I plan to achieve these goals by building a new recycling center to organize our recyclables, making a new compost bin (and pulling my counter top compost bucket back out), unplugging unused appliances, turning off lights when not being used, taking shorter showers, and so much more. I can’t wait!

Jessica- I plan on producing only one bag of trash in the next two weeks, recycling as much as possible, and going to 100% cloth diapering.

Xza – I would like to limit my amount of trash to 1.5 bags.I know I know, weird number, but that reduces the amount of waste we put out by 50%. We will also be using 100% cloth up until October 13 (we leave for a trip and can’t use CDs during that time) and I will only order coffee or tea if I have my reusable cup with me.

Geneva– As I was browsing through the EcoChallenge topics, I noticed one on sustainability and eating.  We haven’t always been responsible with sourcing our food in ways that are good for the environment, so we are going to increase our purchases of fresh foods and decrease the amount of food packaging we recycle every week.

Risa- I plan on working on my family’s energy usage. This means hand-washing dishes, hanging clothes to dry, and of course making sure my kids remember to shut off the lights. I, too, plan on being more responsible with our food-buying habits. We will be integrating more fresh fruits and veggies into our meals and buying as much food in bulk as possible to reduce the amount packaging.

For the full post, click here. If you haven’t already, you can still register to participate at

Donna DeForbes in Warwick, RI is taking on the EcoChallenge and is doing one green thing each day. Below is an excerpt from her EcoChallenge musings on her Eco-Mothering Blog.

So the EcoChallenge begins, and I am filled with motivation. I’ve shepherded my family into this (some less willingly than others) as we follow the green-brick road to sustainable living…I’ve decided to do one green thing each day during this two-week challenge…

Energy Efficiency
My first order of business was to support clean energy utilities…Encouraging renewable energy companies is a green brick on the road. In my ultimate green vision, our house would operate completely on wind and solar power, which would be cheaper, cleaner and would occupy the kids with games of ring around the wind turbine…

I’ve gently steered my husband toward some energy-saving actions such as turning off lights (he’s a bit absent-minded) and turning off his laptop instead of keeping it in sleep mode. U.S. Department of Energy guidelines suggest powering down if you’re away for at least two hours. This technical blog figures that you can save close to $100 annually per computer just by turning it off overnight…
Alternative Transportation
For this EcoChallenge, I’m committing to walk or bike to places within a mile of my house (except the grocery store). This means biking to my three-times-per-week zumba class…

Trash Reduction
Sofie’s focus appears to be recycling. She’s been monitoring our bathroom use, darting in to claim toilet paper rolls for her kindergarten class…While our family recycles quite a bit, I’ve not been industrious about toilet paper tubes, mostly because my habit is to toss it right into the bathroom trashcan instead of saving it for the kitchen recycle bin. So, kudos to my daughter for picking up the slack there.
On this issue, I went to recycle the plastic container of deli ham I had bought and realized it was a #7. The #7 plastic is typically not recyclable (although Rhode Island now takes them), and it can contain BPA, which studies have shown leaches potential hormone disruptors...Perhaps next time I could wait in line at the deli and bring my own containers? Or forgo the ham altogether and go meatless more often. That’s in my plan for next week. Stay tuned.
For the full story and photos, click here.

bePortland covered Friday night’s EcoChallenge Launch Party and here is what they had to say:

The Green Drop Garage, an environmentally friendly auto garage located in SW Portland was a unique yet fitting setting for the 2012 EcoChallenge launch party on Friday night. The crowd at the event gathered together around a lot full of old cars and inside a garage littered with disassembled motor parts to listen to some free music, have some drinks, eat some food  all while working towards a greener earth.

EcoChallenge is an annual event that challenges everyone to make small changes in their life to help reduce their impact on the environment. For two weeks participants are asked to take part in different categories ranging from transportation to trash, energy and food. The EcoChallenge is helping its participants become aware and make a change in the way they do things in their everyday lives in hopes of creating a lifelong change for the better.

Three Portland based bands played for the event…Also in attendance was Jefferson Smith, one of the mayoral candidates for Portland. The candidate was the perfect politician to speak at the eco event, with his own campaign dedication to sustainability as well as environmentally minded policies. Smith mixed it up, going from genuine humor and then getting serious and launching into the importance of some of the more crucial environmentally issues affecting the Portland area…

The evening was a lot of fun but most importantly it helped remind the audience about the importance that one change in their life can also make on the world as a whole. The festivities helped to bring awareness to EcoChallenge and their idea that a small change in the lives of a few can create a great change in the world…

For more photos of the event and the full story, click here. Also, its not too late to register! Click here to register.

In the Portland area? Join the local NWEI community in kicking off the 2012 EcoChallenge, which formally begins Monday, October 1st! The EcoChallenge Launch Party will be held Friday, September 28th, 2012 from 8pm to 12am at the Green Drop Garage (1417 SE 9th St., Portland).

Portland Mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith (who is also participating in this year’s EcoChallenge) will be in attendance along with over 150 local NWEI supporters and EcoChallengers. Enjoy great community, inspiration for your EcoChallenge, free dessert, raffle prizes, music and more.

Haven’t registered for the EcoChallenge yet? You can register here.

We are in our final stretch before EcoChallenge 2012 starts next Monday, October 1st! We have hundreds of participants signed up plus over 100 teams representing a diverse group of organizations including non-profits, colleges and universities, businesses and faith communities. Today we learned that Risa, a mother and writer from Gilbert, Arizona, has joined the EcoChallenge and created a team representing mothers from around the US and followers of her blog, Modern Methods and Timeless Tidbits, also known as The Mommy Dialogues. 

Read below for an excerpt from Risa’s blog inviting others to join the Challenge. Thanks Risa!

This year, we have decided to participate in NWEI’s annual EcoChallenge. The idea behind EcoChallenge is that, for two weeks, all you have to do is to change one habit for Earth. You choose your challenge (water, energy, food, transportation, or trash), and stay connected with other EcoChallengers to help support each other. I thought this would be such an awesome thing to get involved in for a few reasons.

A. I love the Earth! I try on a daily basis to be better with all things sustainable. After researching and watching some of the amazing videos of other Challengers, I just felt like this is a way to get better, to push myself to make a habit out of being conscious of the decisions I am making.

B. I love friends! Making subtle life changes for the betterment of all mankind will be so much more fun as a team. This is a chance for us all to work together towards one goal. The way we each reach that goal is just as individual as each one of us.

C. I believe in this cause. I believe whole-heartedly that if each person can make one simple change (i.e., turning the water off when you brush your teeth) everyone will benefit. Things are changing drastically on our planet and, as a mother, its important to consider our impact if we want to ensure a future for our children. NWEI doesn’t ask you to shell out any money (BUT if you would like to donate to this very worthy cause, click HERE), just your energy. Your partnership. Your belief that you can make a difference…

For the complete blog post, click here. And if you’d like to join the EcoChallenge but haven’t yet registered, click here for more info!

Sustainable Jersey, a certification program for municipalities in New Jersey, will be participating in NWEI’s Annual EcoChallenge by offering the EcoChallenge as a way for municipalities to meet “Green Challenge Program” goals. Sustainable Jersey supports community efforts to reduce waste, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and improve environmental equity. Currently, 376 towns are registered and working towards certification. Nearly 75% of New Jersey’s population lives in registered/certified Sustainable Jersey communities.

This year, NWEI’s EcoChallenge will be offered to Sustainable Jersey’s network of municipalities and communities as a way to earn points towards certification via their Green Challenge Program, which engages the community by challenging individuals, families, and businesses to change their behavior in support of the community’s goals for sustainable development. The Green Challenge Program asks people to pledge to “take a challenge,” and to make a specific change in their lives or in the way they do business.

Green Challenge Programs encourage healthy competition among community members while building a sense of shared purpose. As individuals try to achieve their own goals, they play a key role in reaching community-wide goals.

We are excited to see what New Jersey towns and communities accomplish this October via our collaboration!

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.

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:

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:

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!

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