Helping Employees Make Sustainable Choices

Intel employee & NWEI course organizer Sydney Wirsig

In honor of Earth Month, we’re excited to share this changemaker story from CSR@Intel about Sydney Wirsig, an Intel employee, Northwest Earth Institute course organizer and sustainability champion. As Intel notes, “Sydney Wirsig is one employee who has turned her passion for sustainability into action and positive impact.” Sydney engaged 450 Intel employees in NWEI’s Choices for Sustainble Living discussion course – and the results were inspiring. Below is an excert of CSR@Intel’s blog post about Sydney’s impact. To read her full story, click here. 

Sydney joined Intel in 2014 and from day one was looking for ways to get involved in sustainability efforts, “I feel we all have a responsibility to be a good global citizen and do what we can to make sustainable choices in our own lives as well as helping others do the same.” On her personal journey to live more sustainably, she realized she wanted to help and encourage others looking to do the same.

Then, an opportunity at Intel popped up in her inbox. The Corporate Responsibility team was looking for a passionate employee to develop a pilot sustainable living discussion course for employees. Sydney jumped at the opportunity and was selected to lead this effort. By working with the Northwest Earth Institute (NWEI), who creates discussion course books on sustainability topics, Sydney launched the Choices for Sustainable Living course to 200 employees. The NWEI course book covered everything from food to transportation through articles and data from a variety of sources. It gave people “food for thought” and allowed them to decide for themselves what they do with the information. The format of the course allowed for open discussions about reactions to the course content, and collective problem solving.

Sydney reflected on the course saying, “It was incredibly gratifying to hear stories from the group about the things they tried and what worked for them long term. I didn’t know if anyone would make changes to be more sustainable based on what they learned but it turned out, they did. The efforts of everyone were outstanding.” She facilitated two offerings of the course and engaged with about 450 employees in total. Even though she is no longer facilitating the course, this was just the start for Sydney’s sustainability efforts at Intel.

“I realized opportunities to lead sustainability projects were all around me. I just had to take initiative to pursue them,” Sydney recalled. That aha moment led to her next project. Wanting to expand access to local, healthy food and searching for ways to lower her own food miles, Sydney wanted to start a community garden on an Intel campus.

The resulting garden in full bloom

She recruited volunteers, planned raised-bed building days, and coordinated vendors to bring the 38 raised-bed organic garden to life. The results? In its first growing season, the garden club had over 50 employees participate, beat its food donation goal, and hosted a garden educational event for 300+ kids. Upon reflection Sydney revealed, “It was the most rewarding and challenging side project I’ve ever done but even knowing now how challenging it would be, I’d do it all over again.”

But as you may have grasped by now, Sydney always has a new sustainability idea brewing. So what’s next? “I’m interested in looking at ways to divert more waste from going to landfills. I’ve started collecting my hard-to-recycle packaging to send to organizations that can properly recycle them and I’d love to try that on a larger scale in the community,” she shared. Clearly, Sydney is a true champion of sustainability at Intel and is always looking for new ways to help employees reduce their footprint on the planet.

To read the full article, click here. To learn more about NWEI’s Choices for Sustainable Living course book, click here. Thanks to Sydney for her leadership and for her work to create positive action! 


Join NWEI Founders for an Earth Day Evening of Music and Song – April 21st

For those of you in the Portland area, join NWEI founders Dick and Jeanne Roy and the Center for Earth Leadership for an Earth Day Evening of Music and Song, to be held Friday, April 21 from 7:30-9pm.
The event will be held at the historic Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave., Portland.

“We invite you to set aside this special time to celebrate our remarkable planet. The program includes instrumental and vocal performances, meditative singing, poetry, and candle lighting,” the Roys shared.

Instrumental and vocal groups will include Sky in the Road, Richard Colombo, Gary Skye, and the Portland Peace Choir. There is no cost for the event, but donations are accepted. Please RSVP to Jeanne Roy at Happy Earth Day to all!

NWEI Is Hiring!

NWEI staff and board at last year’s annual retreat

NWEI is hiring! Currently, we are looking for two new individuals who will join the Northwest Earth Institute team this spring. We welcome you to learn more and apply!

We are currently accepting applications for a Development and Communications Manager and an EcoChallenge Program Manager. As an organization, we believe that what we create and offer to the world is a direct reflection of who we are and what we value. We’re excited to live our values by providing a flexible family-friendly work environment, encouraging staff to recharge with annual personal retreats, offering a sabbatical for long-term employees, and revisiting our practices regularly to ensure that we continue to evolve.

Everyday, we bring to work a deep commitment to sustainability, and we’re excited to expand our team! To learn more, click here.

Join NWEI’s Next Course Organizer Training Webinar, April 13th!

Earth Day is just around the corner! We believe every person has the power to create positive action, and next month is a perfect time to do a little extra. These days, there’s no shortage of information about the serious challenges facing our planet – and although most people say they would like to do more, they don’t know where to start.

This Earth Day we invite you to bring people together and to organize one of Northwest Earth Institute’s discussion courses. To support you, we’re offering our next Course Organizer Training Webinar in April as part of Earth Month.

Please join us for a free informational webinar that will give you all the tips and tools you need to start taking action in your community.This NWEI Course Organizer Training Webinar will take place Thursday, April 13 from 10:00AM – 11:00AM PST. We welcome anyone who is interested in inspiring change in their neighborhood, workplace, community group, campus or faith organization to join us. We’ll go over best practices for engaging your networks in NWEI discussion courses and you’ll have the chance to connect with others who are also working to inspire change in their community.

To register for this webinar, please fill out this form. We hope you will join us!


March 22nd is World Water Day! 4 Things You Can Do To Help Conserve Water

Since 1993, World Water Day has been held every year on March 22nd to raise awareness around limited access to fresh, clean water for millions around the globe. Hosted by the United Nations, annual World Water Day campaigns have focused on improving water quality and access to freshwater for people around the world. This year’s theme is ‘why waste water’ and focuses on sharing ways to conserve this precious resource. In 2015 – and as part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – a UN Initiative set a target to make sure everyone on the planet has access to safe water by 2030.

At Northwest Earth Institute, we are excited to get more involved in meeting these goals by sharing information about and encouraging sustainable use of water! We are currently revising our most popular course book, Choices for Sustainable Living, to be released later this year. The new edition will have an entirely new session on water. We’ll dive deep into the issues surrounding water, and we’ll share ways to conserve and advocate for clean, safe water for all.

Today, here are four tips to conserve water and plug into this year’s World Water Day. 

  1. Install a rain barrel this spring! A rain barrel is a container that collects runoff water from your home’s gutters, and provides an alternative water source for gardening or irrigation. Because plants thrive on natural rain water, using collected rainwater for watering lawns and gardens is a great way to conserve and re-use water.
  2. Take a bucket to the shower! Showering definitely uses less water than a bath – as long as it is a shorter shower. A five-minute shower uses 10-25 gallons of water, while a bath can use up to 70 gallons. When you do shower, take a bucket and collect water. For example, while waiting for the shower water to heat, collect the cold water and use it for watering plants or bucket flushing your toilet.
  3. Avoid the permanent press cycle on your washing machine. The permanent press cycle on most washing machines uses an extra five gallons of water for the additional rinse!
  4. Fix the leaks! Did you know a running toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water each day? Likewise, at one drip per second, a faucet can leak 3,000 gallons in a year!

As writer and activist Robert Alan Silverstein says, “Water is one of the most basic of all needs — we cannot live for more than a few days without it. And yet, most people take water for granted. We waste water needlessly and don’t realize that clean water is a very limited resource.” Let’s not take our water for granted!

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