The New EcoChallenge

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If you haven’t already checked it out, we invite you to pop over to our new website! The new site is the first of many exciting new things we have planned for 2016.

We are also very pleased to announce our 2016 Sponsors – the EcoChallenge is made possible with the support of our partners and sponsors, and we are grateful for their contributions!

Our 2016 Title Sponsors are NW Natural, Portland General Electric, Chinook Book and The Standard.

Starting this year, we’ll have a sponsor/partner for each of the Challenges. We are happy to have Organic Valley on board again this year, and to have the support of Klean Kanteen, Pacific Continental Bank, Energy Trust of Oregon, Zipcar and B-Line as Challenge Sponsors too. We still have sponsorships available for the Simplicity, Nature and Waste categories, so let us know if you know a business or organization who may be interested in partnering with us for 2016!

GoGreen, City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, Portland Community College and J+R Group have all been long-time supporters of the EcoChallenge and we are happy to have them as sponsors again this year!

Many thanks to our partners!

We keep saying this, but we are so excited to get the 2016 EcoChallenge underway! Registration launches next month, so stay tuned!



5 Tips for Cultivating a Sense of Place This Summer


“Find your place on the planet, dig in, and take responsibility from there.”

– Gary Snyder

With summer now in full swing, all of us at NWEI are making sure to get outside with our friends and families, connecting with nature as a way to feed our passion for protecting this beautiful place we call home. Wherever you are, we invite you to join us in cultivating a sense of place and reconnecting with earth this summer.

Here are our 5 tips for cultivating a sense of place:

Nature Journal1. Take time to reflect on what makes your immediate place unique. What do you love? What do you want to protect? Consider beginning a nature journal or simply take 5-15 minutes to write about what you love about your place and what makes it different from other places you’ve visited or lived. Invite friends or family to discuss your place and share about favorite places and activities. What is inspiring or beautiful about where you live? You might also draw a simple map of your place or neighborhood, paying attention to the natural features.

2. Start a new routine that involves getting outside and connecting with nature. Consider a weekly hike or walk, either in your neighborhood or at a nearby trail or park. Or, set aside time daily to sit outside and observe the rhythms of your place. Where does the sun rise and set? What animals or birds do you encounter? Ideally, your new routine will remind you of your connection to your natural surroundings.

3. Actively engage your senses. With so much time often spent indoors or interfacing with technology, actively engaging our senses is a refreshing way to awaken connection and appreciation for our place. Notice the sounds, smells, and sights. The next time you are near the flowers or trees that grow in your place, take a moment to touch and smell. Notice the textures and colors. Pay attention to detail.

4. Play in the Dirt. If you already have a garden, spend time playing in the dirt while tending it. And, you don’t have to garden to get your hands dirty! Consider growing something new – indoors or out. Not only does gardening or playing in the dirt connect you with nature – it also improves the immune system and is linked to improving mental health by relieving stress and boosting mental clarity.

5. Take note of a natural event every day. Make a practice of observing the natural events occurring around you. Are there summer rain showers each afternoon? Are the sugar snap peas ready to pick? You might take note of when the sunflowers begin to bloom, or when the grasshoppers are in full swing. If you choose to keep a nature journal, record your observations.

*Want a deeper dive? Check out NW Earth Institute’s Reconnecting With Earth discussion course, which is full of inspiring reflections and ideas on how to live in greater connection with our place. Happy summer! 

Addressing Systemic Injustice: Why Everyone Needs To Be At The Table

Last December, NWEI published a statement about Our Common Dream – NWEI’s Commitment to Equity. While we have long seen justice as an integral part of our sustainability vision, in recent years it has become clear that a successful sustainability movement must also reflect the truly diverse landscape of our communities.

Today we are heartbroken, joining a nation grieving the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, along with so many other black lives taken too early and unjustly by the people who are sworn to protect them. We are also grieving the murders of the police officers killed in Dallas.

As an organization, we are committed to inspiring people to connect with their communities and work towards a healthy, sustainable future. We often talk about how “everyone needs to be at the table” – and how everyone can be part of the solution. We believe in the power of diversity of response from a variety of sectors and in a multitude of contexts. The same sentiment applies to the culture of structural violence and systemic racism. We believe the current story of our culture must transcend politics and the notion of an “us” versus “them.” We believe the narrative needs to shift as we work together to create a more just and healthy world for all.

The stories of unnecessary loss of life in the past few days and years are heartbreaking. These are just a few:

July 17, 2014, Eric Garner couldn’t breathe when a police officer put him in an illegal choke hold after approaching him for illegally selling cigarettes. He was pronounced dead one hour later.

November 22, 2014, Tamir Rice was a 12 year old on a playground holding a toy gun mistaken for a real gun. He was fatally shot by officers within two seconds of officers arriving on the scene.

July 5, 2016, Alton Sterling was fatally shot while police officers knelt on top of him after he had been forced to lie on the ground outside of a convenience store he regularly sold CDs at.

July 6, 2016, Philando Castile was shot and killed in his car by a police officer during a traffic stop. He informed the police officer that he had a concealed carry permit and that he was reaching for his license and registration. Philando Castile worked at a Montessori school and his girlfriend and her 4 year old daughter were in the car with him when he was killed.

July 7, 2016, 5 police officers in Dallas, Texas were killed in the single deadliest incident for U.S. law enforcement since September 11, 2001.

As activists and community members who care about creating a more just and healthy world, what can we do when wrestling with the darkness of the environmental destruction, war and violence of our times? How can we respond to the utterly complex systems that often fail us?

Ultimately, we can be the force that integrates all sides. We can remember the invitation that in order to effect real change, “everyone needs to be at the table.”

In the face of polarization and suffering, we can choose compassion – even when perpetrators enact unimaginable horrors. We can keep instilling the values of love, empathy, kindness, and non-violence, and be ready to stand up for what feels right and just as we work to change the massive systems at play.

We can keep cultivating pockets of sanity and health in our communities and organizations, while also being ready to sit together in the unimaginable pain of the seemingly unexplainable.

We can stand up and say that we should not have to choose between valuing the lives of police officers and valuing the lives of the people they are sworn to protect. Instead of choosing easy answers and “either/or” approaches, we can choose “both/and,” opting for dialogue and context and connection and healing. Acknowledging that racism is real, and affects the way we are policed, in no way discredits police officers who work tirelessly to protect and serve. The fact is both realities are true. So what are we going to do about it?

Today, rather than turning away, shutting down, becoming immobile in the face of overwhelm, or turning to distraction, we can serve the world deeply by recommitting to our work together to create change. In the spirit of the meaningful dialogue that happens in NW Earth Institute discussion courses, how can we bring people together to share their stories and consider solutions? How can we encourage diverse perspectives? How can we invite everyone to be a part of making change?

Whatever your response is to the tragedies of the past several days (and years), we hope you will join us in proving that any action, even small, does indeed add up to real change. We hope that you will join us in being a force that strives to integrate all sides, working to transform broken systems into ones that prioritize health, justice and peace for all.

(Editor’s note: If we left a recent event out here, it’s because it was publicized after we wrote this blog. We mourn all violence.)

Oregon’s Renewed Commitment to Climate Action

climate-change-action-signRecently, Andrea Durbin, Executive Director of the Oregon Environmental Council, and Jeff Allen, Executive Director of Drive Oregon, shared an opinion piece in the Oregonian which serves as a reminder that change is inevitable, and each region and individual can play a part in moving us towards a cleaner energy future. While NW Earth Institute works with organizations and individuals across the globe, we are proud to call Oregon our home. As Andrea and Jeff so poignantly remind us, now is the time to take climate action – and each of us, regardless of our perceived influence, can make a difference. To read the full piece, click here

Recently, amid a gathering of the highest-ranking energy officials in the world, Oregon was in the spotlight. Our state — which some have said is too small to influence the world economy — was a shining example to world economic leaders of what transitioning to a clean energy economy looks like.

Since taking office, Gov. Kate Brown has signed both the Clean Electricity and Coal Transition act and the clean fuels standard. These laws move Oregon’s economy toward the future, shield consumers from fluctuating gas prices and pollution from fossil fuels, and feed job growth and innovation. These laws also blaze a trail for other states to follow — and other states are taking notice. At the recent Clean Energy Ministerial meeting in San Francisco, Gov. Brown and the elected leaders of Washington, California and British Columbia renewed their commitment to a clean economy and agreed to the next wave of forward-thinking climate priorities. Together, this region makes up the world’s fifth-largest economy and represents 54 million people; it can lead by example and drive market changes.

The leaders of the Pacific Coast — and mayors of six major West Coast cities, including Portland — signed pledges to build on our successes and work to transform vehicles, buildings, energy and waste in ways that will slash carbon pollution by 80 percent by 2050.

Here in the west, we’re already seeing the impacts of climate change…But west coast leaders are not only committing to adapt to our changing climate, but to turning back the worst climate disruption: Our region will accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles and invest in transit. Buildings will generate as much energy as they consume and report energy use, like cars report miles per gallon. The electricity grid will be upgraded and interconnected for reliability and integrate more renewable energy.

Naysayers and fossil fuel corporations say it’s impossible to both protect the environment and inspire a thriving economy. Year after year, we’re proving them wrong. Along the Pacific Coast, clean job growth is more than twice as fast as overall job growth, adding 91,656 jobs in five years. Unemployment is falling and gross domestic product (GDP) is rising, while the region takes decisive action to protect the climate…

Change is inevitable, but the timeline grows shorter each year. With this renewed commitment to climate action, the work along the Pacific Coast begins anew to fully transition to a clean energy economy. With this new pledge, Oregon is leading again.

*Want to learn more about climate change and how to lead in your own community? Check out NWEI’s Change Is Our Choice: Creating Climate Solutions discussion course book. 

EcoChallenge Receives an Outstanding Flagship Project Award!

EcoChallengers take part in a “Litter Collection” project in Tirupati, India as part of a global Education for Sustainable Development EcoChallenge Team.
EcoChallengers take part in a “Litter Collection” project in Tirupati, India as part of a global Education for Sustainable Development EcoChallenge Team.

NWEI received a Regional Center of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development Recognition Award, recognizing our EcoChallenge as an “Outstanding Flagship Project”. We are honored to have EcoChallenge recognized as an ‘Innovative Project on Education for Sustainable Development.’

The award was granted by RCE Greater Portland, which is part of the Regional Center of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development with the United Nations University’s Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability. NWEI received a designation of Outstanding Flagship Project for “its role in Contributing to Community Engagement in the field of Sustainable Consumption and Production.”

Last year, NWEI’s annual EcoChallenge was integrated into the RCE Greater Portland’s efforts to educate people around the world on sustainable development. We were excited to have teams participating around the world in the EcoChallenge as part of a team called ‘Centres of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development,’ a global muti-stakeholder network of organizations that facilitate learning towards sustainable development. Participants joined in from around the globe, with Japan, India, Columbia and Kenya represented.

Team captain Kyoko Shiota‘s EcoChallenge goal was “to connect people working on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) issues around the world though the EcoChallenge.” Ecochallengers tackled litter in India and water conservation in Columbia, with one EcoChallenger hosting a training for 800 students in Suba, Columbia. We’re looking forward to more collaboration in the years to come!




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