Choose a Nature Challenge & Celebrate 100 Years of National Parks!

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA — Bull Elk Standing on Banks of Snake River — Image by © Buddy Mays/Corbis
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA;   Image by © Buddy Mays/Corbis

It is time to pack a picnic and explore the natural beauty of our amazing planet! If you are in the United States, this week is a perfect time to visit one of the 413 National Parks as the National Park Service celebrates 100 years of preservation, conservation and service.

The centennial will celebrate the achievements of the past 100 years, but it is also a reminder about continuing the practice of preservation well into the future. As the National Parks Foundation says, “It’s about kicking off a second century of stewardship for America’s national parks and for communities across the nation.” And, it’s about remembering to make time to enjoy and protect these beautiful places.

At the Earth Institute we often talk about how we are most inspired to care for what we love. With an increasingly busy and technology-oriented society, time outdoors and time spent falling in love with our natural places can come at a premium. Yet it is more important than ever to forge these connections to place. As Gary Snyder says, “Find your place on the planet. Dig in, and take responsibility from there.” Yes indeed!

*If you need a kick-start getting outside and connecting with nature, join us for our October EcoChallenge and choose a Nature Challenge. Pick an action like going for a daily walk, eating meals outside, or exploring your natural places and commit to it for two weeks. 


Are you up for the Challenge? The 2016 EcoChallenge is here!


We have been excitedly awaiting this day! Today we launch EcoChallenge 2.0, and invite you to register for the 2016 EcoChallenge!

The premise is the same as always — we invite you to take on a two-week Challenge this October, and along with thousands of other EcoChallengers, we’ll collectively prove that small actions add up to real change.

Our robust new website and platform will ensure that the EcoChallenge is even easier and more fun than ever before. Head over to to check it out, and join the growing ranks of 2016 EcoChallengers!


If you’re in Portland, we also invite you to join us to celebrate the kick-off of the 2016 EcoChallenge at our Launch Party on October 6th, from 5 – 7:30pm.

We look forward to taking on the new and improved EcoChallenge with you this year!





EcoChallenge as an Answer to the Say-Do Conundrum

This week Yale Climate Connections posted an article on the ‘say-do conundrum,’ a phenomenon we’ve long considered in the development of our EcoChallenge and discussion course programs.

For example, 88% of Americans say that recycling at home is important, but only 51% actually do it. 76% of Americans say it is important to buy locally produced food yet only 26% actually do. How do you close the gap between what people cite as being important and what we actually do as a result? That’s exactly what we’re tackling with our annual EcoChallenge. Registration will launch next week and it isn’t too late to join our Team Captain Webinar tomorrow to learn more! For the full article on the ‘say-do’ conundrum, and to listen to NWEI Executive Director David Macek’s interview with Yale Climate Connections, click here. Here is an excerpt from the article:

Many people say they’re going to recycle, buy locally grown food, and even bike to work, but the commitment too often ends there: with words. So the nonprofit Northwest Earth Institute has created what it calls an “eco-challenge” to close this gap between what we say and what we do.

David Macek is the Institute’s executive director. He says the challenge is designed so participants sign up with others in their community – for example, from their college, faith group, or workplace. This provides social support and allows for some light competition. In teams, the participants commit to taking one sustainable action for two weeks. “You might look at your life and you say, ‘What’s one thing over these next two weeks that I could shift?’ A typical one is committing to taking short showers.”
Other commitments include buying only reusable kitchen supplies or creating a “green team” in your office,” says David.

The participants track their actions for the duration of the challenge. “Altogether at the end of these two weeks, you get to see how a group of people coming together with some small actions add up to big change.” Because when people commit to conservation alongside others, they’re more likely to follow through – and do what they say.

*Want to learn more about this year’s EcoChallenge? Visit or sign up for our 8/18 EcoChallenge webinar!


Partner with NWEI to Launch a New Simplicity Course

Untitled design (2)“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”
– Hans Hoffman

NWEI is currently creating a new discussion course on intentional living and simplicity – and we invite you to help us bring this project to fruition by sponsoring a session or page of the new course! Your support will make it possible for NWEI to launch this new discussion course next winter and inspire thousands of people to discover ways to slow down and live more simply and purposefully.

Voluntary Simplicity has long been one of our foundational discussion courses, and we are very excited to build upon this offering with an entirely new course focused on the importance and fulfillment of living intentionally and simply.

Sponsoring a session or pages in the forthcoming NWEI course book helps us to keep our course book costs down, and engage more people as a result. With several sessions and 100 pages available for sponsorship, you can dedicate your session or page in honor or memory of family or friends. Your name, or the name of a loved one, will be inscribed on a page of the new course – recognizing your contribution.

To learn more about how you can sponsor a session or page in the new book, click here. We welcome your help in creating a new discussion course on simplicity and simple living – one page at a time!


4 Simple Ways to Connect With Nature

Untitled design“In the end, the fate of biodiversity and ecosystems depends on political choices and individual choices…If people never experience nature and have negligible understanding of the services that nature provides, it is unlikely people will choose a sustainable future.”

–  Peter Kareiva, The Nature Conservancy

We’ve long believed that taking time to connect with nature is important – not only for its positive effects on human health and well-being, but also because of how it informs our capacity for deeper respect for the planet and a strengthened commitment to act – a shift that could be the key to real and lasting change.

According to a Pew Internet Project Report, 93% of teens and 77% of adults are online. Children ages 8 to 18 spend an average of 7.5 hours each day plugged into computers, TV, video games, music, or cell phones, reported a Kaiser Family Foundation Study. As we spend more and more time in the electronic world, many of us are spending less and less time in nature.

With this in mind, we offer some ways to unplug from the digital world and plug into the natural world. We encourage you to choose one of the ways to connect with nature, and act on it in the coming week!

4 simple ways to connect with nature this week: 

1. Engage your senses. Make a practice of using your senses intentionally. Take time to observe what is around you. Notice the smells and textures of your place.

2. Go for a daily walk. Get outside daily, even if for a short break at work. And even if you live in the city, try to broaden your definition of nature to include more than traditionally understood ‘natural spaces.’

3. Pick an action from the new-for-2016 Nature Challenge at Registration opens in a few weeks for our annual October EcoChallenge, but you can test-drive a Nature Challenge from the list before now and then join us in October to focus on connecting with nature and committing to an action for two weeks.

4. Eat a meal outside. Try eating outdoors. The extra time outdoors boosts concentration and improves the mood – while also giving you the opportunity to enjoy your surroundings. And while you’re at it, take a moment to enjoy the sunrise or sunset. As author Jo Walton says, “There’s a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they’re absolutely free. Don’t miss so many of them!”

We are wishing you the space to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life!

* Want a deeper dive? Check out one of NWEI’s cornerstone discussion course books, Reconnecting With Earth, and explore how our cultural beliefs and personal values affect the way we view and treat our planet. 


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