It’s easy to look at statistics and almost instantaneously shrug them off. One only needs to watch a well-made documentary to understand how we humans are hard-wired to respond more meaningfully to storytelling than empirical data. But there’s another reason why numbers often don’t resonate—it’s because they almost never tell the whole story.
In recent years, we at NW Earth Institute have challenged ourselves to more accurately measure our impact through statistical data, and the results have been emboldening. Participants of NWEI discussion courses not only take environmental issues more seriously—from loss of biodiversity to rising consumption—but they act on the issues, too.
Our model for shared learning and discovery has proven to inspire a sense of agency and renewed confidence in participants’ ability to tackle the myriad problems posed by environmental issues. Rather than be deterred by the enormous complexity of the issues, these folks begin to see themselves as a critical part of the solution. It’s not just the stories that tell this trend—it’s the numbers.
When we say “change starts with you,” we really do mean it. Add up just a handful of the individual actions that NW Earth Institute participants are taking in communities across the world and the collective impact is awesome: Every year NWEI participants divert 36 million pounds of waste from the landfill; save enough energy to power roughly 11,000 houses; keep $192 million in local economies; and save nearly 800 Olympic-size swimming pools worth of water.
But these numbers are just the tip of the iceberg, and the real magic can’t be found in the statistics so much as in the stories themselves. Our discussion course books, including our latest release, are carefully designed to help participants break big issues into bite-sized pieces. As participants share stories that evolve into tangible ideas, small communities of change emerge.
If we aim to bring about a paradigm shift in how people view our world and their roles within it, we need to inspire people to transcend their barriers to action. And that’s exactly what NWEI participants across the country are doing. The real story, illustrated by our collective impact, starts with you.
If you’re inspired to organize a discussion course or our EcoChallenge in your community, we’d love to help you get started. Or, if you take just one action today, have that action be following us on Facebook so we can count your actions in our collective impact next time around!
Danny Lampton is Communications Associate for Northwest Earth Institute