Always Wanted to Customize an NWEI Course? Here’s How!

course - CopyEarlier in 2015 we announced several new ways to work with us – and we’re excited to expoud upon these opportunities as we head into Summer and Fall. Many of you have been contacting us with ideas for customized courses for your organization, workplace, campus or classroom. And the answer is yes! We are indeed able to customize NWEI courses drawing on our existing curriculum.

How does customization work? For example, you love NWEI course books and discussion course process, but need something to span 2-3 sessions covering core systems thinking and sustainable living concepts (or any topics of your choosing). You can now pick and choose which NWEI course book sessions you’d like to use and we’ll pull together a custom course for your class or employee engagement initiative. We’re also able to create longer discussion courses spanning broader topic areas. For example, Santa Clara University’s Contemplative Leadership and Sustainability Program is using an 11-session course developed by the NW Earth Institute.

How should you get started? You can fill out this form to let us know you are interested and we’ll give you a call. Decide which NWEI books you might like to review and we’ll help you consider different sessions and course books depending on what sustainability topics you would like to address. We’ll pull together an ebook for you and can even add your logo and any specific discussion questions particular to your organization or initiative.

*Looking for other new ways to engage with us? We’ll be launching our newest discussion course on climate change next week: Change Is Our Choice: Creating Climate Solutions. We are also hosting our first-ever three-session online discussion course beginning on Wednesday, June 3rd. For more information and to register, click here. 


Changemaker Interview: A Former NWEI Intern Shares Inspiration & Advice

Former NWEI Intern Nancy Nordman
Former NWEI Intern Nancy Nordman

We are honored to work with some of the best and brightest interns – people who are just beginning their journey working for a more sustainable world. Today we are picking back up our Changemaker Interviews with former NWEI intern Nancy Nordman, who served with us as an Outreach Intern in 2014. Nancy shares inspiration for those who are looking for ways to begin working in the sustainability field, and reminds us that it can be easy to “focus on the negative side of things and become discouraged – but ultimately you have to remember that your actions do influence others.”

Tell us a bit about the work you did as an intern with NWEI.

I primarily worked on various outreach projects, which involved contacting organizations and individuals about NWEI’s programs, providing database and office support, and organizing a Voluntary Simplicity course with the Portland Minimalist group. There were also great opportunities for me to engage in EcoChallenge program development and research, as well as assist with an Earth Day fundraiser event.

What I loved most about being at NWEI was the wealth of knowledge and passion everyone brought to their work each and every day. I always felt encouraged to try new things and become immersed in all parts of the organization, and for that I am very grateful. There was such a dedication to continually learning and the courses provided great opportunities to motivate one another in the transition from knowledge to action.

Tell us what you are doing today, and does the work of NWEI influence what you do today?

I’m currently working as a Toxics Reduction Educator at Metro, and recently completed the Master Recycler program in Portland. I’ve been able to apply much of what I learned at NWEI in my discussions with people wanting to make sustainable lifestyle changes, and that’s been incredibly inspiring. Prior to my internship I wanted to do environmental work, but my focus has since shifted to curriculum development and adult education largely due to my experience at NWEI. In the fall I’ll be beginning a master’s program in sustainability education at Portland State University.

What motivated you to enter the sustainability field?

I grew up with a love for animals and being outdoors, and was lucky to live in very bike-friendly cities throughout my young adult life. From my undergraduate experience studying ecology, I developed an appreciation for the interconnectedness of various environmental issues and quickly realized I wanted to work from a big-picture approach. Part of what attracted me to NWEI was that the organization shared a holistic view, and was giving people the tools to make sustainable lifestyle choices across the board rather than in one area.

What inspires you to keep working in the face of complex challenges and setbacks?

I draw much of my inspiration from those around me. The people who aren’t afraid to push themselves show us what is truly possible, and I often find myself thinking not about where we are right now but where we can be if we keep working towards a better future. It’s easy to focus on the negative side of things and become discouraged but ultimately you have to remember that your actions do influence others. NWEI’s Model for Change recognizes the barriers facing individuals and communities, and does an amazing job of empowering people through shared knowledge and discussion.

What insight and wisdom can you offer to others who are beginning to work in the sustainability field and who are working to make a difference in their communities?

The most important thing I’ve realized from my experiences has been to not be afraid of starting. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, and I initially found it difficult to see how I could use my strengths in line with my passions to get on a career path doing what I loved. Ultimately, you have to trust your own judgment and realize that just as successes provide insights, so do struggles. Don’t be so afraid to fail that you don’t start.

Nancy Nordman was an Outreach Intern for NWEI in 2014. She loves to enjoy the outdoors by hiking, backpacking or by bike, and also has a passion for dancing west coast swing and dressage. Her background is in ecology and science writing from UC Davis, and she is particularly interested in plastic marine pollution and waste reduction. Nancy believes that we have a responsibility to preserve the natural beauty around us and leave behind a healthy environment for future generations to come.

*Want to intern with NWEI? Check out our current openings here, or email us at 

What Sustainability Can Look Like With Dedication & Vision!

NWEI's Lacy Cagle and Deborah McNamara at one of University of Minnesota, Morris's wind turbines this week
NWEI’s Lacy Cagle and Deborah McNamara at one of University of Minnesota, Morris’s wind turbines this week

This past week NWEI’s Lacy Cagle and I had the great privelege of leading a sustainability leadership retreat with the University of Minnesota, Morris’s Sustainability Leaders for the Future Fellows. We were inspired and impressed to see first-hand how this liberal arts college has managed to reduce its carbon emissions by 10,000 metric tons per year using wind and biomass energy sources – an 80% reduction!

Our time on campus showed us countless examples of sustainable practices in action: A 32-unit solar thermal array as well as two solar photo-voltaic systems (which convert sunlight into electricity and generate more than 30,000 kWh annually), and two wind turbines that produce 10 million kWhs of electrical power annually — meeting 60% of the electrical needs for the Morris campus! The list goes on: there are on-campus gardens (and composting!) contributing food to the dining halls, as well as to-go items in the cafeterias made from compostable potato and corn-based materials. The campus aims to be carbon neutral by 2020 and has already reduced their carbon footprint by 40% since 2005. Needless to say, we were excited and inspired. This is what sustainability can look like with dedication and vision!

We’re also excited to be embarking on more consulting and collaboration projects of this nature. Whether it is facilitating a workshop or one of our discussion courses, the NWEI team is available to support sustainability education and engagement efforts in a variety of capacities. Our areas of expertise include sustainability, sustainability leadership, employee engagement, transformative learning processes and campus sustainability. To find out more about our sustainability consulting services and how we can help you achieve your organization’s goals, click here.

Science Explains Your Environmental Leanings

imagesHave you ever wondered why some people are more likely than others to care about environmental issues like air pollution, climate change, endangered species or ocean conservation? We just read this article from the Mother Nature Network exploring why some people care enough to begin taking action – and we loved what several recent studies reveal about the role of compassion and empathy. As the author says,  “If these findings are true, it seems like the best way to save the planet might be to teach ourselves compassion. And even if that doesn’t lead to more greens, it’ll certainly make the world a better place anyway!” For the full article, click here. 

Why do some people care enought about certain issues to start taking actions — like becoming an activist or buying an electric car — while others don’t? Are there some underlying personality traits that are common among those who feel strongly enough about nature to want to protect her? These are complex questions that psychologists are starting to untangle.

For example, a study published last fall gave a personality questionnaire to a group of 345 Americans representative of the country in age, gender and ethnicity. They found that pro-environmental behavior — in this case, taking actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — are most closely linked to the following traits: openness, conscientiousness and extraversion…A second, more recent study on pro-environmental tendencies discovered something that I find even more interesting. This one was conducted in Europe on a sample of more than 2,000 individuals, and its core finding has to do with compassion and empathy. The authors note that “compassion elicits moral actions and judgments across different moral domains which should also be applicable to the environment. Therefore, we expect compassion for other humans to relate positively to proenvironmental tendencies.” In other words, it seems like people who are compassionate in one area tend to be compassionate in other areas, so the ability to feel empathy for suffering people can translate into empathy for the suffering or animals, or the “suffering” of the planet’s ecosystems on a larger scale. Even issues where suffering isn’t visible, or more diffuse, or indirect, or in the future can apparently trigger this empathy.

To see if there was causality (and not just correlation) between compassion/empathy and environmentalism, researchers did an experiment where they elicited more or less compassionate feelings in test subjects by showing them pictures of things like homeless people and sick children, asking them to either empathize, or to try to remain neutral. They then did some more testing to measure environmental intentions, and found that those who had been primed with compassion were more likely to have higher pro-environmental intentions. So it definitely looks like there’s a causal link present there. If these findings are true, it seems like the best way to save the planet might be to teach ourselves compassion. And even if that doesn’t lead to more greens, it’ll certainly make the world a better place anyway!

For the full article, click here.


Our New Course Will Be Published as an Ebook, Here’s Why…

Change Is Our Choice - CoverJust last week on Earth Day we announced our newest discussion course, Change Is Our Choice: Creating Climate Solutionswhich will be presented as an interactive ebook – coming your way at the end of May!

If you have participated in an NWEI discussion course in the past, you may notice that this is the first time we’re releasing our new course exclusively via ebook instead of printing a paperback version too. Change Is Our Choice will be an interactive ebook, and the content includes more video and web content, as well as new ways to connect with other participants, and many opportunities to dive deeper into the subject matter with links to resources. We’re excited to offer you this dynamic and interactive multimedia course experience that integrates video, audio and printed content.

“Why an ebook?” you might be asking. First, this format allows us to update the quickly changing information quickly and easily. Unlike a printed course book (which once we go to print is final) we’ll be able to leverage the ebook format to bring you the latest resources pertaining to climate solutions, a rapidly changing subject.

The ebook format also allows for a dynamic course experience drawing from multimedia and addressing multiple learning styles (auditory and visual learners rejoice!) Finally, we’re excited to reduce waste – as well as continue to respond to the increasing number of requests for our course books offered electronically.

Does this mean we are doing away with printed books in the future? Nope! Not at all. With the rapidly shifting nature of climate information, we feel this course is suited more than any other to be offered as an ebook.

In a few weeks we’ll be following up with some tips to ensure that you get the most out of the content and process outlined in the new course. In the meantime, we are excited to bring you more interactive content, and to provide you with the latest climate science and news thanks to the flexibility of the ebook format. Stay tuned!

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