Why We Are Opting Out of Black Friday

Voluntary Simplicity & BambooWe hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, celebrating what you are grateful for, with the people you care about. As you know, we are big advocates of simplicity and sustainability — at the holidays and all year round. We are excited to focus on #GivingTuesday next week as a great way to counter the rampant consumerism that kicks off today on Black Friday, the day that marks the beginning of traditional holiday shopping where crowds of consumers are taking advantage of special deals.

Unfortunately, those deals come at a cost – to people and the planet. Black Friday prompts retail workers to lose their Thanksgiving holiday when retailers open Thanksgiving night, encourages overspending, and consumption.

In contrast, we offer up voluntary simplicity as an alternative value and practice, rooted in lessening unnecessary consumption and materialism, based on the understanding that rampant consumerism contributes to the degradation of our planet.

For these reasons, we are opting out of Black Friday and encourage you to do the same! Instead of shopping today, go on a hike with family or friends (if you’re in Oregon State Parks are waiving fees for today, all the more reason to get outside!). Read a book. Play a board game. Repair something you might otherwise have replaced. Spend quality time with those you love. Or, in the spirit of #GivingTuesday next week, gift someone a NW Earth Institute book on an issue you care about.

Author Duane Elgin says, “Simplicity means taking charge of a life that is too busy, too stressed, and too fragmented. An uncluttered simplicity means cutting back on trivial distractions, both material and non-material, and focusing on the essentials – whatever those may be for each of our unique lives.” We couldn’t agree more. May your holiday season be rooted in focusing on the essentials, and choosing to do what matters most to you.


The Season of Giving

GiveNext Tuesday, December 1st is Giving Tuesday, and the NW Earth Institute is participating in this global day dedicated to giving. Last year, more than 30,000 organizations in 68 countries came together to celebrate #GivingTuesday. Now in its fourth year, #GivingTuesday has inspired giving around the world, resulting in greater donations, volunteer hours, and activities that bring about real change in communities.

We invite you to join the movement and to help “get out the give” this December 1. Here are ways you can get involved:

  1. Since this is a day of giving, making a gift is one way to support NWEI and be part of this global movement! We have a goal of signing up 35 new members and raising $2,500 on Giving Tuesday, and we can reach that goal with your help! Everyone who donates $20+ for #GivingTuesday will receive an NWEI reusable bag, so seize the opportunity and make your contribution.
  2. If you’re in Portland, you can also give us your “stuff” – we have a partner who will turn your art, sporting goods, collectibles, books, electronics, antiques, and anything else you would like to donate into cash for NWEI. Find out more or email liz@nwei.org to make a tax-deductible donation of goods.
  3. Help spread the word about #GivingTuesday. Follow our Facebook page and share our Giving Tuesday posts with your network to help spread the love!

We’ll reach back out on Giving Tuesday, and in the meantime hope that you have a happy Thanksgiving!

Did You Know NWEI Can Create Customized Courses?

A recently created custom ebook for Acadia Univeristy
A recently created custom ebook for Acadia University

Have you heard that we can now create customized discussion courses? Drawing from our existing curriculum, we can work with you to create a custom discussion course that meets you organization’s specific objectives. Since we officially kicked off creating custom courses earlier this year, we’ve created a Food for Thought ebook for Vanier College, an Introduction to Sustainability ebook for Warren Wilson College, a Living Simply and Sustainably ebook for University of Dayton, and many more.

Whether for your college, workplace, or faith community, we can tailor our course books to create different length courses, courses with more video content, and courses to cover the topics you most want to address.

How does it work? Perhaps you love NWEI course books and the discussion course process, but need something to span a shorter or longer number of sessions. We can create a custom course in ebook format on the topics of your choosing, and session length that works for your group. Whether you need a 2 session or 10 session course, you can now pick and choose which course book sessions you like from our existing course books, and we’ll pull together a custom ebook for your class, workplace group or employee engagement initiative.

How long does a custom ebook project take? Ideally, we need six weeks to complete your project. However, if your deadline is shorter, please contact us as we may be able to accommodate your project.

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 to find out more about what you are looking for. You can also call our office at 503.227.2807 and we’ll be happy to talk through your project with you.

Changemaker Interview: A Law Firm Takes on EcoChallenge with Gusto

Eco Challenge TrophyToday’s Changemaker story is about Nadia Wager and her co-workers at the New York Regional Office of Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., an environmental law firm with over 100 lawyers in seven U.S. offices who recently participated in NWEI’s annual EcoChallenge. Nadia was the EcoChallenge team captain for the New York City office EcoChallenge team, and led her team to win their EcoChallenge competition this year. Beveridge & Diamond had six teams participating, with 75 participants engaging in a lively competition to win their EcoChallege Champion trophy. The law offices have committed to participating in the EcoChallenge annually, and the trophy will be passed along to the winning team each year.

Beveridge & Diamond EcoChallenge teams hailed from Baltimore, Boston, Austin, San Francisco, Washington DC and New York. Participants took on challenges ranging from water conservation to sustainable food options to trash reduction and alternative transportation.

The NYC Beveridge & Diamond team, EcoChallenge winners
The NYC Beveridge & Diamond team

What drew you to participating in the EcoChallenge this year? 

We joined the EcoChallenge at the suggestion of the LFSN (Law Firm Sustainability Network), a nonprofit organization of law firms and legal departments committed to promoting the benefits of environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility within their firms and throughout the legal industry. The LFSN invited all of its participating law firms to join the EcoChallenge and pitted them against one another in a friendly competition. Beveridge & Diamond took the contest to another level by having an office vs. office challenge within the firm. It was fun, user-friendly and very easy. Next year we will invite others to join us outside of Beveridge & Diamond.

I chose to focus on water conservation for my EcoChallenge. I enforced my selected challenges in my household for all members of my family. It gave me an opportunity to teach a valuable lesson to my children. At the firm, we loved seeing the collective impacts of our actions and seeing the daily impacts as well. We felt that it was a great way to do something good for the environment.

How did you inspire others to join you in the EcoChallenge? And, what were some of the impacts?

The NYC office is the oldest regional office. We decided at the outset that we would win the B&D contest. As team captain, I made sure that almost everyone in my office was registered as a participant (we had a 94% participation rate), and encouraged them on a daily basis via internal emails. In addition to winning the B&D competition, there were many wonderful things that came out of our EcoChallenge participation. Although I consider us a close-knit group of people, the experience allowed us to band even closer together to work as a team with a common goal. The exercise of blogging about our experiences each day helped everyone personally delve into the challenge they had undertaken and how it was affecting them. Several of our participants elected to spend some time outdoors and were pleasantly surprised at how wonderful an experience it was. They told me that their daily walks were not only therapeutic and calming, but also provided an appreciation of nature, the beautiful fall weather we’ve been having in NYC, and the things we take for granted each day as we hustle to get to and from work.

Can you share a story of change from your coworkers? 

Stefanie Hirst did a Connect With Earth EcoChallenge and committed to spending at least 30 minutes a day outside and at least 5 minutes a day reflecting on nature. She spent her lunch hours outside and reflected that “once I was outside, I made sure to stop and take in the fresh air and reflect on the sky, birds, clouds and not let the tall buildings or loud noise distract me…I felt a lot happier and energized and in a better mood when going back to work.” Another thing she incorporated into her routine was to get off at a train stop a few stations early so she could walk longer and get exercise while reflecting on nature. Stefanie reflected that
“this proved to be very beneficial to my health and overall well-being. It’s also another way to see your neighborhood in a different light…I had the privilege of being near beautiful scenery which sometimes you take for granted.” Also, Stefanie shared that because there was so much motivation in the NY office it encouraged all of us to conserve energy, save trees, and just be more green in every aspect of our lives and make a difference in our community.

Nicole Weinstein started a ‘test’ composting pile at home and reported that her family will continue composting post EcoChallenge. She shared that “The EcoChallenge gave our already environmentally-focused office an added incentive to take new steps to minimize our environmental footprints. It was wonderful to see the encouragement that coworkers gave each other.” Nicole also shared advice for others who want to make a difference. “Foster a similar sense of community achievement; and having daily reminders from other members of the team helped us all to reach (or exceed!) our goals, which increased our overall impact as an office, and a law firm.”

What did you learn personally during the EcoChallenge and how will you take action in the future?

Personally, my water conservation challenge taught me that I could easily cut down my water use by making economical choices in how I was using water each day. By the end of the two-week period, I find that the good habits I employed during the Challenge have stayed with me. I have now asked my family members to do the same. The fact that the website tracked our collective conservation efforts was a big plus. It was extremely helpful to see how much of a difference we could individually and collectively make with very small adjustments to our daily lives. This experience was fun, easy and, most of all, impactful. We will definitely repeat it next year.


Nadia Wagner is the Office Manager of the New York Regional office of Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., a premier, national environmental firm based in Washington, DC. Nadia has been with Beveridge & Diamond, P.C. since 1989 and has served in a variety of management positions in the legal industry for over 25 years. She is also an active member of the Association of Legal Administrators and served as President of the NYC Chapter from 2004-2005.

She is a graduate of SUNY Stony Brook where she earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology.

Thank you Nadia and Beveridge & Diamond for your participation in the 2015 EcoChallenge!

A New “Powering A Bright Future” is Here!

unnamedOur newest discussion course ebook is here! Powering A Bright Future is a three-session discussion course exploring issues related to energy use, and what we can do to take action as individuals and communities interested in promoting energy sustainability. This course contains solutions-based content on energy production and extraction, peak oil, fossil fuel subsidies, energy efficiency, equity, energy policy and environmental impacts.

Since energy is a rapidly evolving topic, we are re-releasing this ebook this month with new content and updated discussion activities, bringing you the latest thinking on energy issues.

Sample discussion questions in Powering A Bright Future include:

  • What is your city or your employer/organization doing to be more energy efficient? If you do not know, how can you find out? If you do know, what role are you playing in supporting their efforts?
  • What are some ways in which the environmental, social and economic impacts of our energy system converge?
  • What inspires you to act on sustainable energy and other energy issues?

Find out more and review the table of contents here!



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