Our New Ebook is Here! Sustainability Works: Rethinking Business As Usual

SW cover w now availableThis Earth Day, we released our newest discussion course book, Sustainability Works: Rethinking Business as UsualThis new resource provides the information and inspiration to engage teams or small groups of passionate change-makers, and contains tools to help them create a plan to advance sustainability. Offered as a four-session ebook, Sustainability Works course participants are invited to complete a selection of inspiring and informative readings and meet weekly for four weeks to discuss relevant content and consider action steps. If your sustainability efforts are already underway, this discussion course will offer an opportunity to fine-tune your goals and engage new stakeholders.

Participants in this course will:

  • Describe the business case for sustainability from environmental, economic and social perspectives.
  • Articulate a case for sustainability action in organizational settings.
  • Use case studies of sustainability business leaders and successful sustainability initiatives to re-imagine organizational offerings as more environmentally sustainable and socially responsible.
  • Identify qualities, tools and practices needed for leading in sustainability.

For a sneak peak into the content of Sustainability Works, check out this video on Re-thinking Progress: The Circular Economy. And, to order your copy and get started, click here!

Engaging Employees and Effecting Positive Change: The Joinery’s Story


Jon Blumenhauer, The Joinery's owner since 2013
Jon Blumenauer, the Joinery’s owner since 2013

Next week we will be launching our newest discussion course, Sustainability Works: Rethinking Business As Usual, which will offer the information and inspiration needed to engage businesses and organizations in advancing their sustainability goals. Today we are excited to tell the Joinery‘s story. The Joinery is an iconic Portland, Oregon furniture company, and one of the many businesses that has engaged employees and made positive changes using NWEI programs. 

We sat down with Joinery owner Jon Blumenauer for this Changemaker Interview in order to dig deeper into how NWEI courses and EcoChallenge can positively impact an organization. Jon notes that “The Joinery is a great model for how business can and should be run. It produces beautiful, high quality furniture in a way that values employees, contributes to our community and protects the environment.” Read on for the Joinery’s NWEI story. 

Joinery-8103575What inspired you, and the Joinery, to participate in NWEI’s discussion course and EcoChallenge last year?

We did the Sustainable Systems at Work discussion course last February, and all of our employees participated. We made the course mandatory, and provided paid time at work to read the materials and offered several timing options to attend the discussion courses. This made it easy for people to participate, and clearly demonstrated that it was a important to the company. We wanted to do the discussion course as a way to introduce everyone to sustainability concepts and provide a common framework. It allowed those with a stronger interest to step forward, and these folks formed a new sustainability team. Participating in NWEI’s EcoChallenge was a logical and fun next step for us — we liked that it offered a way to continue our employee engagement efforts after the discussion course.

Can you tell us more about the Joinery’s Sustainability Team that formed as a result of the discussion course? What projects are you undertaking?

As I mentioned, all of the Joinery’s employees participated in the course, and several folks were quite engaged and wanted to do more. As a result, we launched a Sustainability Team made up of people across all key functions in the organization. The Sustainability Team was tasked with following up on things identified during the course, as well as to investigate new opportunities. Currently we are getting comfortable with the Natural Step framework as a reference, and benchmarking our resource use. We’ve had Energy Trust and the City’s Sustainability at Work folks come in and conduct assessments, and have identified electricity as the highest value opportunity for efficiency improvement. We are looking at more transformational ideas as well, which we’ll be able to share more about as they evolve.

We decided to do NWEI’s EcoChallenge in the fall, so about six months after the discussion course, and we had over 80% of our employees participate. The Sustainability Team also came up with our EcoChallenges, which included a goal around not eating meat, eliminating non-essential printing, and eliminating paper towels.

What were the impacts of the EcoChallenge? What did you accomplish?

Joinery-8103224We collectively achieved a total of 203 meatless days from our employees (plus several more from the participation of significant others), and five people on our team went the entire two weeks without eating meat. We reduced our printing by 38% during the EcoChallenge. We eliminated paper towels during the Challenge, and have continued with this action going forward.

We kicked off the EcoChallenge with a vegetarian lunch for the team, and concluded it with a vegetarian potluck. One of our employees was so fired up about the meatless challenge that he decided to become a vegetarian permanently! And the Sustainability Team has institutionalized the vegetarian potluck, and we host them regularly — we have scheduled it for every other month, and are incorporating sustainability themes into the lunch with discussions and presentations.

All in all, our experiences have been inspiring — and the changes we’ve made have been lasting!

Thanks to Jon and the Joinery for sharing this story of change! To learn more about NWEI’s forthcoming discussion course on business sustainability, and how you can use NWEI programs to inspire your team, click here. You can pre-order a copy here too. 


Celebrate Earth Day with the Founders of NWEI

NWEI Founders, Dick and Jeanne Roy
NWEI Founders, Dick and Jeanne Roy

This week’s post comes from NWEI’s new Executive Director, David Macek, who recently had the opportunity to sit down with NWEI Founders Dick and Jeanne Roy. Enjoy! And, if you happen to be in the Portland area – join David and the NWEI founders at a special Earth Day event on Friday, April 22nd. 

It has been almost 4 months since I joined NWEI (it actually feels much longer in the most positive of ways.) I have felt so welcomed by the whole community. In this post, I wanted to take a moment to honor the roots of NWEI and share an Earth Day event hosted by our founders, Dick and Jeanne Roy.

Since joining NWEI as the new Executive Director in December, I have had the opportunity to learn so much about the history of our organization and community of changemakers. I must say, a lot has happened in 23 years! And it’s such an important story to hear. Beyond the words that tell the story, there are the emotions in our holders of history that say even more. To experience their feelings of gratitude, wonder, community, challenge, and transformation as they share their special memories helps us all connect deeper to the essence of NWEI and our hopes for the future. Ultimately, my sense of our history will always fall short of those that lived it; however, each story I hear expands my gratitude for this remarkable, committed community.

The two most influential individuals in NWEI’s history are our founders, Dick and Jeanne Roy. They founded the organization in 1993, one year after the monumental Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit. I recently had the opportunity to connect with Dick and Jeanne and hear how it all started. To launch NWEI, Dick resigned from his law firm and joined Jeanne as a full-time volunteer. Together with a community of extremely dedicated volunteers, they grew NWEI from a Portland-based program into a national network of facilitators and participants. We all celebrate their extraordinary efforts as we experience the impact of their work each day!

Dick and Jeanne also founded the Oregon Natural Step Network while at NWEI and went on to found the Center for Earth Leadership in 2006, which they both still lead today. The Center for Earth Leadership trains and empowers Northwest citizens to assume a leadership role in forging a sustainable culture. On April 22nd, I’ll be joining Dick and Jeanne and the Center for Earth Leadership community to celebrate Earth Day. The event, Earth Day in Music and Song, will be held at the First Unitarian Church in SW Portland.

To learn more about their personal stories and the work of the Center for Earth Leadership, please watch the video below. I look forward to connecting with many of you in the months and years to come!

YouTube Preview Image

Join Us In Taking Action for Earth Day!

Earth-Day-2016-Poster-Earth-Day-NetworkThe first Earth Day was April 22, 1970, with over 20 million Americans from all walks of life taking part. The event is largely credited with launching the modern environmental movement, with the passage of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and many other groundbreaking environmental laws soon following that first Earth Day. More than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic engagement in the world.

The NWEI offices will be closed in honor of Earth Day this year, and the NWEI team will be celebrating by taking action in a variety of ways – and we invite you to join us!

Wherever you live, pick an action and jump in this Earth Day — and let us know what you are doing to take action this Earth Day! NWEI’s Development Director Kerry Lyles will be teaching an Earth Day lesson to a class of local preschoolers, and will be building terrariums and planting seeds in the school garden with the next generation of environmentalists. NWEI Program Coordinator Alex Mihm will be volunteering his time at the Multnomah County CROPS Farm. Boulder, Colorado based NWEI Director of Organizational Partnerships Deb McNamara will be volunteering at the Children’s Peace Garden – Bee Earth Day Celebration, and St. Louis based Director of Learning Lacy Cagle will be volunteering for a neighborhood clean-up.

If you happen to be in Portland, Oregon, join NWEI’s Executive Director David Macek at an evening event on Earth Day organized by NWEI founders Dick and Jeanne Roy, Earth Day in Music and Song – or come say hi to NWEI Director of Membership and Engagement Liz Zavodsky who will be volunteering at the Wells Fargo, Intel and Nike Earth Day Fairs. If you are near Vancouver, WA, join NWEI Curriculum Fellow Veronica Hotton at the Washington State University Earth Day Fair.

You can also join the Earth Day Network’s main initiative this year: planting 7.8 billion trees for the Earth! You can learn more and get involved here. And if you’re looking for an inspiring way to engage your community, consider organizing an NWEI discussion course for Earth Day! As our Director David Macek says, “Earth Day is a shining example of NWEI’s change model: connecting communities together in a fun way; reflecting on our relationships with each other and the planet; and acting on the issues we are most passionate about. For this reason, all staff members are encouraged to pause in their normal schedule and engage in the Earth Day activities that are most important to them. Earth Day is a perfect opportunity for NWEI to honor our planet and connect with the countless individuals, organizations, and communities that share the same value.”

Whatever action you choose, we hope you’ll join the NW Earth Institute team by taking action in your community and sharing what you’re up to!


Exploring Everyday Eating Habits: One Course Organizer’s Story

NWEI Course Organizer Tamara Houston
NWEI Course Organizer Tamara Houston

NWEI course organizer and facilitator Tamara Houston has been organizing NWEI discussion courses at the Ashland Food Co-op in Ashland, Oregon and her efforts were featured this week in the Mail Tribune. Tamara first learned about the Northwest Earth Institute while working at Reed College in Portland, where she participated in two discussion courses. Attending these courses opened her eyes to how daily choices – and small changes – can reduce ones environmental footprint. Returning full circle, Tamara will be facilitating an upcoming Menu for the Future course at the Ashland Food Co-op. Read on for an excerpt of her interview with Sarah Lemon.  

Organic blueberries from across the continent leave an environmental footprint that belies their health benefits. Reducing the far-reaching social and environmental costs of these and other common foods, says Tamara Houston, isn’t a tough sell in the Rogue Valley. “People here are really into what they eat.”

Passionate eaters of all persuasions can join Houston April 6 through May 11 in Ashland for weekly discussions on food and sustainability. “Menu for the Future” is a course constructed by Northwest Earth Institute and offered by Ashland Food Co-op to illustrate the effects of everyday eating habits on both the environment and human experience across the globe…

“There’s no right answer,” says Houston. “It’s a way to get people thinking.” A philosophical look at food-system sustainability was well-received last summer, says Houston. While NWEI’s “Hungry for Change” puts food into an ethical, macroscopic framework, “Menu for the Future” is a practical guide to making conscientious consumer choices, says Houston. “They help you to prioritize your choices financially,” she says. “There are things that you learn that you don’t even expect to learn.”

Photo: Ethical Food Project
Photo: Ethical Food Project

In Houston’s case, chocolate and blueberries represented major shifts in her thinking. She says she was surprised in both instances to learn that some of her grocery-buying habits conflicted with her values. NWEI courses illuminate issues in a variety of formats, says Houston, from works of fiction to scientific journals to opinion pieces published in newspapers and magazines. Preparing for each hour-long discussion group entails several pages of reading, she adds. “It’s a really low commitment,” says Houston. “You get out of it what you put into it.”

Houston’s first brush with NWEI came at Portland’s Reed College, where she worked a decade ago in administration. Her lunch hours offered opportunities to meet and talk with co-workers facilitated by NWEI curriculum. The Portland-based nonprofit organization provides 10 discussion course books for use in schools, the workplace, places of faith and worship, as well as throughout the community. “It was just a way to get to know my colleagues better,” says Houston. “You get to hear the opinion of someone else and consider it.”

When Houston, 39, moved to Ashland two years ago to work as a physician’s assistant, she gravitated toward NWEI discussions as a way of delving into her new community. Jackson County residents, she says, have proven their commitment to sustainable agriculture since banning the cultivation of genetically modified crops. “I really think the topic is apropos for where we live.”

To read the full article, click here. To learn more about organizing your own discussion course, click here

← Older posts