Our Collective EcoChallenge Impact

EcoChallenge-last dayToday marks the last day of EcoChallenge 2014! Over the past two weeks, 207 teams and over 2,500 individuals have taken actions proving that many people taking small actions adds up to big change. New this year, we were able to measure some of our collective impact based on those of us who ‘checked in’ online confirming that our challenges were met. What an inspiring two weeks of changemaking!


  • We’ve saved at least 50,592 gallons of water by taking shorter showers and turning the faucet off while brushing our teeth.
  • We’ve saved 4,847 pounds of CO2 by lowering our heat, powering down our computers and monitors, and commuting to work by bus and bike.
  • We’ve replaced at least 145 light bulbs and saved over $2,000 dollars.
  • We’ve supported more organic agriculture (using organic ingredients in at least 1,668 meals), and enjoyed 2,776 meatless meals.
  • We’ve even cooked 1,774 meals without generating any waste!
  • We’ve diverted at least 564 pounds of food waste from entering the landfill by composting, and we’ve diverted nearly 2,000 disposable cups from entering the landfill by using our reusable mugs and bottles.
  • We’ve deepened our EcoChallenge this year via a new ‘civic engagement’ component, writing at least 51 letters advocating for action. 

Of course the stories of change are still rolling in and we look forward to sharing them with you in the days and weeks to come. In the meantime, thank you for joining us for the EcoChallenge and being part of our community of change.



Flexing Our Citizen Muscle: AASHE Conference Highlights

Today the NWEI team is at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Conference, where some 2,000 participants have gathered for the largest gathering of higher education sustainability professionals and students in North America. Annie Leonard’s keynote address provided inspiration and resources for “flexing our citizen muscles” – including a “what type of changemaker are you?” quiz. This morning NWEI’s Executive Director Mike Mercer and Director of Curriculum and Engagement Lacy Cagle offered a plenary session on promising practices for transformative sustainability education.

As Mike and Lacy pointed to this morning – we are reminded to take the time to deeply engage adaptive challenges through connecting, reflecting and acting – together. Beyond only finding technical solutions to problems, each of us can contribute to what Donella Meadows calls “situation improvement.” Our time here has been a calling to further action and engagement indeed!

NWEI Staffer Liz Zavodsky engages with conference attendees
NWEI Staffer Liz Zavodsky engages with conference attendees
art installations on sense of place and food
Art installations on sense of place and food
a co-created mandala: blessings for Earth and sustainability work
A co-created mandala: blessings for Earth and sustainability work


Donating During EcoChallenge 2014: Good For You and Good for the Planet, Too!

2014 Ecochallenge 4.25 x 6 postcard without cropsToday marks Day 10 of EcoChallenge 2014! As you know, EcoChallenge successes are both good for you and good for the planet. To provide a little extra inspiration (and to thank you for a job well done), we have giveaways and raffle prizes from your favorite businesses during the EcoChallenge. Our biggest EcoChallenge giveaway is a year’s worth of Organic Valley products, which will go to one lucky EcoChallenge supporter!

Everyone who makes a donation of $10 or more to support the NW Earth Institute’s EcoChallenge between now and the end of the EcoChallenge on 10/29 will be entered to win this awesome prize. It’s a prize worth $360, which can be yours for a tax-deductible donation of $10 or more. Your contribution will go toward helping us build communities of change across the globe, and improving your EcoChallenge experience for next year (which will *hopefully* include an EcoChallenge app!).

We’ve loved hearing your updates and stories on your EcoChallenge blogs and over at our Facebook page. Keep the stories of change coming! Thank you for demonstrating the collective power of many people taking action.

*This year NWEI is aiming to raise $17,000 during the EcoChallenge. 27 individuals are helping us to reach that goal. We thank you for your support as we continue to inspire people to take responsibility for Earth! 


Organize a Neighborhood Work Party! Inspiring Ideas from EcoChallenge 2014

EcoChallengers and neighbors gather for a 'neighborhood work party' this past weekend.
EcoChallengers and neighbors gather for a ‘neighborhood work party’ this past weekend.

EcoChallenge 2014 is underway with 205 teams taking on actions to lighten environmental impact – and setting goals that stretch the comfort zone and make a difference for each of us and the planet. It still isn’t too late to join the fun!

Every year we get great ideas from our EcoChallengers about ways to make a difference and build community, too. This year we’re excited to share what Kerry Lyles, EcoChallenger and NWEI staffer, is up to. “My EcoChallenge this year is a little different — I’m going to be focusing my efforts for the two week challenge on expanding my role in the “sharing economy” and fostering “collaborative consumption.”

Kerry’s first goal was to organize a neighborhood work party, which she did this past weekend. “We will take turns completing a project at each neighbor in the work party group’s house. One morning a month we gather at a neighbors house and operate with the idea that “many hands make light work” on a manual labor project, like washing windows or planting garden beds, and then we rotate through the other members of the group one at a time each month.” Four families participated and this past week they kicked off the work parties with the goal of winterizing a neighbor’s garden. They dug up vegetables and grasses and then covered it for winter. As Kerry says, “it was a family affair.” Way to engage the whole family and community!

*We’d love to hear how your EcoChallenge is going. Any ideas to share? Head over to our FB page and drop us a line! 

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2,300 EcoChallengers and 200 Teams Are Off and Running!

grist-time-to-act-is-nowWe’re off and running! EcoChallenge 2014 kicked off last Wednesday and we have over 2,300 participants and 203 teams signed up as of today. (And, it isn’t too late to join us!) Portland Business Journal’s Wendy Culverwell shared the following article with some top 2014 EcoChallenge highlights:

Northwest Earth Institute’s annual challenge to go green has kicked off with some 2,000 participants committing to take small steps to make their schools and workplaces more sustainable. The 2014 EcoChallenge started Oct. 15 and runs through Oct. 29. It has attracted participants from not only the Portland area but the entire country as churches, colleges and schools take advantage of the chance to encourage new daily habits.

The program aims to promote sustainable habits that continue beyond the competition. Teams sign on to earn points for meeting EcoChallenge goals such as choosing sustainable foods, saving water and energy, reducing trash and using alternative transportation.

Here’s a sample of some of this year’s big players:

  • Not surprising perhaps, NW Earth Institute itself is fielding the largest team of the crop with 134 staffers and supporters agreeing to take steps to save resources.
  • Ecova, an energy and sustainability management company, is using the challenge as a public declaration of its commitment to social responsibility. To date, a member of its 94-person team has already prepared produce from a farmer’s market to ensure it doesn’t go to waste and installed a low-flow water shower head at home.
  • Bank of America committed to transform its own internal operations when it launched a 10-year, $50 billion environmental business initiative in 2013 to address climate change. The company set a goal to reduce water and paper consumption by 20 percent, divert 70 percent of its waste from landfills, cut its energy consumption by 20 percent and its greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent, and to have 20 percent of its corporate real estate portfolio achieve LEED certification by 2015. The bank is fielding a 50-member team.
  • The University of Portland is fielding two student teams who are competing to see who can earn the most challenge points. The private school in North Portland has strong credentials already. It was rated the greenest school in the region by Princeton Review last year and was the first college in the West to ban the sale of disposable plastic water bottles. Fifty eight students are participating in  the challenge this year.
  • Portland State University is fielding four teams with a combined 25 participants.
  • Architecture firm Hennebery Eddy is encouraging its 38 team members to log up wins by offering to donate 25 cents for every individual challenge met to the NW Earth Institute itself.

*It isn’t too late to join the fun! Register here and jump in for the final 10 days of the EcoChallenge. 

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