Share Your Love for Earth | Celebrating our Connection with the Natural World

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

—Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

As an organization dedicated to inspiring people to take responsibility and action for Earth, Valentine’s Day doubles as a day to show love not only for the most important people in our lives, but also for Earth. Just today, we are wrapping up a contest where the NWEI and EcoChallenge communities have been sharing photos capturing what you love about Earth and the ways in which you are taking action for Earth. You can still join in the fun today by heading over to our EcoChallenge Facebook page where you can share a photo in the comments using the hashtag #Love4Earth. Today we’re sharing some of the photos we’ve received so far in celebration of the places we love.

“I love the pristine beauty of Earth’s wide open spaces and do my part to keep it clean by picking up trash and #packingitout. We are blessed with a beautiful planet. Let’s keep it that way,” shared Laurie N. Kara E. also shared, “If you take the time (even on a frigid winter morning) to look at the commonly overlooked beauty of nature, you’ll see something beautiful. For me, nature fills my heart – especially watching the sun rise in the morning over the trees.”

As Gary Snyder says, “Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.” Today we celebrate Earth, our home. And we honor our experiences in nature, the time spent outdoors reconnecting with Earth, and all the places we love and work to protect. Our wish: that our love and care for the planet spurs more positive actions in the days and months ahead. Thank you to the NWEI community for sharing these amazing photos of the places you love.

 

Working with Complexity, Focusing on Solutions | Lessons Learned from WOHESC

Last week NWEI’s Executive Director David Macek attended the Washingon & Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference in Portland, joining over 400 attendees and 100 speakers focused on contributing to a sustainable future.

This year we were excited to be a community parther with WOHESC, which provided a platform for inspiring change, facilitating action, and promoting collaboration related to sustainability within the region’s higher education institutions. Conversation, workshops, and networking opportunities empowered participants to advance environmental initiatives while promoting local solutions via dialogue specifically addressing issues in the Pacific Northwest. NWEI’s David Macek attended for the first time and was struck by several recurring themes.

We live in a time of expanding complexity. It’s clear that sustainability in theory and in practice is becoming more complex within our society and within the institutions preparing students and community members to make a positive impact. “So many disciplines were represented at the conference and faculty members made strong cases for how sustainability is core to their curriculum,” David shared. “One great resource I was introduced to was the Curriculum for the Bioregion Initiative based out of Evergreen State College. They have activity cards that help faculty of all disciplines connect their curriculum to sustainability concepts.” In these complex times, integrating sustainability education and engagement into all aspects of education and programming is essential.

There is a growing need for collaboration. As the study and application of sustainability expands, it’s clear how tremendously important ongoing collaboration is – within and across departments, within and across students groups, and all the other intersections between students, faculty, administration and the broader community. “We also need to elevate the voices from communities and cultures that have been left out of conversations and decisions, and let their wisdom lead the way,” reflects David. “It is the only way we’ll continue to move closer to our shared visions for sustainability and equity.”

Focusing on solutions is essential. We have so many solutions available to us right now. “Rather than focusing on what’s wrong, we need to keep redirecting our attention to what’s possible,” shared David. “The research and technology is there.” Indeed, the need is to prepare students and community members with the skills to support the implementation of available solutions.

At NWEI, we continue to elevate these lessons in the face of complex systems at work. Remembering the power of collaborative learning and connection, we strive to engage people in ways that draw forth diverse perspectives. We also remember the power of fostering opportunities for reflection and the need to ask the right questions – and ones that don’t always have immediate answers. Focusing on solutions also entails holding a systems perspective. We look for patterns and relationships – and we’re always asking ourselves, and the groups we work with, “What assumptions, beliefs or values do people hold about the systems in question?” And, “What beliefs keep the system in place?”

Most importantly, we want to offer tangible ways for people to get involved and work towards effecting change. There is nothing more difficult than a feeling of powerlessness or uncertainty about where to start – especially when tackling big issues and complex systems. No matter who you are, you can choose a starting point and consider ways to insert yourself into the systems at work in order to have an impact. There is always a place to begin.

Looking for a place to start? You can jump in and learn more at www.nwei.org.

 

February is Black History Month | Celebrating Black Environmentalists

Photo credit: San Francisco Dept of the Environment

“I have a dream…” In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered one of the most famous and moving speeches in our history. In this speech, Dr. King repeated again and again his dream of an America that was just, equitable and truly free for all of its citizens.

25 years ago, Northwest Earth Institute founders Dick and Jeanne Roy took a giant step in realizing their dream, a dream of a sustainable world, where humans work in collaboration with the systems of the natural world. NWEI’s original mission was to “motivate individuals to examine and transform personal values and habits, to accept responsibility for the Earth and to act on that commitment.”

Today, we continue to inspire people to take responsibility for Earth while also working to integrate environmental and social justice as an essential part of our sustainability vision. In honor of Black History Month, we’re celebrating African American Environmentalists who have shaped the course of this journey to create a more sustainable future. We are remembering the need to work together across boundaries and differences in order to proactively seek change at every level: within our organizations, faith communities, businesses and educational institutions.

Below are just a few of the many environmentalists who have laid the groundwork for a more sustainable world. We start by celebrating Will Allen, who has worked with NWEI over the years and who joined us as our keynote speaker for one of our national conferences in Port Townsend, Washington. His perspective and work offered inspiration and fodder for our Menu for the Future course book. To read the full article celebrating African American Environmentalists, click here.

Will Allen is the son of a sharecropper, former professional basketball player, ex-corporate sales leader and now farmer. The founder and CEO of Growing Power Inc., he has become recognized as one of our preeminent thinkers on agriculture and food policy and is a leading authority in the expanding field of urban agriculture. Allen promotes the belief that all people, regardless of their economic circumstances, should have access to fresh, safe, affordable and nutritious foods. Using methods he has developed over a lifetime, Allen specializes in bringing healthy food to under-served communities using a unique growing system he developed himself. He trains community members to become community farmers, assuring them a secure source of good food without regard to political or economic forces. What started as a simple partnership to change the landscape of the north side of Milwaukee has blossomed into a national and global commitment to sustainable food systems.

Dr. Robert Bullard (who is featured in NWEI’s Seeing Systems: Peace, Justice and Sustainability course book) is often referred to as the “father of the environmental justice movement.” He has been one of the leading voices on the issue for decades. In 2008, he was named one of Newsweek’s 13 “Environmental Leaders of the Century”. In 2013, he was the first African American to be honored with the Sierra Club John Muir Award. Dr. Bullard has authored numerous books on the prominence of waste facilities in predominately African-American areas all over the nation, as well as others that address urban land use, industrial facility siting, housing, transportation, climate justice, emergency response, smart growth, and equity. When asked what keeps him going in his quest for environmental justice, Bullard answers, “People who fight… People who do not let the garbage trucks and the landfills and the petrochemical plants roll over them. That has kept me in this movement for the last 25 years.”

Photo: M. David Leeds

Majora Carter is an internationally urban revitalization strategy consultant, real estate developer, and Peabody Award winning broadcaster who views urban renewal through an environmental lens. The South Bronx native draws a direct connection between ecological, economic and social degradation. With her inspired ideas and fierce persistence, Carter managed to bring the South Bronx its first open-waterfront park in 60 years. She was one of the first of six speakers on the prestigious TEDTalks series. Carter’s confidence, energy and intensely emotional delivery make her talks themselves a force of nature. In 2005, Carter was awarded a 2005 John D. and Katherine T. McArthur Foundation Fellow “genius” grant. Her company, the Majora Carter Group is putting the green economy and green economic tools to use, unlocking the potential of every place — from urban cities and rural communities, to universities, government projects, businesses and corporations – and everywhere else in between.

Van Jones has been hard at work in social justice for nearly two decades, crafting visionary solutions to some of urban America’s toughest problems—poverty, crime and environmental degradation. As the founder of Green For All, a national organization working to get green jobs to disadvantaged communities, Jones calls for an environmental revolution that is inclusive and equitable. He argues that we need a tide of change that ‘lifts all boats.’ Jones is also the co-founder of Rebuild the Dream, a platform for bottom-up, people-powered innovations to help fix the U.S. economy. Appointed the green jobs advisor to the Obama White in 2009, he helped run the inter-agency process that oversaw $80 billion in green energy recovery spending. He was the main advocate for the 2007 Green Jobs Act – the first piece of federal legislation to codify the term “green jobs.” He now leads Rebuild the Dream, a platform that promotes a socially and environmentally just economic recovery and appears regularly as a CNN commentator.

Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize

Marjorie Richard is the first African-American to win the Goldman Environmental Prize. Growing up in a historically African-American neighborhood in Norco, Louisiana, Richard was painfully aware of the devastating health problems her community faced as a result of the Shell refinery next door. According to Richard, the defining moment which convinced her to become an activist occurred in 1973 when a Shell pipeline exploded, knocking one house off its foundation and killing an elderly woman and a teenage boy who was mowing the lawn. Years later, she led the front line of a long, hard-won battle to hold Shell accountable. A master of political theater, Richard installed a Web camera in her trailer home to broadcast live feeds of the refinery spewing petrochemical byproducts. While speaking at an international environmental conference, Richard approached Shell officials and invited them to take a sniff from a bag of Norco air.

Thanks to the San Francisco Department of the Environment for highlighting these and many other leaders. To read the full article, click here.

 

 

 

 

Why Carbon Offsets Are Important | NWEI Launches New Initiative

As an organization founded 25 years ago with a mission to inspire people to take responsibility and action for Earth, we’re constantly reevaluating how we can better serve both you and the planet. It’s an ongoing conversation, and we’re always looking for new ways to contribute to a more sustainable future, as well as be a springboard for you to reduce your environmental impact.

We’re excited to share we’ve launched a new carbon offset option in partnership with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, which offers the NWEI community the opportunity to contribute funds to purchase carbon offsets. Each time you participate in a Northwest Earth Institute Discussion Course, or purchase one of our course books, you now have the option to contribute funds which will go directly toward supporting projects and programs that include forest management, renewable energy projects, waste heat capture and landfill gas management. Current projects that NWEI will be supporting in 2018 include conservation of the Big River Salmon Creek Forest in Northern California, a waste heat capture project in Montana, forest preservation in Kenya, tropical forest protection in the Democratic Republic of Congo and supporting the Red Hills Wind Farm in Oklahoma. For a full list of the projects we’re supporting in 2018, click here.

As NWEI’s Executive Director David Macek shares, “Creating the carbon offset option was a very natural decision for NWEI. If we truly seek to embody our work, we need to address the footprint we are creating in the printing and shipping of our books. Offering eBooks was our first step, and the carbon offset option is a great next step in neutralizing our footprint.”

Over the years we’ve practiced sustainability in a number of ways, including supporting local businesses in the development of our programs, printing on 100% FSC-certified recycled paper and using vegetable based and low VOC inks in the development of our course books. The addition of carbon offsets allows us to financially support projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support renewable energy and support the preservation of forests. We promise to continue to seek out new ways to live our values, and to help you live out yours, as well.

 

 

The New Edition of Choices for Sustainable Living: Your Questions Answered

As NWEI turns 25 years old this year, we’ve released a brand new edition of our most popular course book, Choices for Sustainable Living. This edition includes a new session on water, and has also been designed for use with an accompanying Choices for Sustainable Living online EcoChallenge. Today we’re highlighting some frequently asked questions about how this new course book differs from others, and how it works with our online EcoChallenge. For the full list of FAQs, click here.

Q. What is the Choices for Sustainable Living course book about?

Sustainability is a complex and contested concept, but at its essence represents the hope for a healthy, just and bright future for us all. We offer Choices for Sustainable Living as an opportunity to move beyond the hype to explore sustainability more deeply. The course focuses less on defining sustainability than envisioning sustainability – what would a sustainable world look like? And how can we create it together?

Q. How does the new Choices for Sustainable Living book content integrate with the online EcoChallenge?

Your discussion group will be organized as an EcoChallenge Team. Before your first session meeting, sign up for the EcoChallenge using your unique Team URL. Through the EcoChallenge platform, your discussion group team will be able to connect with each other outside of meetings and with other discussion group teams around the world. You’ll be able to learn more about how specific actions connect to the book’s session themes: water, transportation, energy, etc. You’ll explore which actions you’d like to try – and commit to those actions during the duration of your course experience. After you finish your readings for each week, course participants will be prompted by “Putting It Into Practice” boxes to choose an Action goal to complete on the online EcoChallenge
platform. These Actions are related to the content for each Session and help participants learn more, apply their learning locally, and take action toward a more sustainable way of living.

Q. What kinds of actions are considered as part of the Choices EcoChallenge?

A variety of Actions are available for each Session, including Actions that allow participants to measure their individual impact and see the collective impact of everyone doing the EcoChallenge. Actions include making more sustainable food choices, trying out alternative modes of transportation, exploring cleaner energy, improving recycling practices, and many more. The EcoChallenge platform extends your learning by better connecting you to additional resources and opportunities for action. It allows new opportunities for reflection with your peers by allowing you to share your thoughts as they arise and get feedback from your group. And EcoChallenge is proven to better incentivize your action by providing more ideas for action, more accountability to your commitments, and more support for your attempts. It will help you see the impact of your individual actions, the collective impact of your team’s actions, and the collective impact of everyone participating in the Choices for Sustainable Living EcoChallenge.

For more info, click here. We hope you’ll join us in 2018 as we launch this new program!

 

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