A Summer To-do List You’ll Love To Do

Oh YES, it’s here…today is the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere. It’s a day that signals backyard barbeques, fun adventures, water sports, and so much more.

To kick off summer, we’re sharing 21 ideas for getting outside, finding balance, and helping the planet. When we do good for ourselves and others, and treat the environment with care, we thrive and so do our communities. We hope this list serves as inspiration and motivation for you throughout the summer.


#4 Drinking lots of water applies to our pets, too!
#4 Drinking lots of water applies to our pets, too!
  1. Go for a hike, run, or walk
  2. Help a neighbor weed their yard
  3. Volunteer with your local parks conservancy group
  4. Drink lots of water. And then drink more
  5. Look up at the sky and find animal shapes in the clouds
  6. Observe wildlife and flora in your backyard, document it using iNaturalist
  7. Play a musical instrument in the grass
  8. Spend 20 minutes learning something new
  9. Share what you learned with others
  10. Donate a bag of groceries (or a few cans) to your local food pantry
  11. Find a mountain water source and take a cool plunge
  12. Take a nap in a hammock (in the shade!)
  13. Explore a new hiking or biking trail
  14. Strive for zero waste
  15. Invite your neighbors to a game of hopscotch
  16. Call a friend just to say hello
  17. Learn about urban foraging and then see what’s available in your community
  18. Challenge yourself
  19. Reduce food waste by starting a compost bin
  20. Take regular social media and news timeouts
  21. Read a book under a tree


Since we’re celebrating 25 years of inspiring people like you to take responsibility and action for Earth, it’s only fitting we extend the list to 25 actions – so here are four bonus ideas to inspire a fun, rewarding, and adventurous summer:

22. Organize a beach or park clean up
23. Sit in silence outside and listen to the world around you
24. Smile at a stranger
25. Try new vegetarian BBQ recipes, such as grilled peaches or watermelon poke bow



Since our founding in 1993, we’ve given people around the world a framework to talk about our relationship with the planet and to share in discovering new ways to create a sustainable future. 

In honor of our 25th year, please donate $25 – your donation will help us continue improving EcoChallenge and updating our discussion books, as well as create new resources year-round. Your support makes it possible for us to inspire changemakers today and future generations by providing programs for learning about and acting on the most pressing issues of our time. 



What would you add to the list? Please share your ideas and experiences with any of these suggestions.

How are you Beating Plastic Pollution?

It’s a big week for Earth – today is World Environment Day and Friday is World Oceans Day.

Both days are focused on reducing plastic pollution, an incredibly important platform. Today, we produce about 300 million tons of plastic every year – that’s equivalent to the weight of the entire human population. How’d we get here? Find out in this interactive story on plastic from the United Nations.

This week is an invitation—a call to action—for us to come together and commit to changing our habits by avoiding single-use plastic, reusing what we have, and buying less in the first place. The United Nations provides several ideas for how to beat plastic pollution:

  • Pressure food suppliers to use non-plastic packaging
  • Bring your own shopping bags to the supermarket
  • Refuse plastic cutlery and straws
  • Pick up any plastic you see when you’re out walking
  • Carry a refillable water bottle
  • Tell your local officials that you support a ban on single-use plastic bags


We believe World Environment Day and World Oceans Day are not only about adopting new habits; they’re also opportunities to celebrate positive actions we’re already doing to reduce plastic waste.

Do you have tips for reducing plastic when you shop or suggestions for nudging companies to be smarter about packaging? Whatever your practices, we want to hear about them—they could be a springboard to help someone reduce their ecological footprint or take action in their community.  

Tag your tips and what you’re doing to tread lighter on Earth using the hashtags #EcoChallenge #WorldEnvironmentDay #WorldOceansDay #BeatPlasticPollution.

If you’re not on social media, send us an email with your tips. We’ll be sharing your ideas on social media, so be sure you’re following us online.


In our 25-year history we have produced a library of course books that provide a framework to discuss our relationship with the planet and to share in discovering new ways to live, work, and consume. 

We recently updated our most popular course book, Choices for Sustainable Living, and with a focus on plastic pollution, water, and ecological principles, it’s the perfect week to offer you $10 off it using the discount code, “Action4Earth10.” This offer ends June 10.

Choices for Sustainable Living invites you to explore sustainability more deeply and envision a sustainable world from individual, societal, and global perspectives. The new edition uses the online EcoChallenge action platform – the combination of collective inspiration, camaraderie, and friendly competition makes change a little easier — and a lot more fun!

Choices for Sustainable Living Online Course: Connecting and Learning Together

Choices for Sustainable LivingIn our 25-year history, we’ve produced a library of course books used at universities, businesses, and other community settings nationwide.

Our course books provide a framework to discuss our relationship with the planet and to share in discovering new ways to live, work, and consume. In honor of our 25th anniversary, we’ve updated one of our most popular books—Choices for Sustainable Living (CSL)—and have taken it online for a special webinar-style discussion course.

Since May 9, a group of about 30 changemakers have been meeting online weekly to explore sustainability more deeply, and discuss how to make change possible and powerful, both individually and together.

Prior to the start of this special online course, we asked participants why they signed up for CSL and here’s what they had to say:

“I’ve participated in three discussion groups in the past, but am now interested in facilitating them in my neighborhood. I’m intrigued by the online format. My goal is to deepen my ability to truly walk my walk so that I can help others do the same with greater authenticity and compassion.”

“I would like to gain knowledge and practice in changing my own and family’s habits toward more sustainable ways of living, and to gain the knowledge and vocabulary and sensitivity to dialogue with others in ways that might lead them to make choices that are more sustainable.”

“I joined this course because sustainable lifestyle and economic transitions have recently become the focus of my life’s work. I left my full-time job to pursue sustainable consulting work and build my own business in a zero-emissions delivery service. As an avid pursuer of taking a systems perspective, I hope this course will give me insight into innovative, more ethically and environmentally responsible ways of running a business with a foundation in sustainable principles.”   (more…)

A Simplicity Manifesto | Students Respond to NWEI’s Simple Living Book

This spring, ENG 100 students from Kapi’olani Community College in Hawaii participated in Northwest Earth Institute’s A Different Way: Living Simply in a Complex World discussion course with faculty member Krista Hiser leading. For their final project, students were tasked with collaboratively writing a Simplicity Manifesto modeled on one of the activities in the course book. “I told them to add statements that they felt to be true and meaningful,” shared Krista. “For these kids, these were truly new ideas, so the statements in the manifesto represent transformative new thoughts for them. This is the beginning of a degrowth mindset. They came to these conclusions on their own.”
The second part of the assignment was to highlight and commit to action steps related to living more simply. One student shared, “I
will try to cut down on buying the things I want so that I can start simple living.” Another said, “I will reduce my carbon footprint, turn off electronics when not needed, carpool, ride a bike, and/or walk.” Other students highlighted the goal of taking time every day to enjoy the present moment, buying local products, and living with more awareness of the impact of everyday choices. “I will try to live a simpler life by living with things I think are necessary,” shared another student.
Thanks to Krista Hiser and her ENG 100 students for sharing their experiences. For more information on A Different Way, click here.


Celebrating and Honoring Deb McNamara: A Fond Farewell to our Colleague

Deb and her family enjoying the great outdoors.

The staff here at Northwest Earth Institute experienced a tangle of emotions this week as we celebrated Deb McNamara’s tenure as our Director of Organizational and Higher Education Partnerships. Deb is stepping down from her role at NWEI to pursue a more local job as the Campaign Coordinator for 350 Colorado. Although we will miss her greatly, we are excited for Deb that she will continue her passion for catalyzing positive personal and societal transformation. We know she will continue to make progress toward a more sustainable world.

This week, we had a virtual lunch to celebrate Deb’s 12 years with NWEI and all of the ways in which she has shaped and expanded the organization during her time with us. Deb has seen NWEI through many strategic plans, engagement strategies, staff changes, and executive directors. She has increased NWEI’s impact by creating and nurturing dozens of partnerships over the past 12 years, with national partners, regional partners, and higher education partners. As her colleagues, we have had the privilege and pleasure of Deb’s mentorship, leadership, and friendship.

Deb has embodied the heart, values, and mission of NWEI in her demeanor, as well as in her actions. Deb’s articulate communication, compassionate listening, and complex understanding of sustainability have enabled her to create authentic relationships around the world. We know many of you join us in celebrating her time with NWEI and wishing her well in her new path.

In addition to her work with NWEI, teaching yoga, and parenting three young boys, Deb just published her first book, The Invitation of Motherhood: Uncovering the Spiritual Lessons of Parenting.

Thank you, Deb!

NWEI staff in 2010 – Deb has always been a formidable voice carrying our mission forward.
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