Northwest Earth Institute

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Northwest Earth Institute
Founded 1993
Founder Jeanne Roy and Dick Roy
  • Portland, Oregon USA
Key people
Mike Mercer (Executive Director)

The Northwest Earth Institute is a nonprofit organization in Portland, Oregon, with the intention of "inspiring people to take responsibility for Earth." [1] Northwest Earth Institute was started in 1993 by native Oregonians Jeanne and Dick Roy and currently develops and implements programs designed to motivate individuals and organizations to take action toward a sustainable future.[2][3] Their most successful program is a series of ten self-facilitated discussion courses to be used by small groups that address various topics related to the environment and sustainable living.


Northwest Earth Institute was founded in 1993 by native Oregonians Dick and Jeanne Roy with $45,000 in start-up grants and thirteen volunteers with the goal of "taking earth-centered programs into mainstream workplaces.".[4] Prior to Northwest Earth Institute, Dick had worked as a corporate lawyer since 1970 and Jeanne as an activist on air quality and solid waste issues. In 1993, Dick resigned his job as a lawyer to volunteer full-time with Jeanne.

Deep Ecology was the first implemented program and included a discussion course and manual on the topic of deep ecology. 97 discussion groups formed in the Portland area by the end of the first year.

A team of Northwest Earth Institute volunteers developed a discussion course on Voluntary Simplicity in 1994 to reach audiences beyond workplaces and the Portland area. Discussion courses expanded into higher education and community organizations in and outside of the Portland area. The institute also started offering a Home Eco-Party Program and the Oregon High School Earth Club Program. The Northwest Earth Institute discontinued the Earth Club Program due to lack of funding. As of December 2014, over 160,000 people have participated in NWEI discussion courses throughout North America.


Northwest Earth Institute discussion courses are used in higher education, workplaces, centers of faith, and community groups. Currently, the Northwest Earth Institute publishes ten different discussion courses. The discussion courses are:

  • Seeing Systems: Peace, Justice & Sustainability (published April 2014)
  • Change by Degrees: Addressing the Climate Challenge
  • Choices for Sustainable Living
  • Menu for the Future
  • Voluntary Simplicity
  • Discovering a Sense of Place
  • Reconnecting with Earth
  • Sustainable Systems at Work
  • Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics, and Sustainability
  • A World of Health: Connecting People, Place, and Planet

Partners and affiliated organizations[edit]


Every October, NWEI challenges people across the world to choose one action to reduce their environmental impact and stick with it for two weeks. Individuals and teams choose a category—water, trash, energy, food or transportation—and set a goal that stretches their comfort zone and makes a difference for themselves and the planet.

In 2009, the Northwest Earth Institute held its inaugural EcoChallenge, and the event has grown since then. The EcoChallenge is open to people from around the world who would like to make a commitment to living more sustainably. Its mission is to help people to connect with their communities and take action, together. NWEI encourages friendly competition between teams to foster camaraderie and make sustainable lifestyle changes more social and more fun. Participants have the option to add to their challenge by signing up as an EcoChallenge fundraiser to collect pledges and raise money to support NWEI’s efforts to engage new people and communities that foster lasting change.

Starting in 2013, EcoChallengers accrue points for engagement, adding to the incentive for student and workplace teams, in particular, to compete for prizes and bragging rights. The EcoChallenge has garnered recent attention most notably in higher education, as university professors have increasingly incorporated the event into their curricula. And corporations, such as Ecova’s EcoChallenge team, have grown their involvement to over 250 employees.


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  3. ^ Greene, Stephen G. "Learning to Make Do with Less." The Chronicle of Philanthropy XII.22 (2000): 1+.
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