EcoChallenge 2016

Choose your EcoChallenge(s)

1) Choose an EcoChallenge category.

2) Choose your specific EcoChallenge action within that category.

Whether you have decided on your EcoChallenge already, or are just starting to explore your options, check out the EcoChallenge categories for challenge ideas and suggestions. 

The most important thing to remember is to start from where YOU are today. We are all at different points along the journey. 

Choose an EcoChallenge category that appeals to you, be realistic about what you take on and then let your family and friends know what you’re up to. Sharing your EcoChallenge is a great way to inspire others and hold yourself accountable. 

Have fun and let us know how it goes!

Water Conservation

image of rain water barrels

Good for your wallet. Better for your planet.

Choose your Challenge. We suggest you pick just one or two actions.

Measurable Challenges

  • I will save up to (20) gallons of water each day by taking 5 minute showers.
  • I will save up to (12) gallons of water a day by flushing the toilet only when necessary.
  • I will save up to (8) gallons of water each day by turning off the faucet when brushing my teeth.
  • Non-Measurable Challenges

  • I will invest in water saving appliances like shower heads, faucets, toilets, dishwashers and washing machines.
  • I’ll use toilet tank banks to reduce the amount of water flushed.
  • I plan to check for leaks: dripping faucets can waste 20 gallons of water per day. For more information check out this calculator.
  • I will insulate water pipes and my hot water heater to avoid wasting water while waiting for the shower or sink to heat up.
  • I’m going to harvest household gray water: by reusing just 5 gallons of water per day, I will save 75 gallons of water during the EcoChallenge!
  • I will start a compost pile and refrain from using the sink disposal.
  • I will stop purchasing bottled water and turn to the tap instead.
  • I’m going to create a rain garden, bioswale, or use rain barrels to collect water for outdoor water needs.
  • I will put mulch around the base of trees and plants to prevent water runoff and increase absorbency.
  • Resources

    Energy Efficiency

    photo: hand turning down thermostat

    Reducing your energy use is good for the planet and your wallet!

    Choose your Challenge. We suggest you pick just one or two actions.

    Measurable Challenges

  • I will replace ______ incandescent light bulb/s per day of the EcoChallenge with an Energy Star certified LED bulb. I will save up to $14 per fixture per year by making this change.
  • I will lower my heat by 4 degrees, and save up to (3lbs) of C02 per day during the EcoChallenge.
  • I will power down my computer and monitor when I won't be using it for more than 2 hours. I'll save up to (1.1) lbs of CO2 per day that I do this.
  • Non-Measurable Challenges

  • I will turn my home and/or office thermostat down 2 degrees when I use the heat, and up 2 degrees when I’m using air conditioning.
  • I’ll wash my clothes using cold water and air dry them.
  • I will always turn off the lights when I don’t need them. It seems pretty basic, but I pledge to remember to do this in conference rooms, bathrooms, etc. too.
  • I’ll unplug appliances and electronics when I’m not using them, because many will still draw electricity even when they are turned off. Even better I’ll connect multiple appliances (computers, printers, toasters, coffee makers, etc.) to a power strip I can turn off.
  • I will complete an online energy audit of my house and identify next steps for saving energy.
  • I’m going to replace manual thermostats with programmable ones.
  • I will install energy meters, and monitor my energy use to identify opportunities to save power.
  • I will enable the energy saving settings on my computers and printers and then reduce the amount of time before the equipment switches into power saving mode.
  • I’ll disable screen savers -- they use 28% more energy; I will put the computer to sleep instead.
  • I pledge to reduce my "screen time" and save the energy used to power the TV, DVD player, computer, etc.
  • I will organize a system for sharing printers instead of powering a printer for every person in my dorm or office.
  • I will find out if my utility company has a clean energy option, and sign up if so.
  • I will naturally heat and cool my house, dorm room and/or office using fans, curtains and blinds whenever possible.
  • I will replace inefficient heating and cooling units, upgrade uninsulated windows and/or seal other leaks to reduce the amount of power my office or home uses.
  • I will install alternative energy systems (like solar electric systems and solar water heaters) at home or advocate for alternatives for my work or campus.
  • I pledge to organize one of NWEI’s discussion courses, such as Powering a Bright Future with my friends, classmates or coworkers.
  • Resources


    Sustainable Food Options

    Many thanks to our food Category Sponsor

    Organic Valley Logo

    Vote with your food dollars!

    Choose your Challenge. We suggest you pick just one or two actions.

    Measurable Challenges

  • I will enjoy ______ meals per day with organic ingredients.
  • I will enjoy ______ meatless meals per day.
  • I will focus on generating no food waste and pledge to cook ______ meals with zero waste each day.
  • Non-Measurable Challenges

  • I will cut my food waste and save money by planning a weekly menu, and only buying the ingredients I need.
  • I will limit meat eating to twice per week.
  • I’ll purchase meat and produce from the farmers market.
  • I will source food for office or campus meetings and events from local producers.
  • I will advocate for local and/or organic food options on my campus.
  • I plan to visit a nearby farm and pick my own fruits and veggies, or join a CSA.
  • I’m up for a serious challenge, and will try out the 100 Mile Diet, eating only food that has been raised and cultivated within a hundred mile radius of where I live.
  • I will try cooking a new recipe every day that features organic and/or local ingredients.
  • I pledge to choose sustainable seafood options.
  • I will try something new with food, such as canning or pickling local foods or baking bread.
  • I’m going to plant and grow my food -- at home or at a community garden.
  • I will plant an herb windowsill or potted plants in my office, dorm or apartment.
  • When I’m eating out, I will ask where the restaurant sources their ingredients and encourage local and organic options.
  • I will get involved in food legislation and share my opinion with my elected officials.
  • I will research and become involved in a local group/campaign such as a community food council or effort to provide sustainable food in school cafeterias.
  • I pledge to organize one of NWEI’s discussion courses, such as Menu For The Future or Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability, and invite friends, coworkers or classmates to join me.
  • I will watch a documentary film about food with friends and get them involved in the EcoChallenge too (some suggestions include: Food Inc., The Future of Food, Supersize Me, and King Corn).
  • Resources

    Alternative Transportation

    portland streetcar photo

    Do your body and the planet a favor by using alternative transportation!

    Choose your Challenge. We suggest you pick just one or two actions.

    Measurable Challenges

    Please fill in these values to calculate your results:

    Enter the number of miles you get per gallon in your vehicle

    Enter the average number of miles you commute per day by car

  • I will commute by bus
    miles per day which will avoid sending
    lbs of C02 into the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • I will commute by carpool
    miles per day and avoid sending
    lbs of C02 into the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • I will commute by bike
    miles per day which will avoid sending
    lbs of C02 into the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • Non-Measurable Challenges

  • I will bike or walk for trips within 1 mile.
  • I will take the "2 mile challenge" and bike or walk anytime I am going within a 2 mile radius.
  • I will use alternative transportation or carpool to get to work.
  • I pledge to minimize my car trips by “chaining” together errands instead of making separate trips.
  • I will cut my car trip mileage by only taking essential car trips during the EcoChallenge.
  • I will try virtual meetings - instead of traveling for work, I will set up video conferences.
  • I will use human powered transportation for the entire 15 days of the EcoChallenge.
  • I will purchase offsets for air travel.
  • I pledge to examine the vehicles used by my company or by my college and advocate for fuel efficient vehicles.
  • Resources

    Trash Reduction

    little girl with recycling binReduce, reuse, recycle amounts to more than just a mantra—it eases strain on our ecosystems, saves you money, and even promises to reduce your mind clutter!

    Choose your Challenge. We suggest you pick just one or two actions.

    Measurable Challenges

  • I will compost my food waste each day and avoid sending up to (.69lbs) of food waste per day to the landfill.
  • I will use a reusable mug and avoid sending ______ disposable cups to the landfill each day.
  • I will save up to (.21) lbs of paper per day by switching from one-sided to two-sided printing at work.
  • Non-Measurable Challenges

  • I will bring my own water bottles, reusable mug/thermos and grocery bags when I’m on the go.
  • I will not use disposables such as paper napkins and paper towels for the two week EcoChallenge.
  • I will use a reusable container when ordering take-out.
  • I pledge to adopt a "Needs Vs. Wants" approach to making purchases, and focus on buying only the things I really need.
  • I will take action to reduce the amount of unwanted mail (catalogs, phone books, etc.) I receive.
  • I will start a compost collection at home, work or school.
  • I will set up a recycling center at my college or work if there isn’t one already.
  • I will purchase bulk foods whenever possible to reduce packaging, as well as avoid single-serving foods.
  • I pledge to buy used/previously loved things whenever possible.
  • I will take a field trip to the local dump or landfill to learn more about the waste stream.
  • I will find out where to recycle items that I can’t put in my curbside bin.
  • I will keep all my trash for a week (or the entire challenge!) in order to raise my awareness of what I’m throwing away.
  • I will lobby my office to carry reusable dishes and silverware to minimize disposables.
  • Resources

     Facts and Stats on Waste:

    • The average American generates 7.1 pounds of trash per day.
    • Americans make up 5% of the world’s population and generate 40% of the world’s waste.
    • Packaging comprises 1/3 of the waste generated in the U.S. 

    Civic Engagement

    Become a well-informed advocate and exercise your right to weigh in on environmental decisions.

    Choose your Challenge. We suggest you pick just one or two actions.

    Measurable Challenges

  • I will write ______ letters per day to a public official or company advocating for a specific positive action for Earth.
  • I will make ______ phone calls per day to a public official or company advocating for a specific positive action for Earth.
  • I will decide what my most important environmental issue is in my community and commit to telling ______ friend(s) per day about this issue.
  • Non-Measurable Challenges

  • I will volunteer in my community.
  • I will connect with my local environmental nonprofit and see how I can get involved.
  • I'll raise money to support the NW Earth Institute, or another local environmental nonprofit.
  • I pledge to find environmental nonprofits in my region and like or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.
  • I will sign a petition in support of an environmental initiative in my state.
  • I will make my actions visible with a lawn sign, bumper sticker or by posting to my social media networks as a symbol of my commitment to an issue I care about.
  • I will host a "house party" to watch a movie or present a guest speaker on an issue that matters to me.
  • I will find out who is making decisions about the environment in my state.
  • Resources

    Find current citizen petitions on environmental issues.

    Find out which environmental nonprofits work in your state.

    OEC’s citizen action guide for tips on writing letters to officials and letters to the editor.


    Oregon Environmental Council


    If it weren’t for citizen action, Oregon’s wild rivers, beaches and breathtaking landscape would be nothing to brag about. In fact, Oregon Environmental Council was founded in 1968 by citizens who wanted a strong environmental voice in decision-making. That’s why we’re so excited that the 2015 EcoChallenge is helping keep this tradition alive and well! OEC hopes our how-to tips and resources will be useful to Oregonians and neighbors near and far who want to boost their civic engagement. Best of luck to all!

    Connect with Earth

    Choose your Challenge. We suggest you pick just one or two actions.

    Measurable Challenges

  • I will take a ______ minute walk outside each day of the EcoChallenge.
  • I will replace ______ minutes per day of time spent indoors (computer time, watching television, etc) with quality time outdoors.
  • I will eat ______ meal(s) outside each day of the EcoChallenge.
  • Non-Measurable Challenges

  • Find a good place in or near my home where I can observe sunrise and/or sunset each day.
  • I will discover at least one new hike or nature walk in my area and commit to visiting it on a regular basis.
  • I will join an outdoor/restoration project during EcoChallenge in October, and share my experience on my EcoChallenge blog.
  • I will learn about sustainable yard care practices and share my learnings on my EcoChallenge blog.
  • I will participate in the Citizen Science Project, capturing information on the number of local urban birds (crows, robins, house sparrows, starlings, etc.) in my area. **(Note, this action requires signing up with Cornell Lab as well.
  • I will walk, run, or bike to places during the EcoChallenge that I would normally drive or take public transit, taking note of my surroundings.
  • I will spend 5 minutes per day during the EcoChallenge, giving thanks/practicing gratitude (prayer, meditation, journaling, etc.) to Earth and the nature surrounding me.
  • I will start or tend a garden each day of the challenge.
  • I pledge to organize one of NWEI’s discussion courses, such as Reconnecting With Earth with my friends, classmates or coworkers.
  • I will engage in a nature-based activity with my kid(s) each day of the EcoChallenge - this can be anything from going on a walk or hike, to noticing the leaves changing color, or reading a book with nature themes.
  • Choose Your Own

    Because there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to sustainability, you can also create your own EcoChallenge.

    Ideally, you’ll choose at least one measurable goal so that you can measure your success but there are no limits on what you can choose—so exercise your eco-creativity! Make sure to post about your chosen EcoChallenge on your profile page too.

    Choose your Challenge. We suggest you pick just one or two actions.

    Thanks to our sponsors:

    ©2016 Northwest Earth Institute. Privacy Policy      Contact Us