Earth Day Oregon Origins


Where did Earth Day Oregon begin?

In her former role as Development Director at Portland-based nonprofit, Ecology in Classrooms and Outdoors (ECO), Bethany Shetterly Thomas organized a low-key, annual fundraiser, similar to Earth Day Oregon, in which the organization reached out to local sustainably-minded businesses and requested a donation on April 22, Earth Day, in honor of the work ECO does to connect kids to nature. Each year, Bethany considered how much stronger the campaign would be and how much more good could be done by the environment if more organizations were involved.

In late summer 2018, Bethany left her role as Development Director at ECO (moving to the Board of Directors), and began to consider what it might take to make a statewide initiative in support of environmentally-focused nonprofit organizations occur. By November, Bethany had decided to dive into the effort, though waited until January to reach out to the fundraising teams at local nonprofit organizations, knowing their capacity would be limited throughout the end-of-year giving season. In the meantime, Bethany reached out to local colleagues and friends inviting them to join the effort at a deeper level as volunteer members of the Earth Day Oregon Steering Committee.

In January 2019, nonprofit organizations gathered at an informational meeting to learn more about what it might mean to participate in Earth Day Oregon. With only four months to go before April, a surprisingly high number of nonprofits were interested in participating in the inaugural year of Earth Day Oregon and committed to participation!

These 2019 Nonprofit Partners, from small nonprofits to well-established organizations, committed to finding five businesses to support their cause. Over the next four months, the organizations brought on-board 84 Business Partners, again from small shops to well-established businesses.

During the winter months of 2020, the Earth Day Oregon team worked behind the scenes to provide Nonprofit Partners and Business Partners with support materials, such as: handbooks with best practices for participation, social media images and copy, press releases, media advisories, templates for outreach, posters for visibility, etc.

On April 24, Earth Day Oregon, in collaboration with Vestas, the Corporate Sustainability Collaborative, and Social Enterprises hosted a community event to celebrate the successes of the inaugural year of Earth Day Oregon. Heritage Bank, Brew Dr. Kombucha, and NW Natural came on board as sponsors of the event. The event brought together the participating Nonprofit and Business Partners, as well as community members.

In May, Earth Day Oregon asked nonprofits to report the total funds raised through the initiative and were thrilled to learn over $50,000 had been raised!

In 2020, the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. In honor of this momentous event, Earth Day Oregon plans to expand participation of the initiative - which was primarily in the Portland/Metro region - to include nonprofit organizations and businesses throughout the state.

We also hope to reach and include organizations outside the typical understanding of what an “environmental nonprofit” is. The book, Project Drawdown, edited by Paul Hawken, identifies 100 Solutions, by Rank in the efforts to fight climate change. Educating Girls (#6) and Family Planning (#7) are listed as important action steps; while nonprofits that support these sorts of initiatives might not seem like typical participants in an Earth Day focused fundraiser, it is clear that they ought to be included. Similarly, we know that the impacts of climate change disproportionately affect people of color, which means organizations that support the livelihoods of people of color ought to be included as well. This is an inclusive initiative.

In 2020, we will work to incorporate the events that Nonprofit Partners may be hosting into our messaging about ways that businesses and individuals can be involved and make a difference in their communities.

All energies are focused on the success of Earth Day Oregon 2020!

Please reach out to bethany(at) with any questions about Earth Day Oregon.