Although the Environmental Center has been a mainstay for green causes since the late 1980s, they have re-energized their charter by joining forces with another of Central Oregon’s core environmental non-profits, reSource. Last month the Bend Chamber of Commerce and The Environmental Center hosted an event that officially kicked off their new mission.
Last year, before the economic downturn, the two groups realized that they were duplicating efforts on many fronts and often targeting the same entities during their fundraising drives. The decision to join forces turned out to be extremely fortuitous. Each group brought to the table energy and assets which together make the new and improved version of a vibrant and viable advocate for environmental friendly causes. The synergy is palatable.
According to Executive Director Mike Riley the primary mission of the new and improved Environmental Center is to “imbed sustainability into the daily life of Central Oregon.” These efforts will take on several new forms including venturing into the realm of politics. Because The Environmental Center is a non-profit they cannot endorse individuals but they can, and will, become an increasingly active voice on environmental issues.
“We will do a lot more advocacy work, taking positions in the community and working with the city council, legislature and other decision and policy makers throughout the region,” explains Riley. The objective is to become an active voice on important issues. To achieve this goal they will attend meetings, join committees and work to hold the powers that be accountable, thus ensuring regional sustainability is always at the forefront of the discussion.
One of the group’s long-term goals is to help facilitate an efficient regional public transportation system. Most everyone would agree this is a very important issue which must be addressed and mistakes of the past mitigated.
To ensure that their voice will be heard on this issue and others Riley explains, “We will research the issues and make sure we really understand the applicable laws and are present at any relevant meeting. We will get appointed to committees and if we can’t get directly involved we will, at minimum, monitor any pertinent meetings.”
The Environmental Center will also support ballot measures and continue a new trend of hosting candidate forums in an effort to influence the dialogue towards a sustainable agenda and help the public understand where the candidates stand on green issues.
Another primary focus will be youth education programs. “We connected with 10,000 students during the last school year and we will continue to build on our education programs,” says Riley. Recently an agreement was reached with the City of Bend for The Environmental Center to lease the property directly adjacent to their office to create a pilot garden program.
The Kansas Avenue Learning Garden will become a living classroom for students from Amity Creek Elementary and the Boys and Girls Club, both within walking distance. The children will help create the garden, learning valuable lessons about the sustainability of agriculture, and the notion that the people of Central Oregon don’t necessarily have to import all of our foodstuffs. As this program grows the goal is to create other gardens throughout the region teaching these valuable lessons to an ever-increasing audience of children.
Currently The Environmental Center has 11 staff members, 40 member organizations, and close to 500 donors. The organization is the information hub for environmental organizations and causes of Central Oregon, and they continue to publish the Directory for Sustainable Living, which lists regional pro-green companies. Produced by their sub-group, The Green Spot, the free directory has developed to include distinct symbols categorizing specific green criteria met by the listed company.
In essence The Environmental Center has grown into a core leadership role in Central Oregon’s long-term sustainability movement. Through their efforts, and the efforts of their member organizations, Central Oregon will continue to strive for a bright and sustainable future for this generation and those to come.
The Environmental Center
16 NW Kansas
Bend, OR 97701