From snowcapped mountains to windswept desert valleys, wild winding rivers to hundreds of miles of public coastline, Oregon’s outdoor splendor seems eternal, but it relies on our stewardship. On Earth Day (April 22, 2023) and year-round, we can help protect these beautiful areas by partnering with organizations promoting sustainability and businesses that donate to nonprofit partners or participate in hands-on projects.
For an easy way to connect with these groups, visit the Earth Day Oregon website. There, you can find over 100 Oregon nonprofit organizations and corporations working toward one or more sustainable development goals as defined by the United Nations. “It’s our special corner of the planet, and we want to do our part in advancing those goals,” says Earth Day Oregon executive director Kelly Stevens. “Sustainability takes everyone.”
Whether your interest is in planting trees, volunteering at an educational program at a museum or even drinking a craft beer at a brewery that supports clean-water efforts, you’ll find some great options on the website. If you can’t make it to an event or volunteer opportunity, it also offers links to show support by donating to a cause. Here are just a few of the operations around the state that will help you build a better relationship to the Oregon causes you cherish — on Earth Day and beyond.
Caring for Oregon’s Land
Though Oregon may be known for its evergreen trees and mountains, a quarter of the state is desert — and an organization in Eastern Oregon is helping to keep the high desert beautiful. Friends of the Owyhee promotes conservation of the special region through campaigns, educational opportunities and stewardship events such as park and river cleanups and animal monitoring. Visit its site for special Earth Day events and lectures.
To help balance the human impact on Mt. Hood, Bark works to restore the Mt. Hood National Forest to its wild and natural roots. Check out the organization’s volunteer events and preservation initiatives.
To help protect one of Portland’s most accessible urban greenspaces, Forest Park Conservancy promotes the ecological health of the city’s biggest park. There are a number of ways for visitors and locals to get involved, including an ambassador program, trail working sessions and a nature education program.
Keeping Our Water Pristine
Each coastal town on Oregon’s 363 miles of coastline has its own character worth experiencing, so why not pair your next trip with a beach cleanup through Newport-based Ocean Blue Project? The organization hosts events that help remove shoreline debris and microplastic bits using sand filters.
Winding through stunning old-growth forests, the McKenzie River is one of the most special resources of the Willamette Valley. You can lend a hand to help protect the region’s critical habitats and scenic lands alongside the McKenzie River Trust by joining hosts at volunteer projects like invasive-plant removal, seed collection or planting events. The organization is one of many similar trusts and watershed councils across the state listed as partners.
If you love getting out on Oregon’s lakes and rivers with a fishing pole in hand, consider focusing your efforts on the recovery of wild, native fish by supporting the Native Fish Society. The organization promotes stewardship statewide with many volunteer opportunities and fundraising events to benefit rivers like the Deschutes and the Willamette.
Supporting Sustainability and Climate Justice
Farmers Ending Hunger is a Keizer-based coalition of farmers that donate fresh produce and grain to Oregon food banks throughout the state. Volunteers help staff tables at Portland farmers markets each summer. Individuals can also “Adopt-an-Acre,” a donation program that funds growing and processing food. For sustainable agriculture, pollinators like honeybees are crucial to success. Donate to a group like the Pollinator Project Rogue Valley, which educates people about how to help these species thrive in Southern Oregon.
Animal lovers will appreciate the work of Central Oregon’s Think Wild, a nonprofit aimed at providing a wildlife support system. While its work includes the rescue and rehabilitation of injured or orphaned wildlife, it also hosts awareness events, online resources and hands-on programs. The website also has links to donate to Chintimini Wildlife Center in Corvallis or Cascades Raptor Center in Eugene.
For sustainability education, Ecology in Classrooms & Outdoors aims to inspire young Oregonians to care for nature and their communities through science education. It offers its lessons online for free for anyone to learn more about the natural world. Other outdoor learning experience organizations for kids include Portland’s Friends of Outdoor School and McMinnville’s Outdoor Education Adventures, both of which support diversity and equitable education goals.
In the Rogue Valley, Central Point’s Crater Rock Museum hosts field trips and runs school programs that promote geology and earth-science education. You can volunteer by helping maintain the museum, organize fundraisers and coordinate outings.
It’s also an excellent opportunity to support Oregon’s eco-friendly wineries – those that are doing the work to leave the planet better through their sustainable practices. For instance, Soter Vineyards – an esteemed biodynamic vineyard in Carlton – has since 2009 donated $1 from each bottle of their Planet Oregon pinot noir to the Oregon Environmental Council to support the nonprofit’s work towards climate resilience as they collaborate with with legislators, elected officials, business owners and farmers throughout the state.