2019 FILE PHOTO - Friends of Fall Creek Watershed founder Jen Moss, right, and granddaughter Annabelle pick up trash and debris.

Established in 1970, the resolve of Earth Day is simple: to take a walk with the wild side. To bring the importance of protecting the Earth to the attention of the public, the media, and our elected officials. In stride with that “we’re all in this together” attitude, Earth Day Oregon (EDO) amplifies the work of 70 nonprofits from Southern Oregon up the I-5 corridor, and two right here in rural Lane County. And as the climate clock winds down and temperatures rise, these local nonprofits have both feet on the ground, reminding us that the earth is never too hot to handle. 

EDO is a nonprofit initiative with a mission to increase Oregon-based business and individual support for the state’s frontline nonprofits that are leading us to a more livable, just, and sustainable world – because, after all, what you water grows. 

“Earth Day Oregon’s nonprofit partners are collectively making a critical impact to change our world for the better,” said Kelly Stevens, Earth Day Oregon executive director. “Whether they are working to provide affordable alternative energy, bring about racial justice, end poverty, or protect ecosystems, these organizations represent a wide diversity of missions and locations across our state. Our hope is that every Oregonian can use our campaign to find and support a nonprofit.”

Earth Day Oregon is a rapidly growing annual effort that brings attention and donations to nonprofits across Oregon by fostering and promoting lasting partnerships with local businesses leading up to Earth Day. Since it started in 2019, EDO has facilitated more than $360,000 in donations to nonprofits that work year-round to protect our planet. 

In Lane County, EcoGeneration of Cottage Grove and Friends of Fall Creek Watershed of Lowell are two of the nonprofits supported by EDO’s fundraising support. 

Friends of Fall Creek Watershed is a nonprofit dedicated to returning the Willamette Watersheds to a clean, beautiful state. Through the support of volunteers, local community, the Middle Fork Ranger District, Lane County Waste Management, and other regional government partners, they clean and maintain the watershed, improving the natural experience for all. 

Jen Moss, the founder of Friends of Fall Creek, always tells people she “accidentally started a nonprofit.” What began as a Facebook post about the “disgusting amount of garbage down there,” steamrolled into a community organizing project that has been instrumental in the cleanup of the Fall Creek Watershed. “It’s been an organic thing unto itself,” she said. “So many people come out to support us, even if it’s just donating or sharing our posts online.” 

To date, Friends of Fall Creek has removed over 155,000 pounds of trash and 21 trashed vehicles. “There is no garbage service in the forest, because you’re supposed to pack it in and pack it out,” said Moss. “But some people aren’t always able to do that. So we try to step in and stop dump sites from even starting.” 

On Earth Day, Friends of Fall Creek will be hosting a 3-day stewardship clean-up event in various areas of the Middle Fork Ranger District of the Willamette National Forest and possibly adjacent BLM public lands.

 “We wouldn’t be able to do this if we didn’t have community support,” Moss said. “I always say it’s about balance. Over the last few years we’ve learned that it’s really up to us, and stewardship that happens in the forest happens because of volunteers showing up and helping out.” 

EcoGeneration is a nonprofit that jets all over Lane County, educating the public on proper recycling techniques, promoting plastic-free lifestyles, and coordinating recycling take-back programs. They take pride in knowing they are actively working to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills while “preserving our resources for future generations.” 

David Gardiepy is EcoGenerations’ founder, board president, and executive director. He started EcoGeneration as a Facebook group in 2017 to share information and organize litter pick-ups around Cottage Grove. It grew quickly as people looked for new ways to deal with their recyclable trash. In 2020 EcoGeneration became an incorporated nonprofit. In addition to organizing weekly plastic collections for local residents; EcoGeneration has worked to find recycling streams for other waste materials which would otherwise go into landfills. Gardiepy has built relationships with a network of 29 different recycling companies all over the country, each of which takes and processes different materials. 

“Our primary goal is to reduce an individual’s carbon footprint by having them examine their consumption habits and their waste habits,” said Gardiepy. “Our ultimate goal is to restore natural areas around the community of the Pacific Northwest in the face of climate change.” 

On Earth Day, EcoGeneration is partnering with Singing Creek Education Center, to put on the Green Living Fair in Cottage Grove Armory. The Green Living Fair will feature 30+ booths and workshops with freebies, raffles and giveaways. “For the last six years we’ve been supported more by community donors than corporate donors. More than 90% of our budget comes directly from community member pockets,” said Gardiepy. “It takes all of us.” 

Individuals can participate in Earth Day Oregon in three ways: by supporting businesses that are hosting special promotions for nonprofit partners; by attending a nonprofit partner’s individual events; or via a direct donation to a nonprofit partner on April 22.  

“We do have a lot of partners who represent your traditional causes that we think of when we think of Earth Day,” Stevens said. “But we know that protecting the environment takes a lot of different forms, so we are trying to expand the idea of what Earth Day is. And at Earth Day Oregon, we’re really excited to have a diversity of missions that encompass that.” 

Oregonians are invited to check out the Earth Day Oregon website at earthdayor.org for a full list of nonprofit and business partners and ways to engage. 

People can browse nonprofits to find an organization to support, check out the list of participating businesses and the nonprofits each has partnered with, and view a growing calendar of events and promotions.