What can you do in two weeks? For the Northwest Earth Institute (NWEI), a nonprofit organization in Portland, Oregon, two weeks might just be enough time to better the world.

Here are a few numbers that will make you question what’s possible in just 14 days: 93,552 plastic bottles and cups diverted from the landfill; 441,676 gallons of water conserved; 80,082 miles traveled by alternative transportation; 344,358 hours spent outdoors; 2,446 volunteer hours; and over 900 phone calls to public officials advocating change.

These numbers represent the collective actions of 8,350 people across 450 teams in last year’s EcoChallenge, a two-week event in October for anyone who wants to find inspirational change in actions to benefit themselves, their communities, and the planet. Participants can choose actions to curb emissions, save water, spend more time outdoors, generate less waste, get more sleep, among other challenges—and because there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to sustainability, you can also create your own challenge.

In 2013, I took the EcoChallenge and it changed how I shop at the grocery store, or really any store. While I’ve always been an advocate for the environment (after all, my social media handles describe me as a trail runner litter picker-upper), my EcoChallenge to buy nothing in a package really upped the ante, conservationally speaking. The challenge stuck and today before any purchase I think about the product’s lifecycle and how it may impact the environment.

Now here I am four years later working for the very organization that inspired my waste-reduction journey. Friends and family have asked me what my EcoChallenge will be this year. Given the attention to plastic lately, one of my challenges will focus on reducing it from my life.

Plastic pollution has reached an all-time high and we are seeing the devastation today. Our world’s oceans and waterways are polluted with plastic bottles, bags, straws, and other plastic waste. Even trails are not spared from plastic pollution—I continue to see plastic remnants, wrappers, and discarded bottles when running.

As a trail runner and all around outdoorsy gal, I know another EcoChallenge must address our public lands. Every time I step onto a trail, visit the forest, or marvel at a mountain, I think about the future of our natural world and what it means for the environment and the places where we adventure. Our public lands are not for sale and I refuse to sit back as the current administration reduces or pilfers them off.

I’m still kicking around ideas for how to turn my concern for public lands into an EcoChallenge. Whatever the challenge, I need to stay vigilant and remain educated on the issues, share what I’ve learned with others, and make my voice heard to elected officials. Maybe these actions are my EcoChallenge or perhaps there’s more I can do? I love how the EcoChallenge is getting me to think BIG.

The EcoChallenge is an open invitation to take action on issues we’re passionate about, create healthy habits, and stand up for the planet—a springboard for turning intention into positive action. You can form or join an existing team and invite friends, family, or co-workers to take the challenge with you.

As women of adventure, we care about the outdoors and protecting and preserving the places where we play. We are powerful, we are doers and influencers, and to borrow from REI, we are a Force of Nature.

EcoChallenge is a fun and social way to create change and reduce our impact on the environment. The two-week EcoChallenge takes place October 11-25 and registration is open. I’d love for you to join my team, Adventures in Thumbholes, and watch our collective impact add up.

The NWEI believes the solution to the planet’s biggest challenges lies in the power of collective action. EcoChallenge provides tools and resources to help you reach your goals while the web-based platform makes it easy to share your progress, challenge other teams, and earn points to win prizes.

Guest Contributor

Based in Portland, Oregon, Erin Fitzgerald is the marketing manager at the Northwest Earth Institute. Her love for the outdoors, trail running, and stewardship inspires her EcoChallenge. If you have questions about the EcoChallenge, contact Erin at erin@nwei.org.