Oscar-Worthy Portland Slideshow

March 2, 2014

Our multimedia slideshow of the 2013 Portland Eco-Stewards Program is being released just in time for tonight’s Academy Awards. We hope you will enjoy this 10-minute look at the people and communities we met last June as we explored the theme Connectional Living as Creative Response during our Portland, Oregon Program. And please spread the word that March 15 is the new deadline to apply for our 2014 Eco-Stewards Program in Gainesville, Florida: Food and Faith, Uniting Together in a Southern Foodshed. Join us in May as we examine how the community of Gainesville utilizes its surrounding natural resources to build life-giving, meaningful relationships. Our time will focus primarily on the interconnected food and water webs of North Central Florida.

Eco-Steward Reflection: Pondering Portlandia

January 22, 2014

by Nina Spengler (Portland ’13)

ninanarrowIt is 2014 and I am still reflecting on my time at the 2013 Eco-Stewards Program in Portland, OR.   The theme: Connectional Urban Living as Creative Response.  It was an experience that goes down as one of the best weeks of 2013 in my book.  I find my reflection easiest to explain by starting somewhere at the end.  The last night of our time together we talked about our “Eco-Faith Journeys”.  My journey was what brought me to Eco-Stewards in the first place.  It took meeting Scott Crane at the 2012 PCCCA Annual Conference and then Vickie Machado at the Compassion, Peace, and Justice Conference in 2013 to fully move me to apply for the program—apply the last possible day that is.  After much prayer and hope and asking off a week from work I heard back from Rob that I was indeed able to get a scholarship to attend.  It was a beautiful feeling to know that God had set all these people in my life to urge me on.

After arriving in Portland and meeting everyone I was impressed by the diversity of interests in our group and our shared core beliefs.  We all loved God, justice, the environment, and food.

The week was planned immaculately.  There was a lot to do and our schedule was packed!  That said we learned, to the best of our ability, how to manage our group and get to places as “on time” as possible.  Sometimes we were late but grace was always shown to us.  It was hard to pull away from one experience and rush off to the new one.  Sometimes the conversations were just too good and sometimes we couldn’t catch the bus or there was a flat bike tire.  The hospitality we were shown was beautiful; I think it was exactly what we were searching for in our connectional urban living.


It’s hard to articulate my favorite day or speaker.  Visiting the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) was a day that drew in many influences of our theme that week.  They had an incredible exhibit that talked about what sustainability really was and the factors that influenced it:  Environment, Society, and Economy.  These three pillars are the forces that drive sustainability.  If it’s good for the environment and society but not economically viable then it isn’t sustainable.  During our discussion, Kyrie Kellett, the exhibit developer, told us that a new roof would help offset the carbon footprint of OMSI.  They were, however, putting this new roof addition on hold for about five years because the roof they currently had still had life in it.  To take it down now and replace it with a new one would not be environmentally or economically wise, therefore would not be sustainable at that time.

Going back to the exhibit itself—there were many interactive displays that were set up for kids (and us of course) to get some hands-on learning accomplished.  The displays were decorated with reused materials like salvaged cabinet doors that were painted in bright colors.  What I appreciated most about the exhibit was that the signage was translated into Spanish. Kyrie told us that they worked with a translator to make sure that everything made sense to the many Spanish-speaking parents who visited with their  children.  She brought up the fact that many kids know English and end up translating the info to their parents.  This puts their parents at a disadvantage of depending on their children to relay the information and feeling a bit out of place—being lost in translation.  This entire exhibit being offered in both English and Spanish allowed freedom of exploration for everyone.  In my view, it offered a sense of inclusion for as many people as possible.  When you are looking to be sustainable you need to be connected with others and a big part of that is being able to communicate in way that everyone can understand.

Needless to say, the entire week was a loaded adventure.  Riding bikes in “pods” allowed us to group up and take different courses to get to our destinations.  That is how we all got to Eco-Stewards in the first place; our different journeys led us to Portland to be together for a week and sent us out with a renewed mind and a story to share.  Eco-Stewards allowed me to delve into the lives of others, live in a community living for a purpose, and form strong relationships.  It is surprising that we felt so unified in a week’s time.

Four months after leaving Portland, I got the chance to visit a friend in Tallahassee, FL.  The cheapest flight was to Clearwater, FL.  What did I do?  Why I drove halfway to Gainesville, FL and got to see not one but two of my Eco-Steward family members!  I arrived rather late after tons of traffic to hugs, a delightful welcome, and a delicious meal cooked by Daniel Loya (Portland ’13) and Vickie Machado (Montana ’11, Vermont ’12, Portland ’13).  I got the opportunity to stay in the Gainesville Catholic Worker House and learn more about the Catholic Worker Movement.  Friday morning we all woke up early for the Coffee Hour—a time when coffee and donated breakfast food is served to all who come.  It was a joy to serve alongside Vickie and Daniel again.  Before I left we took some crazy photos to remember our time.


Nina Spengler spent the summer after the Portland Eco-Stewards Program working as the Garden Director of a 1-acre garden at Vanderkamp Center, a Presbyterian/Lutheran summer camp, where she taught campers to identify weeds, plantings and bugs. She is currently traveling around New Zealand.


Gearing Up for Gainesville 2014

November 27, 2013

The Eco-Stewards Program is happy to announce that our 2014 Eco-Stewards Program will be held in Gainesville, Florida from May 18-24, 2014. The application for the program is posted here on our Gainesville page. Please spread the word to any 20-30 year-olds you encounter over the Thanksgiving weekend. This is a wonderful opportunity for young adults to connect their faith and environmental stewardship as we unite together and study food and faith in a southern foodshed.

Eco-Stewards 2014

October 31, 2013
Food and Faith: Uniting Together in a Southern Foodshed

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 6.07.42 PM

This year’s place-based program explores the connection of communities to the land as we look at how Gainesville, Florida utilizes its surrounding natural resources to build life-giving, meaningful relationships. Our time will focus primarily on the interconnected food and water webs of North Central Florida. Our trip will include discussions on local food, faith, nutrition, workers’ rights, intentional Christian communities, sustainability, and the ever-pressing water issues faced by much of this region. The week will consist of service, community dialogue, and an exploration of local areas including but not limited to community gardens producing food for homeless shelters, a local micro-farm rethinking the food system, a house of hospitality, nearby springs, and the Ichetucknee River. Throughout our program, we will be reflecting on and sharing our own Eco-Faith journeys.

The trip will likely be held in May. Check back for exact dates and to download the application!


Portlandia and a Bunch of Wild Geese

October 12, 2013

 by Vickie Machado (Montana ’11, Boston ’12, Portland ’13)

I found Eco-Stewards Portland to be a breath of fresh air in a world that tends to place faith and environmental issues in two separate categories. During the week, I experienced first hand these two aspects of life break away from their boxes and amalgamate into the realm of the Columbia River Watershed. We packed a LOT into our week: meeting with a coffee roaster who delivers all of his beans on bike, a visit to Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) to talk about sustainability, weeding garden beds at Zenger Farms, talks on gentrification and issues of race, pulling invasive ivy inside the country’s largest urban, forested park, a full day of biking, dinner with our hosts, the Earth Care congregates of First Presbyterian Church of Portland, chats with co-housing groups and a meditating labyrinth walk at Menucha Camp & Conference Center, just to name a few.  It was through these adventures (which took us all over Portland) that I recognized how individuals and the groups we met manifested their respect for the earth and our Creator in distinct ways. They fulfilled their own ecological niche, acting as stewards of their area and care-givers to the people around them.

Eco-Stewards Portland 2013

Eco-Stewards Portland 2013

Two months after Portland, I reunited with fellow Eco-Steward Daniel Loya and 2011 Montana Eco-Steward Dave Grace to table at the Wild Goose Festival, which took place near Hot Springs, NC. Our table focused on building connections with other young adults and trying to grow the Eco-Stewards family so more young adults might benefit from our place-based programs. Our presence as Eco-Stewards provided us the opportunity to build community while connecting faith to environmental stewardship. We sold recycled art including peace cranes made from recycled magazines and repurposed beads, tooth brush bracelets, and bags made crocheted from t-shirt yarn. Additionally, our banner was handmade from extra paint, canvas and fabric materials.

Eco-Steward Daniel Loya at the Wild Goose Festival in Hot Springs, NC. Daniel participated in Eco-Stewards Portland.

Eco-Steward Daniel Loya tabling at the Wild Goose Festival in Hot Springs, NC.

Bordered by the Appalachian Trail and the French Broad River, Hot Springs and the people it attracted offered another amazing place in which I saw the confluence of Christianity and the environment come to life. I suppose this over lap of faith and ecology is best explained through the festival’s name, “wild goose,” the Celtic metaphor for Holy Spirit. Though each day brought scattered thunderstorms, blue skies always followed. Again echoing the wild, unexpectedness, peace, and beauty of the Spirit. The Wild Goose allowed us to listen to others experiences while sharing our own Eco-Steward stories. These talks broadened our connections and promoted friendships rooted within life and nature.

Wild Goose 2013 closing ceremony.

Wild Goose 2013 closing ceremony

Wendell Berry's "The Wild Geese."

Wendell Berry’s “The Wild Geese”

Journey of an Eco-Steward: Seven Years Later

June 23, 2013

By Scott Crane

When I first became involved with my colleagues to set up and mentor the Eco-Stewards Program (then PCC)  in 2006-2007, I was carrying out a personal extension of my own young adult ideals and goals in the area of environmental stewardship as expression of my faith.  I was already on board an “environmental movement,” but struggling to place it within the context of my Christianity and my workplace.

In the past several years, the zest and vigor I had for following my earlier eco-steward ideals waned in the face of “real life” issues such as growing older, getting married, owning a home, commuting to work, having children, and just trying to stay afloat during all those changes in my life.

This year’s program in Portland came at a pivotal moment for me as I begin to settle better into my current chapter of life (married, raising children, etc.).  That means I am ready (I think!) to do more than just tread water.  I hope and pray I will have more energy, finally, to re-engage my ideals and goals for applied eco-stewardship.  My next steps?  To integrate these ideals and goals into my family and work life in practical ways…that is my hope!

For myself and my current chapter of life, “Connectional Living as a Creative Response” means, “Living within my context and applying the best ecologically-sound stewardship practices available to my means and station.”

To that end, I re-commit to being present not only to community of place and family, but to the community of Eco-Stewards, the earth, and all its creatures.  To accomplish that, I pledge to work earnestly to:

  • Reduce the carbon footprint my family makes on the planet (our house remodel will result in more efficient systems and lower energy use)
  • When the time/pocketbook is right to trade my car for a more efficient hybrid or EV for my 40+-mile commute each day
  • Educate others about choices for more conscious environmental stewardship
  • Plant over a hundred trees by this time next year
  • Explore potential for off-grid living in the next chapter of my life.

May this reflection inspire all of us to think deeply about our engagement with applied eco-stewardship, in whatever chapter of life we find ourselves.  Let us all share and inspire one another!

The biking Eco-Stewards Portland team stops for a sunset prayer on the Willamette River.

The biking Eco-Stewards Portland team stops for a sunset prayer on the Willamette River.

Postcard from Portland

June 6, 2013
Our host in downtown Portland.

Our host in downtown Portland.

Learning about the coffee market in Portland.

Learning about the coffee market in Portland.

Building the three pillars of sustainability at OMSI.

Building the three pillars of sustainability at OMSI.

Weeding in preparation for a community garden outside a homeless day shelter.

Weeding in preparation for a community garden outside a homeless day shelter.

Listening to the hard consequences of gentrification.

Listening to the hard consequences of gentrification.

Pulling out invasive ivy in the city's 5,000-acre park.

Pulling out invasive ivy in the city’s 5,000-acre park.

Eating dinner with the members of Daybreak Cohousing community.

Eating dinner with the members of Daybreak Cohousing community.

Sunset over the Willamette River.

Sunset over the Willamette River.