Tired of eating lunch alone at your computer? Instead, eat lunch with colleagues from different areas of the university while discussing the connections between your life and the condition of the Earth. In fall quarter, faculty and staff will discuss "Voluntary Simplicity" by exploring the material and psychological distractions of modern society that keep us from caring for ourselves, our relationships, and our environment. In winter quarter, the Choices for Sustainable Living discussion will explore the meaning of sustainable living and the ties between lifestyle choices and their impact on the Earth. In spring quarter, participants will discuss the connections between human health and the environment, and how we can sustain both in A World of Health.
The discussion courses were developed by the Northwest Earth Institute (NWEI), a non-profit based in Portland, Ore. NWEI's proven process of connection, reflection and action changes participants for good. The meaningful conversations with one's community leads to "Aha!" moments about the way one lives, works, creates and consumes. The result is a life that is simpler, richer, and better for both participant and the Earth. More than 100,000 people have joined in one of NWEI's 12 discussion courses since 1993.
One of the participants in the spring cohort, Albers Lecturer April Atwood, said: "Great readings, thoughtful discussions and a great way to get to know a variety of people across campus." Another participant said, "…it is the group and their perspective that makes it interesting. They all come from different places and bring up questions or points that give me a different way of looking at the issue."
When the discussion courses were first offered last spring, 27 faculty and staff participated. Participants were split into three groups that met on a weekday that fit their schedule. The "Menu for the Future" topic, exploring the connections between food choices and sustainability, was so popular that it was offered again in summer quarter. Participants have said they want to continue these lunch time discussions every quarter. With 12 different discussion topics to choose from, there is something for most everyone.
The Voluntary Simplicity discussion groups will meet weekly, October 15 to November 16, from 12:10 to 12:50 p.m. There will be several groups meeting on different days of the week. The time commitment is 40 minutes of reading per week and a weekly 40 minute discussion. The $23 course book is paid by the Office for Sustainability. To register, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, Sept. 21, and include which weekdays you can meet.