With 2021 coming to a close, we spent some time reflecting on our major accomplishments from this year. What a year it was! Here are the top 10 highlights from our work at Environment Oregon and Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center from 2021:
We found microplastics in all of the waterways we tested, including Crater Lake
Environment Oregon staff and volunteers tested 30 waterways across Oregon, and found microplastic contamination in every spot — from the rivers that flow through our biggest urban centers to the state’s most remote and treasured waterways like Crater Lake and Wallowa Lake. The findings are outlined in a new report, Microplastics in Oregon: a Survey of Waterways, which includes policy solutions local state and national leaders should consider to reduce plastic pollution. Our report was covered on OPB, KGW and a dozen other outlets.
We organized in Oregon’s fourth congressional district on federal climate action
In the past 18 months, our state has experienced record breaking wildfires, record breaking heat, and record breaking drought. We need Congress to #ActNow on climate change. Our climate associate, Jessie Kochaver, spent the summer building support from Oregonians in Congressman Peter DeFazio’s district for strong federal action on climate change.
We launched a new campaign to “Recharge where you recharge”
Environment Oregon is calling on the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to install electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in all of Oregon’s state parks. Expanding the state’s EV charging infrastructure not only helps Oregon reduce its global warming pollution, but also ensures that Oregonians can roadtrip to their favorite state park without worrying about how far their car can go. With more EVs and charging stations, we could breathe a little easier when enjoying the outdoors.
We co-hosted a Youth Climate Town Hall with Senator Wyden
Along with our partners at the Oregon League of Conservation Voters and OSPIRG Students, we helped to organize a Youth Climate Town Hall with Senator Ron Wyden in September. We had over 90 young people between the ages of 13 and 24 on to ask Sen. Wyden questions about climate change and urge him to do all that he can to pass ambitious climate policy at the federal level.
We created an Oregon planting for pollinators guide
Due to climate change, habitat loss, disease, and pesticide use, pollinators like butterflies and bees are in decline. By planting just one bee-friendly plant, or by putting a bee bath in our gardens, we are giving pollinators a chance to survive. That’s why we created, “Planting for Pollinators,” a guide to planting pollinator friendly gardens in Oregon with some fun activities to support the bees.
We threw our support behind the federal Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act
As plastic pollution becomes an increasingly dire problem, members of Congress introduced legislation to address the issue, including Oregon’s own Senator Jeff Merkley. The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act builds upon state laws across the country, from bottle bills to bans on the worst single-use plastics. If the act becomes law, it would continue to reduce single-use plastic and packaging nationally, and finance recycling, composting and reusable infrastructure. It would also save local and municipal governments billions of dollars per year by shifting the cost of managing waste and recyclables to the plastic producers.
We helped build support for the federal bipartisan infrastructure bill, which passed through Congress
Oregon will get $52 million for EV charging stations, $747 million to improve public transportation, $529 million for clean water programs, and much more as part of a new infrastructure investment law. Environment Oregon worked all year to build support for the infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better Act with Oregon’s congressional delegation. I joined with Congressman Peter DeFazio in writing this op-ed in celebration of the passage of law in the Register Guard.
We supported the nation’s second producer responsibility bill for packaging and paper products, which passed the Oregon legislature
On Aug. 6, Gov. Kate Brown signed our nation’s second-ever producer responsibility bill into law. The legislation, backed by Environment Oregon, will require plastic producers to cover some of the costs of managing the waste their products become and will also update the state’s recycling system. The passage of Oregon and Maine’s producer responsibility laws this summer signals a shift to one of the most effective ways to remedy our plastic crisis.
For years, producers of wasteful single-use plastic products have somehow avoided paying up. This law begins to change that by requiring producers to start bearing some of the costs of the waste management system.
We collected 25,000+ petitions in support of reintroducing sea otters to the Oregon coast
Sea otters are one of the most beloved animals on earth. Unfortunately, over a hundred years ago, people hunted sea otters to near-extinction off of the Oregon coast. We, along with our ocean, are still paying the price. Without otters around to keep them in check, purple sea urchin populations have exploded in recent years, mowing down critical kelp forests and creating a nearshore wasteland where few other species can survive. Without kelp, many fish and sea creatures are left without shelter, habitat, or their primary food source, and our ability to fight climate change is hindered.
This year, Environment Oregon staff collected over 25,000 petition signatures in support of sea otter reintroduction through our door-to-door canvass and digital outreach, which we will be delivering to the US Fish & Wildlife Service this winter.
We were part of a monumental victory: Oregon became the 8th state to go 100% clean
Today, 1 in 3 Americans live in a place committed to 100 percent clean energy. Oregonians have now joined this environment-friendly club. On July 27, Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill committing the state to 100 percent clean electricity by 2040. The policy marks one of the fastest transitions to emission-free electricity to date, requiring an 80 percent greenhouse emission reduction by 2030, a 90 percent reduction by 2035, and a 100 percent reduction by 2040. Environment Oregon helped build support for these policies, including the efforts of our Climate Defender volunteers.
It’s thrilling to see Oregon once again leading the country on clean energy and climate action. Powering our state with clean energy, instead of dirty fossil fuels, cuts climate emissions from the electricity sector and helps keep our air and water clean, ensuring a clean and healthy future for all Oregonians.
While the pandemic posed significant challenges to our work defending our environment, Environment Oregon and Environment Oregon Research and Policy Center and all of our members, supporters and volunteers were able to play a crucial role delivering concrete victories for our air, water, and climate.
This work is made possible because of the support of tens of thousands of members across the state. If you’d like to make a year-end gift to Environment Oregon, you can do so here. If you’d like to make a year-end gift to Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center, you can do so here. And if you’ve already given this year, thank you so much.
I’m proud of the work we’ve done this year. Cheers to even more progress for our environment in 2022!
State Director, Environment Oregon
As director of Environment Oregon, Celeste develops and runs campaigns to win real results for Oregon's environment. She has worked on issues ranging from preventing plastic pollution, stopping global warming, defending clean water, and protecting our beautiful places. Celeste's organizing has helped to reduce kids' exposure to lead in drinking water at childcare facilities in Oregon, encourage transportation electrification, ban single-use plastic grocery bags, defend our bedrock environmental laws and more. She is also the author of the children's book, Myrtle the Turtle, empowering kids to prevent plastic pollution. Celeste lives in Portland, Ore., with her husband and two daughters, where they frequently enjoy the bounty of Oregon's natural beauty.