2019 Garden Grants Award Winners

The Environmental Center is proud to announce the winners of their annual Garden Grant Program.

Through community, business, and foundation support, we approved requests for $10,000 to nine school garden projects in Bend, Sisters, Sunriver, and Prineville. Schools receiving award funds include: Crooked River Elementary School, Seed to Table Educational Farm for Sisters Elementary School & Sisters High School, Three Rivers School, REALMS High School, Waldorf School of Bend, Wonder Years Preschool, and Desert Sky Montessori School.

Projects include relocating a large donated greenhouse; building new raised beds; critter-proofing existing garden beds; turning an unused bike rack into a temporary mini greenhouse; improving outdoor classroom space; purchasing garden supplies and curriculum; and building a rainwater fed container garden.

“Once again we are excited about the innovative ideas that schools are coming up with to connect their students to plants, food and our environment through school gardens,” said Denise Rowcroft, School Gardens Program Manager with The Environmental Center. “These funds are helping schools implement garden-based learning in ways that meet the unique needs and goals of their own school community.”

The goal of The Environmental Center’s Garden Grant Program is to provide local funding for public and private Pre K – 12 schools in Central Oregon to build or support a school garden. Gardens can be indoors, or an outdoor classroom, depending on the needs and goals of each school.

“Local schools are fortunate to have opportunities like the Garden For Every School Program,” said Jackie Wilson, Bend La-Pine School District Sustainability Coordinator. “It helps students to connect to meaningful experiences outside the classroom and to become thriving and sustainability-minded citizens.”

Garden activities and education provide a wide range of positive benefits for kids, communities and the environment. Garden grants is one strategy in The Environmental Center’s Garden for Every School program. As part of this program, The Environmental Center also provides technical assistance to schools, has a FoodCorps service member to connect kids to healthy food in schools through garden and nutrition lessons, organizes local Garden Educator Network trainings and events, and operates the Kansas Avenue Learning Garden. Our garden grant funds this year were raised through donations from almost 60 local community members, generous businesses, and foundations.

Residential Composting Pilot in Bend

Last week, Bend Garbage & Recycling and Cascade Disposal announced that they’ll be introducing a residential food waste pilot program to some areas in Bend. About 300 households from each company will participate in the pilot, which allows customers to put more food in their standard yard debris bins for curbside collection and composting. (Raw fruit and veggie scraps can currently be added to this bin. During the pilot program, they will accept meat, dairy, bakery items, and more.) If all goes well, residential composting could be available to all of their customers sometime in 2019. We’re very excited to hear this news, because it’s estimated that 26% of Knott Landfill is food waste!

We have partnered with both haulers to provide food waste prevention information for those selected for the pilot, including an Eat First card: a tool from our Rethink Food Waste Toolkit that helps you separate out foods in your fridge that need to be eaten first so they don’t end up in the compost pile. Of course we want to keep food out of the landfill and turn it into beautiful and useful compost, but we encourage you to prevent food waste in the first place. Sign up for our Rethink Food Waste Challenge to learn more and access helpful resources around food waste prevention.

You can read the full press from Bend Garbage & Recycling and Cascade Disposal here.

View the article from from KTVZ.

Celebrating Five Years of Repair Cafés in Central Oregon

On Thursday, October 18, 2018, it will be exactly nine years since Martine Postma organized the very first Repair Café in Amsterdam. Today there are over 1,600 Repair Cafés in 33 countries on six continents. Here in our own backyard, The Environmental Center’s Rethink Waste Project organized the first local event five years ago at Pakit Liquidators, which has since transformed into the shared maker space, DIY Cave.

Repair Cafés are events that connect people with broken stuff, with people who like to fix stuff. Over the past five years, over 400 items have been repaired through 15 local events with different host partners including The Gear Fix, DIY Cave, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, Deschutes Public Library, Central Oregon Community College, and more.

“For us, Repair Cafés fit into the mission of the Rethink Waste Project by preventing tangible waste through repair instead of replacement,” said Denise Rowcroft, Rethink Waste Program Manager with The Environmental Center. “But the really cool side effect of having repair events is less tangible – it’s about connecting people to their stuff in a way that gets them thinking about how they consume and the purchases they make, which is ultimately where we have more impact.”

Repair Cafés are free and staffed by volunteer fixers. Volunteers bring their own tools and variety of expertise, and will often troubleshoot difficult-to-repair items together or share tools. They have expertise in small appliances and electronics, clothing, outdoor gear, jewelry, and small furniture. Rowcroft added that volunteers receive a lot of satisfaction in keeping things out of the landfill, and attendees often really enjoy their interactions with volunteers and learning more about repair.

“It’s exciting to be a part of a global network of people, helping each other out by fixing stuff. It’s building community and resilience, and it’s just really fun.”

Shortly following International Repair Café Week, October 13 -21, the next local Repair Café will be on October 30, 2018 at the Redmond Public Library from 5:30 -7:30 p.m. People can bring in multiple items for repair, but are asked to sign up for one at a time so as not to dominate one volunteer for the whole evening.

“Repair café events are a perfect fit for Library programming,” said Liz Goodrich of the Deschutes Public Library. “These fun, community-based events provide opportunities for the volunteers to share their skills with participants.”


WHAT: Redmond Repair Cafe 

WHEN: Tuesday October 30th 2018, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. 

WHERE: Redmond Public Library, 827 SW Deschutes Ave, Redmond, OR 97756

Garden For Every School Fall 2018 Update

We are excited to be kicking off another school year rolling out our Garden for Every School initiative – our community effort to support school garden development in a way that is unique to each school’s needs, and done so with long-term sustainability in mind. To begin the school year, 14 local garden educators (potentially reaching over 700 students) gathered at The Environmental Center in mid-September for a training with OSU Extension Nutrition Education Program staff on the topic of Building Capacity with a School Garden Committee. With support from the Oregon Farm to School & School Garden Network, we act as the Central Oregon Regional Hub for school garden education, and we organize these events that feature trainings, resource sharing, and school garden tours as one of our strategies to support a garden for every school.

Thanks to strong community support, our summer garden grant campaign successfully raised $10,000 to support school garden projects in Central Oregon. The grants application period is now open, and the application, information, and highlights from last years’ grants are all available here, under the Garden Grants tab. Deadline is November 19th.

We’d like to thank our 2018 Garden For Every School business sponsors who make this initiative possible:

We would also like to officially welcome our new FoodCorps Service Member, Tracy Ryan. FoodCorps mission is to connect kids to healthy food in their schools.

During the 2018-2019 school-year, Tracy will be serving in Bear Creek Elementary School in Bend and Three Rivers School in Sunriver. Tracy will support activities in Bear Creek’s outdoor garden and assist with with indoor gardening and healthy food lessons during their weekly Friday afternoon Garden Club. This club is offered as an elective class to all Bear Creek students. She will also facilitate their staff Garden Committee’s collaboration on how best to serve students through hands-on activities in both the garden (their outside classroom) as well as the indoor classroom.

At Three Rivers School, Tracy will be working with the school’s Wellness Committee and their very creative indoor “mobile garden” that is housed in their Garden Room. Tracy will utilize this room throughout the school year to provide hands-on activities and lessons in gardening and healthy food lessons for K-5 classes.

Tracy will also be serving in the cafeteria of both schools by role modeling healthy food choices as well as encouraging students to try new foods. She looks forward to supporting Bend-La Pine School District’s Wellness Policy goals of healthy eating patterns and increased physical activity, which are essential for students to achieve their full academic potential, full physical and mental growth, and lifelong health and well-being.

Here at our own Kansas Avenue Learning Garden, the 5th graders at Amity Creek Elementary School came full circle by returning to the garden to harvest what they planted last spring as 4th graders. Back at their school, students prepped and ate delicious roasted root veggies, kale chips and tomato bruschetta.

An additional thank you to all the volunteers who helped out in our Kansas Ave. Learning Garden during the Tuesday Happy Hour in the Garden series! Don’t forget we have one more fall work party on October 20th, if you’re available to lend a hand.

Show us your clean campsite to win!

Camping is a great way to enjoy nature, spend time with your crew, and find some peace & quiet. But if you’re generating a lot of trash on your weekend adventures, it’s a real burn on Mother Earth. In this short video, we share some great tips on how to have a CLEAN CAMPSITE!
Now it’s your turn. Take a picture of something you do (or bring) while camping that helps reduce waste. Tag your photos #cleancampsite, and mention The Environmental Center, and you could win a prize package of reusable camp gear. Submit your photos through Labor Day! Full details on this giveaway can be found here.

Garden Grants Award Winners Announced

The Environmental Center is proud to announce the winners of their inaugural Garden Grant Program.

Through community, business and foundation support, $7,500 in funds were awarded to seven school garden projects throughout Central Oregon. Schools receiving award funds include: Bear Creek Elementary, Bend International School, Sisters Elementary School, Three Rivers School, REALMS, Seed to Table Educational Farm, and Henry Slater Elementary School. Outdoor infrastructure projects include installing irrigation, building deer fencing, and improving outdoor classroom space. Indoor projects include classroom growing, improved greenhouse production, and building indoor mobile garden carts.

“We were excited to learn about all the new gardens and improvements to current school gardens that are underway in our community,” said Denise Rowcroft, Sustainability Educator with The Environmental Center. “Though $14,000 was requested, we were only able to award half of that. This validates the need in our community for funding innovative projects like these that connect kids to where food comes from.”

The goal of The Environmental Center’s Garden Grant program is to provide local funding for public and private schools in Central Oregon to start, expand, improve or support a new or existing garden or outdoor classroom. Gardens can be indoor or outdoor, edible and/or native/pollinator gardens.

“We at Three Rivers School are excited to be afforded the opportunity to build mobile garden carts and begin growing not only food, but also interdisciplinary and experiential learning opportunities for our students,” said Rebecca Fender, Third Grade Teacher and Wellness Committee member. “We believe this project will encourage critical thinking, help establish mindful eating habits, and develop interest in becoming environmental stewards.”

Garden activities and education provide a wide range of positive benefits for kids, communities and the environment. This garden grant program is one strategy in The Environmental Center’s Garden for Every School initiative.  As part of this initiative, The Environmental Center also provides technical assistance to schools, has hired a FoodCorps service member to connect kids to healthy food in schools, and organizes a local Garden Educator Network. The next scheduled Garden Educator Network meeting is after-school on February 6, 2018. Contact Denise Rowcroft for more information.

These garden grants are supported by local business sponsorships and foundation grants, including:

Bend Whole Foods Marketplace
Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation
Next Level Burger
Saginaw Sunset
Chambers Family Foundation
Bank of the Cascades
Savory Spice
El Sancho
Central Oregon Beekeeping Association

It’s a Repair Revolution!

Two generations ago, most people could handle simple repairs, and most things manufactured were inherently repairable. Fast forward to our current state of fast consumerism, where things are made to be obsolete within 6 months. All that “instant garbage” has to go somewhere. But the bigger impact, the one we don’t witness, is all the materials extracted, then wasted, to turn raw materials into products that are then shipped overseas and trucked across the country to a store – only to break within a year.

But we’re starting to see people return to REPAIRS. Its resurgence can be attributed to many things: A growing maker movement sweeping the nation. People getting fed up with cheap crap. A feeling of pride that comes from being self-reliant. Or the emergence of repair events. It’s also encouraging to see the popularity of Patagonia’s Worn Wear program, which has put repairing clothing in the public eye and made it more accessible to more communities. Whatever the reasons, people are getting into repair all over the world. And it’s about time!


The Environmental Center operates a program called Rethink Waste Project. Through this program, we provide waste prevention/reduction education for Deschutes County residents through a partnership with Deschutes County Department of Solid Waste and our local garbage and recycling service providers. We work together to provide consistent information to the community regarding ideas for preventing waste in the first place, and options for responsible material management. You may be familiar with our Zero Waste stations at events around Bend, or perhaps you’ve seen a Rethink Waste presentation during a staff meeting or community gathering.

p1050092Since 2013, the Rethink Waste Project has organized 11 Repair Cafes – events that bring together volunteer ‘fixers’ and people with broken stuff. Our volunteers are hobbyists, professionals, and avid tinkerers. They attempt to repair broken items such as small furniture, appliances, jewelry, outdoor gear, clothes, and more. Our Repair Cafe events have fixed over 300 items and have provided DIY instructions on another 50. We just held our Fall Repair Cafe last Saturday, November 18th. But don’t worry! You can catch our Spring Repair Cafe on Thursday, April 5th at Ensworth Elementary School from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Recycle right, now more than ever

Check out this article we recently published on our Rethink Waste Project website.

By now you’ve probably heard of China’s impacts on US recycling markets through their more stringent recycled material standards. Due to increasing environmental awareness in China, they are cracking down on imports of scrap material by refusing contaminated loads and potentially banning certain materials outright.  This program, called ‘The National Sword’, is a strong message to the United States to clean up the material stream. What does it mean for you? Keep recycling, but recycle right.

Here in Central Oregon, the mixed recyclables collected from your curb are baled up and sent to a Material Recovery Facility, where they are sorted. “MRF’s”, using machinery and people power, sort and separate what they can. Fans blow paper, magnets attract metals, and people pick through everything else along a conveyer belt that moves at a pretty good clip. These MRF’s are slowing down their lines so they can do a better job of removing contamination (like plastic bags). While this process slows down, the recyclables keep coming in at their regular rate. Because of this back log and limited space, some MRFs have applied to Oregon DEQ to permit dumping their recyclables into a landfill for temporary relief. DEQ released a statement regarding this issue, along with a FAQ here. The Oregon Refuse & Recycling Association (ORRA) also issued a release and a fact sheet on what China’s actions mean for recycling, and Portland Metro has written about how the global market shift will change drop-off recycling in Portland.

If those facilities are granted permission by DEQ to landfill recyclables, it is still viewed as a temporary measure.  Our recycling is still being baled locally and sent to the valley to a MRF for recycling, and we should continue to recycle, regardless of whether or not those permits are issued. However, what we should stop doing is putting things in there that don’t belong there.

Now is an opportunity to make sure your household, office, school and anywhere else you regularly go, are educated and up to speed about what can go in the bin.  What is accepted here has not changed in a long time, but whether you are a wishful recycler or a new resident, everyone would benefit from a refresher. Here’s a quick break down:

  • PLASTICS: Like we tell kids in our school presentations, “bottles tubs and jugs” can be recycled here. If it’s not one of those, it doesn’t go in your mixed recycling bin! It doesn’t matter if it has a recycling symbol on it – virtually all plastic products do, it just tells us what kind it is. (Check out more of our Recycling FAQ’s here).
  • PAPER: Paper, paperboard and cardboard are recyclable. If it has to be lined with something to keep liquids in (or out), it can’t be recycled (picture that paper shredded up and continuing to repel water at a paper mill). Examples of unrecyclable paper include coffee cups, milk cartons, frozen food boxes, and most paper plates.
  • METAL: Cans, pie plates, and clean tin foil are recyclable. All other scrap metal can be recycled at the landfill, but please don’t put it in your mixed recycle cart.
  • GLASS: Yes, glass jars and bottles, but absolutely they must be in the separate container that is provided.

While recycling requires a lot of energy, it is still so so so much less then extracting virgin material from the earth to make new stuff. So yes, keep recycling. But recycle right. We have signs to help you. Then, go beyond recycling to waste prevention. It is much more important, from an environmental life cycle point of view, to be thinking not just about where something goes, but rather where it came from and all those associated impacts.

The most direct way we can take control of this is to do our weekly shopping with waste prevention in mind. Reuse bread bags to buy loose lettuce instead of a buying the lettuce mix in  plastic containers. Use a cloth bag for apples so you can forgo the plastic molded 12-pack of apples. Weigh glass jars at the register before filling up on bulk items like grains. Use waxed cloth instead of plastic wrap to wrap leftovers. And keep your office, car, or bike pannier stocked with a coffee mug, a water bottle and a bag. Start with those and your recycling bin, and all the people who have to deal with it along the way, will thank you.

Three-bin Composting Tips


At The Environmental Center, we have a variety of composting systems, and they each have pros and cons. The 3-bin system is useful primarily because it offers space to have compost at 3 different stages of decomposition. For example, you could put all your compost in one bin for a period of time — then stop adding to it, and start adding to a second bin while the first one finishes decomposing. After time, you would move on to the third bin (and likely harvest compost from the first bin around the same time). Check out the video above to see our 3-bin system in action!

In our Kansas Ave. Learning Garden, instead of rotating through all 3 bins, we use one of those for leaf storage every fall. This makes adding dry carbon material to a bin very easy, and we try to do this after adding in fresh kitchen compost every time. This helps give the compost a nice balance of “brown” and “green” (carbon and nitrogen) materials, which is required for a healthy compost.

The other thing that’s required for a healthy compost is a healthy environment for decomposers. Be sure to add water to your pile so it doesn’t dry out, especially during the hot summer months. An easy way to do this is to fill the rest of your kitchen compost container with water before you walk it out to add to your compost. This has the added benefit of helping to get the gunk off the bottom of your kitchen pail. Or, rinse out the pail out after you dump it (depending on your water source this may mean two trips out to your compost bin).

The third key to having a healthy environment for decomposers is to make sure they get oxygen. Stirring or turning the bin regularly helps, as does regularly adding a couple larger items like sunflower stalks to help keep some holes open in the compost pile. Just be mindful, as too much woody debris can dry out your pile and potentially separate the top of the pile from the bottom, which prohibits healthy decomposition. In our environment, it also helps to add red wiggler worms to these kinds of bins, and they do a lot of that ‘stirring’ for you. Read more info on worm composting.

Once the compost is ready, spread it on as many garden beds as possible, usually in the spring and fall. Here’s a photo blog to demonstrate how to harvest that finished product. Happy fall!!

VIDEO: Fall Clean-up in the Garden

It’s cooling off in Central Oregon and our growing season is coming to a close. What does that mean for my garden? What tasks should I be thinking about (before the snow comes)? Our Garden Manager Denise addresses this common question! Don’t forget to email us your sustainability-related questions so that we can address them during a future episode of Enviro Answers.