Individual action is crucial… but is it enough?

A simple but powerful mission guides our work here at The Environmental Center: to embed sustainability into daily life in Central Oregon.

As Peter Geiser, one of our founders, says, “It starts with personal change, then change in the place we live, then change in the world.”

As we celebrate our 30th anniversary, I’ve been reflecting on how our approach to achieving our mission is rapidly evolving. For many years, we focused almost exclusively on helping individuals and businesses take action. Recycle and compost more. Use less energy.  Go solar. Bike to work.

Today, our focus is shifting towards changing systems. We recognize that individual action, at home, work and school remains essential. But individual efforts alone won’t create the change we need to ensure a healthy climate for future generations. We also need to address systemic barriers: the spoken and unspoken rules that shape our decisions and the future of our region.

Take local transportation as an example. Sure, all of us could walk and bike more. But those options don’t feel safe for many people in Bend, and our transit system still provides very limited service. The truth is that our transportation system works well for those who can afford to and are able to drive a car, but not so well for everyone else. Why? Because transportation planning and investments have focused primarily on moving cars rather than moving people.

Another example is the housing market. Inefficient homes with high utility bills waste energy and contribute to high living costs, especially for families on limited incomes. Our housing system still focuses almost exclusively on the cost to build or purchase a home or rent an apartment, rather than the full cost of living in that home or apartment. And decision-makers resist even baby steps in a new direction, such as requiring an energy score (a miles-per-gallon score for home energy use) so that renters and home buyers can know their full living costs.

As we move into our next thirty years of education and advocacy, we’ll still focus on individual action as the first step towards a better future. But we’ll also push for change at the system level. Both are needed to ensure a healthy future for people and the planet.

We hope you’ll join us in bridging the gap between personal change and change in the world. Together, we can take local action to make a world of difference.

Mike Riley, Executive Director

Charge Ahead Expansion

Fall 2019 Oregon EV Rebate Program Updates

The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission approved the expansion of the Oregon Clean Vehicle Rebate Program, making it easier for people to purchase electric vehicles. Oregonians who bought or leased eligible electric vehicles between Jan. 1 and Aug. 2, 2018, will once again be allowed to apply for rebates through March 30, 2020. In addition, those purchasing or leasing a new or used plug-in hybrid electric vehicle on or after Sept. 29, 2019 will be eligible for the Charge Ahead Rebate, which offers $2,500 back to low- or moderate-income applicants.

What Does this Mean (early purchases expansion) ?

  • For those who bought qualifying vehicles in the first 6 months of the rebate program are now eligible to reapply. The reasoning behind this shift was that because the program was new and under litigation for those first 6 months, many dealerships didn’t educate their customers in enough time for folks to apply.

What Does this Mean (Charge Ahead Expansion) ?

  • The previous rules only allowed full electric vehicles (no plug in hybrids) to be eligible for the additional income qualified Charge Ahead program.
  • This will expand Charge Ahead to include Plug in hybrids!
  • The rebate will be $2,500 regardless of battery size
  • This will only be applicable for Plug In hybrids sold or leased after 9/29/2019.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Neil at or call him at 541-385-6908 X12.



Intersections Ahead

Bend Needs a Transportation System That’s Good for People and the Planet

Our mission is to embed sustainability into daily life in Central Oregon. It’s a large, complex job that intersects with many other economic and social challenges.

I believe sustainability is about relationships—our relationship with the environment that supports us and our relationship with the people with whom we share our planet. These relationships are inseparable. Together, they shape how and where we live, work, play and learn.

The future of Bend’s transportation system is a great example of how focusing on the intersection of environmental and social needs can shape a local community for the better. I currently serve as co-chair of Bend’s city-wide transportation advisory committee (affectionately known as CTAC). We are developing a draft plan to guide investments in Bend’s transportation system through 2040.

I’m advocating for increased investments in sidewalks, bike lanes, transit and safety. Those investments will get more people out of their cars and thereby reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions over the long-term. Equally important, those investments will also ensure that youth, seniors, families who cannot afford to own a car, and people of all abilities can get around town to meet their daily needs for food, shelter, education, employment, health care and recreation.

In other words, I’m advocating for investments that will build a just transportation system for Bend, one that meets the needs of people and the planet.

Do you support a just transportation plan for Bend? If so, I urge you to share your support, first with my fellow CTAC members and then with the Bend City Council, the final decision-makers about Bend’s transportation future. Over the next few weeks, CTAC and the Council will choose criteria to prioritize specific projects and programs as we develop a funding and phasing plan for transportation investments in bend. Your voice can make a difference.

Share your comments in-person at our next CTAC meeting on June 18th and at a special City Council meeting on June 20th. You can also send written comments to

Join me in urging Bend’s leaders to do what’s right for our people and our planet. We can’t care for one without caring for the other.

Bend’s Transportation Plan: Moving People, Not Cars

The City of Bend recently launched a new planning effort, this time focused on transportation. Its purpose is to develop a plan to meet Bend’s transportation needs through 2040, when Bend’s population will reach 153,000. Yikes—that’s a lot of people trying to get around town.

The City also established the Citywide Transportation Advisory Committee (CTAC), to guide the planning effort. Our job is to provide regular public input that reflects diverse perspectives from all corners of the community. I say our job because I serve as one of the committee’s four co-chairs.

Transportation is the last big planning and infrastructure nut Bend needs to crack. We have a plan for where and how we want to grow, and we have a plan for providing sewer service. But it’s not clear how we’re going to move Bend’s residents and goods and services—oh, and those tourists—around every day. Nor is it clear how we’re going to pay for the new roads, bike lanes, sidewalks and transit stops we need to get that job done.

What’s this new plan going to cost and how are we going to pay for it? Bend’s need for new transportation infrastructure, not to mention repairing and maintaining what we have today, exceeds the available resources. And while state funding will grow some, federal government funds are projected to remain flat or decline. So we’ll have to rely on ourselves.

My work on CTAC has just started. I will advocate for investments not only in roads but also in alternatives, like bike lanes, sidewalks, trails and transit. I want to see investments that protect the safety of all users, so people feel comfortable getting out of their cars. I want a funding plan where all users pay their fair share—including visitors. And I want a plan that is guided by measurable progress on indicators like safety, congestion and reliable travel times for commuters and commerce.

Key to achieving that plan will be for CTAC to hear from people like you who support my priorities. Our first public meeting is coming up on June 11th. I hope to see you there.

*Photo Credit (above): City of Bend