Betty Shelley was preparing dinner one evening, when a chance encounter on her husband Jon’s bus ride home altered the course of their evening – and their lives. He happened to sit next to Dick Roy. Excitedly, he walked into the kitchen, announcing, “Stop cooking, we’re going to the Northwest Earth Institute!” From that moment, their journey into sustainability began.
Drawn into the world of sustainability, Betty and Jon started with a Deep Ecology discussion course at NWEI, now Ecochallenge.org. This spurred them on to co-create a course on voluntary simplicity. Betty's connection with NWEI deepened as she regularly volunteered, contributing to the nonprofit’s curriculum committee, attending yearly retreats for local volunteers, and even venturing to national gatherings near Mount Hood. Her dedication led her to travel alongside Dick and Jeanne Roy for retreats across states, forging connections with fellow Earth Institute members. Dick often fondly remarked that Betty was the "third founder of NWEI."
Their journey wasn't just about NWEI, though; it was about the transformation of their daily lives. It began with small steps - letting go of paper napkins. Gradually, they eliminated various kinds of paper, plastics, and cardboard. They started shopping secondhand, embracing the circular economy. Their conscious decisions culminated in an astonishing feat: they produced only one can of trash a year.
Beyond her personal changes, Betty also became a beacon for the community. She spearheaded initiatives like the Hillsdale Farmer’s Market and a notable waste reduction course titled “Less is More: Living to One Can of Garbage A Year.” Through her outreach, she connected with hundreds, sharing her message across states.
Reflecting on her journey, Betty states, “Being involved with NWEI is not just an activity; It influences how you think and feel. So many of us just totally changed the way we live. I made big changes. Huge changes. I became exposed to so much through the curriculum committee. For example, I learned that for every can of garbage you put to the curb, there are 70 cans of waste created upstream. The less you consume, the less waste you create. The frugality of it, I love. You can have a simple, clean life.”
Betty’s story is a testament to how one small moment, one bus ride home, can spark a lifetime of change while inspiring those you meet along your way.
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