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How to make a difference this Earth Day: Support environmental nonprofits by visiting local small businesses

Earth Day Oregon has partnered 280 nonprofits with 70 local, small businesses to generate millions in revenue to help the environment.

PORTLAND, Oregon — This Earth Day you can support both small, local businesses and nonprofit groups working to save the environment and empower disadvantaged populations. 

The group Earth Day Oregon has paired up 280 local businesses that are giving a portion of their sales to 70 environmental nonprofits.

Right before the pandemic shutdown, Powell Butte Elementary, in outer southeast Portland's Centennial School District, teamed up with nonprofit Depave to transform an unused, cracked and crumbling asphalt parking lot into a nature space. The new area includes native plants, a learning circle, pathways and even a play space for the students with musical instruments.

Credit: KGW
A once crumbling parking lot at Powell Butte Elementary School (top photo) was turned into a nature space for the kids (bottom photo).

Marin Miller is the principal of Powell Butte Elementary.

"The space wasn't fully being utilized and it was getting in disrepair," he said. "Right now, it's integrated into this school. Students love it and you could probably tell that they take care of it. They take pride in it much more than a parking lot."

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"We work mostly with community centers and schools to remove asphalt and replace it with native green space," said Katya Reyna of Depave. 

Reyna is the program director of the nonprofit. 

"We actually pre-cut the asphalt with big saws and we make it so that they're in smaller chunks and then the community members come out and actually pry it up with pry bars by hand. It's really fun, it's very satisfying." 

Credit: Depave
Volunteers working to pry up asphalt at Powell Butte Elementary School in 2019.

Depave's next big project is coming this summer to another Centennial school. They always needs volunteers for the heavy lifting and donations to pay for the plants, materials and play features. 

"We have fifth grade classrooms that are right now working on natural plants," Miller said. "And they're actually coming out here to study the natural plants in this area. Many of our students, they've lived in the city all their life. They don't get that nature exposure and so this brings a little bit of nature into our community."

That's actually Depave's focus: to inject nature in areas that are historically disadvantaged. 

"A lot of kids that grow up, you know, out east in eastern Portland have less access to parks and green spaces in general," Reyna said. 

Depave has four local small businesses, with each donating a portion of sales to the nonprofit this Earth Day.

Credit: KGW
Breakside Brewery is donating $1 from every pint of beer sold on Earth Day Friday April 22nd, to their non-profit partner The Forest Park Conservancy.

Another business doing good work and making good beer is Breakside Brewery. The brewery is celebrating 12 years and five locations around the Portland metro area. These guys make over 100 different kinds of beer in a year. On Earth Day, a dollar from every pint sold will go to the Forest Park Conservancy.

"We'll have a nice setup outside that folks can walk by [at the Northwest Slabtown location]," said Ian Nesbit, Breakside's sales and marketing manager. "They can sign up to volunteer. They can sign up to be members. We'll be selling beer and hopefully educating some folks."

The Forest Park Conservancy works with thousands of volunteers to protect the 5,200 acre park, which is the largest urban forest in the country with miles of trails and some old growth trees.

"Being from the Midwest, it's the trees, the huge old trees we have here," Nesbit said. "It didn't register for a long time when I first got here, how big the trees are. This is a great opportunity for us to kind of share our platform, which is growing. It's kind of our duty to do that because without a clean environment, especially if we don't preserve and keep waterways clean, there is no beer."