On the corner of Lawrence Street sits a tiny white building that houses feisty nonprofit Beyond Toxics, which has advocated for environmental and social justice reforms in the state of Oregon since 2001 — you might remember it as Oregon Toxics Alliance.
On Feb. 5, Beyond Toxics will celebrate its 15th anniversary at Capitello Wine Bar in downtown Eugene, as well as introduce a state ballot petition banning aerial chemical sprays.
“We have become the go-to venue for people because often times traditional venues are not responsive,” says Joel Iboa, environmental justice and community outreach manager for Beyond Toxics.
Lisa Arkin, executive director of Beyond Toxics, says she receives constant messages from community members from all over Oregon asking for the nonprofit’s assistance and advice.
“We get calls from moms; we get calls from agencies; we just seem to be at the nexus of where government and communities try to find solutions,” Arkin says.
Beyond Toxics has successfully worked with allies to protect Oregonians from chemicals and pollution, from passing SB 637 in 2009, which called for protecting children from pesticides on Oregon school properties, to collaborating with Western Environmental Law Center to pass SB 528, a ban on field burning in the Willamette Valley, also in 2009.
Most recently, Arkin says, Beyond Toxics has partnered with nonprofit Oregon Wild and other conservation groups to push for a handful of ballot measures banning aerial pesticide sprays on private industrial and state forests that provide drinking water for Oregon communities or salmon habitat.
Arkin explains that according to Oregon community complaints and state findings, “These chemicals are drifting far away from where they were sprayed and harming people, killing pets, blinding livestock and getting into water systems.”
Arkin and Iboa say that Beyond Toxics has relied on its tenacity to advocate for reforms where money and politics intertwine.
“Legislature has kind of been reluctant to take any action because a lot of legislators receive donations from timber companies and chemical companies, and their lobbyists are really powerful and very effective,” Arkin says. “We want to ban aerial spray because we know it’s unnecessary for a healthy timber economy.”
Guests will have the opportunity to sign the aerial spray ballot petition at Beyond Toxics’ anniversary party, where Arkin hopes to collect 1,000 signatures. Former EW columnist and longtime environmental activist Mary O’Brien, now living in Utah, is expected to attend.
The Beyond Toxics 15th anniversary celebration starts at 5:30 pm Friday, Feb. 5, at Capitello Wine Bar, 540 Charnelton Street in downtown Eugene. Tickets are $30 in advance or $35 at the door. Tickets can be purchased at beyondtoxics.org.