Green Tips, travel

Travel to Uzbekistan & Turkmenistan with Harvard

Now here’s an unusual travel itinerary: venture over to Uzbekistan & Turkmenistan — and Iran — with Harvard Museum of Natural History guides.  Keep an eye on this page for upcoming trips, but the current one caught my eye:

Once Forbidden Lands of Central Asia: Uzbekistan & Turkmenistan

April 11 – April 23, 2012 (13 days)

Double occupancy: $4,325 per person
Single supplement: $745
HMNH Leader: Dr. Mark and Mrs. Louisa Van Baalen

IranApril 21 – May 1, 2012 (12 days)

Double occupancy: $4,690 per person
Single supplement: $945
HMNH Leader: Dr. Mark and Mrs. Louisa Van Baalen

Combination Program

April 11 – May 1, 2012 (12 Days)

Double occupancy: $7,945 per person
Single supplement: $1,345
HMNH Leader: Dr. Mark and Mrs. Louisa Van Baalen

Environmental Regulations, Green Reviews, Green Tips, Health, Nature, New England, New Green Economy, Saving the World, travel

Jen White, Kathleen Hurley join Mountain Spirit Institute as advisors

Jennifer White of New London, NH and Kathleen Hurley of Portsmouth, NH, have been recently named “Advisors” to Mountain Spirit Institute (MSI).  MSI is a non-profit educational organization based in Sunapee, NH.

Mount Washington, White Mountains, New Hampshire, USA

MSI programs have been compared to Outward Bound ventures insofar as both strive to engender self reliance, compassion, service, centeredness, physical fitness and interpersonal community-building while developing sensibilities towards stewardship and understanding of the natural environment.  MSI programs aim to endow participants of all ages with a greater appreciation and understanding of their own resources and of the people around them — as well as a better sense of their place in the world.

MSI is based in New England.  Summer 2011 programs cater to New Englanders or people prepared to visit the New Hampshire / Vermont region.

Hurley and White as MSI advisors

In the newly created advisory role, both Hurley and White will contribute expertise and advice to the organization based on their respective fields of experience.

Mountain Spirit Institute, founded in 1998, runs wilderness based programs both domestically and internationally, as well as a wide variety of workshops and retreats. The newly created advisory role broadens the scope of the institute while providing support to the board of directors. The role also engages those individuals in the community who are interested in, and have strong skill-sets and knowledge related to, MSI’s mission.


Kathleen Hurley brings a wealth of corporate and online communications skills plus enthusiasm, writing and publishing acumen and keen business management experience to MSI’s advisory board. Kathleen has been a contributing writer to various New England magazines, and a director-level Marketing and Communications executive for almost a decade. Hurley was also a founding member of the steering committee for the successful Sunapee SunFest, a holistic health, alternative energy, music, arts, and sustainability festival which Mountain Spirit Institute created and ran for a number of years in mid 2000’s.  Hurley currently serves as the Director of Corporate Communications for Actio Corp, Boston, MA.


Jennifer White brings a purpose-driven, holistic approach to sustainability education at MSI. White has been an educator for over fifteen years in a wide variety of academic and community settings, and has a multidisciplinary background in physics, psychology, systems science, permaculture design, and sustainability. She served as the Executive Director of a national nonprofit called the Simplicity Forum, and was the Co-Founder and Director of Education for the Green Heart Institute which was created to help people “understand the global impact of their choices, connect with their values and live sustainably from the heart.”

White has a long history of dedicated volunteerism, but she is perhaps best known for appearing on A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor.   However, her extensive volunteering with community based organizations includes being a founding member of the Rocky Mountain Earth Institute and Transition Town Lyons, both in Colorado.   She is currently the Sustainability Coordinator and an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Colby-Sawyer College, New London, NH.

Fun, educational ways to get involved

If you or someone you know might benefit from travel (some local travel, some international) with intent to heal – please see MSI’s Programs Page or contact Randy Richards at the email provided below.

In June 2011, a MSI group will be going to Vermont for a weekend for an in-depth retreat centered around wilderness and sustainable gardening.  Check it out here:  Spots are limited so MSI advises interested parties to contact MSI as soon as possible to express interest.

Release date: April 16, 2011
Contact: Randy Richards TEL: (603) 763-2668,

This post may serve as a news release; content may be redistributed without consent of the author.  Happy blogging everyone!

New Green Economy, philanthropy, Saving the World, travel

Peace Corps: What Volunteers Get

A few readers wondered what exactly volunteers get out of joining the Peace Corps.  Like, is it charity, like helping at the soup kitchen?  The perception is almost as if you could get the same experience sending a few dollars to a preferred charity or sending old clothes to the Salvation Army.

This is not the case.

If you join the Peace Corps, you travel.  Real travel, not just poking ten toes in the sand on a hot beach in the Caribbean.  (Not that that’s a bad thing but..)

Travel in this case means “travel to experience”… a place, a people, a culture.  Pacific Islands, Asia, South America, Africa….  Like the Army, you go where you’re needed.  You commit.  For over a year.

Peace Corps volunteers travel overseas to make real differences in the lives of real people, says the organization’s web copy.   How awesome is that?  It’s a soul-altering experience.

For love, money, discipline and health benefits

The Peace Corps is a life-defining leadership experience.  It provides a well-traveled perspective and project management experience from which you will draw for the rest of your life.

The most significant accomplishment — and reward — will be the contribution you make to improve the lives of others.  It’s said: just try to feel miserable when the face of a young mother is beaming at you with relief and gratitude at having a new shelter with adequate water.  Watch her sing to her baby now that she can.  And feel it when her eyes catch yours, full of genuine gratitude.

That – will – change – your – life.   Full stop.

Dollars and Sense

There are also other types of benefits for volunteers, personally and professionally.

  • Free Travel: expenses for travel to and from your country of service are 
paid for
  • Living Allowance: a monthly stipend to cover living and housing expenses
  • Vacation: earn two vacation days each month
  • Medical and Dental: 100% medical/dental while serving
  • Health Insurance: affordable health plan up to 18 months after service
  • No Fee: there is no fee to participate in the Peace Corps
  • Student Loans: some deferment, some partial cancellation
  • Transition Funds: receive $7,425 (after full 27 months)

Here’s a form to apply for the Peace Corps. Here are the basics of what it’s like to be a volunteer:

Professional and Career Benefits

As we’ve said, Peace Corps Volunteers gain valuable skills and experience that will help in any career path.  If you’re looking to start your own business or get into Business — there are key things you can learn in the Peace Corps.

Forget feeding the U.S. Private Education Bubble by going $100,000 in debt for an expensive MBA program.  Learn in real life, see what really works.

  • Develop skills for the global marketplace
  • Get job placement support
  • Receive advantages in federal employment
  • Network with vibrant alumni

Talk to someone who was there

The Peace Corps staff of recruiters — all of whom served in the Peace Corps themselves — can tell you what it’s really like to Volunteer, whether or not you qualify, and how to work through the application process.

Contact your local recruiter at 800.424.8580 or use this page to get in touch:

I hope this page helps.  Anyone who is interested in the world and has any sort of interest in making the world a better place must consider the Peace Corps.  Myself included.  Seems like in America we think putting an addition on the house or upgrading the bathroom or getting another degree is going to bring joy to the soul.

There’s more out there.

Leave a comment

Leave a comment if you have been in the Peace Corps and recommend it, or if you have any thoughts on the program.

Remember it’s government run, sort of akin to the National Service in Switzerland (but Peace Corps is not mandatory, just advised).

[note: myself as a blogger / citizen of the U.S. has no affiliation with the Peace Corps at all, just think it’s a friggin’ good idea. cheers.]

New England, New Green Economy, philanthropy, Saving the World, travel

You’re Never Too Old For the Peace Corps

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Peace Corps signed a Memorandum of Understanding last week in Washington, D.C.

Newburyites comment on the Peace Corps
"Never too old for the Peace Corps"

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and Director of the U.S. Peace Corps, Aaron Williams, announced that a Memorandum of Understanding would facilitate stronger institutional ties between the two groups.  The idea is to collaborate on a wide range of environmental issues.  These issues include bringing cleaner cookstoves to millions in the developing world — while “engaging young people,” [quote from EPA] and expanding the global conversation on environmentalism, while supporting local solutions for communities here at home and around the world.

Hold on.  Engaging the “young people?”

That’s great, but what about the rest of us?  Young people want a new skirt, nicer shoes, and a trip to Cancun — not a long day in the African sun helping women repair water mains.  At least, that’s what I wanted…  but I’ve changed!  I swear!

Never Too Late

“It’s never too late to join the Peace Corps,” said Newbury, New Hampshire resident Margo Steeves.  “A woman in my yoga class is 73 and she just returned from a year in Africa.  She had always wanted to join the Peace Corps.  So she just did it.  She liked working in Africa so much she’s going back next year!”

Why do we think we have to be 18 to experience the Peace Corps?  Wouldn’t it make perfect sense to go when we are a little older and wiser?

EPA and Peace Corps Partnership

“The partnership between EPA and the Peace Corps marks an important advance in the work and mission of both organizations,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “EPA and the Peace Corps can expand our efforts both here at home and throughout the world, combining our experiences and knowledge to tackle complex and pressing environmental issues confronting our global community.”

“Everyday, thousands of Peace Corps volunteers around the planet work with local communities to find sustainable solutions to some of the most pressing environmental issues,” said Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams. “Our collaborative work with the EPA will help empower more communities to make environmentally friendly choices.”

Peace Corps Never Gets Old

People in developing countries face extraordinarily high exposures to toxic smoke from indoor fires and inefficient cookstoves that lead to nearly 2 million deaths each year, primarily in young children and women, according to EPA documents.  Thus, the EPA and the Peace Corps will work on:

  1. environmental education
  2. community monitoring
  3. solid waste management
  4. waste water management
  5. safe water management
  6. climate change issues

Peace Corps backgrounder

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps to promote world peace and friendship.

The Peace Corps’ mission states three simple goals:

  1. Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women
  2. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served
  3. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans

Peace Corps Facts:

Peace Corps officially established: March 1, 1961

Total number of Volunteers and trainees to date: 200,000+

Total number of countries served: 139

Current number of Volunteers and Trainees: 8,655

Gender: 60% female, 40% male

Marital Status: 93% single, 7% married

Minorities: 19%

Average Age: 28

Volunteers over age 50: 7%

Education: 90% have at least an undergraduate degree

Fiscal year 2010 budget: $400 million

Fiscal year 2011 budget: $400 million

Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams (Dominican Republic 1967-70) Peace Corps Deputy Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet (Western Samoa 1981-1983)

Toll-Free Recruitment Number: 800.424.8580

Further info:


The 2010 Blizzard of Small-Shop Sales

Well, there was a blizzard in New England last night.   Here’s a picture from Kittery, Maine.   The sign, if you can’t read it, says Warren’s Lobster House.

Warren's Lobster House in Blizzard of 2010
Warren's Lobster House, Kittery, ME in Blizzard 2010

We watched this blizzard form and approach for about a week prior.  We tracked every twist and turn of green blobs, white, blue and pink clumps surging on a collision course across the national weather radar map.  On Christmas Day, my brother and I bent over NECN’s weather pages watching and giggling like — well — siblings on Christmas Day.   Blizzard on the way.

Later, a day or so later, NECN weather would air the photo I took (above) on TV, as the storm actually blew in.  Neat!

NECN is a smaller news outlet in New England.  But it’s the one everyone I know watches.  Smaller, sometimes, is better.

Smart shops

My brother owns and operates a Sunapee area ski & sport shop.   It’s called Outspokin, located in Newbury Harbor.  Over the Christmas holiday he was saying how sales are really good this year.

Surprising, don’t you think?  Why were sales good?

My brother’s experience this fall and winter has been that consumers are finally sick of saving $100 by buying online or in a warehouse style sporting goods outlet — but getting the wrong equipment and therefore not saving anything.   Kind of a duh moment but:  consumers are realizing that a purchase is a waste of money if we don’t use it or if it’s not right for us.

I understood this trend toward smaller, wiser, more attentive shops. Places where the staff actually uses and cares about the products.  Because I’ve started frequenting these shops too.  I’m spending a little more to buy from people who understand how I’m going to use the thing and what features will suit my form and my uses.  Also, I want the staff to be useful after the sale, to answer questions or otherwise follow up.

As consumers, we once again want the expertise, the counsel of folks who live with what they sell.  It’s more expensive, but better value.  Finally, New Englanders are remembering the difference.

In the long run, value funds itself.

I used to think that was malarky.  I thought that with the internet and my broad access to all media, I could research any subject all by myself and decide on the matter.

But it turns out few of us have time/bandwidth to know all about skis, hair products, digital cameras, laptops, and the new line of Toyotas.  Not beyond a superficial survey.

And let’s face it: we don’t respect the neutrality of media like we used to.

For my day job, I’m obligated to know tons about blogs, marketing, social media, industry, manufacturing, green regulations… that’s just a start. In my free time I seem determined to absorb everything ever produced about ancient Egypt and the vicinity.  Then there are the many details of daily life that takes space: friends, family, gas prices, organic food quality, new clothes, on and on.

Few of us have time to keep up with our professional and personal expertise — and then really get our heads around the latest in — huh? — ski equipment.  And yet the $1000 I will drop on snow-sport gear is a big investment.

If done correctly, the $1000 can provide a few years of fun.  But if I get the wrong equipment, it won’t be fun.  It’ll hurt, be cold, and make me ski like a platypus and feel crabby.  And it’ll cost more in the long run — to make it sort-of right.

I have the benefit of my brother’s shop.  But now I want a digital camera.  And am going to use the same principal.

We — New Englanders in particular — are changing our buying habits back to the small, expert-driven shops, says my brother.  I think he’s right.

Am curious to see if ski equipment sales drop off after Christmas or if the trend continues.  And speaking of smaller shops doing an awesome job: kudos to Matt Noyes and the NECN Weather Team for excellent weather coverage during the blizzard of 2010.

And I’m not just saying that because they posted my picture.  (Although I’m very pleased they posted my picture!)  But this smaller-shop weather center is to weather what my brother’s sport shop is to skiing & cycling. Good things in small packages.   Pointing to a trend to a return to an expertise-based model.

The Generalist is dead; long live the Expert instead.


The Day My Father Died

Last night I dreamt a strange dream about having to push a thin older bald man head first down the center of a spiral staircase – one with no known bottom.  I barely escaped without falling myself… but I did and climbed to solid ground.  Didn’t feel bad about it in the dream but I did when I woke up.

Today in flashes & waves I was reminded, by sight or smell or both, of almost everywhere I’ve ever been.  I felt how it felt to be there, and there, and ah yeah, there too.  I wondered what a strange thing, to have a day like that.  I felt odd, like something was going to happen.  I, hopeful as always, imagined it was that feeling you’re rumored to get when a new lover is near.  I felt sentimental about my friends and excited about ones to come.

At about 1:23PM the phone rang at my desk at work – my personal line – ringing for the first time.  No one calls me at work.  I didn’t know how to answer it – what line or button.  It was my older sister.  She – I love her – but had to smile later on the bus ride home realizing that she wins the Worst Person To Deliver Bad News Award.

“Kim I have some bad news.”

“Go ahead.”

“Are you ready?”

“Uh, I don’t know…”

“Are you ready?”

“I don’t know.”

“Dad’s dead.”

All we know is that he had a heart attack and died a couple of hours ago.  He was working.  South Lake Sunapee, in Newbury Harbor.  As it happened, someone ran to get my brother, who has a shop nearby.  My brother got to my father in time “to see his last convulsions.”  No one  knows if he was conscious.  I hope he was – a little bit.  I hope he knew my brother was there.

It’s so silent.  As anytime there’s grief….  You get the initial shock then you wait.  Wait for more details.  Wait to speak with everyone.  Wait to find out if & when there’s a funeral.  And behind the silence churn all the emotions you’ve ever had for the person.  Like a day when

you’re reminded of

everywhere you’ve ever been.


by kmjellen, exclusively for the DeepForestGreen blog