Each summer, I plan “green lifestyle tours” in some part of the United States. They are part of the Family Nature Summits, a summer vacation program for families. The Summit includes programs on many topics and I have been a faculty member since 2002. At past Summits I have taught:
- Hand quilting
- Rug hooking
- Crazy quilts from recycled men’s ties
- Top 100 green living tips
- Raising children to enjoy nature
At the 2009 Summit in Silver Bay, New York, I created two new concepts for the Summit. One was a Green Lifestyles Evening where families went from table to table learning green living skills. The other was Green Lifestyles Tours, where I took attendees to visit innovators in the nearby community.
The Green Lifestyle Tours are a lot of work, particularly since I am planning them in communities that I have never explored, visiting people I have never met. Not only do I need to find green innovators, but I have to understand how far it takes to get from point A to point B based on Google maps. I have to trust that these folks will be as great in person as they are on the phone or via email. I have planned these tours in three places so far:
- Around Lake George, New York
- Around Lake Tahoe, California
- Around Boulder, Colorado
At each tour, I have met people who inspired me deeply. The first tour was the most difficult, because I had no clue what I was doing. All the tours were wonderful, but there was one particular day that stands out as one of the best days of my life. That will need to be a blog for another day!
This summer, the Summit is at Bar Harbor, Maine. Luckily, I have a school friend who lives in Blue Hill, Maine – so I have someone who lives locally who can tell me if I’m on the right track. But now that I have made three of these tours, I have a methodology to get started:
- Get acquainted with the geography – I make a list of local place names and how far they are from our Summit location – All green tour sites must be less than one hour’s drive away.
- Look at the websites of the local Chambers of Commerce – Click anything that might be a green company.
- Use Green America’s National Green Pages website – This is a national database of green companies.
- Use Local Harvest’s website – This gives me a list of local farmers who are doing organic farming, as well as farmer’s markets, restaurants and food co-ops.
Once I start seeing a trend of good sites, I search intensively with those community names and learn as much as I can about them. I find the names of any non-profit organizations that serve those local communities.
Then I lay out the potential site locations by geography and narrow it down to 1-3 tour routes. I start emailing and phoning the people. First, I need to determine who might be available to talk to us during the Summit, and what is their schedule? Then I interview them to see who are the best storytellers. Finally, if I have two sites that are similar, I have to choose between them, to ensure the tour has a nice variety. And we need a nice place to stop for lunch who can handle a large group – 10-30 people.
Since I have been reading about green lifestyles topics since college, I know which people are doing something a little different. There are lots of organic farmers, fair trade coffee shops, micro-breweries, non-profits fighting for local green issues, community gardens, green architects, green schools, organic wineries, cafés, artists who make things from local nature etc. So I’m looking for people who are doing something I have not heard about before. I want to bring my tours to see someone who is doing something meaningfully unique.
Right now, I am narrowing in my tour locations for the Bar Harbor Summit. I am trying to finalize a tour to these three locations:
- Bar Harbor itself,
- sites near the community of Blue Hill, which is about one hour’s drive northwest, and
- sites near the community of Winter Harbor, which is about one hour’s drive northeast.
I prefer two tours each year, so one of these will likely not happen, but we’ll see if I fall too much in love with all three locations.
If you have suggestions for green tour locations in these three areas, let me know!
And if you have never attended a Family Nature Summit before, please visit the website. It is a very popular location this year, but I believe there is still some spaces left. My family loves attending each year, including my parents. This year, my nephew is coming for the first time.