Planning Green Lifestyle Tours for Family Nature Summits

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
  • Appliqué
  • 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 Crazy as a Loom near Glen Falls, New York

At Crazy as a Loom near Glen Falls, New York

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Look at the websites of the local Chambers of Commerce – Click anything that might be a green company.
  3. Use Green America’s National Green Pages website – This is a national database of green companies.
  4. 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.




17 thoughts on “Planning Green Lifestyle Tours for Family Nature Summits

  1. Emily Kullmann on

    Being on ur tours is always a summertime treat! You have an amazing way of finding the most interesting places……some of my favorites are the lilac farm, the woman who had the old tobacco farm set up with the photography tents, and the trout farm in Missourii. I wish we could go back to them all and spend a week! I think we need to do something with all the scarfs we have collected over the years……hey I’ve got it….a fashion show wearing only the scarfs. Hummmmmm

    • Carla Brown on

      Dear Emily – Thanks for your comment! The places you mentioned were not on my green tours 🙂 but it just goes to show that the Family Nature Summits offers a ton of cool stuff to visit, and not just my tours! In the past I taught people how to make a quilt from their Summit scarves and hand quilt them. I’m working on a prototype for a scarf-themed class this summer – you’ll have to wait to see!

    • Carla Brown on

      Thanks Janet – You have always been so supportive of the green lifestyles elements at the Summit and I look forward to more green adventures with you!

  2. Elizabeth on

    I loved the goat farm in the Ozarks. The weather was not cooperative, but the people were great and the farm and house were so interesting.

    And I’m still collecting ties for that day far in the future when I have enough time to make a crazy quilt.

    • Carla Brown on

      Elizabeth – I was thinking about offering my “crazy quilts from men’s ties” class again at this year’s Summit. That was a fun class and I haven’t taught it at Summit for a while. I’ll write a blog about that soon!

  3. I’ve been bringing my family to The Summits for 15 years and my favorite activities have been Carla’s Green Living Tours!

    And she has a lot of competition because there are so many great activities at the Summits.

    We are looking forward to Bar Harbor.

  4. joan saverino on

    Nice blog. We probably aren’t going to be able to come to Maine, but Peggy Yocom has just retired and is in Maine full time now. Here is the GMU link with info on her work in Maine: and it has her contact info here. She would be a great resource and would know many people to contact. You always come up with great tours. The folklorists up there know all the folks.

  5. Mike McCune on

    Hi Carla,
    Have you looked in the College of the Atlantic? A small college founded in the late ’60s on the coast just outside Bar Harbor. Its curriculum is dedicted to the study of Human Ecology: humans’ impact on the environment.
    They’ve undertaken a lot of green initiatives over the years. You might find them interesting. Here’s a link:
    I have a 6-year-old son and though we haven’t taken part in Family Nature Summits’ programs yet, I do get FNS emailings and look forward to the day we can finally take part!

    Mike McCune

    • Carla Brown on

      Thanks Mike! We have contacted the College and we’ll see if we get a response. It’s challenging in the summer. I’m sure many of the faculty and students head out. We hope to see you at a future Summit!

    • Carla Brown on

      I researched it, but it is 1.5 hours drive from Bar Harbor, which is too far for our green tours. We try to keep the tours within one hour. I think it would be a great thing for folks to visit on their way!

  6. Mary Jane Getlinger on

    Will your green tour be in the programing information for the Bar Harbor summit? Will it be during the summit or before or after the summit? We are signed up for the summit. I am a quilter and i would be interested in knowing what you have planned for Bar Harbor. MJ

    • Carla Brown on

      Dear MJ: I’m looking forward to meeting you! The green tour information will be listed when the class registration opens. In the meantime, I just put up a sneak peek blog at so you can see my progress since this older blog. There are also other blog posts about the other classes I am hoping to offer – rug hooking with recycled t-shirts, wine cork mats and crazy quilts from men’s ties. I hope you might take some of my classes! Thanks! Carla

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