Success After Service: Former Corpsmembers Turn Into Business Owners

Colin MacDonald, a ’99 alum of EarthCorps, owns a private consulting firm with Steven Humphreys. Restoration Logistics takes a private approach to the environmental restoration work that EarthCorps and other nonprofits complete. The business works to bridge the gap between the science of ecology and the restoration projects taking place on the ground in the Puget Sound region. Working on both the consulting and contracting sides of ecological restoration, Restoration Logistics designs plans to improve and maintain natural habitats.

 

Aisha Dorn, an alum and graduate of Civic Works Community Lot program and B’more Green Environmental Certification program, now owns her own environmental management business, Lifeline Environmental, with her husband. Before starting her own business Aisha worked with a temp agency just one week after she completed her training. At her new job she met her husband Marc, who was injured at a worksite due to unsafe practices. Safety is important to Aisha and she felt that she could enter the industry on her own, making the jobs safe, correct, and efficient. It was this passion that led her and Marc to start Lifeline Environmental and since its creation they have seen much success. Many of her clients are nonprofits, including Civic Works where Lifeline was hired to help with the Clifton Mansion renovation process. Says Aisha, “it’s just such a strong network to be a part of.”

 

Revan Qajar, a graduate and former staff member of Urban Corps San Diego, started his own photography studio in El Cajon! His business, San Diego Stars Photography, provides professional photography and cinematography packages for all occasions.

 

Christy Jensen, an alum of Utah Conservation Corps, started her own craft kombucha brewery (lightly fermented tea with probiotic qualities) in Salt Lake City. Her business, Mamachari Kombucha, has gotten off to a great start, being sold in local restaurants and farmers’ markets. She has even found the need to expand and move production to a larger space! “Mamachari” means “mother’s bicycle” in Japanese, which reflects Christy’s love of bikes. Aside from her business, Christy also started a Womyn’s Wrench Night where women can bring their bikes and learn how to fix them. 

EarthCorps Selected for 300 Year Long Habitat Restoration Stewardship Project in Washington

From EarthCorps

EarthCorps was selected by the Commencement Bay Trustees to be the stewards of a cutting edge restoration fund to provide long-term maintenance, monitoring and community engagement at 17 restoration sites in and around Tacoma’s Commencement Bay for 300 years.

This collaborative partnership is seen as a model for the rest of the country to look to for long-term environmental stewardship. Trustees represent NOAA, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Dept. of Interior, The Puyallup Tribe of Indians, the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, and WA Dept. of Ecology. 

The restoration sites are part of an EPA cleanup and subsequent habitat restoration. In order for EarthCorps to conduct the work, we are EarthCorps has been entrusted with $4.9 million dollars to invest for the sole purpose of providing the annual funds required to ensure the long-term stewardship of these sites.

Read more on NOAA's website. 

Boiler Plate: 
EarthCorps was selected by the Commencement Bay Trustees to be the stewards of a cutting edge restoration fund to provide long-term maintenance, monitoring and community engagement at 17 restoration sites in and around Tacoma’s Commencement Bay for 300 years.

EarthCorps Featured in Seattle Times by "Fit for Life" Columnist

Benjamin Benschneider / The Seattle Times

Excerpted from the Seattle Times

Corps work: Get good exercise for the good Earth

Fit for Life columnist Nicole Tsong is all in for working hard and doing good for the planet by volunteering with EarthCorps, the nonprofit Seattle-based organization dedicated to environmental restoration and developing community leaders.

Special to The Seattle Times

BURIED DEEP in a thicket of sword ferns in Lincoln Park in West Seattle, wrestling with vine after vine of English ivy, I wished I had worn a heart monitor. Crouching in a forest and pulling out English ivy by the roots isn’t easy; I wanted to know exactly how hard I was working.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think ahead. So I relied on the fact that I was doing something good for the environment, and also the feelings in my legs, lower back and shoulders that told me weeding a forest for three hours or so is plain hard work.

Plenty of studies tell us that working out keeps us strong and elevates our mood, which can only be good for people around us. Most of us work out for the endorphins, to build strength, to get fit. Still, I don’t count going to the gym as public service.

Then there is EarthCorps. The nonprofit Seattle-based organization is dedicated to environmental restoration and developing community leaders, and its volunteer work requires physical effort for improving not only Lincoln Park but Magnuson Park in the North End and others scattered around Puget Sound. Working hard and doing good for the planet? Count me in.

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Boiler Plate: 
Fit for Life columnist Nicole Tsong is all in for working hard and doing good for the planet by volunteering with EarthCorps, the nonprofit Seattle-based organization dedicated to environmental restoration and developing community leaders.

The Climate Change Work of Seattle's EarthCorps

EarthCorps recently hosted a U.S. Department of State staff member. They work with the State Department to secure visas for EarthCorps' international participants. Secretary of State John Kerry has a strong interest in climate change, so EarthCorps was asked to provide some information about their work in the context of climate change. 

They've put together a nifty handout which highlights the work of three international alumni as well as two EarthCorps initiatives that all focus on climate change.

Download it here. 

EarthCorps Participates in Tidal Wetland Restoration in Effort to Increase Wetland Greenhouse Gas Sequestration

Restoring tidal wetlands: pioneering a biocarbon solution at the Snohomish River Delta

By Keeley O’Connell, Senior Project Manager, EarthCorps

Tidal wetlands provide great potential to sequester and store greenhouse gases. Restore Americas Estuaries and EarthCorps, with funding from NOAA’s Office of Habitat Conservation and support from Western Washington University, are investigating the carbon sequestration value of tidal wetlands.

The goal of EarthCorps’ effort is to assist locally with Restore America’s Estuaries national effort to develop new market and policy-based incentives that leverage carbon offsets to fund the conservation and restoration of coastal wetlands.  We are losing these wetlands at an unsustainable rate of up to 3 percent globally per year.

Most carbon offset science and projects have focused on forestry or agriculture; however, research suggests that coastal wetlands sequester carbon at rates 3-5 times greater than temperate forests. Coastal wetlands represent significant stores of soil carbon, accumulated over centuries and millennia. In addition, some tidal marshes have the potential to reduce emissions of other greenhouse gases, such as methane. 

...EarthCorps’ Coastal Blue Carbon project in the Snohomish River delta and estuary is the first in a nationwide effort to develop protocols for greenhouse gas sequestration through tidal wetland habitat restoration. This area is ideal because it contains a full spectrum of wetland types in one watershed. It also has a suite of shovel-ready restoration projects. This project will deliver site-specific, field-verified carbon values.  Field data will contribute to the growing body of literature on wetland carbon pools.

Click here to read more

Marriage Unites EarthCorps Alumni From Two International Programs

Steve Dubiel, Executive Director of EarthCorps, sent us this exciting message about the recent marriage of two EarthCorps alumni who met through the Corps's international partnerships in the Philippines and Russia. 

Congratulations Anastasia and Ronald!
 


 

Hi All,

Over the years we’ve had many EarthCorps alumni marriages.  This is obviously not why people join the corps, but when you bring together people with deeply held shared values, lifelong relationships often form.  This story is too sweet not to share. 

You may know that our two longest and deepest international partnerships are with Palawan Conservation Corps (Philippines) and Great Baikal Trail Association (Russia).  We recently had two EarthCorps alumni marry- Anastasia from GBT and Ronald from PCC.  Ronald is a great success story in that he participated in PCC’s program for out of school youth, graduated from the program, went on to college, and joined EarthCorps after graduation.  Ronald is now back at PCC- and Anastasia has joined him. 

Both GBT and PCC alumni put their EarthCorps experience to work in their home communities.  The photos I’ve included in this email are of trail work (see if you can spot a locally made Pulaski as I did) and shoreline mangrove forest replanting (notice how EarthCorps’ volunteer engagement strategy has made it to the Philippines). 

Cheers,

Steve 

 

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EarthCorps Crew Leader Reflects On Transformative Summer Experience


 

Editor's Note: Each summer many of our Corps send crews into the backcountry and wilderness. From time to time we publish accounts of these experiences. The one we are publishing today is among the best. Based in Seattle, Washington, EarthCorps is unique among The Corps Network's membership in that many of its Corpsmembers are recruited from overseas. This account was written by a crewleader named Zach.


 

I’ve always felt that working and living in the wilderness provides a great equalization between people. It helps to bring forward all the essential qualities between humans and strips them of their differences. In the backcountry, you are all on the same footing. When you live in a tent, it doesn’t matter how much your property is worth. When you are swinging the same tools, your credentials do not stratify you. When you are speaking a common language of slope, grade, and soil, your mother tongue does not define you.

As a Crew Leader at EarthCorps, I serve with a group of young professionals from across the globe to restore local habitats. A challenge faced by operating crews from such different backgrounds is building a common community in which all the participants can fully realize their potential. Often, our work takes place in the greater Seattle area. We maintain and create sustainable habitats by removing Blackberry and other invasive species of plants from parks and green-spaces. We spend most of our time restoring public land so that people may reconnect with the urban wilderness that exists in the city. 

Cities are a nucleus for human creation. Often these artifices are specific for the group of people that have created them. Surrounded by the creations of Pacific North West culture, it is easy to discuss only the differences between the crew members. Recently I had a conversation with my Crew Member João from Brazil about the HOV lanes we use in Seattle. He was amazed by the speed in which we were able to bypass WA-520 traffic on a Tuesday morning. Our trip to a Kirkland park became a lively discussion about the Eisenhower Interstate system and the comparative construction of Brazilian, Ugandan, and Nepalese transit systems as others chimed into the conversation. In trying to build a community of this diverse group, it is essential to find the commonalities between us instead of just the differences. Surrounded by cultural artifacts, a diverse group often just sees the contrasts.

In July my crew was able to participate in some trail maintenance and building along the Foss River in the Necklace Valley Wilderness. We spent eight days living many miles from other people. We were visited only by the occasional hiker heading up to Jade Lake and a few of the more curious critters looking for berries. For a few members of my crew, it was the first time for them to get into the backcountry. They were academics from top universities across the globe--more comfortable finding a book on hydrology than swimming in a river. For me, I was excited to leave the roar of the Sound and return to a place where things were simpler. 

Stripped of the city, we were alone in our surroundings. Suddenly, the crew members from the United States no longer had the cultural home-field advantage. Haddy from Uganda and Prati from Nepal could live as comfortably as Natalya from Indiana or Max from Washington under the forest canopy. No longer surrounded by culture, we were revealed as humans. Our conversations changed as we spent more time in the forest. Before we would talk about American holidays and how they were different from Nepalese festivals. Now we discussed the underlying concepts of belonging to a place and how family and community helped center our identities. As a crew, our festivals did not rely on tradition but around sharing calories after a long day of work. The universal and basic feelings of hunger, fatigue, and camaraderie were now central. We had taken off our cultural overcoats to find the human underneath. Every night we would uncover different joys that each of us had buried inside of them and we would share them with laughter and compassion around a campfire.

All too soon the days drifted by and we hauled our gear out on a beautiful sunny day. Our packs seemed light after eating much of the food and hauling rocks for the past week. But as we got closer to the city we started carrying more: phone calls we had to make, bills to be paid, friends to visit and chores to be done. We wrapped ourselves in our national flags again and started settling into our place among other people and the routine of the city. 

Yet now it seemed different. We had seen each other as hungry, loving, tired, happy, capable humans. Instead of identifying each other based on our pasts and traditions, we could see each other more clearly as people. All of us possessed the same fundamental qualities, fears, and desires. We just spoke about it with different words. The distance between Nepal and Seattle seemed smaller now. We had crossed a bridge in our community and now had a better understanding of each other within our small group. We had done restoration work on each other as we worked on that trail. 

The backcountry brings people together in a very unique way. It closes the gap between cultures and brings to the forefront all the human things that are so often muffled by the noise of our creation. I have always enjoyed its ability to fundamentally change perspectives. My crew was a powerful example of this. We hiked in a small community centered on exploring cultural differences. We came out a global community of six young humans.

EarthCorps Alumnus Assists Japan Disaster Relief, Aims to Create New Conservation Corps in Japan


 

Tatsuya Tsukamoto, a 1999 EarthCorps alumnus, has been supporting recovery efforts in Japan following the devastating March 11th earthquakes and tsunami.

According to EarthCorps Director Steve Dubiel, "Tatsuya has continually pursued his dream of launching a conservation corps movement in Japan."

Tsukamoto recently emailed Dubiel and says that he's currently working with the volunteer Center in Tochigi and the Tochigi Conservation Corps to provide relief and assistance to affected communities.

In the Fukushima area, Tsukamoto and the Corps have been working in a damaged city named Iwaki City (right), near where one of Japan's nuclear power plants was damaged and is releasing radioactive materials. As a result, Tsukamoto and the Corps are planning to start a Fukushima Conservation Corps to "restore the city and the environment," but only once the nuclear plants become safe. (See more photos).

Tsukamoto wrote Steve saying: "I would like to ask you and EarthCorps to send some volunteers in the future, after Atomic Energy plants become safe. Also, I may ask you and Conservation Corps in USA to support starting Fukushima Conservation Corps, when it is ready."

To learn more about EarthCorps and it's international mission to restore habitat and lead environmental service volunteers, please click here. 

How a Corpsmember Used his Stipend to Start a Successful Nonprofit in India that Upcycles Waste

 

This year C. Srinivasan was the recipient of Earthcorps' Annual Alumni Award. Steve Dubiel, Executive Director of EarthCorps, recently took time to write us and explain Srinvasan's inspirational story. Based in Seattle, Washington, Earthcorps enrolls participants in a year long program. Approximately half of its participants  are AmeriCorps members and the other half are from other countries. In total, Earthcorps has alumni in 74 countries. 

In 1997 we had the pleasure of welcoming C. Srinivasan to EarthCorps. He’s from India. While at EarthCorps, Srinivasan saved the majority of his stipend to launch a non-profit, Exnora-Green Cross Vellore (soon to be renamed Indian Green Service).

The driving goal for all of Exnora-Green Cross Vellore's work is to “bring about socio-economic changes through employment generation based on environmental conservation.” Programs seek to utilize three abundant resources: sunlight, people power, and garbage. Srinivasan told me that “EarthCorps helped me to understand that the goal is not to isolate people from nature, but to help both coexist sustainably.” He further added that, “my real success in India is because of the field work I did with EarthCorps in Seattle.” Srinivasan provides a model for all of us to help educate people and “help them see the legacy (good or bad) that they will leave their children.”

Srinivasan’s organization has launched several initiatives, including a Zero Waste Management project. Using India’s people power, Srinivasan has developed an innovative model for transforming waste management. Instead of collecting and dumping garbage at great cost, Exnora-Green Cross Vellore has created a system that generates modest profit from waste collection by "upcycling," or transforming nearly all waste into marketable goods. Waste is collected twice each day and sorted into approximately 200 categories. Each component is then developed into a marketable good that is sold to support the overall program. There are only about 10 items that can’t be recycled, including items like chewing gum, Styrofoam, broken ceramic, and aluminum candy wrappers.

Srinivasan and his team are constantly working to reduce the number of non-recyclables and have reached out to 1,000 companies (India, US, and beyond) working with them to redesign packaging and products to move closer to the goal of zero waste. This model program has the attention of the Indian government who has tapped Srinivasan and set the goal to replicate the program in 500,000 communities across India over the coming 3-5 years. Needless to say, this is an incredible success.

Srinivasan’s story provides a great example of how corps programs inspire young people to change the world and give them tools to succeed.