Camp Common Ground: A Truly Sustainable Vacation

With our grand opening event less than 30 days away, we've got sustainability on the mind! I wrote this article for Queen's Karma Magazine in the fall, but thought it was a good reflection and reminder of just how green a vacation at Camp Common Ground can be. Sometimes we get a little caught up in solar trackers, the latest green technology, and VOC free paint that we forget that good old-fashioned composting and sleeping under the stars can be just as good for our mother earth. We hope to see you on April 30 for the Grand Opening and don't forget to register for Camp!

A Truly Sustainable Vacation (And it's fun too!) 

Like so many of us today, you are trying to be greener. Not always easy when you are living in New York City or trying to find local produce in the dead of winter, but you still try. You compost, you recycle, you bring your bags to the grocery store, you go to the local farmers markets, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

What happens though when you go on vacation? You take a flight to Europe and your carbon footprint has already grown to the size it would be if you drove around a Hummer for a year. You stay in a hotel that guzzles electricity, you eat at restaurants and have no idea where the food comes from, and you go through a countless number of plastic water bottles trying to stay hydrated as you go in and out of air-conditioned museums.

Don’t get me wrong, I love going on vacation to an exotic locale and thoroughly appreciate all that it can add to my children’s lives. But sometimes there’s a need for a greener vacation. A need to uphold all that you do throughout the year for our mother earth. But where can you find such a place?

This is exactly what Peg Kamens and Jim Mendell were looking for when they set out to find the perfect family vacation with their three young children. Turns out that fun, sustainable vacation spots that the whole family can enjoy were not quite so common, so they began Camp Common Ground. Since it’s humble beginnings at a rented facility, Camp Common Ground has blossomed into a thriving community, has gained non-profit status, and has its own land on a converted farm in Starksboro, Vermont. It is now known as Common Ground Center, a sustainable center perfect for retreats and weddings, and they still offer the unique programming that they started with 18 years ago.

At Camp Common Ground you unload your stuff into a cozy cabin, go park your car, and then you have no reason to go anywhere for a whole week. There are 700 acres of conserved land to explore and hike. There are wrap-around porches to read and relax on. There are endless activities that both you and your kids can enjoy (separately and together) from yoga to watercolors to dance to violin to nature exploration. Most importantly, a warm crew of kitchen staff makes three meals a day for you from local and organic produce. And you don’t have to do the dishes.

The best part is that there is no need to even think about making sustainable choices while at Camp Common Ground because they do it for you. The facility is 100% solar powered – you can’t miss the eight solar panels in an open field when you arrive. All food scraps are composted and of course they recycle. They continually make responsible choices; for example, when their lawn mower broke down this year, they replaced it with one that runs on bio-diesel saving 10,000 pounds of carbon emissions. The program spaces are made from converted barns and most doors and windows are salvaged from recycle centers. Even the play structure is made of recycled playground parts!

Common Ground has a camp-like charm, which is one of its greenest points as well as one of its biggest assets. For example, although the cabins (made with wood harvested from their own land) have real beds and mattresses, screens, and cute painted doors, they don’t have electricity to cut down on Common Ground’s carbon footprint. This means that you can actually see the stars and lightning bugs at night as you wander to bed. When was the last time your child saw an endless ceiling of stars and you stayed up just a bit later to look for meteors?

No electricity in the cabins also means that common spaces are actually used in the evenings. People gather, play music and games, have fun, and make actual connections with other families and people. When was the last time you had a truly stimulating conversation with someone new rather than watching TV in your apartment?

So, when you start to think about planning your family summer vacation, consider Camp Common Ground. There are four, all-inclusive, week-long sessions to choose from. You’ll return feeling rejuvenated, healthy, and green and will have created family memories to last you until next year!