EcoChallenge from Balch Hotel in Dufur, Oregon

Jeff & Samantha Irwin renovated the Historic Balch Hotel and it’s now a wonderful place to stay, have a gorgeous, sunny Columbia Gorge wedding or attend delectable Supper Club dinners they host once a month. The Irwin’s have shared an EcoChallenge that could impact many hotels, lodges and B & B’s. Check it out.

No Soap-on-a-Rope!

We have a boutique hotel and are amassing a significant quantity of shampoo, conditioner, and soaps. Instead of bar soap we changed to a more friendly liquid form in a small bottle that can be recycled. In fact, the shampoo, conditioner, and soap are all in these little containers that we recycle. The problem is that guests either don’t use ALL of the soap/shampoo/conditioner or they don’t take them home. While our dog smells really nice and has super soft fur now, she can only tolerate so many baths. What can we do with our leftovers?

Challenge Guidelines

We’re open! No guidelines save that we don’t want to dump the soap etc. into the water and prefer not to spend a ton of moolah shipping or whatever you might come up with.

What this challenge offers to the winner

Depends on the challenge winner’s age and their interest! Could be an overnight stay complete with an amazing breakfast. Might be that a HUGE batch of our chocolate chip cookies is preferred. Always there is super satisfaction of doing a job well. (Intrinsic motivation!) Of course, we would like your mug shot to show off on facebook and in our newsletter. So this would qualify as a guaranteed 15 minutes of fame. Who can beat that?

Leaving Kathmandu

My first trek through the Khumbu region of Nepal was as a young man and it was amazing! I was determined to make it to the highest mountain in the world. The logistics of how I would solo trek to Everest Base Camp were challenging, but I knew I would reach my goal. I studied a little Nepali, found a good map, borrowed some high elevation gear in Kathmandu, and headed off. My plan was to eat with the locals and avoid the comforts given to Western groups who hired guides and porters to carry their stuff. I’d sleep by the fires and under the stars, eat dal bhat (rice with lentil soup), and follow the trails. There is only going up or down in the Himalaya, not much in between. I followed my own voice, trusting I would find the way. That was in 1985.

I got lost often, got sick with dysentery, and was stranded for days by the weather. I also enjoyed the ancient Mani Rimdu festival at the Tengboche Monastery after a fall full moon. I saw first hand deforestation on a massive scale, and the early efforts of the Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation’s seedling plantations to regenerate alpine juniper in the High Himalaya. I met unique souls and travelers from all over the world. I learned how the Sherpa people, who had little in the way of material possessions, were so rich in kindness. And I made it above Everest Base Camp to a spectacular scene, but that’s a story for another day.

That young man knew, with a mixture of bravado and naivety, that  he would make it. What he really learned up there was the importance of the journey.

Flash forward to a career working with students, including 15-plus years as school counselor in public education. I was ready for a career change, but struggled to find the direction I knew was right for me. How could I take the best of what I saw in schools: Hands-on learning, student as teacher, and school to career, and combine it with a passion for the environment and sustainability? The answer finally came as EcoApprentice.

It has been one wild journey to get this far, and if creating a business is akin to a trekking expedition; we have finally assembled all our gear at base camp after a handful of detours. I have enjoyed working with some very talented folks and advisers that share in the mission. The summit is shrouded in clouds, but we are launching– passionate and determined. It’s about the journey,still, but this is a business after all and I’m a parent; the stakes are higher for my children and generations to follow on this fragile planet. How can less equal more and still be good for business and the environment?

Welcome to EcoApprentice!

Our vision is a dynamic meeting place. A corner of cyberspace where eco-friendly ideas are shared among college students, business owners, soccer moms (and dads), corporate managers, professors, retired professionals, and nonprofit organizations. Our proposition to the business community is the opportunity to collaborate with people from all walks of life to make your product or service better; better for both profit and the planet. Our brand will invite customers to your door through engaging with them on solutions they care about! To students, we offer the opportunity to make connections that stand out as unique and might change your future.

We invite you to become a member of EcoApprentice. The paint is still wet on the OPEN sign; consider EcoApprentice 1.0 a working prototype. If something rocks (or sucks), we would be grateful for some feedback.  Constructive suggestions are always well received!  Do you have an EcoChallenge at home or in the workplace? Somebody out there has a great idea for an answer! It’s also cool to just sit back and see what happens, no pressure to post.

Thanks for making it this far. If you’re up to it, grab some climbing rope and a stainless steel water bottle. We would love to hear about your ideas and challenges along the way.

Learn more and join us,

Richard Halpern~Founder

EcoChallenges + EcoSolutions


On January 20th, we quietly flipped the switch ON  — still testing, but EcoApprentice is live!

Have a cool story to share about what you, your school, or your company is doing to make the world a more eco-friendly place?  Let us know.  We are seeking guest bloggers that enjoy writing about their success.

Stay tuned for upcoming blogs about people connecting with businesses to save the planet.


Richard Halpern~Founder