Laura Weiland is director of the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL), and creator of Omega's Ecological Literacy Immersion Program. Laura has been imagining, designing, and creating nontraditional educational experiences since she was 15. Her studies and experience span from biology, farming, permaculture, regenerative frameworks, and eco-social design, to a master's degree in sustainable development with a focus in community development. She has lived, studied, and worked across several countries and United States over the past two decades. Through her work with the OCSL, Laura enjoys strong involvement in local and regional organizing in support of a shift toward increased connection with place and greater alignment to natural systems.
John Ferro, OCSL Communications, Editorial & Marketing Strategist, comes to us after more than 25 years at the Poughkeepsie Journal. An award-winning reporter and senior editor, John served as the Journal’s environmental and investigative reporter, and has covered everything from high school sports to county government over the years. His reporting has exposed problems with drinking water in a half-dozen local communities and raised questions about the state’s preparedness for accidents involving crude oil. In 2013, John was selected by the National Science Foundation to report on how melting glaciers in Greenland contribute to sea-level rise. John grew up in New York City, attended Vassar College and has lived in the mid-Hudson Valley since 1983.
Robert "Skip" Backus is the chief executive officer of Omega Institute. For more than 20 years, he has played a leadership role at Omega as operations director and campus manager, maintaining all of Omega’s buildings. In this capacity, he helped Omega lay the foundation for its environmental initiatives, creating and promoting innovative conservation efforts, including campus recycling and composting, sustainable purchasing and support of local agriculture, water conservation, and 100% sourcing of campus electricity from wind and solar technology.
Backus has provided visionary leadership for the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL), an environmental education center and natural water reclamation facility. Built to meet the highest standards currently available in sustainable architecture, the OCSL is a pioneering project in the Living Building Challenge™ and is the first green building in America to receive both LEED® Platinum and Living Building Challenge™ certification.
For two decades, Backus also operated his own contracting business, including residential and light commercial projects. He frequently speaks about sustainability at a variety of venues.