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Omega in Action

Omega in Action highlights inspiring people and organizations making meaningful change. From protecting the environment to empowering women, healing veterans, and serving nonprofits, you'll find fresh perspectives, trending news, and the latest information on noteworthy events here at Omega and around the world.

Omega Teachers Offer Free Relationship Workshops

2 years 6 months ago

Relationship experts and best-selling authors Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt are on a mission to save more marriages in their hometown of Dallas.

They are offering free relationship counseling workshops, called Safe Conversations.

The goal of the workshops, which have already served more than 1,000 couples, is to reach those who can’t afford conventional marriage counseling and to help strengthen the entire community by fostering relationships. In Dallas, and throughout the country, nearly 50 percent of marriages end in divorce.

In the workshops, couples learn many techniques and communication skills to talk with greater clarity, ease, and love.

“The thing that scares most couples—and where they hurt each other most—is when they talk,” Hendrix told NPR. “So we, in the safe conversation, help couples learn how to talk, and as they talk in this way, they begin to relax.”

Hunt said the idea came from Hendrix, who wanted to take his therapeutic work and make it simple, accessible, and free.

#WeCantWait for Everyone to Have a Toilet

2 years 7 months ago

World Toilet Day, on November 19, intends to raise awareness about the 2.5 billion people in the world who do not have improved sanitation, as well as the one billion people who are forced to defecate in the open because of this.

“This day is a universal effort to address access to improved global sanitation,” Omega CEO Robert “Skip” Backus says. “Until you lack access to a toilet, and must squat in the street, you don’t understand the importance of what we take for granted.”

“Having to defecate openly infringes on human safety and dignity,” the World Toilet Day organizers state. “Women and girls risk rape and abuse as they wait until night falls because they lack access to a toilet that offers privacy. Where toilets do exist [they] generally remain inadequate for populations with special needs, such as the disabled and elderly, and women and girls requiring facilities to manage menstrual hygiene. Without accessible toilets for these populations, they remain excluded from opportunities to attend school and gain employment.”

Water is central to the mission of the Omega Center for Sustainable Living. Our building itself—the first LEED® Platinum and Living Building Challenge™ certified building in the world—hosts a natural water reclamation system, called an Eco Machine, built to purify the water used by the Omega Institute campus. 

Extending modern sanitation facilities, done ideally in an eco-friendly manner as Omega has modeled here on campus, can be a powerful tool in improving human health. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control say that improving water, sanitation, and hygiene could prevent roughly 9 percent of the global disease burden, as well as prevent 6.3 percent of all deaths worldwide. 

There’s a deeper question we can be asking, though. Considering humanity’s need for clean, potable water, is disposing of bodily waste in water the best way forward as a general practice?

“We have an opportunity here,” Backus says, “to further the development and use of waterless toilet systems for waste disposal, which can reclaim important nutrients such as phosphorus from the waste stream, while at the same time reducing water pollution. In doing so, we will be helping to protect and conserve critically important natural resources, in addition to improving human health”

On November 19 several events have been organized around the world. If you cannot attend one of them, please consider doing your part in your community, your workplace, and your home to raise awareness about this critical issue of social justice and environmental sustainability: World Toilet Day Ideas.

Study Reveals Omega Has "Significant" Economic Impact on the Region

2 years 7 months ago

Premiere Travel Destination in the Hudson Valley Makes Its Mark

RHINEBECK, NY – Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, a nonprofit organization dedicated to lifelong learning and based in Rhinebeck, New York since the early 1980s, recently retained Camoin Associates to provide an economic and fiscal impact assessment of its operations on the Mid-Hudson Region of New York State. The comprehensive study determined Omega brings significant fiscal benefits to the Mid-Hudson Region, including:

Annual Economic Impact of Omega Institute:

  • 474 jobs in the region
  • $8.7 million in earnings
  • $29 million in sales
  • $1.6 million tax revenue

Cumulative Economic Impact of Omega Institute (over ten years):

  • $99 million in earnings
  • $332 million in sales
  • $18 million in tax revenue

“Omega’s diverse programs inspire both personal growth and social change. As we work to

cultivate our own health, happiness, and well-being, a natural outcome of this work is a sense of

connection to our community and planet, and a desire to contribute to building a future that is socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable,” said Robert “Skip” Backus, chief executive officer at Omega. “We are proud we can serve a vital role in the Hudson Valley’s economy while fulfilling our nonprofit mission.”

Located just 90 miles north of New York City, Omega is open seasonally, from April through

October. In 2013, there were a total of 49,867 guest days at Omega, with the average guest staying for about three days. About one third of guests are from New York State, with the remainder visiting from around the nation and internationally. For the purpose of evaluating the impact of Omega on the seven-county Mid-Hudson Region, Camoin Associates used zip code data provided by the Institute to determine the proportion of guests who live outside the region. Spending by these guests is considered “net new” to the region because, if not for Omega, this spending would not have occurred.

Visitors to Omega have an impact on the regional economy as they make purchases, including lodging costs, transportation spending, and other food and beverage purchases. The majority of the visitors’ time, even those staying off-site, is spent on Omega’s campus where they are provided food and drink as part of their registration fee. Combined off-site spending for guests both staying on-site and off-site was estimated to be about $2.8 million.

In addition to the fiscal benefits, Camoin also verified that Omega provides Mid-Hudson Region residents and visitors with valuable opportunities for life-long learning, supports community building within the region, and provides resources to nonprofits to improve their ability to serve. Special mention was made of the significant impact to the region through the following initiatives: Omega Center for Sustainable Living & Leadership in Sustainable Education Award, Omega Women’s Leadership Center, Omega in Service & Service Week, and the Omega Veterans Program.

About Omega Institute for Holistic Studies
Founded in 1977, Omega Institute for Holistic Studies is the nation's most trusted source for wellness and personal growth. As a nonprofit organization, Omega offers diverse and innovative educational experiences that inspire an integrated approach to personal and social change. Located on 200 acres in the beautiful Hudson Valley, Omega welcomes more than 23,000 people to its workshops, conferences, and retreats in Rhinebeck, New York, and at exceptional locations around the world.

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Community Engagement at the Hudson Valley Farm to Institution Summit

2 years 7 months ago

In the United States, more than an acre of farmland is lost to development and urban sprawl every minute—while at the same time, more people need access to local, healthy food. It's an important time for farmers, processors, distributors, vendors, and food buyers to come together and explore new opportunities to provide healthy food and sustain their businesses.

The good news is, institutional initiatives to provide local, healthy food have been increasing in New York State, one of the nation’s top food-producing states. In October, several Omega staff members joined other healthy food advocates at the Hudson Valley Farm to Institution Summit to discuss strengthening New York’s farm and food economy. 

Held at S.U.N.Y. College at New Paltz, New York, the Summit was organized by the New York State Office of American Farmland Trust, with support from the Local Economies Project of the New World Foundation. At the Summit, Susan Grove, one of the Summit organizers and Omega’s community engagement manager, was joined by Robert Turner, executive chef and general manager of Omega FoodWorks, and Sandi Trillo, Omega dining hall manager.

Susan explained, “Institutions can positively impact the region economically and sustainably by making value-based food-purchasing decisions. Omega FoodWorks is a 3-star certified restaurant by the Green Restaurant Association that provides three healthy meals a day to nearly 20,000 people a year. Exemplifying Omega’s core value of sustainability, Omega FoodWorks prepares meals that emphasize organic and local ingredients purchased from Hudson Valley farmers.”

Speaking of Omega and the other Summit attendees, Robert added, “We all share the same goals. We strive to deliver healthy food, which has an immediately positive impact on everyone. My biggest takeaway from the Summit was the importance of networking, maintaining ongoing connections, and reciprocal education. We can all learn from each other.”

Learn more about Farm to Institution New York State (FINYS)

Learn more about Omega FoodWorks


Van Jones Credits Omega As Inspiration For His Green Jobs Initiative

2 years 7 months ago

Van Jones, cohost of CNN's Crossfire and an award-winning pioneer in the clean energy economy, delivered a rousing Friday night keynote address at the 2014 OCSL Conference: Where We Go From Here. He covered everything from Ferguson to green jobs to his latest project YesWeCode, a movement to help train 100,000 low-opportunity youth to become world-class computer coders.

"I remember coming to Omega and having my eyes opened. There was a girl named Julia Butterfly Hill here. This girl was crazy. She climbed up in a tree and didn’t come down. We bonded over the myth of disposability. The whole green jobs thing was born on Omega’s stage with me and Julia Butterfly Hill trying to understand each other," he said.

Van Jones started the Oakland Green Jobs Corps with $125,000. He recalled thinking at the time, "Instead of having these kids standing outside of my house in Oakland, getting on my nerves, let’s have them get on the roof and put up a solar panel."

The Oakland Green Jobs Corps led to the Green Jobs Act of 2007, which infused the Oakland program with $125 million and spread it across the country. Based on this experience, Jones was inspired to write The Green Collar Economy in 2008. President Barack Obama read the book and asked Jones to be on his transition team. Another half billion dollars was put into the Green Jobs Act. It was a three year time elapse from the start. And according to Van Jones, it all began with a conversation at Omega. 

Ceremony Held for OCSL Leadership in Sustainable Education Award

2 years 8 months ago

A ceremony to present Omega’s 3rd Annual OCSL Leadership in Sustainable Education Award was held during Omega's Where We Go From Here conference. This year’s recipient is Groundwork Hudson Valley, an organization working to help distressed communities in the lower Hudson Valley build a sustainable future.

“I look forward to this every year,” said Omega chief executive officer Robert "Skip" Backus. "For this award, we seek out organizations who have ideals in common with the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL). We reach out to lend support in the form of a cash prize and a retreat, but more than anything, to develop a future relationship. Groundwork Hudson Valley is working to educate children, address economic disparity, and reach into communities. We're proud to support their work, from the arts to community gardens to a science barge on the Hudson River. We look forward to a long relationship with them."

Accepting the award for Groundwork Hudson Valley, deputy director and youth program director Curt Collier said, “What we’re missing in environmental organizations is diversity. We’re looking to get diverse youth into these organizations. You just can’t send kids off in the forest once and expect them to get the lesson. You need to keep bringing them into more experiences."

Groundwork youth participants take part in transformative projects in Yonkers, New York, where Groundwork is based. They also intern at a variety of national parks, including Yellowstone, Shenandoah, and Bear Mountain.

Omega Creates New Community Engagement Manager Position

2 years 8 months ago

For nearly four decades, Omega has been providing lifelong learning opportunities that offer an integrated approach to personal and social change. Since our founding, Omega has forged many paths of support for a diverse range of communities, including peer nonprofit organizations, veterans, educators, women leaders, and sustainability change agents. Earlier this year, Omega created a new position that will primarily focus on helping to write the next chapter of community engagement at Omega.

In September, Susan Grove joined Omega as the new community engagement manager. Susan has more than 20 years of experience working in a variety of roles with a number of different nonprofit organizations in the United States and abroad. Since coming to the Hudson Valley seven years ago, she has served in leadership roles related to systems and social change, serving as the first executive director of the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, the founding coordinator of the Poughkeepsie Plenty Food Coalition, and a facilitation consultant for regional nonprofit organizations.

Asked about her thoughts on joining the Omega team, Susan said, “Serving as community engagement manager at Omega dovetails with a question that I reflect on regularly and that has motivated me to seek ways of being engaged in the world: How can we work together to create change so that we see our highest human values reflected in the world around us? I look forward to exploring this question in this context and in support of Omega’s commitment to giving back and supporting social change.”

Groundwork Hudson Valley Named as Recipient of Omega’s Annual $10,000 Leadership in Sustainable Education Award

2 years 8 months ago

Award Ceremony & Free Public Event With Van Jones Planned for Friday, October 24th at 8:00 p.m.

RHINEBECK, NY – Omega Institute, home of the award-winning Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL), today announced the third recipient of their Annual Leadership in Sustainable Education Award. The award recognizes nonprofit peers who exemplify leadership in sustainable education and who share Omega’s commitment to building a more just and sustainable world. This year, Omega recognizes Groundwork Hudson Valley, an organization working to help distressed communities in the lower Hudson Valley build a sustainable future. Groundwork Hudson Valley will be honored with the award on Friday, October 24th at 8:00 p.m., during Omega’s annual Where We Go From Here conference. The evening, which is free and open to the public, will include a special presentation on Social Justice & the New Economy by Van Jones, an internationally recognized environmental advocate and cohost of CNN’s Crossfire.

“Omega created the Leadership in Sustainable Education Award in 2012 to further our commitment to environmental stewardship and education. This year we are thrilled to recognize the exceptional achievements made by Groundwork Hudson Valley, a nonprofit dedicated to organizing environmental projects driven by local residents and youth to revitalize communities from the ground up,” said Robert “Skip” Backus, chief executive officer at Omega and visionary behind the Omega Center for Sustainable Living.

In addition to the $10,000 award, Groundwork Hudson Valley will also receive a strategic planning retreat at Omega, to help strengthen organizational development and further its mission.

“Groundwork is truly honored to be this year’s award recipient from the Omega Institute, for our work in changing places, and changing lives in the Hudson Valley. Much like the Omega Institute, our work focuses on transforming people, from the thousands each year who learn and grow on Groundwork’s amazing Science Barge to the young people we have mentored from neighborhoods in Yonkers and Newburgh that are changing their own communities and experiencing inspirational places like Yellowstone National Park. We are truly thankful for this recognition,” said Rick Magder, executive director of Groundwork Hudson Valley.

Founded five years ago, the OCSL originated as the first green building in America to achieve both LEED® Platinum and Living Building Challenge certification, the highest standards currently available in sustainable architecture. The OCSL has since evolved into an environmental leader, offering programs that teach the regenerative environmental practices modeled by the building.

People are invited to join the conversation about where we go from here on Twitter @Omega_Institute (conference hashtag #OCSL), and on

To see the complete schedule for the Where We Go From Here conference which runs from 9 a.m. on Friday October 24th to 12:30 p.m. Sunday, October 26th, visit or call 800.944.1001.

About Omega Institute for Holistic Studies
Founded in 1977, Omega Institute for Holistic Studies is the nation's most trusted source for wellness and personal growth. As a nonprofit organization, Omega offers diverse and innovative educational experiences that inspire an integrated approach to personal and social change. Located on 200 acres in the beautiful Hudson Valley, Omega welcomes more than 23,000 people to its workshops, conferences, and retreats in Rhinebeck, New York, and at exceptional locations around the world.

About Groundwork Hudson Valley
For more than a decade, Groundwork Hudson Valley has been a dynamic force for change in distressed communities in the lower Hudson Valley. Groundwork works to make neglected neighborhoods more livable and sustainable through an array of on-the-ground environmental projects that directly involve local residents, especially youth.

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Omega Offers Hope to Veterans Suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

2 years 9 months ago

Experts on Complementary Treatment Options Join Health-Care Professionals to Share Proven Mind-Body Practices Helping Veterans

RHINEBECK, NY – The life-altering effects of post-traumatic stress often find expression in homelessness, domestic violence, addiction, suicide, and other issues at great cost to individuals, families, and our society. The scale and depth of the crisis calls for new approaches to treatment, a fact recognized by the United States Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration, which now actively support many mind-body modalities ranging from yoga to mindfulness practice. For more than 20 years, Omega has provided programs to support the healing of veterans and affected family members, including its 3rd annual Veterans, Trauma & Treatment conference, taking place October 17–19, 2014 in Rhinebeck, New York.

“Post traumatic stress disorder has reached epidemic levels among veterans. The side effects can be devastating not only to our veterans, but also to their families. Our conference brings together some of the most forward thinking experts in the treatment of veterans’ trauma who use complementary and alternative medicine, and also includes leaders in resilience studies. We know there are a number of highly successful treatment options and we want to get them into the hands of health-care professionals working directly with veterans, so they have every resource available,” said Carla Goldstein, chief external affairs officer.

The 3rd annual Veterans, Trauma & Treatment conference begins on Friday, October 17 at 8:00 p.m. and runs through Sunday, October 19th at noon. The weekend will include both keynote talks and breakout sessions. Health-care professionals, psychologists, social workers, caregivers, and counselors working with veterans suffering with PTSD and their families are welcome. Continuing education credits are available.

The conference features more than a dozen of the nation’s top experts, such as trauma specialist Bessel van der Kolk, best-selling author and addiction specialist Gabor Maté, MD, and former US army general Loree K. Sutton, MD, a psychiatrist who founded the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, and who was recently appointed New York City Commissioner of Veterans Affairs. This conference builds upon previous years’ events and offers the most current professional perspectives—delving deeper into leading-edge information on the same mind-body modalities that the military is currently exploring as a complement to traditional drug and talk therapy.

Conference Presenters Include:

Capt. Paul Anthony Halladay
Col. (ret.) E.C. Hurley, PhD, LMFT
Bessel van der Kolk, MD
Maj. Susan Lynch, JD, E-RYT
Gabor Maté, MD
Capt (fmr.) Elizabeth A. Stanley, PhD
Brig. Gen. (ret.) Loree K. Sutton, MD
Rev. Claude AnShin Thomas
Laurie Leitch, PhD
Beryl Bender Birch, E-RYT
and more

More Veterans Programs at Omega (October 19-24, 2014):

EMDR Therapy for Veterans: A 5-Day Professional Training, with Col. (ret.) E.C. Hurley, PhD, LMFT. EMDR is an evidence-based treatment approach proven to help military, veterans, and their families cope with PTSD and other trauma.

Healing From Military Trauma: A Retreat for Military Women & Women Veterans, with Maj. Susan Lynch, JD, E-RYT, Karen Soltes, and Andrea Lucie, MA. This retreat for military women and women veterans builds a safe and healing environment to face and release traumatic stress and increasing resilience.

Teaching Yoga & Mindfulness in Military Communities, with Robin Carnes, MBA, E-RYT 500, Annie Okerlin, RYT, and Lynn Stoller, MS, OTR/L, RYT. Learn advanced teaching skills for addressing combat-related conditions.

For more details or to register, visit or call 800.944.1001. A limited number of media passes are available to the Veterans, Trauma & Treatment conference. Photography restrictions may apply. To apply for a media pass, visit

About Omega Institute for Holistic Studies
Founded in 1977, Omega Institute for Holistic Studies is the nation's most trusted source for wellness and personal growth. As a nonprofit organization, Omega offers diverse and innovative educational experiences that inspire an integrated approach to personal and social change. Located on 200 acres in the beautiful Hudson Valley, Omega welcomes more than 23,000 people to its workshops, conferences, and retreats in Rhinebeck, New York, and at exceptional locations around the world.

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Omega Joins 400,000 for People's Climate March

2 years 9 months ago

This past Sunday, September 21, an estimated 400,000 people took to the streets of Manhattan to show their support for strong action on climate change. The Omega Center for Sustainable Living was proud to take part with fellow marchers.

As an organization we joined with well over a thousand other businesses, unions, faith groups, and environmental organizations, all sending a clear message to the governmental leaders assembled this week during the United Nations Climate Summit: We need strong, scientifically meaningful, and decisive action on climate change. Our future and the future of our children depends on it. 

The People’s Climate March was by far the largest environmental demonstration in history, exceeding organizers’ expectations many times over. As cofounder and Where We Go From Here speaker, Bill McKibbentweeted:

“Remind any politician you see: this was the largest political gathering about anything in the US in a very very long time. About anything!”

To everyone who joined in, either in New York City, or in any of the hundreds of solidarity demonstrations around the world, thank you. 


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