George Basch is the Chief Cook and Founder of The Himalayan Stove Project, a humanitarian and philanthropic program dedicated to preserving the Himalayan environment and improving the health of the people by donating and distributing free, clean-burning, fuel-efficient Envirofit cookstoves for families and transforming the indoor air quality.
George is also an adventurer, explorer, photographer, and a creative entrepreneurial businessman. Born in Vienna, George immigrated to the United States as a small child, ahead of Hitler’s hordes, and holds dual US and EU citizenship. He grew up in Chicago and graduated from MIT in 1959 with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering and earned an MBA in 1961. He discovered that large corporate life did not suit him, and seeking something more stimulating and rewarding, he moved to Denver in 1968 and embarked on his adventures as a serial entrepreneur. These endeavors took him from Denver to Anchorage, Tucson, Phoenix, and eventually to Nepal and around the world.
Our three hosts sat down with George Basch in our studio. For Jeff and Erik, it was more of a reunion as they have a climbing history together. They reminisce on their first climb in ‘98 up Aconcagua. In fact, George and Erik met in Phoenix during Erik’s previous life as an English teacher (he taught George’s son!) and he essentially became a mentor and an inspiration when he was looking to make his life in the mountains as an adventurer.
Previous to his life as an adventurer, he was a business person. Our hosts dive into George’s past in the business world, including a time when he had to declare bankruptcy. He essentially started over at age 50.
Part of his internal ethos (that he inherited from his family) is to go out and DO—to be part of an action and make a difference in folk’s lives. He’s active in the American Alpine Club, the Explorers Club, and other organizations. But one constant has been his desire and drive to give back.
“That was part of the family DNA — there was an aspect of my life in giving back.”
During one of his many expeditions to Nepal, he became fixated on the horrible air quality in the homes he visited due to the traditional stoves they used to cook their food that ran on yak dung and polluted their dwellings. George tells the story of how, in 2009, he came upon a company who was designing more fuel efficient stoves. These new stoves solved so many issues, including lessening the insistence of immune sickness, respiratory problems, and blindness/eye issues.
“It transforms the life of a family.”
George created a system where stoves are delivered all over the countryside and within ten minutes of set-up, the entire living space is transformed. We were lucky enough to see these in person when George brought one into our studio and set it up within no time.
For George, the difference each stove makes to each family is what drives him to continue, even despite his age. When the work gets overwhelming he reaches out and gets the help he needs to continue:
“Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.”
By calling it the Himalayan Stove Project, George has created a legacy that will live on when he is gone. The team then discusses a tragedy that occurred in George’s life, and how his philanthropic undertakings have helped him in his emotional recovery.
“Every stove that we deliver honors the legacy of my son.”
Listening to George, it’s clear how he leads a life of purpose and how he seeks meaning. It’s a core component of his identity but it does not mean it’s easy. George discusses how he has gone about facing his own barriers — both in work and in his personal life — but how, ultimately his passion to help others, continues to push him onwards.
“What do I want on my headstone? ‘He made a difference.’”
Register for our No Barriers Summit
To support George’s efforts in Nepal visit his website: Himalayan Stove Project
Follow Himalayan Stove Project and stay up to date on Facebook
To purchase a copy of the book George and Jeff reference: Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World
Photos of George’s stoves will be shared on the No Barriers Facebook page.
————————— EPISODE TRANSCRIPT —————————–
George: Set yourself a goal of doing something other than sitting on the couch and watching football or going out and playing golf. You know, people ask what’s your secret, and the only answer that I have is stay active and stay involved.
Erik: It’s easy to talk about the successes, but what doesn’t get talked about enough is the struggle. My name is Erik Weihenmayer, I’ve gotten the chance to ascend Mount Everest, to climb the tallest mountain in every continent, to kayak the Grand Canyon, and I happen to be blind.
Erik: It’s been a struggle to live what I call a No Barriers life. To define it, to push the parameters of what it means, and part of the equation is diving into the learning process and trying to illuminate the universal elements that exist along the way. That unexplored terrain between those dark places we find ourselves in the summit, exists a map. That map, that way forward, is what we call No Barriers.
Dave: Today we’ll meet George Bosch, who is the chief cook and founder of the Himalayan Stove Project, a humanitarian and philanthropic program dedicated to preserving the Himalayan environment and improving the health of the people by donating the distributing free, clean burning, fuel efficient, envirofit cook stoves, for families and transforming the indoor air quality.
Dave: George is also an adventurer, explorer, photographer, and a creative entrepreneurial businessman. Born in Vienna, George immigrated to the United States as a small child, ahead of Hitler’s holocaust, and holds dual US and EU citizenship. He grew up in Chicago and graduated from MIT in 1959 with a Bachelors of Science degree in mechanical engineering, and earned an MBA in 1961.
Dave: He discovered that large corporate life did not suit him, and seeking something more stimulating and rewarding, he moved to Denver in 1968, where he embarked on his adventures as a serial entrepreneur. These endeavors took him from Denver to Anchorage, Tuscan and Phoenix, and eventually to Nepal, and around the world.
Dave: Welcome to our No Barriers podcast. We’re really excited to have George Bosch on with us, can’t wait to have a conversation with him about his life and his work. I know we’re all going to be very inspired by his purpose-driven leadership that we’re going to hear about. But before we get started, our event, our annual event, No Barriers Summit is coming up in Lake Tahoe, June 13th to the 15th. We’ve got pretty amazing lineup that’s going to be joining us, if you’ve never been to the No Barriers Summit, we encourage you to join.
Dave: But perhaps you’ve all heard of My Big Fat Fabulous Life. Whitney Way Thore, she’s going to be giving a talk at our event and leading a dance workshop. She’s started a non-profit called No Body Shame, really incredible non-profit that’s doing great work, we’re going to be featuring Erik, your film.
Erik: Yeah, Weight of Water is going to be screening at the Summit and old friends like Mandy Harvey coming back to perform, and some new entertainment like, is it Magic Giant?
Dave: Yeah, Magic Giant.
Erik: Can’t wait to see …
Dave: Top 30 hit.
Erik: … to see them.
Dave: Yeah, it’s going to be great.
Erik: Whitney, for instance, is such a great No Barriers story because she … because of her medical condition gained a lot of weight and just said «Look, I’m not going to sit on the sidelines in this dark place and mourn, all challenges that have happened in my life. I’m going to get out there, and I’m going to be proud and as I strive for this Summit I’m going to live.» So she at our last summit taught dance classes, and it was one of the most inspiring things I have ever listened to. All kinds of people with physical challenges and emotional challenges out there just feeling free to move and dance, and I even got out there and twerked a little bit.
Jeff: Oh, boy.
Dave: That video was one of the most funny videos we produced with you twerking.
Erik: Yeah. So, we asked Whitney back and she’s just full on No Barriers. I go to a lot of events a year and this one just fills my cup. This is so fulfilling for me to go to this annual summits so, yeah, I go there with my family every year, and I hope everybody will come and attend.
Dave: Yeah, my daughter who is 11 was asked by my mom, a couple of weekends back, «What’s the one thing … If you could do anything in the world where would you go right now?» and she said, «I’d go to the No Barriers Summit». and then she thought about it a little, «Or Disney World.» So I thought that’s pretty good company, four up there with Disney World. June 13th or 15th, nobarrierssummit.org, check it out if you want to join us. Well, we got shrew adventurer on with us today, George Bosch has joined us and want to get started with our conversation. Jeff you want to kick us off. You guys have known each other for a long time. You give some perspective on our guest.
Jeff: Well, yeah. I think the Erik-George relationship started before I met George. So if I come in to the point where our paths intersected George, it was … I think it was winter of ’97, ’98?
George: That’s correct.
Jeff: Does that sound right?
Jeff: So, Erik and I were queuing to go climb Aconcagua which is the highest point in South America. It’s a 22,000 foot mountain down there and Erik says, he’s got this colleague from Phoenix and I’m not sure the connection, you-all have to fill the color there. George showed up to climb Aconcagua with us and I remember meeting you in Mendosa or somewhere. I was like, «Okay.» George is got a decade on us. Was I generous?
George: A couple.
Jeff: Maybe. Let’s go with a couple.
George: I was 60 when you guys were 30.
Erik: You got three decades on us to be honest with you.
Jeff: So let’s go with three. I was trying to be kind and soft on that.
George: But thank you very much. So, I mean-
Jeff: All right.
George: You guys are just turning 50 and I’m 82 this year.
Jeff: Yes. So, a few decades-
George: A few decades.
Jeff: But I tell you it … very clearly you fell in with the crew and your dynamic and your energy was infectious. Yeah, so Erik, maybe back us up to touch.
Erik: So, first of all I just want to start off by saying that when I was a young teacher and I was trying to think about this idea of becoming a … making a life as a climber and an adventurer, and like this was not an idea of this blind teacher making this leap and becoming a full time adventurer. I mean, this is not an idea many venture capitalists would have banked on and George took me under his wing.
Erik: I taught his son in fifth grade, Chris. He brought me to his office one day and he started mentoring me and I told him this wild hair of an idea and immediately he’s bought into it. He’s like, «Look, how are you going to make an income and what’s the business plan?». I had no idea. I’m like, «I’m an English teacher, dude.» Anyway, George helped me think so many of those things through and became such a great role model that I really … I never forgot that.
Erik: When he’s … I said, «We’re going to go do Aconcagua, the tallest peak in South America as part of my Seven Summits quest.» George said, «I’d like to be a part of that.» So he came along with us to South Afr- South America, excuse me.
Jeff: Yeah. You … It wasn’t an easy trip.
Jeff: It wasn’t an easy trip for any of us and-
Erik: We actually all failed on that first trip to Aconcagua.
Jeff: I mean we came back alive. So I’m not sure I would document that as a failure.
Jeff: So, we didn’t summit. Let’s just … let’s clarify.
Erik: There we go.
Jeff: We didn’t summit. But yeah, it was a tough trip. Yeah.
Dave: George, have you been an adventurer your entire life?
George: Yeah. When I was six years old, I came to Colorado for the first time and learned to ride and hike. I was born in Austria. We came over here when Hitler invaded in 1938 and came to Colorado the first serious vacation that we took was just a few years after we came. So, being out in the mountains and doing things is just part of the family DNA and part of my experience from the very earliest years of my life.
Dave: What has been the most epic adventure you’ve gone on in your lifetime?
Erik: That’s a setup question, George.
George: That’s a setup question. I could say Aconcagua, I could say Everest, with these guys in 2001. But I just got back from a slightly more than four months trip through all of Southern Africa. The Patagonia, Torres del Paine, 16 days down in Antarctica. So that was pretty epic. I just got back from that three weeks ago.
Jeff: You still got your goggle tan. So when you did this … I just find these sorts of journeys really interesting. When you did it, I talked to you before you were leaving, and you had sort of mapped it all out and you were just taking people as they could join you intermittently. Is that right?
George: That was the plan that some of my colleagues from the Explorers Club would jump in and out, and then everybody bailed. I was there at … the trip was all mapped out, all the reservations were made and so, I talked to my son, Chris, who Eric taught in fifth grade and he said, «Well, I’ll go along.» We spent five weeks together, the first five weeks, and then after that, I just did it all alone. We had a rental pickup truck, we drove 11,000 kilometers through Southern Africa, which is 6,600 miles back and forth across the United States.
Jeff: Just so everybody’s aware, how old are you?
George: 82. I will be next month.
Jeff: Yeah. So let’s call this whole epic journey in your at eighty-first year.
George: Eighty-first year.
Dave: Was this Southern Africa or South America?
George: Well, Southern Africa.
George: Then over to South America-
Dave: Wow, both.
George: … for a month … I was two and a half months in Southern Africa-
Dave: Got it.
George: … then went across, flew from Johannesburg to Santiago, picked up another car down in Punta Arenas and went to Torres del Paine and to the Argentinian Patagonia. Then I stopped driving and got on this ship through Antarctica for almost two weeks.
Jeff: So what was doing and I’m not sure if you get asked this now a lot … everybody who goes on these big trips gets asked, give us the highlight of that trip.
George: There are two highlights. The first one was spending five weeks together with my son, that trumps everything. The second highlight was being on South Georgia Island, which was where Shackleton’s adventure started in 1914 and ended in 1916 when they got back and we were able to … we have reasonable weather, we were able to climb up to the spine of South Georgia and walk in Shackleton’s footsteps for about six miles down to the whaling station. That was really super-
Erik: This is the island that he had this epic journey to and trying to save his crew. Got to the island had to track over almost the whole island over glaciers and just unbelievable terrain to get down to a whaling outfit and save his whole crew, right? Everybody lived.
George: That’s correct. Everybody on the whole thing lived. He came across up to 3,000 feet of elevation across glaciers but there was no map. Nobody had ever done it before. We caught up, it was a 36 mile track that they did in 39 hours that has not been duplicated in the hundred plus years since then. Conrad Anker and Reinhold Messner and Stephen Venables tried to duplicate it a few years ago with modern equipment and with ice axes and crampons, which they didn’t have back in 1916 and they weren’t able to match his time. We caught up with that path not on the high point, but at about 1,000 feet above the ocean and followed it down to the whaling station, which was their salvation at the end of this epic journey.
Jeff: The endurance.
Jeff: So that book is … There’s a bunch of books popped up. For folks who have not read that it’s probably the most legendary, epic survival story of all time. Think one of them is this, Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance. Pretty amazing stuff. How cool man. So, great that you could [crosstalk 00:12:30]
Erik: Yeah, and you’re an explorer. I mean, you’re a part of the Explorers Club. You’re also part of the American Alpine club, and you’re very, very active and all those communities. You also George, I know had a very successful you are … you do still have a very successful business. So you’re a successful business person.
George: Yeah, that’s how I can afford to do all this.
Erik: Yeah. You taught … you showed companies how to save money on property taxes, right. So, tell us how this successful business person moves through his life and transitions into some pretty crazy stuff that you … Honestly, you just don’t expect somebody to transition into?
George: Well, I don’t know if I’ve ever shared this with you, but 30 some years ago when I was 50, I was not such a successful businessman and I had declared total bankruptcy because I lost my butt in a number of bad investments. At 50, I lost everything and started life over again, my financial life over again. That’s when I founded the the property tax company in Phoenix, which has now been going for 33 years, I’ve got a wonderful partner who’s doing a lot of the work now. But for many years, it was him and me, just 24 hours a day, getting back on our feet.
Erik: You’ve moved into some other stuff, your Himalayan Stove Project, which we’re going to talk a lot about. So how did you transition, because that’s like … doesn’t seem like the typical path that a person takes, right? Most people transition out of their working, money-making life and they just sit on the couch and watch football. I don’t think you’ve done a lot of that?
George: I certainly don’t watch football. I was inspired by my father and he was always active. He was a physician and he was always active in helping beyond the normal aspects of his practice, and he was always engaged. That was part of, again, part of the family DNA. When I got out of college, I started doing little bits and pieces of charitable work. The most notable one and for me was when I moved to Colorado in the ’70s, and I was on the board of trustees of Colorado Academy for seven years and helped to revitalize that organization along with a lot of other people and it was not a solo effort.
George: But there was always an aspect of my life in giving back. Unfortunately in 1998, just after we were together on Aconcagua, my other son Paul, whom I don’t think you ever met Eric, committed suicide. I set up a memorial foundation in his memory and then started looking around for a project that became a quest and that was in ’98. After we were at Everest together in 2001-
Erik: Just for everyone you came and trekked to base camp with us when we climbed Everest as part of an awesome team that sent us off and-
Jeff: And greeted us at the bottom when we came down.
Erik: That’s right.
George: I spent-
Jeff: I remembered that the whole time.
Erik: Yeah. That’s right
George: I spent a month while you guys were climbing. I kept the liaison officer out of your hair.
Jeff: So one of my favorite pictures is a photo of all of us rolling back down to base camp. Like the day we all came back down from standing on top and you’re there, you met us, right? Looks like cramp on point.
George: Right at the bottom of the line.
Jeff: Yeah, you did and you’re in that image with all of us just raising our hands, enjoys the hug and that meant a lot to us.
George: That was an incredible experience. I mean, a month with you guys and a month in that incredible environment.
Jeff: So how was that one of the catalysts for recognizing and honoring Paul?
George: It became … It was a beginning of a catalyst because everybody that tracks in Nepali, get invited into the home of a Sherpa family. If they’re burning yak dung, is that okay to say dung?
Jeff: You can say shit.
George: It was the yak shit.
George: It’s the most acrid horrible stuff. You walk into their homes, and they welcome you in and your eyes start watering and you can’t breathe.
Erik: It’s like poison.
George: Yeah, it is. So, everybody’s exposed to it and that didn’t really click other than as being tremendously unpleasant. Then I went back to Nepal in 2009, what’s that? 20 years ago, and went to Upper Mustang-
Jeff: 10 years ago. 2009?
George: Yeah. Whatever, I-
Dave: Things start to move really quickly. It’s okay.
George: I’m bad at math.
Dave: We accelerate it.
George: MIT didn’t teach me how to do math. Just got to think conceptually. Anyhow, went back to-
Dave: You went a gipee of a whole decade there, bro.
George: Went back to Upper Mustang and got exposed to the same yak shit stuff, yeah, It just reinforced what we had seen in 2001. A few months later, I was trekking in Bhutan and some guy over dinner, who we just met as an … from another trekking team, mentioned this very fuel efficient stove and it was like a light bulb went on. I tracked the stove down and it turns out that the company that designed it, manufactured is right here in Fort Collins, Colorado, just up the road. We established a relationship, we sent over 24 test stoves, 48 test stoves at the end of 2010. I went back and 11 people loved it, it was solving this problem.
George: It cuts the indoor air pollution by 90%. It reduces fuel consumption by 75%, it cooks twice as fast, it transforms the life of a family.
Erik: So people were just cooking stuff over these acrid smoke fires and what why is that a problem other than just like the bad smell?
George: They die.
Jeff: From what?
George: Upper respiratory ailments, it’s destructive to your whole immune system and to the strength of your body, your-
Erik: Causes blindness to massive amounts of blindness from the eye infections.
Jeff: Well, up from a logical sense to.
George: It accelerates the cataract-
Jeff: Cataract, correct.
George: … conditions which are bad up there anyhow, because they’re in high altitudes and UVs are not good but this accelerates the onset of cataracts.
Jeff: Can you also touch on the environmental sustainability of the resources and the limited resources they’re there?
George: Absolutely. We use 75% less fuel. The typical fuel there is, wood or crop waste or yak dung. If we 75% less wood, there are fewer trees that have to be cut down and in addition, it can work with very small sticks so that people that are living alone, women, particularly whose husbands are often they’re in the Gulf states trying to earn a living, they can just go out and pick up sticks. They don’t have to get somebody to help them cut down a tree. So it’s very preserving of the environment of the wood environment. Burning yak shit other than the terrible smell, also takes nutrients out of the soil low should be allowed to decompose and go back into these poor soils. With the dramatic reduction in soot, in black carbon, there’s less of that that gets into the atmosphere and falls on those very fragile glaciers in Nepal. So everything that happens in the use of this stove is environmentally sound. So you know Chris Bonington?
Erik: Of course, yeah. Chris Bonington, he’s probably 80 something now. He’s amazing pioneer of Himalayan climbing.
George: Yes, he is. He and Jeff sponsored me into the Explorers Club in 2010. So I knew Chris, actually from the time that we were at Aconcagua together, because he helped us with some of the promotion of getting this crazy blind guy up the 6,000, 7,000 meter peak. So, he’s really been with us since ’97. So I called him and said, «How can we distribute these stoves?» and he says, «Well, you know, call George Band, the Himalayan Trust and talk to Doug Scott, and work with organizations that are already on the ground there that have an infrastructure that can take these stoves up to the communities and the villages. That was the key that allowed us to do it without having to invest in an organization and that’s what we’re still doing now.
Erik: You’re pretty bold because you’re not afraid just to like call people up and say «Hey, give me some thoughts here. How do I do this?» pick their brain, right?
George: That’s lead, follow or get the hell out of the way.
Dave: Have you had any struggles with cultural adoption of a new technology in the home, I’ve read some stories about other products where that’s a big issue, even though it’s better and higher quality and has all these benefits with it?
George: It’s not one that we encountered. There are some cultural issues, just because grandma use these three stone fireplaces in the middle of the home. But since we’re using the same fuel, weather the yak shit or whatever, there’s not a cultural change there. It’s not as if we are trying to switch them to a petroleum product or something like that. When they see the enormous difference, and you’ve seen the pictures that I brought here, literally in 10 minutes, we take a totally, smoke filled home and convert it to a clean environment where they can sit and breathe and enjoy life.
George: It doesn’t take much convincing to-
Dave: Yeah, we’ve got three photos here before and after, and another after that we’ll post up on our show notes. Because when you see the direct impact, 10 minutes later of this product, it’s incredible.
Jeff: As well as the unit itself. I feel like, when you and I started talking about this 10 years or so ago, I couldn’t visualize it. I remember you telling me about it but I couldn’t see it. Theoretically, it made sense, yes, efficiency and exhaust and this, the ceramic plate, all that. I was fascinated by what it conceptually could be like, but I think it’s important for folks to see what it actually looks like, implement it. So we’ll have an image of that, as well, afterwards. I want to back you up a little bit. Because-
George: You always back me up.
Jeff: Yes, I’ve got you back, George. But I know I’ve often referred to you and I guess it’s because you have a decade on us, times two. As you have been establishing a legacy and I think that maybe the connotations of just the word legacy, I mean, I don’t know if it really fits well with you, but you always joke me about it, like it’s not a legacy, it’s a living thing. Well, okay, I’ll concede that to you. But the legacy that you have created with every one of these stoves, I am curious, do you feel like this is an extension of you honoring your son throughout each implementation or-
George: Every stove that we deliver is honoring him. The legacy thing, let me segue off of that. I reached a point last year where the work involved in doing this. I have been doing it all alone, literally, since 2010 and it was just getting overwhelming. So with the help of a few friends in Taos, which is home, we found a very capable woman who is now our executive director. We’ve got five, six people on the board, including Alan Arnette, who’s a climber for under all of us and so we have now transformed from George’s one man band to a real organization that will carry on and is carrying it on.
George: This it they … we’ve just completed the first year of having a team that’s doing this. So, it will continue after the day that I get buried in the ground.
Erik: That’s smart, right? Because if it was like the George Bosch organization then, it dies when you die.
Erik: Right. So you want to create that-
George: So that’s the legacy.
George: Right? You get it.
Erik: The legacy.[crosstalk 00:24:30] Yeah.
George: That’s the legacy-
Erik: So you were smart to build this and make yourself a little bit redundant?
George: Yeah, a lot redundant because then I can go take four and a half months trip. So, that’s really the fun part of it.
Erik: You’ve tracked up and see these stoves in action, right? So do you have any really cool experiences of just seeing the people using these things and it just hits you like, just «Wow, I can’t believe this is-»
George: In 2011 after the samples, and ’12 after the first delivery, in ’13, and ’14 in each of those four years. I went up to the villages, there isn’t one particular thing that stands out other than walking into homes that are not filled with smoke and with people that are really smiling. I haven’t been back to the Nepal since ’14 because the earthquake happened in ’15. We raise some money for earthquake relief, we helped some of the villages where we’ve been working but I haven’t been back since then.
George: I’m frankly letting some younger people do that. Trekking in the Himalayas is probably history for me because it’s pretty challenging. I can do some nice hikes in Patagonia, and Antarctica, but those are a couple hours. That’s different than strapping a pack on your back and going out for days.
Erik: You had a cool story that you told me the other day that because the stoves are portable, when the earth quake happened, what was the benefit?
George: The benefit was that the houses collapsed, and the people were able to take this … pick up the stoves and because they weren’t particularly … they were dented a little bit, but they could take them out, they could put them under their tarpaulins where they had temporary shelter, and they could start cooking. So it was one less problem that they had to deal with.
George: Still had problems with water, with electricity, with all kinds of things. But they could cook.
Dave: George you mentioned that your son committed suicide and that this journey of yours was a part of … perhaps a part of the recovery process for you. One of the things that always fascinates me is when people are in their darkest moments at these dark times in their lives. What role does finding a purpose play in that journey to recovery?
George: Well, yeah, that’s very insightful, and it’s very correct . One of my mentors, just like I spent some time with you, Eric, I had a local mentor here in Colorado who said, «You got to play the hand you dealt, you do the best that you can and you do the right thing.» And that has sustained me through some pretty tough times.
Erik: Yeah, that’s beautiful George.
Jeff: Well, for anybody who hasn’t been to Nepal and walked into a little Sherpaty house, or the lodge or home of someone and open the door, like you said, and just been blasted by a wave of particulates smoke-
George: The yak shit smoke.
Jeff: Yeah. It really is. It’s overwhelming, and then to impact a family, both from a health perspective, as well as just a sustainability perspective. You’re contacting people on such a powerfully diverse way. So, I mean, is this something that you said, «I have this desire to impact the world in a positive way. I just have to figure out how.» or were you thinking to yourself, these stoves are … did you gravitate towards that simply because this was the only thing that you could think of or where was this?
George: It’s one step at a time. That Tom Hornbein told me that’s how you climb a mountain, is one step at a time. You pursue a goal. One of my goals has always been to have a … live a meaningful life. When I was in Switzerland when I was 22, when I graduated from college, I saw a headstone and so modernly in the little cemetery there and it said, «Youth must be served.» Some young kid that had fallen off the matter horn and I scratch my head and so what do I want on my headstone and it just popped in, he made a difference.
George: So really, from my youngest age … youngest conscious age, there’s been a desire to make a difference. Not to build a legacy in that sense, but to make a difference. By being on this planet. I think we all have that responsibility. So I did those intermediate things and then obviously triggered by Paul’s death, I wanted to do something more meaningful to memorialize him and that’s how it evolved one step at a time.
Jeff: If you continue to live that life then what’s the byproduct is the legacy, right?
George: That true. yeah.
Dave: But also even beyond Paul, to for Paul, you got out of Austria, your family were pretty affected by the Holocaust. Do you think that even has some kind of shaping of who you’ve become?
George: Absolutely. No question about it.
George: Well, I mean, it’s part of the family history, the family Esperado. We had to leave. When I was just learning to talk and we had a picture of a German Shepherd in our apartment and I being a brilliant child, I pointed to it and I said, «Dog.» and so my parents-
Jeff: The humility started early?
George: Yeah. So, my parents took me out in the stroller, and they were putting up posters of Hitler on the walls. I don’t know, I thought that meant picture and so I pointed to it and said «Dog.» A
George: … and they hustled me back to the apartment, and I stayed in the apartment for four months until we got out of Austria, because they were scared to take me out on the street.
Jeff: Right. Perhaps because you were going to call a spade a spade.
George: Yeah, right. But you know, I was very politically aware at the age of one.
George: But yes, I mean that’s a story that obviously got told, I don’t know. I don’t remember the exact event because I literally was a year old. But that was all part of our family conversations as we became American citizens and build a new life here in the United States.
Erik: And beginning your life out of the gravity of that situation. Is their like more of a weight that shoves you towards purposefulness? Or I don’t know.
George: No, that’s a good question. I think it’s all part of the schematic of wanting to make a difference, of leading a purposeful life, of being grateful to this wonderful country by giving us the opportunity to escape the Holocaust, which was certain death or there, you know again, I wasn’t aware of it as a one year old child. But as you look back at history, starting when you’re five or six and begin to understand these things, it’s different. It’s a formative experience.
Dave: So I can imagine many of our listeners, and certainly many of the folks at No Barriers community, come to the community because they really want to make a difference somehow in the world. But I would say, we see a lot of people who struggle with figuring out how to do that. If you take, say, our veteran population, they’ve come from a community where they were making a huge difference in their military careers, and then they get out with an injury and they can’t find that ability again.
Dave: Even though they crave it and you strike me as someone who’s been able to find it. So how do you go about finding that way to make a difference if you’re struggling?
George: I don’t know if I can really answer that for you. I mean, personally, I just keep looking for things to do. I don’t get bored. But I also want to find something that’s good. I stick with it that property tax company that you mentioned Eric, that was founded 33 years ago, and we’ve just been doing it while other companies have fallen by the wayside. We’ve adapted to changing market conditions and we’ve had similar struggles in Nepal, it hasn’t been a straight line. But you know, we had the idea, we started to implement it, we ran into some distribution issues and some governmental issues and so forth.
George: So you just take a look at the current situation, you evaluate it, you try to solve the problem, to do it honestly and ethically and get on with it. Then there’s sometimes, are times when there’s failure, like when I took bankruptcy. You know Kenny Rogers, The Gambler, «Know when to hold them, know when to fold them. Know when to walk away and know when to run.» Be realistic in assessing your life, whether it’s business life, whether it’s philanthropic life, whether it’s personal life with your family, friends and issues.
George: My take has always been, to be objective, to be kind and to be loving, but not to beat a dead horse.
Erik: Have there been times in the life of Himalayan Stove Project that you’ve thought «Oh, game over.» Maybe?
George: I did about a year and a half ago when it was getting very difficult. By that time we had delivered 5,000 stoves. I was ready to say, «Okay, George, good job. You’ve transformed the lives of 5,000 families, and we’ll just let it fade off gently into the night.»
Jeff: What was it that was causing that? I mean, what was the problem?
George: It was just too much work.
Jeff: Was it an overload of work?
George: Just overload of work.
George: I didn’t want to spend the money to hire people. I was just doing everything myself, other than the physical stuff in Nepal, because I’ve got a very good guy over there. But ordering the stoves, doing the marketing, doing the fundraising, I mean, it’s like running a business and it was just a one man band and it was just-
Erik: This sound familiar Dave?
Dave: Yeah. It sure does. We’ve been there.
George: I mean it’s just been consuming my life and so, my first thought was, «Okay, let it go. Let it fade away.» And then some friends in Taos who had been supporters for a long time said, «Well, there is another option.» and I said, «Yeah, you going to help me?» and they said, «Yes, we will.» Okay, so they did, we have, and now we have a functioning organization that is only taking a modest amount of my time instead of this full time 24/7 program.
Dave: I’d love to hear a little bit about … you know you’ve mentioned that you’re in your early 80s. As our population ages, they tend to live longer now, I see people in our community, actually a couple years back, we were approached by a large retirement agency thing. We’ve got all these talented people who did amazing things in their professional career, and then they get in their late 60s and they retire and they don’t know what to do, and yet they have all these talents left. I see you as someone who’s hasn’t run into that problem. You’ve applied it immediately to something else. So I guess my question is, thinking about that population, of all the talent that’s there and all that’s still left in their lives to make good. What would you say to those individuals about how they find that next phase of their life?
George: Well, set yourself a goal of helping something. Not a specific goal of starting a stove project but of doing something other than sitting on the couch and watching football or going out and playing golf or whatever in my mind, the typical retirement thing is or going on a cruise, on a 5,000 passenger ship in the Caribbean, where you can see a Broadway show. That’s to me would be pretty unfulfilling. Look in your local community. I’m a member of rotary.
George: We do work in our local community, we raise money, we help disadvantaged kids, we provide litter clothing for families that can’t afford it. There are lots of organizations out there. Rotary is one example. There are other service clubs that do that kind of thing. Get engaged. People ask, well, «What’s your secret?» and the only answer that I have is stay active and stay involved.
Jeff: How many pushups can you do?
George: Conrad’s challenged me to a two minute plank a year ago and I can do that very easily.
Jeff: All right. We’ll give you the plank.
Erik: Give us your stats on Himalayan Stove Project and what your future is going to be.
George: By the end of this year, we will have delivered 6,000 stoves. With the earthquake relief work we’ve impacted 50,000 families. I’ll give you one individual stats that you guys both know. Remember Commy’s [00:36:33] brother Searing [00:36:34]. Commy was our lead shepard at Everest, and his brother Searing who brought Adam up. He didn’t get start school til he was 13, because he was always out gathering wood and he now has a master’s degree. So that’s a sample of one of the transformation.
George: Our goal … our short term goal is to be able to bring two containers a year over to Nepal. That’s about 1,300 stoves a year. It’s all dependent upon fundraising. I think the targets that we have established for this upcoming year will be able to do that. We’re doing it for ’19 and we’re targeting to do it for ’20. If the organization keeps rolling along and we get broader understanding and acceptance and check writing, then we’ll be able to move up from there.
Jeff: Little bit of a dovetail from what Eric said. So, how can people get involved whether it’s physically or whether its monetary [crosstalk 00:37:34]
George: Get in touch with us. We have a website, himalayanstoveproject.org. It’s got a ton of stuff on it and all the contact information, just remember to spell Himalayan correctly. Ask Mr. Google for the help on that. You can learn an awful lot about the project and you can learn how to get in touch with us.
Erik: What I find cool about what you’re doing to is that, you’re very focused. A lot of organizations even like No Barriers, we talked about scaling up and impacting more people. You’re very ambitious but yet at the same time, you’re realistic. You’re like, «Look, I mean, I don’t have to grow this, into this massive empire. I’m just making a difference one stove at a time.» Isn’t that part of the the lens?
George: Yeah, that’s well said. You said it way better than I could have.
Erik: All right. I don’t even need you in the room, George.
Jeff: He’s a public speaker.
George: Well, okay, I’ll head off and go [inaudible 00:38:27]
Dave: How much does … If I wanted to make a contribution to put a stove in one person’s home? What is that?
George: $150. A nice dinner out someplace for a couple.
Jeff: So can you be very clear with that? That is literally from production to implementation?
George: That is correct. That’s the cost of the stove, the cost of transport, all the costs that we incur, along the way, getting it into somebody’s home. $150 transforms the life of a family.
Jeff: Yeah, generationally, right?
Jeff: I’m talking about a multiple generations-
George: That’s correct.
Jeff: … that’s being impacted.
Erik: That’s the cool thing about some of the developing countries, some of the problems are really complex. But some of the problems aren’t as complex, right? Like you just do this one simple thing based on this innovation and based on your energy, and you’ve made a really big impact. It’s pretty powerful.
George: One clean cook stove, one family at a time.
Jeff: Pretty remarkable fella, George.
Dave: Yeah, George, it’s been a delight to have you on. Listeners, you can take a look at our show notes to see pictures of the stove and the before and after. Tell us again, the website, we can go to?
George: himalayanstoveproject.org. If you .com, it’ll still take you to our website. We have both of the URLs.
Jeff: Lot’s of very handsome pictures of you on that one.
George: Yeah, well.
Dave: Doing good work. You’re more handsome when you’re doing good work.
George: Thank you.
Erik: Thank you so much for being for being with us.
Jeff: Thanks for being with us today George.
George: Thanks a lot, was great, guys. Thank you.
Dave: Guys, another amazing guest and conversation. Let’s just chat a little bit about what we heard that really stood out for us.
Jeff: He’s the most inspiring octogenarian I’ve ever met. I couldn’t just wait to use that word.
Dave: You knew he was [crosstalk 00:40:05]
Erik: I would be so scared to say that.
Dave: I saw you stalling something over there.
Jeff: Yeah, you had the right to put them right and fastest on the right syllable.
Erik: There’s this cheesy little fable that everyone talks about how the kids picking up starfish and throw them into the ocean and somebody says you’re not going to be able to save every starfish. He’s like, save that one. I love that. That’s George. It’s really inspiring. Even for all of us, right? We’ve done some cool things, but to say «What can I do in my life that’s going to create that legacy?» As you said, Jeff, I mean, I think we’re all capable of a lot more than we think if we have the lens that George has.
Jeff: I wonder if his foot on his accelerator pushes harder as he gets older. I just wonder about that how we all age and as we age, where do we find that in tension and that purpose that you spoke of Dave. I’m so inspired listening to this because, I mean, I’m about to crest over a pretty big chronological milestone myself and sitting with George and listening and watching him over the decades do this. I mean, I tell you it is just fuel for me. He’s just such a remarkable man who harnessed his passion, found the place to be able to push it and then connect the dots.
Erik: As you windowed on as part of life on earth gets smaller maybe yeah, maybe do speed up, maybe that is the message, right?
Jeff: Fo some people.
Erik: Speed up. Get it. You better get it done.
Jeff: Go, yeah. Don’t linger.
Erik: There’s no moss is going to develop under George Boschs’ rocks, that’s for sure.
Dave: Yeah. I guess, I was thinking back to our conversation we had with [inaudible 00:41:50] Ethan from Ethiopia. You can look in our past shows if you want to hear this. But one of the things that struck me in that conversation is, each terrible adversity that Ethan had come across. He just talked about it. It’s like what happened and I moved on and I found a way. I heard that same theme in George’s life of he throw’s it out. «Oh, did you didn’t know I went bankrupt? My son committed suicide.» and yet, he continued to just find a way, to have purpose and meaning and to live fully. Which I think is not as easy as it sounds. For a lot of our listeners, for me personally, and yet, individuals like George figure it out and I think they guide us and they show us it is possible in those moments to just continue in one … as he said, one step in front of the other. That’s the way you get through it.
Erik: «Use the cards you dealt.» I love that too. Yeah, because sometimes you do get a yak shit hand and you gotta you gotta work with that hand and make it work and eek impact out of it.
Jeff: I’m not gonna let go personally the idea of the legacy either because I find it as a wonderful byproduct that if we do the right thing, and we harness these passions, and we put them in the right places, then what happens? We impact the world. Then long after we’re gone, that legacy lives on and defines the work of that individual. Therein lies George Bosch.
Dave: If you want to get a little bit of that spirit in you, that George Bosch spirit, what better place to get it than by coming June 13 to 15th of No Barrier Summit. I think we all get a little bit of that spirit of what’s possible by attending that event. So we started our show, reminding you that’s coming up. But if you want to have that inspiration, in that moment of thing, wow, there’s more that I can do. There’s more contribution I can make and get inspired by what’s possible. The No Barriers Summit is a great place to do that. nobarrierssummit.org, June 13th to 15th in Lake Tahoe.
Jeff: Exciting stuff.
Erik: Cool. Thanks, everyone, No Barriers.
Jeff: Thanks. See you next time.
Dave: Thanks to all of you for listening to our podcast. We know that you have a lot of choices about how you can spend your time and so we appreciate you spending it with us. If you enjoy this podcast, we encourage you to subscribe to it, share it, and give us a review. Show Notes can be found at nobarrierspodcast.com. Special thanks to the Dan Ryan band for our intro song which is called Guidance. The production team behind this podcast includes producers Didric Johnck and Pauline Schaeffer, sound design editing and mixing by Tyler Copeman, graphics by Sam Davis and marketing support by Laura Baldwin and Jaime Donnelly. Thanks to all you amazing people for the great work you do.
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