George Basch, is the Chief Cook and Founder of The Himalayan Stove Project, a humanitarian & 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 cook stoves 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 and Phoenix and eventually to Nepal and around the world.
Our three hosts sat down with George Basch in our studio. Repeat episode description.
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 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.’”
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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.