EcoGlen: Improving Lives through Public Beautification


By Brandon Catour
By Brandon Catour

EcoGlen means “ecology of the Valley,” and as such, its projects are designed to improve the human environment of Phoenix by beautifying public spaces. These improvements enhance the quality of life for residents, tourists and future generations. smallMatters Institute, an Arizona-based nonprofit organization, has created EcoGlen to fill a gap in the community. They aim to be a catalyst for environmental action by bringing more beauty into our lives in order to bolster morale and illustrate how a small step can create big change.

smallMatters’ mission is to create and manage projects that demonstrate what happens when all of us are engaged in community change-making. By networking with existing businesses, nonprofit organizations, and credentialed educational institutions, smallMatters connects people to lifestyle and economic opportunities where they can make a difference. Improving our surroundings is an example of an opportunity that often goes unfunded and unfulfilled. EcoGlen fills that gap.

IMG_6491-resizeStudies by the American Institutes for Research in 2005 showed that “schools that use outdoor classrooms and other forms of nature-based experiential education support significant gains in social studies, science, language arts and math.” In fact, studies continue to show that nature plays an important role in early childhood development – socially, academically and in mental health, which can impact test scores. These proven results help EcoGlen pave the way for making positive change on school campuses both locally and nationally.

EcoGlen’s reach is vast, with projects ranging from public schools to apartment complexes and private businesses. Currently, they are working with the Mesa Public Schools District and Roosevelt Elementary School District to better the lives of public school children by bringing more nature into their environment. From creating on-campus gardens to rescuing garden spaces that have gone dormant, the EcoGlen team seeks to integrate more nature and beauty into the entire campus, as well as engage students in their environment.

EcoGlen has a major goal of getting some form of garden in every public school in maricopa county in the next five years, an action that will positively benefit hundreds of thousands of students, parents and teachers.

Beyond public schools, there are also plans to collaborate with owners of other public spaces such as small businesses and apartment complexes to improve the quality of life for all local residents – a goal based in the ideology that nature and beauty affect the way people act toward one another. In a 2015 issue of Bioscience, journalist Douglas Main states: “New research suggests nature can improve the degree to which people feel connected to and act favorable toward others, specifically their neighbors.” In this way, EcoGlen helps improve society as a whole. The ultimate goal is to grow into a nationally recognized program, shifting the current paradigm of education and public aesthetics across the nation.

How can you help? 

EcoGlen has a major goal of getting some form of garden in every public school in Maricopa County in the next five years, an action that will positively benefit hundreds of thousands of students, parents and teachers. In order to accomplish this goal, support is needed. This can come in the form of volunteers helping on-site; people donating resources such as potted plants, starter seeds and garden materials; business sponsorships; and also individual monetary donations to assist in widening their reach to affect more lives.

For more information, visit If you would like to become part of the EcoGlen team, please contact Brandon Catour at

Brandon Catour is a graduate of ASU with a degree in Economic Sustainability. Brandon interned with smallMatters while attending college and is now employed full time as a Community Ambassador focusing on EcoGlen.

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