Each month in our Green Champions section we feature three people – one each in northern, central and southern Arizona – who are making strides in the green community. Since April is Earth Month we focused on people who are passionate about the outdoors and nature restoration.
Dennis McClung, Founder, Garden Pool
In 2009, Dennis and his wife bought a foreclosed home in Mesa that featured an empty backyard swimming pool. Instead of refilling it with water, Dennis and his family transformed the hollow pool into a living, breathing closed-loop garden system, growing fruits and vegetables under a greenhouse covering. His experiment garnered attention from media outlets such as National Geographic and engaged organizations such as Cornell and Arizona State University. Dennis has since founded Garden Pool nonprofit, dedicated to researching and implementing sustainable backyard solutions to food insecurity on an international scale, and continues to coordinate and motivate advancement towards localized, “green” food systems. He was also a recent finalist for the Cox Conserves Heroes award.
Jeff Meilander, Founder, Flagstaff EcoRanch
Jeff, an Ohio native, moved to Flagstaff to pursue a Master’s degree in Science Teaching at NAU in 2007. Throughout his academic and teaching careers at Mingus Union High School and Northland Preparatory Academy, he emphasized experiential learning and outdoor education through field trips to locations like Zion National Park, Oak Creek, and Lowell Observatory. Through the Flagstaff EcoRanch, an ongoing experiment in sustainable living and gardening which offers educational materials to schools and organizations using the volunteer efforts of community members, Jeff inspires learners of all ages to find excitement in the natural world, reduce their impact on the environment and discover themselves through educational experiences.
Joaquin Murrieta-Saldivar, Cultural Ecologist, Watershed Management Group
Through his position at Watershed Management Group, Joaquin specializes in building resilience in diverse communities, such as the region between the U.S. and Mexico, by enhancing the connections between people, culture, and natural resources. Joaquin has implemented community-based approaches to watershed management, river restoration, geo-tourism, conservation of native peoples, and sustainable practices for the ranching community. He has worked with the Sonoran Institute, the National Geographic Society and other organizations. Joaquin has a Master’s degree from the University of Arizona in Natural Resources and Agricultural Economics and a PhD in Renewable Natural Resources Studies with an emphasis on management, policy and economics of natural resources.
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