Notables in Environment and Sustainability

Movers & Makers asked organizations involved in environment and sustainability to introduce their notables to our readers, part of a regular feature highlighting people making a difference in Greater Cincinnati’s nonprofit community. 

Colleen O'Connor
Colleen O’Connor

Colleen O’Connor connects people to parks with litter removal events

As the program officer for Cincinnati Parks Foundation, Colleen O’Connor creates initiatives that help communities connect to their neighborhood parks. She constantly explores opportunities to harness the power of parks to support the city and its people. Cincinnati Parks Foundation created obLITTERators, a volunteer litter removal group, to help support the Cincinnati Parks team. Under O’Connor’s leadership, volunteers meet monthly in parks throughout the city to pick up litter. Thanks to a grant from the Ohio EPA and a partnership with the Clean Up Collective, she expanded the group’s impact. In 2023, the volunteers removed over 33 tons of litter from Cincinnati Parks. O’Connor works with community groups that want to remove litter alone or host their litter pickups. A busy mother of four, O’Connor is dedicated to giving back to the community. It’s not unusual to find her entire family at an obLITTERators event. 

Erik Hyden
Erik Hyden

Erik Hyden decreases hunger by saving food from being wasted 

Erik Hyden, food donor manager at Last Mile Food Rescue, is a Cincinnati-born-and-raised food enthusiast. Last Mile Food Rescue is the area’s largest perishable-food rescue organization dedicated to ending food waste and hunger. Since joining Last Mile in October 2022, Hyden has been instrumental in expanding the network of food donors. Through his efforts, Last Mile diverted 3.2 million pounds of food from landfills in 2023. This equates to 2.7 million meals for the food insecure. Prior to Last Mile, Hyden spent over 20 years as an executive chef, most recently at McCormick & Schmick’s. Fine dining is where he developed a passion for bringing wholesome and delicious food to the people of Cincinnati. As an early figure in the area’s farm-to-table movement, he gained a sense of how communities can improve their food security. Hyden leverages his extensive experience and connections to tackle food insecurity and waste.

David Rich
David Rich

David Rich’s construction career features reuse and sustainability 

David Rich has spent the better part of his 40-year professional life in construction, and his later years with Building Value, a social enterprise offering deconstruction, demolition and hardscaping services, reusing and recycling materials. Rich’s father introduced the concept of interlocking concrete pavers to the United States 50 years ago, and Rich and his brothers all started in the installation business, learning – literally – from the ground up. In 1982, he joined Reading Rock as a hardscape specialist before starting Cincinnati’s first microbrewery, The Barrelhouse, in 1993. He returned to Reading Rock in commercial sales before becoming director at Building Value, attracted to its mission of sustainability in construction. Rich will retire this month after 10 years of giving materials second and third chances, and of training people to be conscious of waste and how to create less of it. 

Michele Gottschlich
Michele Gottschlich

Michele Gottschlich connects people to recovering Mill Creek

Michele Gottschlich works to connect communities to the Mill Creek and beyond as board chair of the Mill Creek Alliance and leader of the grassroots Connecting Active Communities Coalition. Gottschlich enjoys building partnerships with many jurisdictions and regional organizations – such as Tri-State Trails, Great Parks and Hamilton County Planning + Development – to catalyze smart, sustainable and equitable strategies (recreation, community health, nature restoration and active transportation). Once a symbol of industrial harm, the Mill Creek is a comeback story. The water is now safe for canoeing and fishing, and the stream has much potential. Gottschlich organizes an annual Canoes & Conversations event that brings elected officials, planners and community champions to the creek. In her free time, Gottschlich bakes cookies and frequents parks and trails with her three children and two dogs.

Melinda Voss
Melinda Voss

Melinda Voss instills wonder, then action, for environment

Since joining Ohio River Foundation in 2023 as education programs manager, Melinda Voss has already made her mark on watershed education. An experienced environmental educational leader, she works to develop the next generation of environmental stewards in Greater Cincinnati and beyond by instilling a sense of wonder and empathy for nature, then imparting knowledge and inspiring action. Voss manages efforts to engage students and teachers in ORF’s innovative, hands-on, STEM-based education programs including River Explorer, Mussels in the Classroom and ORF’s summer conservation course. In 2023, under Voss’ leadership, ORF education programming reached more than 5,000 students in four cities across 56 schools. Voss and her family live on the West Side of Cincinnati on their fourth-generation, regenerative farm. In her free time, she loves spending time in the fields, woods and streams with her two children, as well as gardening and riding horses.

Mary Dudley
Mary Dudley

Mary Dudley brings students into the world of nature

Mary Dudley is ecology education manager for the Civic Garden Center. She facilitates environmental education programming for teens and adults and supports team members engaging with native and edible plant propagation, middle and high school field studies and habitat restoration. Dudley is a passionate educator whose career has taken her from Cincinnati to Seattle to Boulder, Colo., to Coral Gables, Fla. and back. She believes that everyone benefits from learning environments in and inspired by the natural world, and she strives to bring environmental education to students of all ages. Prior to rejoining the CGC team, Dudley worked as the agriculture education teacher at James N. Gamble Montessori High School in the Cincinnati Public School district for five years. She has two children, ages 7 and 5, and her family has lived in Westwood for nine years. Dudley enjoys cooking meals from garden-fresh produce and looking for beautiful wildflowers in Mount Airy Forest.

Andy Dickerson
Andy Dickerson

Andy Dickerson leads Cardinal to front of conservation work

Andy Dickerson is executive director of Cardinal Land Conservancy. Cardinal has grown from one employee and 1,500 acres protected to eight employees and 10,000 acres protected. His goal is to keep Cardinal on the “flaming front” of conservation by protecting key ecological targets as well as supporting passive recreation. Empowering staff to grow personally and professionally while developing them into leaders is paramount to Cardinal’s success. Pollinator-friendly pastures, carbon offsets and helping lead the regional Greenspace Alliance are important to Dickerson. Cardinal’s new offices in Loveland will help folks learn about some of the best ecological restoration techniques while working with health care professionals to use nature as a treatment for common mental-health disorders. In his free time, Dickerson likes to travel, hike, hunt, fish or do math (He loves statistics!).

Jeff Corney
Jeff Corney

Jeff Corney’s career brought him to leadership of nature center

Jeff Corney is rounding out his fifth year as executive director of Cincinnati Nature Center. He knows that this place and its people are the crown jewel of a career in conservation and education spanning three decades and six states. Corney said he is proud of CNC’s remarkable growth, and what he senses is an invigorated determination among staff and volunteers to inspire conservation. He finds it gratifying to see more people getting outdoors to hike, learn about nature and take actions to help the environment. With a background in natural resources from Ohio State, Corney is particularly proud of CNC’s thriving native plant and landscape restoration programs, and its renewed focus on conservation research and community action initiatives. Corney and his wife are avid foodies, using date nights to explore local restaurants. On weekends, Corney and family are often right back at CNC hiking.

Joanne Gerson
Joanne Gerson

Joanne Gerson unites faiths to take care of the Earth 

Joanne Gerson believes that all faith traditions share a common goal of caring for the planet. This is what sparked her to create Faith Communities Go Green, a collaboration with Green Umbrella, Greater Cincinnati’s regional climate collaborative, and interfaith organization EquaSion. By integrating care for the world through religious goups, Faith Communities Go Green works to reduce the risk of catastrophic climate change. One project, the Energy Efficiency initiative, is working with 52 local faith communities to reduce their carbon footprints. Gerson served as Montgomery planning commissioner, program committee chair for Hamilton County Regional Planning Partnership and on Green Umbrella’s Watershed Task Force. After successfully founding Shomrei Olam, a local Jewish environmental organization, she decided to broaden the reach and created Faith Communities Go Green. She is humbled by the energy and passion of her team. She and her husband spend their summers hiking in the nation’s parks. 

Kari Horn
Kari Horn

Kari Horn brings innovation to protecting resources

Kari Horn, natural resource manager for Great Parks, brings over two decades of experience and a strong academic background in biology to her role. She has led significant projects such as the Natural Resources Management Plan and partnership development with organizations like Groundwork Ohio River Valley’s Green Team. Horn oversees a team of natural resource experts who focus on research, water quality improvement, natural area restoration and much more. Her contributions, including the Shaker Trace Seed Nursery Project, introduce innovative methods to protect critical natural resources. She also oversees monitoring for wetland delineation, reptile and amphibian surveys, and vegetation assessments, leaving a lasting impact on regional ecosystems. Horn’s commitment to conservation and transformative leadership positions her as a valuable asset to regional conservation work. When she’s not working, Horn loves planning adventures and exploring local parks with her son and daughter. Horn lived in France for two years and is a terrible but enthusiastic juggler.

Mallory Geresy
Mallory Geresy

Mallory Geresy leads zoo in progress toward zero waste

Mallory Geresy is the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s net-zero project manager. The zoo’s goal is to be zero-waste (diverting 90% or more of waste from the landfill) by 2025. The zoo diverted about 300 tons of waste in 2023. It implemented a centralized collection space for hard-to-recycle items like batteries and plastic film, used an aerobic digester for pre-consumer food waste recycling, began working with a farmer to compost elephant waste, and worked to make all ticketed zoo events zero-waste. These successes are thanks to cross-departmental collaboration and partnerships with Last Mile Food Rescue, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Corrections and the Ohio Penal Institute. Geresy is from Cincinnati and loves all things outdoors (hiking, climbing, camping, etc.). Her favorite exotic animal is the giraffe. The most notable thing she’s found in the trash during a waste audit is a $25 Panera gift card.

Bill Gupton
Bill Gupton

Bill Gupton created Heritage Acres as site dedicated to natural burial

Heritage Acres Memorial Sanctuary is the only natural burial ground in Cincinnati and the Tristate region, dedicated exclusively to natural (“green”) burial. Bill Gupton is its founder, past president and current manager. He first envisioned this nonprofit enterprise more than a decade ago, and through tenacious fundraising and extensive research – with the help of the organization’s Founders Circle and countless volunteers – brought Heritage Acres to fruition in 2020. Nearly 80 people have been laid to rest at Heritage Acres, which also is an arboretum, education center and nature preserve. Gupton lives on the East Side with his wife Jennifer and son  Patrick. They enjoy stewarding the land, which also yields treats like maple syrup and blackberry jam. 

Margaux Roberts
Margaux Roberts

Margaux Roberts works for climate and for epilepsy awareness

Margaux Roberts is leading the way for health, equity and justice in her community. She is a community organizer with Groundwork Ohio River Valley, epilepsy awareness advocate, CEO of On the Gaux Enrichment and a passionate Bond Hill resident and mom. She demonstrates leadership by working with her community toward climate-resilient solutions through education and planning. She has presented at various conferences and served as an equity liaison to the Green Cincinnati Plan. As an environmental justice leader, she is an inspiration to youth and her community to strive for action, get dirty and create lasting relationships. Roberts’ favorite thing to do is raising her son to be the next environmental superhero like his mom, plus she enjoys singing, going on walks and spending time with family. 

Courtney Reitman-Deinlein
Courtney Reitman-Deinlein

Courtney Reitman-Deinlein enthusiastic about KCB mission

Courtney Reitman-Deinlein is board president of Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, responsible for the strategic direction of the organization, along with the 20 members of the board. She recently forged her own path by starting CRD Family Wealth Advisors LLC after a long and distinguished career in the private wealth tax group of Deloitte. She has served on the board of Keep Cincinnati Beautiful since 2019 and became president at the end of 2023. The organization values Reitman-Deinlein’s enthusiasm for its mission and her attention to detail. Reitman-Deinlein’s favorite things to do when she is not working are cooking and gardening. She has also restored a vintage Trans Am among other interesting hobbies.

Paige Young
Paige Young

Paige Young leads city teens on adventures in nature  

A passion for working with kids and a desire to give back brought Paige Young to Adventure Crew as a volunteer in 2016. She soon joined its part-time staff, eventually becoming co-director of programming alongside Clint Victor. Today, his title is “Paige’s husband,” while Young took on the programming director role full time in 2021. She has worked diligently to expand the quality and quantity of adventures and the number of teens served. Those who’ve seen Young fulfilling Adventure Crew’s mission – connecting city teens with nature and each other through outdoor adventures – might not believe she wasn’t always outdoorsy. Adventure Crew fostered her love of outdoor activities, particularly kayaking and snowboarding. In her free time, she and her husband visit as many national parks as they can. The Loveland home they share with their three cats has kayak access to the Little Miami River. 

Greg Larison
Greg Larison

Greg Larison knows the land to foster Boone Conservancy

Greg Larison is a long-time board member and board chair of The Boone Conservancy, a nonprofit land trust dedicated to land conservation in Northern Kentucky. As an outdoor enthusiast and vice president of surveying at Viox & Viox, Larison uses his extensive knowledge of the area’s land and its history to further the mission of the conservancy. A native of Northern Kentucky, Larison has decades of experience in land surveying, records research and survey calculations. He channels his many talents to assist the conservancy, helping to preserve the region’s natural lands. Larison’s favorite things to do when he’s not working are traveling to national parks, hiking, camping, backpacking and working on his small farm. He is researching original Virginia and Kentucky land grants prior to and immediately after the Revolutionary War and soon after Kentucky statehood. 

Brad Hughes
Brad Hughes

At work and home, Brad Hughes is anchored in sustainability

Brad Hughes is known for founding Artichoke, a “curated cookware collection” store in Over-the-Rhine. He’s also known for hopping in the co-mix recycling dumpster at Findlay Market and sorting out the trash. These days, he’s dumpster diving less, but that’s the only change in his sustainable lifestyle. He grew up in a household in which sorting the trash and composting food scraps were important, and he has maintained those habits. He diverts his food scraps from the landfill through the Residential Composting Program at Findlay Market. He considers reusability when he buys: Can this packaging be reused or repurposed? Is it recyclable? And for things that can’t be repurposed, there’s the Cincinnati Recycling & Reuse Hub. He and his wife Karen built Artichoke on a foundation of sustainability. In fact, 1824 Elm St. was the first LEED Gold Certified building in OTR. 

Tricia Watts
Tricia Watts

Tricia Watts leads WAVE Foundation into education center at the Levee

Tricia Watts is the fearless, kind and ambitious executive director of WAVE Foundation. Her years of experience in the nonprofit world have brought much-needed guidance to WAVE since joining in 2021. Watts’ love of nature is felt in everything she does – you can catch her meandering through the woods and listening to jam bands at outdoor venues in her free time. One of her most incredible achievements is the creation of the WAVE Center for Conservation Education, coming to Newport on the Levee later this year. She’s spent countless hours working with the board of directors, applying for grants and meeting with architects to make this happen. Because of her, WAVE can now host aquatic education programs both in the community and at its own facility.  

Felix Marisa Head
Felix Marisa Head

Felix Marisa Head raises visibility of local permaculture programs 

Felix Marisa Head is marketing director of Cincinnati Permaculture Institute. In a few months she raised the public profile of the ecological-design nonprofit: She filled enrollment in design courses, helped sell out the plant nursery, doubled the listserv and increased collaborations. Head is able to speak to diverse individuals who have been brought to permaculture to find solutions for modern-world problems. The ethics and principles are embedded in her DNA, so she is able to use her clever wordsmithing to appeal to homesteaders, native plant enthusiasts, social justice activists and anyone interested in a sustainable, equitable society. Head seeks to weave a web of social unity for a better world. Her genuine walk makes her talk appear effortless. 

Colleen McSwiggin
Colleen McSwiggin

Colleen McSwiggin’s ‘reuse’ idea saves hard-to-recycle items

Colleen McSwiggin is executive director of the Cincinnati Recycling & Reuse Hub. The idea for the hub grew out of her work at Mount St. Joseph University, where she started a Beyond the Bin program to help collect items for nonprofits. She also organized electronics collection events that sent over 300 tons to be recycled over eight years. It was at one of those events that the idea for the hub was born, as a way to provide centralized sustainability for items that can’t go in curbside recycling but that can have a second life. She’s very proud that the Hub has diverted over 377 tons from the landfill since opening its doors in April 2021. Outside of the Hub, McSwiggin enjoys genealogy research, traveling and singing with the School of Rock adult program. She’s also a skilled trivia player, as she proved on “Jeopardy,” where she was a one-time winner.


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