We would like to welcome Ruth Backstrom, who has recently joined the CommunEcos board. Ruth has a PhD in Education from the University of Iowa and she has trained as a life coach. In the last two years she helped found Transition Durham, an organization dedicated to helping communities transition into the future with a focus on resilience, energy efficiency and economic sustainability. Ruth has led numerous community gatherings over the last year to build community around issues of sustainable food and community economics.
Katie Kovach received her masters in forestry at Virginia Tech, and currently manages a plant research lab at Duke. She is passionate about plants, science, education, the environment, and working with her hands. “Working with environmental issues and studying plants closely have developed my passion for environmental literacy, citizen science, and communicating science to a broad audience,” said Katie, “I am an avid gardener and plant observer. I spend much of my professional life studying the seeds of plants and their many nuances. I also create nature-based art and belong to the LabourLove Gallery Collective in Durham, NC. My main medium is paper, most of which I make myself. I am self-taught and enjoy experimenting with types of fibers, especially pieces I find in daily life such as cereal boxes, threads, leaves, and (importantly )junk mail! I grew up in the Piedmont and the NC landscape moves me. I am glad to contribute to the community by being a part of Recyclique/CommunEcos!”
Growing up in the sylvan landscape of western North Carolina, Anthony Watts‘ love for the forests got him involved in keeping things sustainable at an early age. While serving as the Environmental Club president in high school, he helped implement the first recycling program for the McDowell County school system. After attending school at UNC Chapel Hill, he left the area to work for National Geographic. While there, his projects included documenting new urbanist developments (how we combat urban sprawl), endangered species and the consequences of population growth around the world. While living in Japan, he saw first hand how an isolated country has to wisely use all of its resources. He has a keen interest in smart architectural design and structures that promote intelligent group interaction.
Don Nonini is a cultural anthropologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is currently leading Research on Food and Farming for All (ROFFA), a project on the local foods and sustainable agriculture movements in North Carolina. At UNC-Chapel Hill, he teaches courses in alternative economic systems, urban anthropology, political anthropology and sociocultural theory and ethnography. He has long-term interests in working toward environmental sustainability (especially biodiverse marine ecosystems), a more socially just economy, and community food security. Born in northern California, he has lived in Durham North Carolina for the last 17 years. He sees the educational and organizing work of CommunEcos (and organizations like it) as crucial in a world that appears to be undergoing irreversible climate change and profound financial crisis.
Sandy Smith-Nonini, PhD, coordinates the Recyclique upcycling co-op and divides her time between community organizing, writing and teaching. Sandy became active in environmental activism in 2006 after co-directing a University of North Carolina public service grant for a project on solar hot water. In 2007 she founded YIKES! — Youth Involved in Keeping Earth Sustainable, which evolved into Recyclique. She is a “Green Job” trainer for Durham Economic Resource Center in a project funded by the Golden Leaf Foundation.Sandy teaches anthropology and global studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, and previously taught at Elon University from 2000-2005. In 2010 her book Healing the Body Politic: El Salvador’s Popular Struggle for Health Rights – From Civil War to Neoliberal Peace came out with Rutgers University Press. Sandy formerly worked as a journalist for a decade; she has done human rights work in Central America and helped found a farm labor education project with Unitarian-Universalist funding. She has received awards in journalism and anthropology, and several research fellowships.