John Koches, a researcher at Grand Valley’s Annis Water Resources Institute in Muskegon, has been awarded the 2014 Individual Sustainability Champion Award by the Muskegon Area Sustainability Coalition.
Koches has been involved in sustainability initiatives in West Michigan for more than two decades. He organizes an annual sustainability conference that became so successful it became part of the Grand Valley Metro Council’s “Blueprint” project in the early 1990s, and became known as the “Growing Community Conference” for many years after that.
Koches also worked with Arn Boezaart, director of Grand Valley’s Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center, to create the Muskegon Area Sustainability Coalition. The group aims to balance social, economic and environmental policy in the Muskegon area. The group focuses on programs involving recycling, education, conservation, LEED certification and more. The group publishes an annual Muskegon Prosperity Index, which can be found online at muskegonasc.org.
Other sustainability initiatives Koches has worked on include one at the West Michigan Strategic Alliance, and the creation of the West Michigan Community Sustainability Partnership (CSP). The regional CSP members share ideas and strategies to increase sustainability in Muskegon, Grand Rapids, Grand Haven/Spring Lake, Holland, St. Joseph/Benton Harbor and Portage/Kalamazoo.
Koches has also played a large part in designing watershed management plans that cover most of West Michigan and nearly a quarter of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. He was recently named the chair of the Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds.
Koches has worked for AWRI and Grand Valley for 25 years. He manages the Information Services Center and his group does watershed research, land use change analysis and geospatial modeling.