The Evergreen Spirit is on Capitol Hill

Re-posted from the Seattle PI, by Paul Torres

“If everyone contributes to solutions we can make real progress,” proclaims Out for Sustainability President Gerod Rody. Their recent Winter (Green) Social gathering with fellow green-minded organization Environmental Coalition of South Seattle (ECOSS) at Liberty Bar (517 15th Avenue East) was a reminder that environmental issues are still a vital force in our region. The teaming of the two organizations is part of their greater goals for community cooperation and collaboration. Their successful collaboration includes Earth Day at the Duwamish Waterway Park this past April.

Out for Sustainability began in 2009 and has since been a present force for environmental issues not only on Capitol Hill and the LGBTQ community, but in the larger region. This organization, according to their website, “engages and mobilizes the LGBTQ community to advance social and environmental sustainability.”

Highlights of their organization include a Green(er) Pride and Earth Gay. With Greener Pride, they goal is for the annual Seattle Pride event to have zero waste and be carbon neutral by 2015. The cleverly titled Earth Gay is their Earth Day event and has many volunteers at service sites throughout the region building community. Thie past Earth Gay’s event included planting a garden in South Park and restoring the habitat on Beacon Hill.

ECOSS launched in 1994. It works in South Park/lower Duwamish River region and aims to build an environmentally responsible community. It collaborates with other local neighborhoods to meet this goal. ECOSS is at the forefront of sustainability for multicultural communities.

One of their many successes includes outfitting 2,000 homes with the direct installation of free energy efficient fixtures in neighborhoods and assist families with energy saving ideas through the Powerful Neighborhoods Program. These ideas save them money and also help to make a desirably environmental conscientious neighborhood. ECOSS member Elise Kross (Roberts!) wants to emphasize their commitment to offering these diverse communities their commitment in makings sure these communities are greener.

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Out for Sustainability members socialize at Liberty Bar on Capitol Hill

The enthusiastic crowd, who were enjoying drinks and sushi, are optimistic about the collaboration. Rody’s energy and passion are evident and has allowed this group to flourish. Check their website for future events like Sustainability and Society Symposium in February 2011 and the next Earth Gay in April.

Powerful Neighborhoods Program reaches important milestone

Congratulations are in order! ECOSS’ Powerful Neighborhoods Team surpassed the milestone of completing installations of over 2000 homes in South Seattle in early October. Thanks to the work of our team, 2000 families in South Seattle have received free assistance that will lower their energy bills, as well as reduce Seattle’s carbon emissions for years to come. Overall the ECOSS and other outreach teams have reduced over 7000 metric tons of CO2, saved customers an estimated $1,000,00, and saved Seattle City Light over $800,000 in energy savings.

ECOSS For Homes programs and resources

ECOSS’ For Homes program has been around since 1996, during which time we’ve worked with non-native-English-speaking communities,  teaching families about “green” cleaning, recycling, water and energy conservation, and health risks associated with common household cleaning products.  The program has reached over 7,500 families through community group presentations, local fairs and festivals, and other neighborhood-oriented events.

Our outreach team provides great resources to our clients, like green cleaning kits.  It looks like we might need to update our own information after this New York Times article was published, talking about this list created by the City of San Francisco. The list contains more than 1,000 products that have met stringent standards for health, safety and environmental sustainability (this is a bigger deal than most lists because of its comprehensive nature and because it was created by a government group rather than a commercial one). Notice that Cleaning Products is the largest category in the list.

Powerful Neighborhoods Update

Since partnering with Seattle City Light’s Powerful Neighborhoods Program, we have expanded our language capabilities, our staff, and our reach. We schedule home visits, provide translations, and deliver and install energy efficient fixtures at no cost.

Take a look at our figures from the program:

Number of homes served (actual): 1,145

Number of bulbs installed: 36,725

Number of kilowatt hours saved: 13,588,250 kwh

How you can help South Park

Even with the recent announcement of the allocation of $31 million in bonds to help replace the South Park Bridge from King County and a soon-to-be-announced pledge of $20 million from the City, South Park business owners, residents and community members are worried about the impact the June 30th bridge closure will have on the neighborhood.  The bridge is the most direct route people in South Park have to cross the Duwamish River into the rest of Seattle. It is also how the rest of Seattle easily accesses South Park’s growing business district on 14th Avenue South.  It is critical to support the businesses that will be impacted by the inevitable diversion of traffic that will be caused by the closed bridge.  Here are a few ways you can help:

  • Encourage people to endorse the bridge replacement via their local affiliations. Get your local Chamber of Commerce involved.
  • Write blog posts, Letters to the Editor, and respond to blog posts to voice your concern for the safety and vitality of the community and the implications closure will have on the neighborhood
  • Offer to help South Park restaurant owners distribute flyers (or create them if they don’t exist) in other communities.
  • Write positive reviews of the restaurants and businesses you frequent in South Park on CitySearch.com,  Yelp.com, and others.
  • Make the effort to continue to frequent South Park restaurants on lunch breaks and after work.
  • Don’t let the bridge closure become another piece of forgotten news. Continue the conversation.

New project at ECOSS: Carbon reduction for small businesses

Funding from the Boeing Company will support a new outreach project to help small, local businesses assess and reduce their carbon footprint. The project will incorporate ECOSS’ usual suite of services, including solid and hazardous waste management, resource conservation and stormwater pollution prevention. But the project will also identify opportunities for businesses to reduce carbon and save money.

To implement this project, ECOSS will be partnering with the City of Seattle Office of Sustainability and the Cascade Bicycle Club. The City will provide access to its carbon footprinting tool, which evaluates and estimates a business’ carbon impact by measuring areas such as energy use, materials, operations and shipping. The Cascade Bicycle Club will provide training and information to help address one of the greatest contributors to small businesses’ carbon footprint: employee commuting. Through a series of workshops designed specifically for small businesses, experts from Cascade will discuss how to incorporate employee bike commuting into business practice. Ideally, doing so will lead to a healthier workforce, a reduced carbon footprint and potential financial savings for the business and its staff.

ECOSS is excited to partner with the City and Cascade on this project, and we look forward to helping our small and medium sized business clients navigate the challenges of measuring and mitigating their carbon impact. If you have questions about the project or would like to be contacted about an onsite assessment or one of the bike commute workshops, please email Aldan Shank or call the ECOSS office at (206) 767-0432.

-Aldan

2010: The year of connecting to the community.

I am beginning to lose count of all the events we are involved with this year through a sponsorship or partnership – and let me tell you, we are so happy to keep our calendars full with all the amazing events that will be taking place over the next year. Let me share a few of them with you:

Along with many other great environmental nonprofits and businesses, ECOSS is co-sponsoring Environmental Priorities Coalition‘s 2010 Environmental Lobby Day on Tuesday, January 26th in Olympia. Every year the Coalition organizes the community to talk with their legislators about specific environmental issues and priorities. This year, we will be working together for the passage of the Working for Clean Water bill, the Safe Baby Bottle Act, and to Sustain Environmental Protections in the Budget. If you doubt the power of civic engagement, read on! In the 2008, Environmental Priorities Coalition successfully passed all four of their environmental priorities that year. Register today and help make a difference.

A Green Carpet Event in Seattle? We love it, and will definitely attend the Seattle premiere of Mission: Sustainable on Thursday, February 11th. According to the website, “each show will feature a new individual nominated by friends and family for a sustainability makeover. Depending on the nominee’s lifestyle, three consultants will be chosen from our list of green experts to perform a makeover customized to the individual’s needs, desires, and walk of life.” The pilot features a South Seattle family – we can’t wait to see it!

On Thursday, March 4th, ECOSS will be one of the sponsors of Managing Stormwater in Washington, presented by the Northwest Environmental Business Council. As you may know, ECOSS has a strong stormwater program and we work with different agencies to offer local businesses free spill kits. Additionally, stormwater has been the focus of an ECOSSolutions session, during which changes to the new Industrial Stormwater General Permit were discussed.

ECOSS also signed on as a Community Partner and Exhibitor at the 2010 GoGreen Conference in Seattle, taking place Wednesday, April 21st. We couldn’t think of a more relevant conference for our members and supporters if we tried: the core focus of the conference is to motivate, inspire, and educate business owners to “go green” and become more sustainable. According to their founder Ericka Dickey, “As an action-oriented, non-typical conference, GoGreen ‘10 teaches tactical steps on how to “green” your business and provides actionable next steps to sustainability for business owners and decision makers. Attendees will learn from live success stories and participate in panel discussions geared to provide solid takeaways to make any size of business the most sustainable that it can be. The GoGreen Conference will feature over 45 business leader speakers and 12 different sessions on how to build sustainability into your business.”

Check out our Events page for more events, and we will keep you informed about where we will be and how we’re involved. We’re looking forward to sharing information about ECOSS events in 2010, too!

-Elise

South Park Bridge Press Conference Update

The ECOSS staff just got back from the South Park Bridge Press Conference where the bridge replacement Environmental Impact Statement was signed by Kathleen Davis, Director of Highways and Local Programs at the State Department of Transportation; Harold Taniguichi, Director of the Department of Transportation; and Dan Mathis, Washington division administrator for the Federal Highway Administration. With all plans approved, the replacement of the bridge can move forward pending funding from the federal government.

We have long heard the reasons why this bridge needs replacement. It has a sufficiency rating of four (out of 100). Truck traffic volume is between 4-10 million tons of freight per year. Over 20,000 vehicles per day cross the bridge. For those of us who work and live in South Park, we are well aware of the potential impacts of closure.

But the most compelling speech came from long time South Park resident and ECOSS supporter Geoff Belau who discussed the bridge’s symbolism to the community, and who was kind enough to let us post his speech here.

GOOD MORNING. MY NAME IS GEOFF BELAU. I AM A 10 YEAR RESIDENT OF SOUTH PARK, I’M AN ARCHITECT, AND I’VE BEEN A MEMBER KING COUNTY’S COMMUNITY ADVISORY GROUP FOR SOUTH PARK BRIDGE REPLACEMENT SINCE 2002.

I’D LIKE TO START BY THANKING EVERYONE WHO HAD A HAND IN GETTING THE PROJECT THIS FAR. IT IS AN EXCITING AND ENCOURAGING THING TO BE STANDING HERE TODAY TO WITNESS THE SIGNING OF THIS DOCUMENT, WHICH SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE WORKED SO HARD TO PRODUCE. ON BEHALF OF THE SOUTH PARK COMMUNITY, THANK YOU.

I’D LIKE TO TALK ABOUT SOUTH PARK AND WHAT THIS BRIDGE REALLY MEANS TO THOSE OF US WHO LIVE AND WORK HERE.

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We’re famous!

I’m working on our event recap so I can accurately portray how incredible our 16th Annual Benefit really was. I don’t want to give anything away quite yet, but I would like nothing more than to share this little part of it with as many people as possible. Our sincerest thanks to our friends at More Dust than Digital for capturing just what exactly we do in our little South Park office…

ECOSS PSA

Our gratitude to the kids and volunteers at the South Park Community Center for making this possible.

-Elise and the Staff at ECOSS

WILD connections

Last week I had the privilege of joining a “green jobs” panel at Seattle’s International District Housing Alliance (IDHA). The panel was convened as part of the IDHA’s Wilderness Inner-City Leadership Development (WILD) program, which connects high school aged youth to important community and environmental issues. These kids often act as translators and disseminators of information for the elder members of their communities.

I brought Jordon along to serve as an ECOSS witness of the event. Christina Twu, IDHA’s WILD coordinator, facilitated the event and welcomed us to the group. When it was my turn to speak, I talked about ECOSS’ role as a mediator between businesses, governments and communities, and how we work with local businesses to help them with their “green” efforts.

The kids were sharp and had a number of prepared questions for the panel members. It was interesting to learn that the idea of “green jobs” was a fairly ambiguous concept for them. I agreed with their sentiment and noted that terms like “green” and “sustainability” often mean different things to different people, but that the important thing is to figure out what you’re excited about first. Once you do that, you can always incorporate sustainability into your work in meaningful ways.

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After the Q and A session with the panel, there was a mock job interview session. Jordon and I each interviewed a WILD participant and tried to prepare them for real interviews by helping them know what to expect, how to prepare, which questions to count on, etc. My interviewee, a kid named Raphael, was great. His qualifications always went back to his interpersonal skills. It was fantastic.

I had a great time as a panel member and am excited to see how these young leaders impact our community in the future.

-Aldan