Spotlight on Industrial GSI in Georgetown 

One of ECOSS’ major areas of work is supporting clean water efforts by sharing resources and stormwater solutions to communities that disproportionately experience flooding and the effects of stormwater pollution. Some of these solutions can include cisterns, grattix boxes, or even larger-scale depaving projects. Angela Ena is a Program Manager at ECOSS who manages Clean Water projects which include Industrial Green Stormwater Infrastructure (also known as GSI) efforts. Angela shared a bit about the projects that are in progress, and her hopes for future GSI work benefitting the health of neighborhoods, communities, and the environment. 

What does Industrial GSI work look like at ECOSS? 

ECOSS has been engaging different property owners to build GSI on commercial properties in a neighborhood known for its poor air quality and low tree canopy coverage. The property owners range from commercial property management companies to the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT). 

The Office of Sustainability and Environment and DirtCorps partnered with ECOSS in 2022 to combine engagement efforts. The program is still in a pilot phase as it navigates new territory that has yet to be explored before in this coordinated approach between the City of Seattle and community-based organizations.  

The partnership offers three different stormwater mitigation tier options to property owners depending on the site: 

  • Tier 1 is Low Impact Development (LID) options like planters or grattix boxes 
  • Tier 2 offers a replacement of monocultural plantings with GSI in already existing patches of soil 
  • Tier 3 is a depaved design by MxMLandscape Architecture that is built by DirtCorps.  

Georgetown as an experimental canvas

These GSI projects are intended to create permeable surfaces in a historically riparian area that was paved over during the city’s early development. Georgetown experiences low air quality due to the industrial nature of the neighborhood. The neighborhood also experiences low tree canopy coverage and limited access to greenspaces due to spatial inequities and lack of infrastructural investment. The neighborhood serves as an experimental canvas for the partnership to implement these green infrastructure solutions.  

We hope to create a whole network or corridor of these stormwater mitigation installations with property owners on a single block or two on board. ECOSS has been engaging properties that make for good candidates with large roofs and downspouts, and low tree canopy coverage or permeable surface on their property.

Benefits for community and environment

I’m hoping that these projects not only increase the tree canopy and treat stormwater before it enters the Duwamish and Puget Sound, but also create more habitat – for wildlife and people. Green spaces benefit communities in a myriad of ways, but we’d like for our experimental pilot to successfully start to address some of these.  

At the heart of biophilic design is the goal to connect people to Nature in the cities they live in. Indigenous communities have always been connected to nature in deeply meaningful ways, but in the urban 21st-century context biophilia serves as a useful concept as cities continue to grow and pave over ecosystems. Before the term biophilia was coined by E.O. Wilson, landscape architects like Ian McHarg and Federick Law Olmsted strove to do this through their different projects like Seward and Central Park. ECOSS has partnered with MxMLandscape Architecture to create pockets of Nature wherever possible in a landscape of fragmented and privately owned parcels.  


ECOSS’ grant is funded by the King County Flood Control District. 

For more information about Industrial GSI, or if you are a commercial property owner located in Georgetown interested in learning more about stormwater mitigation options, contact aena@ecoss.org.

To learn more about Clean Water programming at ECOSS, visit our Projects page.

Lunar New Year: Celebrating Tết

February marks the celebration of the Lunar New Year across many cultures. This year, it is observed on February 10, which coincides with the new moon and the beginning of a new year on the Lunar Calendar.

Tết is a Vietnamese New Year holiday where everyone gathers to celebrate and spend time with family over food and much more. Tết is short for Tết Nguyên Đán. Tết is the name of the festival and Nguyên Đán means “the first day of the new year.” The holiday is based on the lunar calendar so the date changes yearly, but it usually falls between Jan 21 and Feb 20. Many people travel back to their hometowns to celebrate, with big firework displays in the major cities. Tết celebrates the harvest and all the hard work people have done over the whole year. Yen Le, a member of the Vietnamese community and a Community Engagement Specialist here at ECOSS shared some of the traditions surrounding Tết, and her favorite memories celebrating Tết both in Vietnam and here in Seattle.

A family gathering on the day of Tet

What are some of your favorite Tết traditions?
Some of my favorite traditions are giving and receiving lucky money (Lì Xì) to children and elderly people, family reunions and traveling back home, eating traditional food, wearing traditional clothes and dragon dancing, reading my yearly horoscope (Tử Vi) and visiting temple or church to bless our whole family.

What are the different food customs for Tết? Do you have a favorite meal?

Sticky rice and candied fruit
  • The day before Tết is called Tất Niên, where we eat the last dinner of the old year, which is usually the same food as the first day of Tết. We also cook extra so that people who come over on the first day have food to eat. Depending on your religious beliefs, you observe three days of eating certain foods and avoiding other types of foods.
  • Day 1 is Tết Day. We eat Thịt Kho Trứng (braised pork with eggs), Canh Khổ Qua (Bitter Melon soup), Củ Kiệu (Pickled Scallion), Bánh Tét (Sticky rice cake) and Bánh Chưng (Vietnamese square sticky rice cake), Gà Luộc (Boiled whole chicken), xôi gà (Chicken sticky rice), Chả Lụa (pork bologna), Mứt (candied fruit), hạt dưa (Melon seed), Măm ngũ quả (a five fruit tray that includes soursop, coconut, papaya, mango and dragon fruit) — the northern region of Vietnam also includes bananas (chuối).
  • Day 2— My dad usually cooks his mother’s recipe for a stir fry dish — he calls it “Mien xao.” It has vegetables, mushrooms, green bean noodles, fried tofu flakes, and fermented red bean curd.
  • Day 3— All of our meals are vegetarian, mainly vegetarian noodle soup.
  • Day 4 to Day 10— You can go back to eating anything you want.

My favorite foods we cook around this time are the stir fry my dad cooks on the second day, bánh tét, and bánh chưng. I like the stir fry dish specifically because this is one of the recipes that my father’s mother left for our whole family to cook when celebrating the New Year. She has gone to the good place now, so every year my family on my dad’s side cooks this dish and holds a memorial for my grandmother. For bánh tét and bánh chưng, we don’t actually get to eat this dessert until the New Year comes around. I have to wait the whole year just to eat this since no one in Vietnam or here sells it during other times of the year. There are different kinds of filling inside such as meat and green bean, banana, or sweet green bean– my favorite is sweet green bean.

What are the festivals like in Vietnam compared to here in Seattle?
In Vietnam, during the week leading up to Tết we begin the process of preparation and memorial worship. All the dates below are according to the Lunar calendar, which means they change from year to year.

Decorations typically hung around the home and flower trees.
  • 12/23– Giving offerings to Kitchen God. (Some people have this god due to different religions)
  • 12/23– Visiting ancestral gravesite
  • 12/25– Cleaning up the house, much like spring cleaning
  • 12/26 and 27– Planning the shopping lists and what to buy. My family is really intentional about this part and doesn’t want anything to be missing from the list. We would buy all the cooking ingredients and flowers from the market.
  • 12/28– Decorations day, the whole house is decorated in red, green, and gold. Most people avoid wearing or decorating with black and white for the New Year.
  • 12/29– Decoration and offerings: the 5 fruit plates and flower arrangement. Everything being offered to god needs to be fresh, including food and decorations.
  • 12/30– The last dinner is called Tt Niên. After you present your offerings to your ancestors, everyone eats this last meal of the old year and prepares for the new year
  • 1/1– Celebrations and visits to temple or Church.

In my opinion, Tết in Seattle is less traditional because not everyone in my generation celebrates it and sometimes it is just another holiday to rest before going back to work. Before 2012, there were not a lot of activities or festivals for people to celebrate Tết, but now I see a lot more traditional food and festivals being offered.

Some other key differences are:

  • Vietnamese people still have to work on Tết day because Tết isn’t celebrated as a national holiday in America. In Vietnam, both New Years are celebrated (Gregorian Calendar and Lunar Calendar)
  • Here, everyone last minute shops until 3 days before Tết.
  • Some fruits that are used for meals or offerings are not available to buy for Tết, and if it is available it is super expensive and understocked.

Do you have a favorite Tết memory?
I would say traveling back to Vietnam to celebrate. I remember the atmosphere in the streets in Sai Gon, and seeing people traveling around to see their families. Everything feels really nice and nostalgic. I remember feeling anxious but also excited, like the feeling when you just bought a new house and you’re excited to start decorating it. During this time, I visited my cousins since school shuts down for 10 days for everyone to enjoy and celebrate the New Year and then prepare for the next year. I also ate so many delicious foods that I usually can’t find here in the States.

The Orchna integerrima that everyone has in their house during the festival.

One thing that I wish I could experience here in America is the streets of the city being almost completely empty. In Vietnam, since everyone has gone back to their hometown, you step outside and immediately feel a sense of peace and going back to nature again. With so few cars around, Vietnam’s air feels fresher during the New Year, like the smell after rain, woody but with the scent of Ochna Integerrima flowers.

Meet our new Development Director, Teddy Wingo

We are so excited to introduce Teddy Wingo as our first-ever Development Director! Teddy joined the ECOSS team in late October and brings a depth of knowledge around development work and relationship-building with the donor community.

How were your first two weeks at ECOSS? Any standout moments?

– My first two weeks were busy! I arrived the week of the Gratitude Gathering so I joined the all-hands-on-deck effort from the jump to help make sure we hosted a great event. The following week I attended the Front and Centered Environmental Justice Summit in Ellensburg. I feel as though I’ve hardly had the opportunity to think about my role to this point but in a way it has been the perfect start because I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many members of our community and learn about the importance of the work at hand.

What excites you about development work at ECOSS?

– I’m excited for development work at ECOSS because the organization has very few individual, unrestricted donors. This means we have the opportunity to tell stories, expand our reach, and grow the community that supports ECOSS’ programs and their work. The efforts of our programmatic staff are so important and so impactful. My goal is to share their stories with the greater Seattle community so we can gain far-reaching support which can help their programs achieve an even greater impact without any restrictions.

Can you share a little bit about your background working in development?

– I have been working in development for a number of years now. I previously worked as the Assistant Director of Annual Giving at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, as well as the Development Manager at Columbia Land Trust – an organization that does conservation and restoration work throughout the Columbia River Gorge Region.

What are some things you like to do for fun?

– I love to travel. Whether that is going on a road trip or flying to another country, I try and take every opportunity I can to get out and see the world. The mountains bring me peace. I try and hike and backpack as much as I can during the summer months and snowboard during the winter. I grew up playing soccer and still have a deep love for the game, I don’t play as much as I used to but recently I’ve been intentional about doing so more often. I also just love to work in our yard and walk my dog. As long as I’m outside, I’m happy!

Community Van: ECOSS and Danny Woo Gardeners visit Deception Pass

Many immigrant and refugee communities face challenges when it comes to exploring local parks since many places require access to a car to visit. This year, ECOSS incorporated Metro’s Community Van service into our Transit to Nature programming and led guided day trips to different spots around the greater Seattle area, including Snoqualmie Falls, Seward Park, and more. The Community Van is a service provided by King County Metro that allows you to reserve a van and schedule a ride with a volunteer driver, or if you are trained as a driver, drive the van yourself! This program is excellent for communities who are interested in getting outdoors with family or a group of friends. 

Photo credit: Jules Jimreivat, Brave Space Media

The most recent ECOSS-led community van trip was to Deception Pass State Park with members of the Danny Woo Community Garden. ECOSS’ Program Manager for outdoors access, Xiaoxi Liu has collaborated with the garden in many capacities, but the relationship between the Danny Woo Community Garden and ECOSS goes way back; in the past, ECOSS even worked together with a community member, Mr. Liang, to get cisterns installed in the garden.  

“When I first met KaeLi, the Danny Woo Community Garden manager, and introduced our programming, she expressed interest in many projects, but especially the trip to go outdoors. A lot of the gardeners are retired, and since they don’t know how to drive or don’t feel comfortable driving the highway, and their kids are busy working, there’s very little chance for them to go further. After having organized other events at the garden and seen their enthusiasm in supporting us, we thought it’d be a great way to give back to them. This trip gave something concrete and beneficial to community members.”  

Xiaoxi Liu, ECOSS Program Manager
Photo credit: Jules Jimreivat, Brave Space Media

On a cloudy Monday morning in late August, Xiaoxi and Ernest picked up the gardeners from a location in the International District that was convenient for everyone, and they were quickly on their way to Deception Pass! Together, they walked along the beach, in the forest, and along the cliffs of the trail to Lighthouse Point. The trail offered a vast diversity of landscapes, plants, and views of the bridge. They also saw a huge tree with an opening, and everyone got so excited and wanted to have their photos taken inside the tree. It was so joyful. Afterward, the group shared lunch together near the beach. 

Photo credit: Jules Jimreivat, Brave Space Media

“One participant brought her homemade cakes, food, and fruit, and kept asking us to eat. It was so heartwarming to be surrounded by a culture that is so familiar. It felt like I was with family. Food is always the bridge in Chinese culture. When Chinese parents want to show love to their kids, they don’t say “I love you”, they say “eat more”.  

Xiaoxi Liu, ECOSS Program Manager

At the end of the day, the group was very happy about the trip. They loved the place Xiaoxi and Ernest chose, and the ease of transportation with the Community Van. “They thought it was a perfect day, and would love to attend more trips. The elders mentioned wanting to go to Leavenworth, to go see the holiday lights and parade. I would also love a trip to Vashon, taking the ferry with the van must be so cool” Xiaoxi shared. With Community Van, the possibilities are endless!

ECOSS’ Transit to Nature programming is supported by King County Parks, King County Metro, and the Wilderness Society 

The International Examiner published an op-ed “The outdoors should be more accessible, our aunties need its benefits too” written by our Program Manager, Xiaoxi Liu. Read it here.

ORCA Success Stories: ECOSS and Villa Comunitaria Work Together for Community Transportation Access

ECOSS partnered with Villa Comunitaria to distribute pre-loaded ORCA cards to communities as part of a research study with King County Metro, and to spread awareness about the ORCA LIFT program to bridge the barriers that many communities face when trying to sign up. ORCA LIFT is a program that helps qualifying low-income individuals have access to reduced transit fares and an ORCA card, which can be used to travel on Sound Transit, Community Transit, Everett Transit, King County Metro buses, Kitsap Transit, Pierce Transit, Seattle Streetcar, Seattle Monorail, the King County Water Taxi, and Washington State Ferries. 

Villa Comunitaria is a local organization based in South Park that empowers families in innovative ways that are culturally relevant by creating a welcoming environment and providing programming that helps Latino communities navigate housing, immigration, health, education, and the legal system. We chatted with Shandiny Gualip Contreras, System Navigation Coordinator from Villa Comunitaria, to explore their experience collaborating on this ORCA card distribution/ORCA LIFT referral project, as well as the challenges, successes, and the impact on the communities Villa Comunitaria serves. 

“I have felt supported by ECOSS during this work project; both through the outreach opportunities as well as the check-ins and questions with the project leads.” Shandiny shared. A big challenge that Villa Comunitaria experienced last winter was a slowdown in outreach opportunities during the holiday season and noticed that hosting tabling events together with ECOSS was a great opportunity to engage the community beyond in-office appointments. “When we tabled together, we had a greater opportunity for people to learn about the organizations and in extension – our other programs. Our teams strategized to engage in ORCA Adult Cards and LIFT Referrals respectively, which helped us engage with our visitors effectively.” Together, ECOSS and Villa Comunitaria distributed 59 (and counting) pre-loaded ORCA cards ranging in value from $25-$99. 

 “We welcome resources and programs like this one,that can provide our community direct assistance. Within this distribution, the participants were able to receive cards with some funds included, which alleviates an urgent need. This tangible support can also be encouraging for community members to learn how to use an ORCA card, try out the transit services available, and practice a new tool without using personal funds. I think this overall aligns with how we aim to service our community – providing tools and resources that implement beneficial practices! ”  

Shandiny Gualip Contreras, Villa Comunitaria

Shandiny shared that the greatest impacts of this program were the direct temporary financial relief for community members who rely on public transportation. “We saw this impact in the higher volume of participants for ORCA Adult cards which were on hand and more accessible in terms of (absent) prerequisites. For the ORCA LIFT Referral program, our community members received support from Miguel Urquiza, our point of contact from King County Public Health, who received referral applications, provided follow-up communication, and assisted with registration.” A challenge for ORCA LIFT referrals was the registration process, due to the application process requiring personal information and/or state-related program qualifications which caused sign up rates to be lower.  

In terms of ORCA improving environmental justice efforts and connecting the community, Shandiny suggested providing education on Non-public Charge and Public Charge and its relevance for ORCA LIFT. “This reissued rule has greatly impacted our communities’ comfort in accepting state or local program assistance. Oftentimes our undocumented community members are barred from state and city programs – and there is still distrust or discomfort when faced with an application that may include a Social Security Number as a listed question.” Public Health Staff enroll many people new to the country on the program every day, and Immigration status is not a factor in LIFT eligibility, since LIFT is not subject to the Public Charge rule. Many of these discomforts and concerns that community members have around the application process could be addressed and clarified at the first point of contact in the future, for example, that LIFT eligibility does not require a SSN. 

Villa Comunitaria’s Bilingual Resource Specialist, Alex Segura, noticed during our appointment-based outreach that folks who initially requested the ORCA LIFT program survey would later decline or feel discomfort. “Those community members who declined the LIFT program would oftentimes opt for the regular Adult ORCA cards.” For those who did submit LIFT referral forms Public Health staff member Miguel Urquiza would verify their eligibility and issue the card.  For the referrals where information was not complete multiple follow-up attempts were made to reach the client to enroll them in ORCA LIFT.

“For the folks that have recently migrated to the US, options to refill their ORCA cards are quite limited. Many do not have bank accounts set up and would only be able to refill using cash which could also hinder how effective having an ORCA card is to them.” Throughout this project, Villa Comunitaria took observations, trends and insight alike to the Reflection Sessions hosted by King County Metro. 

“Partnering with ECOSS and Villa Comunitaria has been a great learning opportunity for Metro. It’s critical that we hear directly from riders about the challenges they face in accessing public transit,” said Tim Hams, co-lead for the King County Metro project. “To hear that some undocumented community members may be apprehensive about applying for ORCA LIFT or related programming because they fear retaliation, is critical information and helps us to design better transit experiences.” 

Tim Hams, King County Metro

Looking ahead to future collaborations, Shandiny shared that engaging with young adults and youth education to uplift the South Park community is something to aim for. “Most of Villa Comunitaria’s programs serve adults, and direct education for young folks is limited to our Early Learning Co-op and Kaleidoscope programs at the moment. I can see the potential impact of ECOSS’s youth programs and environmental opportunities can uplift the South Park community both long-term and holistically via multi-generational engagement as Villa Comunitaria continues to service our parent and adult communities, and grow programmatically.” These partnerships have helped introduce more community members to the ORCA and LIFT programs and improved ORCA distribution efforts. 

  

To learn more about Villa Comunitaria, visit their website: www.villacomunitaria.org   

The ORCA distribution program and ORCA LIFT referral program are made possible through our partnership with King County Metro.  

Read more about this program on Metro’s blog.

New program for youth centers the health of communities and the Duwamish River 

Many immigrant and indigenous communities in Seattle have fishing traditions, histories, and connections to the Duwamish River. The river is home to lots of marine life, but unfortunately is also heavily polluted, an EPA superfund site, making the fish unhealthy for human consumption. Salmon are the only fish that are safe to catch and eat from the Duwamish since they are migratory and do not solely reside in the river. Other species such as shellfish however, should not be consumed since they process large volumes of polluted water through their gills each day and can accumulate levels of bacteria that are dangerous for humans. In 2019, ECOSS partnered with the EPA and King County Public Health’s Community Health Advocacy teams to support communities and empower them with knowledge about the Duwamish to promote safe fishing practices. 

In 2023, ECOSS is revisiting this project through a new partnership with Public Health – Seattle & King County, this time focusing on a program for youth who live near the river. This after-school youth program will consist of educational as well as immersive experiences centering the health of our waterways and communities. Cindy Anh Thu Nguyen, ECOSS Program Manager, shared more about her vision for the project with us.  

I am excited about developing the curriculum for this program, because ECOSS has never really had a youth program like this before, and, in a way, I get to start from scratch and build something really unique and specific to this community. I also just came out of grad school and am looking forward to this opportunity to apply my own skills in environmental education, and practicing culturally sustaining pedagogy and sustaining cultural fishing practices within the community.  

 – Cindy Anh Thu Nguyen, ECOSS Program Manager 
The ECOSS team at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery

The program will center the idea of forming connections to the land where the youth live and place-based learning. Field trips to immersive learning spaces like the Wing Luke Museum, as well as fishing trips, and other activities, will create opportunities for the youth to explore places they may have not been before. There is an emphasis on shared learning outside of the classroom, conversations with peers, and thinking about how they could play a part in promoting environmental change in their communities.  

Environmental Justice education is not currently the most accessible to marginalized youth and a program like this is really oriented to being open for, particularly, the youth who are living in these communities and living near the river. It not only provides an opportunity for them to earn a stipend and get community organizing experience, but it’s also a program that is about developing their leadership skills through the approach of helping them understand their connections to the river and the place in which they live on a deeper level. It’s very much about maintaining the sustainability and health of the Duwamish River, but also the well-being of their communities. 
In the end, the target audience for this project are people who are already fishing and pregnant mothers or youth who would be the most impacted in health if they were consuming contaminated seafood. I think youth involvement in this is really important because they’re really influential in their family and could educate their parents or their other family members. Oftentimes, they’re the ones that are sharing this information with their family first, so we, at ECOSS, are hoping to be the providers of that education.  

 – Cindy Anh Thu Nguyen, ECOSS Program Manager
View of the Duwamish River from Duwamish River People’s Park and Shoreline Habitat with Mt. Tahoma in the distance. Photo by Meagan Dwyer

We want to hear from youth about how we can develop a program that is relevant and empowering. ECOSS will be holding two focus groups on February 15 and February 21 at the Duwamish River Community Hub (8600 14th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98108) For more information and to view eligibility, visit this link.

This program was featured in the International Examiner! Read more here.