ECOSS’ COVID-19 Response and Action

With Washington state recently seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases, the inevitability of another strict lockdown looms. In March, ECOSS quickly responded to business and community needs as new information, guidelines and restrictions developed regarding the pandemic.

From March to October, ECOSS engaged over 170 immigrant-owned businesses and over 100 individuals from multicultural communities located throughout King County and nearby neighborhoods. ECOSS staff provided resources and technical support in multiple languages including Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Amharic, Tigrinya, Swahili, Somali and Hindi across a variety of communication platforms — phone calls, text and WhatsApp, and social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

As a result of the engagement, ECOSS increased COVID-19 health literacy and awareness of businesses and community members while facilitating access to multiple resources, which included: COVID-19 testing, anti-hate and bias information, updated Governor Jay Inslee’s Phased guidelines as they are released by State and County, food access and food supply, City of Seattle Stabilization Fund, several small-business grants, emergency relief fund for foodservice/restaurant workers, PPP loan, unemployment benefits, business tax deferment, utilities discount programs or utility deferred payment plan.

In terms of the financial impact of ECOSS outreach, 11 businesses were awarded the City of Seattle Stabilization Fund, six (6) businesses were awarded small-business grants, and via The Plate Fund, $35,000 were distributed among 70 restaurant workers impacted by COVID-19 in King County.

ECOSS plans to continue this service with partners in Seattle, King County, and other regional municipalities. With a large grassroots network and strong relationships with Seattle Public Utilities, Seattle Office of Economic Development, Puget Sound Energy, Seattle City Light, and Seattle & King County Public Health, ECOSS can quickly connect and request information and services across King County. 


As Washington state braces itself for another spike in the COVID-19 pandemic, ECOSS will continue to work with businesses and frontline communities to adapt. As with many nonprofits, especially those working on the frontlines, your support can have a significant impact on the success of ECOSS’ programs.

Thank you for believing in ECOSS’ vision of thriving communities that are environmentally sustainable and equitable.

THANK YOU for joining the ECOSS Sustainable Futures Fest!

More than 100 inspired donors contributed $75,000 during the launch of our Sustainable Futures Fest. Thank you to everyone who supports our vision of thriving communities and sustainable businesses.

Missed the event? You can check out videos from the entire week here.

The Sustainable Futures Fest campaign runs through the end of the year. Your donation today ensures environmental resources and services continue for small businesses, and low-income and diverse communities. It’s not too late, please donate today!

Over the next few weeks, we will feature our environmental equity work and partner organizations helping to advance environmental health in marginalized communities.

In gratitude,
The ECOSS Family

Equinox “Industrial Strength” Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) demonstration site improves water quality in the Duwamish Valley

Sampling water that’s been filtered through an Oyster Shell Cistern (above) and a Grattix box below. Photo Credit: Cari Simson / ECOSS.

Right now, we all need to be sharing good news, especially related to our local water quality. ECOSS and Equinox Studios are proud to announce that after only six months since installation, Phase 1 of the Equinox “Industrial Strength” Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) Demonstration site is actively improving water quality flowing off private property. The Grattix systems (rain gardens in boxes) installed on Equinox’s “Living Room” and “Factory” buildings in late 2019 are already showing success – ECOSS’ water sampling showed these systems reduced zinc in rainwater runoff by 70 to 99% at three downspout locations.

Phase 1 of the Equinox GSI site, built in early 2020, includes three Grattix systems, two oyster shell cisterns and three kinds of permeable pavements. ECOSS, in partnership with Equinox Studios, seeks to provide education and inspiration for businesses and other landowners who want to improve water quality on their properties. For many in dense urban areas, small or compact properties are not suitable for rain gardens, and native soils may be contaminated or have saturated groundwater. Grattix and oyster-shell systems are downspout filters, which allow runoff to flow through plants, soil, rock layers, or used oyster shells to remove copper, zinc and other contaminants. GSI installations also reduce flooding risk as downspout water flows slowly through permeable materials or surfaces rather than accumulate on hard concrete surfaces.

Gardens of Gusto vegetated wall and detail. Photo Credit: Cari Simson / ECOSS.

These systems are relatively easy and affordable to install. ECOSS and its partners can provide technical support and resources for design, construction and maintenance. Please reach out to ECOSS (csimson@ecoss.org) if you are interested in learning more.

This phase also completed the Gardens of Gusto, a vegetated wall, or vertical garden, on the exterior of the Factory building at the Equinox complex. The vertical garden will add native plants and hearty vines to the block, irrigated by large cisterns capturing water from the roof.

Learn more about the GSI installations at Equinox

More exciting business-tailored stormwater solutions and education are coming. Here’s a preview of ECOSS’ plans for the Equinox demonstration site.

  • Two Grattix-tainers (giant Grattix and planter in one 20′ recycled shipping container box) for the Livingroom will complete all the filtration for the 3000 square foot Livingroom building.
  • Two Equibox (Grattix on top of a cistern in one 20′ recycled shipping container box) will capture and treat 7500 square feet of the Factory roof and provide the Gardens of Gusto with irrigation.
  • Additional water quality testing in June 2021 to replicate the sampling plan
  • Provide businesses in the area with technical and planning support to install Grattixes, Oyster Shell cisterns or permeable paving systems.

Sign up for the ECOSS newsletter to keep up to date on this project and follow ECOSS on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Additional support for the Equinox GSI project was provided by the Boeing Company, King County Flood Control District, and BNSF. Funding for sampling provided by Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation fund, a grant making fund created by the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and administered by the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment.

The Port of Seattle provided in-kind contributions of materials for the Oyster Shell Barrels and interpretive signage. Thank you, Aspect Consulting, PureBlue and Equinox Studios for supporting this work through in-kind contributions of time.

Reflections on ECOSS; Environmental Leadership

Joycelyn Chui worked with Chinese contractors and community members to advance stormwater solutions. Photo Credit: Charles Law / ECOSS.

This week is a bittersweet one for the ECOSS family, as this is the last week for a dear colleague and friend, Joycelyn Chui, who is leaving to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Health, with a focus on Environmental and Occupational Health at University of Washington this fall.

After joining in 2017 as a coordinator to work on Green Stormwater Infrastructure projects, recycling and composting outreach and more, Joycelyn quickly showed her passion and organizational skill for community engagement. In less than a year, she became a Multicultural Outreach Manager, leading projects with a focus on Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking communities and businesses.

In her three years at ECOSS, Joycelyn has not only advanced ECOSS’ mission of sustainability for all, but also served as an inspiring role model for everyone at ECOSS with her charismatic, inclusive and candid leadership.

Before she departs, we had a chance to catch up with Joycelyn for some reflections on her time with ECOSS:


What was your favorite part about working at ECOSS? What will you miss the most?

  • My coworkers! At ECOSS, people are open minded, independent and we have a lot of trust among folks. I’ll miss the privilege and availability to try new things and projects. Lastly, I love and definitely will miss the flexible working schedule.

Joycelyn supported Mr. Liang in constructing Grattix boxes (rain garden in a box) at Equinox Studios. Photo Credit: William Chen / ECOSS.

How have your views on the environment evolved while working at ECOSS?

  • Unfortunately, my time at UW as a Fishery Sciences undergrad didn’t teach me anything about environmental injustice. Since I started working at ECOSS, I see firsthand how language barriers, technological divides, varied economic status, immigration status, etc. affect the communities we serve.
  • The topic of environmental protection can’t be silo-ed. There’s no way to do environmental protection, undo climate change or implement any environmental programs without addressing racial equity and social justice.

What are your biggest takeaways from your time at ECOSS?

  • The more you put in, the more you get out of it.
  • ECOSS is a lifestyle, beyond a job.
  • Skills learned: project management, environmental education, understanding how a nonprofit organization works.
  • There is so much more work to do about environmental equity!!!

Funny/memorable moments?

Group photo at the 2018 Water Festival, with emcee Aleksa Manila. Photo Credit: Sam Le.

LOTS!

  • Climbed up Formosan church’s roof to look at the roof structure, it was three floors high.
  • Water Festival. I was honestly surprised that ECOSS staff members gave me so much trust to run a festival.
  • Within the first month of working at ECOSS, I brought back six mooncakes. It’s meant to be shared among 4-8 people. Next day, I came to the office with one went missing. Turned out, Ruben ate a whole mooncake alone!!!
  • A RainWise contractor gave me two pounds of squid as token of appreciation
  • Doing outreach while having dim sum.
  • Did a simple photo shoot with Seattle Public Utilities. Next thing I knew, my face appeared in a lot of their collateral materials. Like their calendar, residential newsletter, website, even on The Stranger!
  • During the last week of my job, I had to help the RainWise team with running the contractor orientation. Charles’s ran into technical difficulties and ALL his PowerPoint slides lost audio tracks 15 minutes before the online orientation. We had to immediately pivot into narrating the slides! It worked great though 🙂

Where do you think the organization is headed? Or what do you hope to see in five years?

  • ​Be one of the leaders of environmental equity in Seattle.
  • Continue to be the cradle of environmental equity leaders.

Anything else you want to say?

  • The ECOSS experience is one of best things that has happened to me. I’m sad yet excited to leave to embark my next chapter of life. Thank you ECOSS!!!
  • We shall meet again someday! 後會有期!

Thank you Joycelyn for being part of the ECOSS family! We wish you well in your next adventures and look forward to seeing your future successes!

Measuring the impact of “Industrial Strength” Green Stormwater Infrastructure

On a rainy summer day, ECOSS staff put on their best protective gear and headed to Equinox Studios in Georgetown. Why a rainy day? To conduct water quality sampling of rainwater flowing off the roofs and measure the effectiveness of recently installed Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI). The Equinox “Industrial Strength” GSI project is a demonstration site to showcase the utility of nature-based systems in removing contaminants from stormwater and in protecting local waterbodies.

ECOSS staff sampling water from the catch basin near Equinox Studios. Photo Credit: Cari Simson / ECOSS.

Pollution in stormwater can originate as air pollution from many sources that falls on buildings and the ground when it rains. Environmental solutions like Grattix boxes and oyster shell barrels are meant to reduce pollution carried by stormwater into nearby water bodies. To put that to the test, ECOSS is measuring changes in turbidity levels, total suspended solids, total and dissolved metals (e.g. zinc and copper), and pH after the installation of GSI at Equinox.

Equinox Studios is located at the corner of 5th Avenue South and South Michigan Street, a high traffic area near the 1st Avenue Bridge, Boeing Field, the Port of Seattle, I-5. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 crisis at the time of this writing, the site hasn’t seen any reduction in vehicle traffic due to an influx of detoured traffic through Georgetown upon closure of the West Seattle Bridge.

Sampling water that’s been filtered through a Grattix box. Photo Credit: Cari Simson / ECOSS.

In June of 2019, ECOSS sampled in four locations from Equinox’s roofs and nearby roadway to obtain a baseline for water quality prior to GSI construction. Returning to the site in 2020, ECOSS sampled water that traveled through roof downspouts before and after Grattix box and oyster-shell cistern installations to measure how these GSI improve water quality. ECOSS also sampled a nearby roadway and catch basin again to investigate the impact of new permeable pavement and asphalt. With the help of ARI labs in Tukwila, who will conduct the lab analyses, ECOSS looks forward to evaluating the effect of Equinox’s GSI installations. Stay tuned for the results!

Learn more about GSI projects at Equinox Studios

Funding for sampling provided by Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation fund, a grant making fund created by the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and administered by the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment.

Also of note, a vertical garden has been installed on the exterior of one of the buildings at the Equinox Complex. The vertical garden will add native plants and hearty vines to the block and will be watered through cisterns capturing water from the nearby roof. For more information and to see a video of the installation, go here.

Environmental, Health and Racial Justice

In response the the COIVD-19 pandemic, ECOSS adapted its strengths in multicultural outreach to help businesses stay afloat and communities stay healthy. ECOSS staff have deep, trusted relationships with the businesses and communities they work with, which was critical during the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak.

ECOSS is continuing to help frontline communities and businesses. Recently, King County’s Office of Equity and Social Justice awarded ECOSS with a Community Response grant to build capacity and meet immediate needs. From that, staff have implemented numerous accomplishments:

  • Informed and assisted restaurants about City of Seattle’s Business Stabilization grants; 15 of these restaurants were among the selected grantees: Addis Market, Canton Noodle House, East African Grocery, Pho Hanoi Restaurant, Rain Café, Safari Njema Restaraunt, Thanh Thanh Cafe, Thien Phat Restaurant, Time Bistro, Yummy House Bakery, Blue Heron Café, Oak Tree Teriyaki, Teriyaki Plus, U DupBop, Rainier Teriyaki.
  • Delivered information and resources to over 80 restaurants and grocery stores in nine languages.
  • Provided translations and interpretation of coronavirus health literacy materials in Amharic, Korean, Cantonese, Mandarin and Vietnamese.
  • Trained Vietnamese community members in conducting wellness checks via phone and worked with a temple in White Center to distribute masks.
  • Created audio transcriptions of business loan information and coronavirus-related materials.

Many of the same disparities that lead to environmental injustices and inequities are drivers of health inequities: language access, digital literacy and geographical location, among others. For immigrants, refugees, non-native English speakers and other underserved communities, these disparities are being magnified during the novel coronavirus outbreak.

ECOSS has leaned into its role as an education and community outreach expert, pivoting quickly and nimbly to meet the immediate needs of those most vulnerable during the COVID-19 crisis. However, your support will ensure ECOSS can continue to do this vital work:

GiveBIG through May 15

Donate to ECOSS directly or set up a monthly gift

Thank you for believing in ECOSS’ vision of thriving communities that are environmentally sustainable and equitable.

Meet ECOSS’ first Monthly Sustaining Donors!

ECOSS promotes environmental equity through multicultural education and outreach. By providing in-language, culturally-relevant, community-led connections to resources, services and experiences, ECOSS empowers local businesses and communities of color to be more environmentally sustainable.

This work requires innovative changes that don’t always fit neatly into grant applications and public contracts. ECOSS, like many nonprofits, relies on the support of generous individuals to provide the funding that fuels innovation.

The ECOSS family is grateful to everyone who has contributed over the last 26 years and is thrilled to announce its first Monthly Sustaining Donors: Sandhya Nakhasi and Jordan Clark! Learn more about why they give.

How did you learn about ECOSS?

 

I [Sandhya] volunteer with the Coalition of Immigrants, Refugees and Communities of Color (CIRCC). In their monthly meetings, they bring in representatives from other organizations to learn about how they are serving the needs of communities of color. ECOSS was featured at one such meeting and I was intrigued by the work.

 

Why ECOSS?

 

We have been looking for a local environmental and sustainability oriented nonprofit to give to for a while. We want to support an organization focused on issues locally that also incorporates the voices of people of color. When we learned that ECOSS’ staff are hired from the communities they serve, that really resonated with us.

 

What prompted you to give monthly?

 

From our experience with the nonprofit sector, we know that continual giving contributes unrestricted funding that allows for capacity building, which will promote and sustain programs.

 

What are your thoughts about giving during this crisis?

 

This pandemic has revealed the massive inequities that we see in our society today, that have been persisting for many generations. Nonprofits are working hard every day to fill these gaps in the absence of services and support, while also trying to change the way our systems operate and ensure that a future world is able to support everyone.

 

If people have the capacity to support nonprofits whether they are providing direct relief or working towards systemic change, this is the time they need us most. Let’s support organizations that are building a more inclusive and sustainable future for everyone.

Thank you so much Sandhya and Jordan for your generosity and your contribution towards environmental justice and racial equity!

Sustaining donations support local businesses, communities of color and a healthier environment for all.

Make a sustaining donation today!

 

Increasing Access to Green Stormwater Infrastructure Through Language

Language is one of the greatest barriers immigrants and refugees face in accessing resources, services and solutions that improve health outcomes and environmental well-being. When it comes to promoting clean water in the Puget Sound region, one of the ways this barrier manifests is in language access to Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI).

Home rain garden installation, full of lush, green vegetation and framed by bricks.

Rain gardens not only add beauty to a property, but also filter pollution from stormwater.

GSI such as rain gardens, cisterns and permeable pavement help protect local waters from stormwater pollution. This infrastructure is a great way for homeowners to contribute to Puget Sound’s health. However, the process for scoping, installing and maintaining GSI can be daunting for those unfamiliar, especially if English is not a native language.

Thus, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Month, ECOSS staff have prepared three articles in Traditional Chinese, Spanish and Vietnamese:

Introduction to RainWise:

Rain garden maintenance:

In-language resources are one way that ECOSS is closing the racial inequity gap of environmental solutions.

Learn more about GSI outreach

ECOSS partners with Seattle Public Utilities and King County to increase access to the RainWise program and shape tools that deliver more equitable environmental solutions.

Multicultural outreach leads to clean water and green jobs

Polluted stormwater runoff is the greatest source of pollution to the Puget Sound and other local water bodies. This pollution not only threatens local wildlife like salmon and orcas, but also surrounding communities, such as those neighboring the Duwamish River, where water is central to their cultures.

The critical need for clean water is why Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) is one of ECOSS’ core impact areas.

A recent report from King County and Seattle Public Utilities highlighted recent accomplishments in green stormwater solutions, including features of ECOSS’ work in multicultural outreach, green career pathways development and industrial-scale stormwater solutions.

Check out the report!

To learn more about how ECOSS is supporting diverse communities and businesses in adopting green stormwater solutions, check out the projects page.

Tackling COVID-19/Coronavirus Together

Dear ECOSS community,

The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak is leading to many changes in how we live and operate businesses. The impact of the virus on people’s lives highlights the role ECCOSS serves as a trusted advocate and ally. We have been supporting communities and providing confidential information to businesses for more than 25 years.

At ECOSS, the health and safety of those we serve are top priorities. As an organization, we are following the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Workplace Recommendations for the next 30 days of Mitigation Strategies for Seattle-King County. In accordance with these recommendations, our staff is working remotely to ensure the safety of our team, partners and collaborators. We realize these are stressful times and our thoughts are with those who have already been affected by the Coronavirus.


Business and community support: 

To slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus and avoid overburdening medical facilities, people are being asked to distance themselves from others whenever possible.

ECOSS will continue to provide support to business owners, workers and community members in whatever ways we can in order to mitigate the impacts of these distancing measures.

To help communities and navigate this stressful and uncertain period, ECOSS developed a website with links to information and resources.

Compilation of resources

Public Events: 

We are postponing all our events and in-person outreach through April 15, 2020. Should conditions change, we will provide updated information via our website, email newsletter, Facebook and Twitter.


Please keep in touch with us! Contact us at 206-767-0432 or info@ecoss.org.

What support do you or your community need from ECOSS right now? Please let us know.

Here are some of the actions we are taking right now: 

  • Our entire staff have been gathering resources and working with government and nonprofit partners to create resources and information in multiple languages: https://ecoss.org/covid-19/.
  • Our multicultural outreach team is currently contacting businesses by phone who are affected by the restaurant and store closures to find out their immediate needs and how we can help.
  • We will be supporting small businesses in accessing resources they need in multiple languages; this includes filling in forms, applications, and accessing government programs.
  • We are exploring ways to host “virtual tours,” webinars, digital videos, or other online educational activities related to the work that ECOSS provides – stay tuned!

We recognize that everyone will experience some hardship from the Coronavirus, but if you are in a position to support this important work, please contribute to ECOSS today. To donate, go to https://ecoss.org/donate/.

ECOSS staff are pulling together, working entirely via Zoom video chats, phone and email. Our team is incredibly resilient, creative and stronger together. We look forward to seeing you in person in the near future! Stay safe and healthy, and please keep in touch.

From our family to yours,
ECOSS