Measuring the impact of “Industrial Strength” Green Stormwater Infrastructure

On a rainy June 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 recent 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

ECOSS’ 2019 Impacts

By building trust and relationships through shared language and cultural understanding, ECOSS empowers communities of color as environmental stewards, helps local businesses become more financially and environmentally sustainable, and advances the equity of environmental solutions.

2019 ushered in a new core program, new equity roles and more! Check out a summary of ECOSS’ impacts below:

Learn more about ECOSS programs here

Solarize the Land Trust brings affordable solar to King County homeowners

“It sounded like the United Nations,” said one participant at a solar energy workshop, where ECOSS conveyed information in Chinese, Vietnamese and Amharic. Two participant homeowners ultimately applied for and received solar grants, and are now producing solar energy.

This success was possible thanks to Solarize the Land Trust, a project piloted by Spark Northwest and Homestead Community Land Trust in King County, Washington. In total, this program has helped 11 low- to moderate-income homeowners start making electricity from the sun.

One of 11 homeowners to benefit from Solarize the Land Trust (middle).

For many families, solar can seem beyond reach—because of upfront costs, home prices or language barriers. To overcome these obstacles, Solarize the Land Trust brought together a unique team of solar experts, affordable homeownership providers, multicultural communicators and funders.

Over the summer of 2019, Spark Northwest, Homestead and ECOSS held workshops for Homestead’s homeowners to learn about solar, financing and the Solarize opportunity. Homeowners could then participate in a group purchase to receive a discount on installing solar and apply for a grant to help pay for it. Ultimately, 84 people attended workshops, 22 applied for grants, and 11 installed solar.

Under Homestead’s Community Land Trust model, an income-qualified buyer pays for and owns the home, while the land is owned collectively through Homestead. The home appreciates at a formula rate to keep it affordable to future low-income homeowners.

The homeowners led a competitive process to select a local solar installer for the group purchase. The selected installer, Puget Sound Solar, offered a discount to homeowners who participated in the program. Even with the group purchase savings, the upfront costs of installing solar still posed a major barrier for many of Homestead’s homeowners, so four foundations funded grants to help with the cost: All Points North Foundation, the Ren Che Foundation, Tudor Foundation and Union Bank. These grants helped ten homeowners, covering 65-100% of the system cost, depending on the homeowner’s site and preferences.

ECOSS and Puget Sound Solar visited homeowners to explain the solar panel installation process.

ECOSS’ Clean Energy program helps communities of color navigate language, cultural and knowledge barriers to access clean energy solutions. This perfectly complemented the Solarize the Land Trust program, where about 10% of Homestead homeowners have limited English proficiency.

“The Community Land Trust opportunity quickly gained steam because working directly with homeowners was simple and rewarding for our staff,” explained Jose Chi, one of ECOSS’ multicultural outreach managers.

ECOSS called each homeowner to explain the program in their preferred language and invited them to a workshop, where ECOSS offered simultaneous translation.

One multicultural homeowner is so excited about solar that “he asked for solar information in Vietnamese and Mandarin and he’s going to take it to work and give it to all of his neighbors,” said James Crawford, Residential Solar Adviser with Puget Sound Solar.

“Together we’ve made history,” said Kathleen Hosfeld, Homestead’s Executive Director at a gathering to celebrate the success of the program. “Going forward, housing must be both affordable and environmentally sustainable.”

Learn more about ECOSS’ Clean Energy outreach

Environmental Coalition of South Seattle (ECOSS) educates and empowers businesses and diverse communities to implement environmentally sustainable practices. ECOSS leads industry, small businesses, communities and government to practical and sustainable environmental solutions. Through deep relationships built on trust and a capacity of 15+ languages, they deliver equitable strategies and results in stormwater compliance, pollution prevention, electrical vehicles, solar energy and recycling. Contact: William Chen, wchen@ecoss.org, (206) 767-0432 x1016; https://ecoss.org/

Spark Northwest accelerates the shift to clean energy one community at a time. Through its Solarize Northwest program, Spark Northwest has educated over 4,500 people in Washington and Oregon, resulting in over 1000 solar installations and over $21 million invested clean energy.  Contact: Jill Eikenhorst, jill@sparknorthwest.org, 206-457-5403; https://sparknorthwest.org/

Homestead Community Land Trust makes it possible for low- and moderate-income people of King County to own their own home. It was founded in 1992 to arrest the displacement of low- to moderate-income people from rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. Homestead builds and rehabs homes; makes and keeps them affordable permanently through the community land trust (CLT) model; and supports homeowners in successful ownership. Homestead has 215 homes in trust, and is one of the largest community land trusts in Washington State. http://www.homesteadclt.org/

Puget Sound Solar Founded in 2001, by Pam Burton and Jeremy Smithson, Puget Sound Solar, (PSS) is the most experienced solar installation company in Washington.  PSS installed the first permitted grid-tie solar PV system in Seattle. Puget Sound Solar is proud of their history of engaging in educational activities and environmental policy work to benefit future generations. They’re a socially responsible company and engaged in the community. Contact: Stu Frothingham, sfrothingham@pugetsoundsolar.com, (206) 706-1931; https://www.pugetsoundsolar.com/

All Points North Foundation is dedicated to navigating communities upward. Established in 2011, its funding priorities include projects that promote solar energy awareness and implementation and evidence-based programs that measurably improve public middle school education. https://www.allpointsnorthfoundation.org/

ECOSS featured in Audubon Magazine!

“And I could see in their eyes, they were just taken aback. The kids were like: ‘What? In America, you can walk around in nature?’”

Multicultural Outreach Coordinator, Jabes Otieno, spoke to Audubon Magazine about his experience bringing members of African immigrant communities to nearby hiking trails. For many, this was a new and positive experience!

Check out the article here

This and other adventures were part of ECOSS’ multicultural outreach around the Trailhead Direct bus service. Working with The Wilderness Society, King County Parks and other partners, ECOSS is helping to lower the barrier to green spaces and the outdoors.

Read more about ECOSS’ Trailhead Direct outreach