ECOSS and Equinox Studios honored with a Green Globe Award!

King County’s Green Globe Awards recognize environmental leadership in the region and is the highest honor bestowed by the county for this sector.

This year, ECOSS’ partnership with Equinox Studios to create a demonstration site of business-tailored Green Stormwater Infrastructure earned a Green Globe Award for Leadership in Industrial Strength Stormwater Solutions!

Check out the feature video prepared by King County:

Grattix boxes, oyster barrels, permeable pavement and more are filtering out zinc, copper and other pollutants from stormwater before they are carried into the Duwamish River.

You can stop by Equinox Studios (6555 5th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98108) to take a self-guided tour of industrial strength stormwater solutions. Be on the lookout for informative signs next to the installations like those pictured below.

ECOSS has had the honor of receiving this award multiple times in the past; one for leadership in equity and social justice and one for leadership in protecting water quality. ECOSS has also been a key partner in other Green Globe awards. The continued recognition of ECOSS’ environmental leadership is affirmation of the importance of creating sustainable solutions for all.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure massively improves water quality at Equinox Studios

In 2019, ECOSS and Equinox Studios co-created an “industrial strength” Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) demonstration site.  Prior to installing Grattix Boxes, oyster barrels and other GSI features, ECOSS sampled the stormwater to get a baseline understanding of the types of toxic heavy metals and other pollutants gathering on the roofs and pavement at Equinox Studios. Stormwater solutions filter out toxic heavy metals and other pollutants from rain water that collects on hard surfaces before entering local water bodies. These pollutants are harmful not only to aquatic wildlife, but also to the communities which border the polluted water bodies. So how have the GSI performed?

ECOSS returned to Equinox Studios in 2020 and 2021 to sample stormwater and see how the GSI impacted water quality. Although the team expected some reduction in heavy metals, the effectiveness of Grattix Boxes and oyster barrels was astounding. Here are some highlights:

  • In 2020, Grattix boxes on-average reduced zinc content by 70-90% compared to 2019 water sampling before they were installed
  • In 2021, Grattix boxes continued to perform, showing over 80% reduction in copper and zinc
  • At one Grattix box, stormwater was filtered from 1,700 micrograms of zinc per liter to 139 micrograms per liter – over a 90% reduction!
  • One downspout is connected to a Grattix Box and oyster barrel combination, reducing copper content by 88%, while zinc dropped to undetectable levels.

These types of GSI installations have helped industrial stormwater permitted businesses reduce their pollutant loads to below their permit benchmarks when maintained regularly, depending on the amount of pollutant they are managing.

ECOSS will continue to monitor these GSI installations and see how filtration power changes over time. The most recent sampling results showed that a combination of GSI systems could work synergistically to filter out heavy metals even better and is particularly useful for areas with greater metal loads. Repeated sampling will also help determine when the materials inside the GSI have to be cleaned or replaced.

Rain water that falls on and passes through the Equinox Studios site ultimately flows to the Duwamish River, which is a Superfund site and one of the most polluted water bodies in the United States. But ECOSS is showing how to mitigate some of that pollution with “industrial-strength” Green Stormwater Infrastructure.

Want to get a closer look at these stormwater solutions? ECOSS and Equinox Studios will be hosting an in-person, socially-distant, self-guided tour on April 24, 2-4pm, in celebration of Earth Day!

ECOSS clean water and environmental stewardship work was featured in the Seattle Times!

Working towards environmental justice in the Duwamish Valley, one job at a time

The environmental sector is commonly dominated by white and affluent demographics. Yet, multiple studies have illustrated the disparity in environmental impacts on underserved and vulnerable communities. There are many barriers to closing this disparity, including lack of resources, lack of knowledge, cultural differences and more. ECOSS and several partner organizations are coming together to design a process to address one of these barriers — the gap in green career pathways centered on low-income and Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.

On a cloudy morning in January, ECOSS joined the Duwamish Valley Youth Corps (DVYC) and DIRT Corps for a day of habitat restoration along the Duwamish River. At a property just south of Port of Seattle’s Terminal 117 site, a future restoration site in the South Park neighborhood, youth learned about what used to be marshland along the river and how their work that day would help return the habitat to a former healthier state.

A dozen youth planted native grasses that will help prevent erosion of the bank as the river’s tides rise and fall.

Guided by George Blomberg, one of the Port’s senior environmental program managers and native plant experts, youths and adults worked together to plant native bear grass and tufted hairgrass along the Duwamish River. A couple of hours and a hundred plants later, the shore was lined with new greenery. The native grasses will help prevent erosion of the bank as the river’s current and saltwater tides rise and fall.

This work is an early phase of a series of projects with the Green Jobs Coalition, an emerging partnership that ECOSS joined with Duwamish Valley Youth Corps, Duwamish Tribal Services and DIRT Corps. Working with the Port of Seattle, the coalition envisions a Duwamish Valley with no systemic bias, where lower-income residents and BIPOC:

  1. Face no barriers to sustainable, fulfilling, inspiring, living wage careers
  2. Contribute to, and benefit from healthy, whole, self-sufficient communities restoring the health of the Duwamish River.

For many of the youth who came to plant native grasses, similar opportunities are not commonly available for them. South Park is one of Seattle’s most vulnerable neighborhoods when it comes to environmental impacts, both in terms of population demographics and environmental exposures. The coalition’s work will address these kinds of inequities while uplifting underserved communities. Stay tuned for more stories from the Green Jobs Coalition!

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!