ECOSS’ 2020 Impact Report

2020 was a unique year that laid bare the inequities that BIPOC communities face in not only environmental disparities, but also health disparities, access to information and more. The strengths that enable ECOSS to be a leader in environmental equity played a central role in response the COVID-19 pandemic: trusted relationships with frontline communities; shared culture and language; and bridges with industry, community and government.

ECOSS has served 170 businesses and 100 community members through its COVID outreach projects that address financial, technology and information gaps. Additionally, ECOSS continued to strive for its vision of thriving healthy communities despite the new challenges to outreach work. ECOSS’ environmental outreach served over 2,500 community members and business owners in 2020.

Donate to support ECOSS’ environmental equity work with frontline communities!

Check out the highlights from 2020 around environmental justice, clean water, clean energy and solid waste management:

You can also download a printable version here:

Healthy Communities and Sustainable Businesses

Constant construction noise. Flooding damage. Blocked sewage pipes. And a business that is suffering due to hardships that were forced upon it with few ways to resolve them. This is the reality for Ai, the owner of Pearls Tea & Coffee. And many immigrant- and refugee-owned businesses in the greater Seattle area face similar struggles.

ECOSS has engaged many businesses like Pearls Tea and Coffee during the West Seattle bridge closure. Photo Credit: Seattle Department of Transportation.

What does it mean for a business to be environmentally sustainable? For Multicultural Outreach Manager Daniel Doan, it’s not limited to the environment. Daniel is leading ECOSS’ Sustainable Businesses program, which aims to meet the needs of small businesses around the Puget Sound region.

Inspired by ECOSS’ previous work promoting healthy nail salons as well as his personal experiences with his mom’s hair salon, Daniel hopes the Sustainable Businesses program will address not just environmental concerns, but other business needs as well. His ideas include questionnaires to gauge needs and certification programs that promote the business to customers. Daniel envisions conversations and check-ins over time that will build close relationships while addressing needs such as overcoming language and technological barriers, access to financial resources and more. And when future concerns come up, business owners will trust in ECOSS to help.

As ECOSS saw during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is difficult to prioritize the environment when survival has to come first. However, ECOSS’ approach to community and business engagement is critical for bridging the disparity in access that immigrants, refugees and other people of color commonly experience. ECOSS recognizes that for business owners, environmental sustainability, financial security and community safety are all be part of the same conversation. The Sustainable Business program aims to advance that reality. Stay tuned for the

Pearls Tea & Coffee remains open despite the nearby construction. Read more about Ai and their café here: https://sdotblog.seattle.gov/2021/06/10/roadside-chat-sal-and-pearls-tea-and-cafe/.

Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month at ECOSS

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage (AAPI) Month. May 1843 is when the first known Japanese immigrants arrived in Hawaii, and the first Transcontinental Railroad was completed in May 1869 thanks to a labor force mostly made up of Chinese laborers

But as May approached in the year 2021, we were reminded again that despite the essential contributions of these immigrant and refugee communities, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders continued to live in the shadow of racism. Increasing anti-Asian hate crimes and the recent mass shooting of spa workers in Atlanta are weighing heavily on people’s minds.

Liza Boardman, ECOSS Multicultural Outreach Coordinator, led a discussion for AAPI Heritage Month.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the transition to remote work life, ECOSS staff held virtual weekly meetings. These check-ins not only helped with communicating important business, but also served a crucial role of continuing to share support and build community.

In recognition of AAPI Heritage Month, ECOSS Multicultural Outreach Coordinator Liza Boardman led a discussion around AAPI history, personal identities and how our privileges show up in the way we interact with the world. Our supportive culture provided a safe space for staff to engage in these challenging conversations. Below are some thoughts from Liza on this experience:

What does AAPI month mean to you?

To me, AAPI month is a time to not only honor and celebrate our Asian and Pacific Islander communities’ successes, but to also educate ourselves on the struggles we continue to face. With recent events leading up to this year’s AAPI month, it feels less like a cause for celebration and more of a call to action for solidarity and support. It’s also a friendly reminder to check in on your Asian American and Pacific Islander loved ones because the AAPI community is all about family 🙂

Why did you feel it was important to have this discussion within ECOSS?

As an organization that centers BIPOC voices, I felt that having a discussion on AAPI issues would provide us with useful knowledge in the work we do with these communities. Especially with the recent attacks on the Asian community, I felt that it was necessary to interrogate the root causes and history of othering of AAPI people in America. Although conversations on these topics can get uncomfortable, it gives us the opportunity to learn each other’s stories and brings us one step closer to the DEI work we do together as well. 

Any takeaways from the discussion?

Intersectionality as a tool in this conversation really helped us to connect on a more personal level when engaging this topic. By interrogating our own identities and recognizing places we hold or lack power, I feel that it began to introduce us to a new lens through which we can view our work holistically and inclusively.

Wheel of Power and Privilege, by Sylvia Duckworth, adapted from ccrweb.ca.

These conversations are important for grounding work in anti-racist practices. This wasn’t the first time ECOSS has had similar discussions, nor will it be the last.

You can be part of the change as well. Here are some actions you can take:

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!