Chinese American diner is the first business to become RainWise

Stormwater pollution is Puget Sound’s #1 source of pollution. One restaurant, however, is on the forefront of reducing this pollution.

During heavy rains, stormwater surges through city pipes. These surges can cause overflows that dump untreated sewage into Puget Sound, degrading the health of aquatic life as well as the people that swim in Puget Sound waters. King County was recently fined over $100,000 for such pollution. Because of historical wastewater management decisions, mitigating stormwater pollution is one of the region’s most critical priorities today.

Young’s Restaurant is a Chinese-owned establishment that serves up American diner classes alongside traditional Chinese cuisine. Photo Credit: Ned Ahrens.

With ECOSS’ help, Young’s Restaurant is the first business to utilize the RainWise program to install cisterns on their property to reduce Seattle’s stormwater pollution. Cisterns capture water that runs off roofs, reducing the volume of stormwater entering our sewer system during large storms and saving that water for drier days.

“Last year, I had blueberries and lots of herbs that used a lot of water, and I really loved that I can collect the rain and use it for my herb garden and plants.” – Janice, owner of Young’s Restaurant. Photo Credit: Ned Ahrens.

Ultimately, cisterns reduce our water use, reduce Puget Sound pollution and beautify our surroundings. A dual-win for nature and communities.

RainWise helps offset the cost of cisterns and rain gardens by providing up to a 100% rebate on installation costs. ECOSS provides access by guiding businesses and residents through the program, utilizing our capacity of over a dozen languages.

Young’s Restaurant installed three cisterns, which altoghter can hold over 1500 square feet of water. Photo Credit: Ned Ahrens.

Come celebrate Young’s Restaurant’s achievement on Thursday, October 4, 4:30-6:30 pm! There will be food and opportunities to interact with local organizations promoting environmental equity and justice!

Find out more about the ceremony!

Doris Duke Scholars engage underserved communities around environmental sustainability

Dedication. Passion. Determination. Resilience. Pride. The Doris Duke Conservation Scholars exuded these feelings and many others during the Conservation Scholar Summit, where individuals shared connections with their communities, cultures and environment. Most significantly, they planted their banners of belonging to the environmental movement — a fitting conclusion to the scholars’ summer.

Doris Duke Scholars MaKail Crawford (2nd from left) and Pheng Lor (far right) at the Conservation Scholar Summit. Photo Credit: Joycelyn Chui / ECOSS.

ECOSS was fortunate to host two Doris Duke scholars this summer: Pheng Lor, a UC Berkeley student focusing on conservation and LGBT studies, and MaKail Crawford, hailing from Wesleyan University working on classics and Latino studies.

MaKail and Pheng dove into a variety of outreach activities, from conducting house visits for rain gardens to helping with a multicultural celebration of water.

Their work culminated in final projects that engaged the Seattle Hmong and Latino communities. Pheng designed a survey and attended Hmong community events to gather their environmental concerns. MaKail trans-created a Spanish brochure to promote Trailhead Direct, a King County project providing bus routes to nearby outdoor recreation opportunities. Each laid the foundation for strong connections and community partnerships.

After far too short a time, we had to say farewell to our scholars as they returned to their home universities to finish their undergraduate studies. In typical ECOSS tradition, we celebrated their time here over good food.

As the scholars finished up, Pheng Lor reflected on his time with ECOSS:

“My internship with ECOSS has provided me a foundation for working with environmental nonprofit organizations. As expected coming into the internship, the community services that ECOSS provides to underserved communities to encourage environmental sustainability and to bridge environmental awareness and education is both inspiring and humbling.

One of my biggest takeaways is the commitment ECOSS staff has to community, particularly to communities of color. As a Hmong scholar and community organizer, I had the honor of experiencing ECOSS staff extensively reach out to the Southeast Asian community, a community that in countless fields is often neglected. This meant the world to me. Seeing that the staff represents most of the communities they serve — that’s environmental equity in practice. ECOSS’ values are what I believe today’s environmental progress and work should embody and their staff represents nothing less than their efforts towards the most effective and inclusive future, ensuring every community has access to environmental knowledge and engagement. From this takeaway I’ve also learned that the environmental work ECOSS does isn’t anything near easy and it isn’t for everyone; I am glad to have had the privilege in challenging myself in many capacities as an ECOSS intern.” 

Thank you to Pheng Lor and MaKail Crawford for promoting environmental sustainability, equity and justice in Seattle! And thank you to the Doris Duke Conservation Scholar Program for providing us with our scholars! We look forward to seeing you and the rest of the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars grow into the forces for change that underserved communities need.

Learn more about multicultural outreach!

Celebrating how water shapes our culture

The 2018 Water Festival brought communities together to celebrate their cultures and their connections to water and nature.

Thank you all for being a part of the celebration! Check out this highlights reel, put together by Chanthadeth “Lucky” Chanthalangsy:

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Thank you to our sponsors: Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, Seattle Parks and Recreation, Boeing, LaFarge, Port of Seattle, King County Public Health, King County Waste Treatment Division, the Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs and Trailhead Direct.

Congratulations to the Community Health Advocates!

For some, this was the first graduation ceremony they had ever attended. The excitement was palpable. But this was no regular graduation ceremony.

This was the graduation of some of the most creative members of Seattle’s Latino/a, Vietnamese and Khmer communities, celebrating their completion of training to become Community Health Advocates. Over the previous few months, ECOSS facilitated training about local environmental health risks and helped the advocates practice their outreach to communicate these risks to their communities. This is in partnership with King County Public Health under the auspices of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Group photo of all Community Health Advocates and facilitators. Photo Credit: Hannah Letinich.

Raising awareness about environmental health requires actively engaging community members. This means doing away with word-dense information packets. Instead, community leaders instill their culture into the outreach lessons.

And the graduation ceremony would not be complete without the same level of creativity! Though there were inspirational, heartfelt graduation speeches aplenty, the Community Health Advocates and facilitators also strengthened their relationships with team building activity, such as an interactive string game.

Interactive string game. Photo Credit: Hannah Letinich.

Ultimately, this project is not just about training health advocates; it is also about helping community members become community leaders. Advocates are empowered to be the voice for their communities in engaging public agencies, and they build skills that will benefit future career paths.

After graduation, these community health advocates are raising awareness and engaging their communities about the contamination issues of the Duwamish River and about healthy seafood choices. We look forward to seeing their creativity in promoting environmental health for all!

The Community Health Advocates program is part of Seattle and King County’s Public Health department, which is funded through EPA as part of the Fun to Catch, Toxic to Eat Program for the Lower Duwamish Waterway Superfund Site.

City Habitats features our stormwater solutions outreach!


Ruben Chi Bertoni oversees outreach efforts on RainWise cisterns and rain gardens. Photo Credit: Marcela Gara, Resource Media.

“Being true to myself and being true to the community that I serve is so important for programs to be an actual benefit to the community.” – Ruben Chi Bertoni

The Nature Conservancy’s City Habitats program recently featured Ruben Chi Bertoni! Ruben talks about doing multicultural outreach for the RainWise program, which offers up to 100 percent rebates for installing rain gardens and cisterns at home. We can all help reduce stormwater pollution and ECOSS works to make sure underserved communities such as immigrants, refugees and other diverse communities are included.

Learn more about our RainWise work

Electric Vehicles Outreach is an Energizing Endeavor!

Nearly 300 individuals representing ten communities, speaking eight different languages, of all ages from children to seniors. This was the extent of our outreach on electric vehicles in the last two months!

The City of Seattle has set the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. And changing the way we as a city get from point A to point B is central to reaching that goal. Transportation is the single greatest source of carbon emissions in Seattle, almost doubling the emissions of buildings – the next largest carbon emission sector.

Clean energy solutions such as electric cars offer significant opportunities to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality. But although underserved communities such as ones of immigrants, refugees and other people of color are disproportionately impacted by issues such as air pollution, climate solutions tend to reach these communities the least. This is why Seattle’s strategy for electrifying the city’s transportation includes a lens on racial and social justice.

We teamed up with Forth Mobility to engage diverse communities around the prospect of electric vehicles. Photo credit: Sam Le.

Thus, we were excited to partner with Forth to conduct multicultural outreach on electrical vehicles in neighborhoods around South Seattle. This included focus groups, listening sessions and surveys with Somali, Latino/a, Ethiopian, Vietnamese and other communities where residents could voice their needs and concerns about electric vehicles and transportation access in general. Our outreach culminated in two Electric Car 101 public listening sessions where we answered questions and concerns for the broader community and brought electric vehicles for community members to explore.


We provided electric cars at our information sessions for hands-on exploration. Photo credit: Sam Le.

Top transportation concerns included increasing traffic, public transit access and the cost of gas while top electric vehicle concerns included their affordability as well as uncertainty around charging cars and driving range. Nevertheless, interviewees overwhelmingly wished to see more electric vehicles in their community, citing that they were good for the environment and avoided air pollution.

Associate Jose Chi engaging a community member at an information session for El Centro de la Raza. Photo Credit: Sam Le.

These communities care about the environment and support climate change solutions. But they also face additional challenges in rising costs of living, gentrification and social exclusion. The rise of electric vehicles could push underserved communities out. But by including diverse communities in the conversation and implementation around clean energy, we can all promote a cleaner, more equitable Seattle together.

Learn more about our clean energy outreach

RainWise achieves a major milestone!

Congratulations to the RainWise program for hitting the major milestone of capturing rainwater from two million square feet of rooftops via rain gardens and cisterns! That’s roughly equal to the area of Volunteer Park!

Rain gardens are a natural solution to reducing stormwater pollution. Photo Credit: Marcela Gara, Resource Media.

See if your home qualifies for a RainWise rain garden or cistern!

Stormwater is the largest source of pollution in Seattle. When it rains, water carries pollutants such as fertilizer, motor oil and metals from roads, rooftops and other hard, impermeable surfaces into local waters and Puget Sound. And large volumes of stormwater can cause sewer systems to overflow, further polluting Puget Sound waters. This has repercussions for both public health and the health of salmon migrating through Puget Sound.

“I’m excited to be part of the RainWise program. Thank you ECOSS for helping me become a RainWise contractor.” – Gary Li, RainWise contractor (left). Photo Credit: Joycelyn Chui, ECOSS.

RainWise provides up to a 100% rebate on the costs of professionally installing rain gardens and cisterns. And ECOSS provides support throughout the installation process in 15 different languages for both contractors and residents.But you can help by having rain gardens and cisterns installed at home. Also known as green stormwater infrastructure, these natural solutions control stormwater and filter out pollutants, thus reducing stormwater pollution.

“Participating in the RainWise program is just one of the many ways that we can do our part in preserving what we enjoy most about our environment and all that nature has to offer us. I strongly encourage all to do it!” – Nina V., RainWise resident (right). Photo Credit: Nina V.

By having rain gardens and cisterns, not only do you add beauty to your home, but you also help promote a healthier environment. Together, we can reduce stormwater pollution and make Seattle RainWise.

Learn more about our RainWise work!



Join us at the 2018 Water Festival!


The Water Festival is coming to Duwamish Water Park on July 28! Join us in celebrating how water shapes our culture.

  • Watch luchadores duke it out in the ring!
  • Learn new recipes for healthy seafood!
  • Watch multiple cultural performances!
  • Craft lanterns to launch into the Duwamish River!

Get more details on this free-to-attend event and stay up to date at our event page:

Like our Facebook page and follow our Twitter for updates, including features of our sponsors and partners!

Learn more about the 2018 Water Festival!

Sophorn Sim Named a Puget Sound Future-maker

Getting used to a new region can be daunting. Where do you shop for groceries? How do you connect with your neighbors? What customs should you be aware of? For immigrants and refugees, potential language and cultural barriers make this adjustment period extra difficult. And these difficulties can have adverse health effects, such as unknowingly consuming contaminated seafood.

But Community Outreach Associate Sophorn Sim is training community members to be advocates for healthy food and to raise awareness of the chemicals in the Duwamish River, drawing from her own experiences as a refugee. The Seattle Globalist’s recently featured her in their Puget Sound Future-maker series! Congratulations Sophorn!

By training local community members, we meet communities where they are – in their language, through their culture – to promote healthy, thriving communities.

Learn more about our New Arrivals program