Giving back to nature – why Tukwila councilmember volunteers

Tukwila councilmember De’Sean Quinn came out with his family to restore habitat at the Duwamish Hill Preserve as part of Duwamish Alive! Check out the video to hear why volunteering events are so important.

ECOSS and Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust partnered to provide environmental education, cultural history and habitat restoration opportunities for diverse communities.

See the other two videos from this event:




The New Arrivals program promotes access to these and other experiences for immigrants and refugees.

Learn more about New Arrivals

Thank you Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust for partnering with us and sharing your restoration expertise. Thank you Bhutanese Community Resource Center for helping bring volunteers from the Bhutanese community! Thank you to Rotary Club of Seattle for funding environmental equity work. And thank you Duwamish Alive Coalition for including us to make environmental education and connections accessible to all!

New Arrivals program is a featured social innovation

Bhutanese hiking trip to Mt. Si. Photo Credit: ECOSS.

Many immigrants and refugees appreciate the environment and want to protect nature, but are unaware of opportunities to do so in new surroundings. The New Arrivals program connects these new Seattle residents to environmental education, outdoor opportunities and more.

Read about how and why the New Arrivals program focuses on multicultural outreach in this feature with the Social Innovations Journal!

Learn more about New Arrivals

The New Arrivals program is generously supported by the Satterberg Foundation, the Rose Foundation and the Cuyamaca Foundation.

Multicultural business outreach the focus of City Habitats story

Young’s family standing in front of their restaurant’s cisterns. Photo Credit: Sam Le.

Equitable access to environmental solutions means reaching out to underserved communities. These are often the people most impacted by water pollution, air pollution and other environmental challenges, yet commonly face language and cultural barriers that hinder their ability to protect the environment.

In partnership with King County’s RainWise program, ECOSS helped Young’s Restaurant become the first Seattle restaurant and business to be part of the stormwater pollution solution. And The Nature Conservancy’s City Habitats program recently featured this accomplishment!

ECOSS recruited multicultural contractors for this project and helped both the contractors and restaurant owners navigate the RainWise program to install and maintain cisterns at Young’s Restaurant.

Learn more about our RainWise work

Bhutanese community comes alive at Duwamish Alive!

Autumn is a great time for habitat restoration around Puget Sound. The start of the rainy season means softer soils, perfect for invasive weed removal and native vegetation planting.

Although cloudy skies may not be the most exciting outdoors weather, that could not dampen the enthusiasm of nearly 40 volunteers who showed up at the Duwamish Hill Preserve! Gathered around the site’s Seasonal Round, volunteers learned about the history of the preserve, the Salish peoples and the cultural and ecological significance of the plants around them.

ECOSS Multicultural Outreach Manager Allan Kafley talking about how indigenous tribes were connected to native plants and how local wildlife benefits. Photo Credit: Sam Le.

Then it was time to put on gloves and grab the shovels. With twice as many volunteers as expected, the group quickly dug out invasive weeds, replaced them with native shrubs and helped protect this unique ecosystem and cultural site! Adjacent to the Duwamish River, this site — like others being restored within the Duwamish Alive Coalition — also supports salmon by reducing pollution in the river.


Habitat restoration volunteering is a great way to build connections with the environment and with one’s community. Not much can compare to the feeling of encountering the animals that you are working to protect while restoring habitat. The New Arrivals program promotes access to these and other experiences for immigrants and refugees.

Learn more about New Arrivals

Thank you Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust for partnering with us and sharing your restoration expertise. Thank you Bhutanese Community Resource Center for helping bring volunteers from the Bhutanese community! Thank you to Rotary Club of Seattle for funding environmental equity work. And thank you Duwamish Alive Coalition for including us to make environmental education and connections accessible to all!

What does camping mean for the Bhutanese community?

“Let’s go to the place where you can make a lot of noise, where you can yell and shout!”

How do you escape the hustle and bustle of city life? Many Seattle residents seek out the serenity and simplicity in nearby mountains that is rare in the city center. Pack up the car, pick a destination and play. But these adventures are not always so accessible to all.

A common misconception is that non-English-speaking communities don’t care about the environment or need to be “convinced” to go outdoors. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Many underserved communities simply do not have the information that comes to long-time or English-speaking residents. They may not know where to go, what to bring, what spoken and unspoken rules to follow.

Part of the collection of gear the Bhutanese community brought camping at Deception Pass. Photo Credit: Allan Kafley / ECOSS.

Seattle’s Bhutanese refugees are intimately familiar with the jungles of their home country. It is their backyard. It is their solace. It is where they can shout and not a soul would hear. Recreating outdoors around Seattle, however, is an entirely unknown prospect for refugees when they first arrive.

The New Arrivals program builds resilient immigrant communities by providing access to environmental learning, resources and experiences like this trip to Deception Pass:

Over 40 Bhutanese community members went on this camping trip, many for the first time! At least, in the United States. The Bhutanese connected with the environment and with each other. And they did it in their own way. Communal dinner (made from scratch!), music and dancing. The energetic spirit was unmatched on the campgrounds.

Bhutanese community gathering to cook communal meals for over 40 campers. Photo Credit: Allan Kafley / ECOSS.

The community also gained a deep knowledge of the rules, regulations and expectations of camping in the United States. The group learned how to borrow outdoors gear, where to go exploring and — with the help of a friendly park ranger — the appropriate hours for merrymaking.

Trip by trip, the New Arrivals program helps this and other communities regard their new environment as their home environment.

Learn more about New Arrivals!

Partnerships with community organizations like the Bhutanese Community Resource Center make New Arrivals connections possible.

Thank you to the Satterberg Foundation, the Rose Foundation and the Cuyamaca Foundation for generously funding outdoor recreation opportunities for diverse communities.

Thank you Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and the Washington Trails Association for supporting the camping trip.

Young’s Restaurant featured in NW Asian Weekly

The Young family cutting the ribbon to commemorate the first restaurant-owned cisterns in Seattle. Photo credit: Sam Le.

Read the NW Asian Weekly article!

Young’s Restaurant recently commemorated their cisterns with ECOSS and King County RainWise. They are the first Seattle restaurant and business to install green stormwater infrastructure — sustainable solutions that help mitigate stormwater pollution. This success story was possible due to multicultural support from ECOSS and an effective partnership with King County. Young’s is protecting Puget Sound waters by decreasing the risk of combined sewer overflows while storing water for tending their gardens. Read more about them in this Northwest Asian Weekly article.

Check out more RainWise stories!

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.” 

Read about our 2017 Doris Duke scholars

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:

Stay up to date with achievements in multicultural outreach and environmental sustainability by signing up for our monthly newsletterliking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter!

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.