Community Van: ECOSS and Danny Woo Gardeners visit Deception Pass

Many immigrant and refugee communities face challenges when it comes to exploring local parks since many places require access to a car to visit. This year, ECOSS incorporated Metro’s Community Van service into our Transit to Nature programming and led guided day trips to different spots around the greater Seattle area, including Snoqualmie Falls, Seward Park, and more. The Community Van is a service provided by King County Metro that allows you to reserve a van and schedule a ride with a volunteer driver, or if you are trained as a driver, drive the van yourself! This program is excellent for communities who are interested in getting outdoors with family or a group of friends. 

Photo credit: Jules Jimreivat, Brave Space Media

The most recent ECOSS-led community van trip was to Deception Pass State Park with members of the Danny Woo Community Garden. ECOSS’ Program Manager for outdoors access, Xiaoxi Liu has collaborated with the garden in many capacities, but the relationship between the Danny Woo Community Garden and ECOSS goes way back; in the past, ECOSS even worked together with a community member, Mr. Liang, to get cisterns installed in the garden.  

“When I first met KaeLi, the Danny Woo Community Garden manager, and introduced our programming, she expressed interest in many projects, but especially the trip to go outdoors. A lot of the gardeners are retired, and since they don’t know how to drive or don’t feel comfortable driving the highway, and their kids are busy working, there’s very little chance for them to go further. After having organized other events at the garden and seen their enthusiasm in supporting us, we thought it’d be a great way to give back to them. This trip gave something concrete and beneficial to community members.”  

Xiaoxi Liu, ECOSS Program Manager
Photo credit: Jules Jimreivat, Brave Space Media

On a cloudy Monday morning in late August, Xiaoxi and Ernest picked up the gardeners from a location in the International District that was convenient for everyone, and they were quickly on their way to Deception Pass! Together, they walked along the beach, in the forest, and along the cliffs of the trail to Lighthouse Point. The trail offered a vast diversity of landscapes, plants, and views of the bridge. They also saw a huge tree with an opening, and everyone got so excited and wanted to have their photos taken inside the tree. It was so joyful. Afterward, the group shared lunch together near the beach. 

Photo credit: Jules Jimreivat, Brave Space Media

“One participant brought her homemade cakes, food, and fruit, and kept asking us to eat. It was so heartwarming to be surrounded by a culture that is so familiar. It felt like I was with family. Food is always the bridge in Chinese culture. When Chinese parents want to show love to their kids, they don’t say “I love you”, they say “eat more”.  

Xiaoxi Liu, ECOSS Program Manager

At the end of the day, the group was very happy about the trip. They loved the place Xiaoxi and Ernest chose, and the ease of transportation with the Community Van. “They thought it was a perfect day, and would love to attend more trips. The elders mentioned wanting to go to Leavenworth, to go see the holiday lights and parade. I would also love a trip to Vashon, taking the ferry with the van must be so cool” Xiaoxi shared. With Community Van, the possibilities are endless!

ECOSS’ Transit to Nature programming is supported by King County Parks, King County Metro, and the Wilderness Society 

The International Examiner published an op-ed “The outdoors should be more accessible, our aunties need its benefits too” written by our Program Manager, Xiaoxi Liu. Read it here.

Mulch and Mingle at Seward Park

The annual ECOSS summer habitat restoration event at Seward Park is a favorite among staff and the community. This year’s “Mulch and Mingle” event aimed to care for the species planted last year by mulching around them, and educate communities about the benefits of mulch and compost and the uses for both. The day also featured a compost demonstration, seed ball-making activity, and bird walk with the Seward Park Audubon Center.

Why mulch?

  • Mulch creates an environment that makes it more difficult for weeds and non-native species like blackberry plants to grow.
  • Mulch acts as an insulating layer and helps to regulate soil temperature.
  • Mulch helps the soil stay moist, which can be helpful during the summer season when it doesn’t rain as often.
  • Mulch will eventually break down, providing essential nutrients such as nitrogen to the soil.
  • The optimal way to place mulch is in a doughnut shape around plants, with a couple of inches of space around the stems or trunks of plants.

Why compost?

  • Composting is a great way to reduce food waste and reduce water pollution by diverting waste that would normally go to landfills, which can contaminate groundwater
  • Composting creates nutrient-rich soil and can improve soil quality, which reduces the need for chemical fertilizers that negatively impact water quality
  • Composting can be done at home by burying scraps in your garden, a worm bin, or food digesters.
    • Some items that can be composted at home are fruit and vegetable scraps, bread and grains, coffee grounds, newspaper, cardboard, shavings, and fall leaves.
    • Avoid meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, pet waste, coated paper, and evergreen leaves.

Why worms?

  • Vermicomposting uses worms to break down material and produce worm castings which are very nutrient-rich!
  • Worms increase nutrient availability in soil, and provide better drainage, soil structure, and soil aeration!

The impact of this event will be a healthy and thriving ecosystem site at Seward Park and renewed connections between community and nature! This program is made possible by our collaboration with Green Seattle Partnership.

Four ways ECOSS made its fundraiser more community-centered

This September, ECOSS hosted its first in-person fundraiser since the beginning of the pandemic. The concept for this year’s event was to celebrate an exciting transition in the organization with a new Executive Director, highlight local BIPOC-owned businesses and groups, and be able to safely come together in an outdoor space as a community after two years apart. A goal during the planning of the fundraiser was to have more community involvement and equitable access to the event. ECOSS wanted an event that was welcoming to all of its supporters, rather than simply disproportionately valuing attendees who could financially give more.

ECOSS staff at the event. Photo by Meagan Dwyer

Here are four ways that ECOSS made its fundraiser more community-centered this year: 

1. Sliding price scale for tickets 

Cost can be a barrier to some communities attending these types of events, so ECOSS offered discounted $15 tickets, as well as $55 tickets for anyone who wanted to help cover the cost of a discounted ticket. The standard ticket price was $35, and regardless of the ticket cost, all attendees received 2 food tickets and one drink ticket.  


2. BIPOC Food Vendors and Performers 

ECOSS wanted to celebrate the communities that they serve, so the fundraising committee sought out local BIPOC-owned businesses like Rainbow Fresh, and Garzón Latinx Street Food, whose missions align with ECOSS’ values.

“Rainbow Fresh was born during the pandemic by a strong will to engage with the local community. We are a tight-knit team run by a group of enthusiastic women who love cooking and share this passion with others.”
– Rainbow Fresh 

“Our food is Latinx inspired, our chef is Ecuadorian born and raised. [Chef Garzón] also traveled the world playing music with many musical groups, where he found the inspiration for a lot of the dishes you’re eating today. All of our dishes have a story and a cultural background. We advise you to ask the chef for a quick story time.”
– Garzón 

Karinyo, a local musician, also performed at the event. Their music mixes cumbia, salsa, and punk rock and addresses themes of mental health, Diaspora, and reclaiming inner power. 


3. Raffle vs. Auction

At previous fundraisers, auctions have been a way to raise money in a fun and competitive atmosphere, but due to the fact that they function by outbidding others, the team decided that this form of programming needed an alternate approach to be more inclusive. After sourcing many items from various generous donors like REI, Ascent Outdoors, Patagonia, The Plant Store, Mountaineers Books, and Bikeworks, ECOSS had enough items to do a raffle at the event. Raffles are a more equitable form of fundraising since it is the same cost to enter, and with tickets priced at $5 each, multiple entries could be purchased at a fairly low cost. It was a hit at the event as well, and was a fun way to end the programming for the evening. Over $1000 was raised at the event from the raffle alone.


4. Happy Hour Format

In a major shift from previous years’ fundraisers, this year, ECOSS hosted a Happy Hour “come as you are” style event as an accessible way for folks to interface with the organization and as a shift towards community-centered fundraising. Jellyfish Brewing in Georgetown served as a fitting backdrop for the event since ECOSS has a long history of working with the communities in South Park and Georgetown. The beginning of the event held time for attendees to connect with each other and staff over food and drinks in an informal setting. A short program included remarks and community stories from Villa Comunitaria, members of ECOSS Board, and our new Executive Director, Dr. Chiyo Crawford, who shared her vision for ECOSS and the community moving forward, together.  

We are excited to grow community-driven programs grounded in the principles of environmental justice. When we talk about “empowering community,” we envision moving beyond education and outreach to promote the development of environmental leaders in our communities.  And when we talk about “sustainable solutions for all”, we see a future where the benefits of sustainable practices are not only tangible to but also defined by our communities.

Dr. Chiyo Crawford, ECOSS Executive Director
Photo by Char Davies

The traditional fundraising approach focuses on donors who can give large monetary gifts, catering to their interests and values, often to the detriment of those who do not have the capacity to donate as much. There is a fear that if the fundraiser does not center the “high-profile” donors, then the organization won’t raise enough money. But that did not come to fruition for ECOSS. The happy hour raised a comparable amount of funds to previous events while cultivating community among a broad base of supporters. Over 127 people attended the event and helped ECOSS reach $56,414 of its ambitious $65,000 goal. Thanks to a generous challenge donation by a group of board members, every gift received through the end of September was matched dollar-for-dollar up to $10,000.

Want to amplify your impact further? Opt for a monthly gift to ECOSS and frontline communities throughout the Puget Sound region. To make a gift, visit ecoss.org/donate

Photos by Char Davies and Meagan Dwyer

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.